It’s strange what you remember. I remember lots of toys from my childhood. There were the typical ones -- Hot Wheels, board games, sports accessories, that sort of things. But one of the items I used to spend a lot of time with was a set of small figurines of the U.S. presidents. There were 36 of them with a genuine styrofoam stage set up with places for all 36 figurines. They weren’t exactly action figures, but I remember rearranging them on the styrofoam steps and reading the small inscriptions on the base of each. There wasn’t much information. I remember the names, the years in office, and whichever number president were on each little statuette, and it wasn’t too long before I had them memorized. I knew them backward and forward. Pick a number and I knew the president. It’s too bad my memory has taken a sabbatical since then. Now when I try to recite the presidents, typically around Tyler, Polk and Taylor, I’ll end up inserting Larry, Moe, and Curly, or maybe Grumpy, Sneezy, Dopey, and Doc. Of course, maybe I’m not too far off. But I digress.
I was reminded of my little presidential figurine set this week when I saw the story about the John Wilkes Booth bobblehead. If you missed it, the gift shop at the Gettysburg National Military Park announced it was pulling the Booth bobblehead from its shelves. Something about bad taste. Most people didn’t realize there was such a thing as a bobblehead of a notorious killer, let alone that it was being sold at a place that is synonymous with the victim. Personally, I wouldn’t have suspected that there was an “assassins” collection in the bobblehead catalog. After all, aren’t bobbleheads supposed to be celebratory or honorary in nature?
Typically, bobbleheads are handed out to encourage attendance at sporting events. If you are one of the first 2,000 fans in the stadium, you’ll receive a free bobblehead of the team hero. You don’t expect to go to a Reds game and get a bobblehead of a Cubs pitcher. It’s an honor, no matter how goofy they look.
I did what I naturally do in these situations -- I pulled up the Internet and looked around. And as I had figured, you can make a bobblehead out of anyone. Mostly, anything with a head can be bobbled. One such company will make a bobblehead of anyone as long as they have a picture to get a likeness. So if you really want a bobblehead of Lee Harvey Oswald or Brutus or Mark David Chapman, you can get one! (Don’t ask me how to get a picture of Brutus to accomplish this one though.)
My mind started to race back to my presidential statuettes, and so I thought, are there presidential bobbleheads too? Silly me. Of course there are! There are bobbleheads of presidents, military heroes, professional and collegiate athletes, broadcasters, cartoon characters, religious figures, movie characters, celebrities, rock stars, superheroes, and most every other category of person you can name. I could not find any other assassins aside from Booth. No John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson, etc. either. And I did for a moment, breathe a sign of relief.
Then I thought again. Why couldn’t a bobblehead be made simply to teach about a person. Does a bobblehead truly need to be for honorary people? Some of the subjects I saw “honored” with a bobblehead truly were not all that honorable, if you get what I mean. So, while I understand the Gettysburg Gift Shop pulling the bobbling Booths off the shelves, I don’t think it was necessary. The name John Wilkes Booth is connected as much with Abraham Lincoln as the Gettysburg battlefield. Why deny that? So maybe I should start shopping for a presidential bobblehead collection. Maybe I’ll start with Larry, Moe and Curly.