Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Ironic Tragedy of Keith Thomson

As near as I can tell, I am the curator of the three remaining  Keith Thomson campaign pencils of 1960. One is in near mint condition, uncut, the other tapered in the American fashion a la Boston Pencil sharpener Model KS (c. 1950), while the third is tapered more bluntly, European style.
The slogan of his tragic campaign, STICK TO THE MAN WHO STICKS TO THE JOB, is printed underneath his U.S. Representative in Congress, Republican, 100% voting record.

These pencils were the default pencils of my youth. They were in the drawers of the desks both in my house, and my grandparents'. The mysterious, smiling face of tragedy greeted me whenever I drafted homework, or sketched.

I did not know what they meant, other than that my grandfather had been loyal to this Wyoming politician, and suddenly must have had a huge supply of his pencils. My mother would occasionally comment on the irony of his slogan, which turned surreal at his death (heart attack, age 41) My grandfather, a dyed-in-wool republican in one of the most republican states, never spoke of the matter. (This was in no way odd for his character, laconic and terse with words, despite his legal background.) A good collection of Thomson's obituaries, and the shock that his death caused can be found here

Through the 60s, 70s, and 80s, these pencils were common--a never-ending supply. But as time went on, without realizing it, they became rarer. My childhood house was sold and gone, so that source was no more. As the decades marched on, they became rarer even at the source, in my grandparents' house. Until they were not to be found even there--other an these forgotten sticks left in the imposing drawer of grandpa's legal desk in the basement, where he did household accounting up until his death about 10 years ago.

It's strange how the most unprepossessing things gain significance over time.

1 comment:

  1. Items scavenged from Grandma and Grandpa's house. Now that they are gone, the smallest leftover items seem significant as we try to grasp a-hold of the ones we lose.