Sunlight is the enemy of Mike Aumiller’s prized possessions.
“I keep it dark,” said Aumiller as he dropped the blinds in one room of his York County home.
“It’ll fade buttons.It’ll fade posters, It’ll fade anything,” Aumiller said as he pulled case upon case out of dresser drawers.
His passion isn’t fading for presidential memorabilia and he handles it like a new mom with a newborn.
The drawers are all marked by contents. “Bush, Reagan, Dukakis, LBJ, FDR and Stevenson,” Aumiller reels off.
But Mike especially likes the president that followed Ike.
“Kennedy just had a mystique about him. There was great excitement about him.”
Aumiller still gets excited finding a Kennedy artifact or memorabilia that isn’t already a part of his expanding collection.
He estimates he has between 300-400 Kennedy pins and buttons.
One says, “If I were 21, I’d vote for Kennedy,” harkening to a time when the voting age was not 18. “It was made by the Reading Badge company in Readying, PA,” Aumiller said. He’s also especially fond of items made in PA.
His favorite, and perhaps most valuable, pin preceded JFK’s presidency. “It was from 1956 and the mayor of Boston promoted JFK as Vice President that year with Adalai Stevenson.”
Aumiller didn’t stick with pins, though. He has a paper coffee cup emblazoned with the candidate’s name.
“It was coffee with the Kennedys and this is when his sisters would set up coffee klatches when he was running for the senate in Massachusetts.”
He pulled out a 45 rpm record.
“It’s High Hopes and then All the Way with JFK sung by Frank Sinatra.”
He’s been collecting Kennedy for 35 years and is constantly on the lookout for something new. A tiny ceramic JFK and a rocking chair caught our eye.
“It’s a salt and pepper shaker. I’m sure not too many people used it for that purpose but it’s unique and I love it.”
America had a love affair with its 35th president. Aumiller has a collection of Look and Life magazines that chronicled Camelot.
“It was a time when people were excited about the country and what this young president with a young family could do,” Aumiller said.
The Midstate glimpsed the excitement. On September 15, 1960, candidate Kennedy rode in a convertible from New Cumberland to Harrisburg. Aumiller has the photo and an invitation to the campaign stop that sold for $100.
“He spoke at the Zembo Mosque at 3rd and Division street.”
The Camelot fairytale ended on November 22nd, 1963, a date that is forever linked to the slain president. But the Kennedys, and Aumiller, prefer that the nation observe May 29 as JFK’s day.
“I got up today and the first thing I thought about was today is his hundredth birthday.”