LEWISTON – Germaine Carpentier likes buttons. She’s not so fussy about size, color, shape or message.

“Hello Neighbor.”

“Elect Jim Howaniec Mayor.”

“Joe Brennan – Governor.”

“We rob banks.”

Carpentier, soft-spoken and 91, started collecting in the late 1960s. Her oldest is from President Eisenhower’s race, so prized that it’s tucked away for safe keeping. The look of that campaign pin – it flickered in the light – inspired her to go after more.

She’s been, at times, emboldened by buttons.

“She’s very aggressive if she sees any retail person with a button on – I sort of take two steps back and pretend I’m not with her,” said daughter Lorraine Rodrigue. But simply asking for the novelty on their chest usually works. “Ninety-nine percent of the rest of her life she’s very shy and quiet – not when it comes to buttons.”

Carpentier retired at age 65 from the housekeeping department at St. Mary’s, freeing up her time to collect lots of things: buttons (about 700 so far), pens (130, the funkiest of which have pick-axe and hammer-claw tops), and empty lipsticks (about 20 – it takes a long time to wear a whole tube).

Her buttons are displayed the best, pinned onto fabric that’s been stretched over plywood boards. She adds a few more every month. She’s spilled beyond three boards and looking to make a fourth.

Quite a few buttons are political. Campaign success doesn’t matter. Ross Perot. John Glenn. Mondale-Ferraro. Clinton-Gore. Nixon, Cohen and Kennedy.

Before leaving to winter in Florida in mid-September, Carpentier’s daughter took her down Lisbon Street so they could hit all the campaign offices.

Kerry-Edwards had two styles to offer, Bush-Cheney one, so the Democrats won the button race.

But it doesn’t appear they’ve won her heart. Her general philosophy: If someone’s been in office for one term – and “if I thought he was doing a good job” – it’s only fair to give him four more years.

Well, except for Bill Clinton. She didn’t like his scandals.

An old local race has Carpentier button-yearning. Two years ago she grabbed a “Normand Guay for Mayor” button in Auburn. She wants its mate: “Lionel Guay for Mayor” in Lewiston.

Rodrigue said her mom has made her promise to visit City Hall and see if there are any left.

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