LAWRENCE: Hail to the chief of presidential memorabilia – Bob Bostock has been collecting ‘giveaways’ since the Nixon era (With multiple photos)

Bob Bostock

By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
Bob Bostock still remembers the first pieces of presidential memorabilia, or “giveaways,” that he received., It’s a gold-toned pen and a matchbook, bearing the Seal of the President of the United States. They were given to the teenaged Mr. Bostock by Robert Genader, special assistant to President Richard Nixon, at the end of a tour of the White House in 1974., For Mr. Bostock, who is a former Lawrence Township Councilman, they are the most treasured items in his extensive collection of presidential gifts and giveaways., The ballpoint pen and matchbook are on display, along with other examples from his collection, at the Lawrence Library through Jan. 31. The library is on the corner of Darrah Lane and Brunswick Pike., “This collection is all a little part of history. I got the idea for the display in the fall of 2016. I thought it would be great to have a display in January to tie in with the inauguration of the new president,” Mr. Bostock said., One of the first decisions that a new president faces is what sort of presidential gifts and giveaways he wants to have on hand to present to visitors to the Oval Office, Mr. Bostock said. The gifts range from ballpoint pens, matchbooks, cuff links and bookmarks to bracelets, ashtrays and even a four-leaf clover., Mr. Bostock clearly remembers the circumstances that led to being the recipient of a presidential “giveaway.”, Mr. Bostock was a 16-year-old high school student when he wangled an invitation to the White House in 1974. He wanted to meet President Nixon and prepared a scrapbook full of positive coverage of the president, who was in the throes of the Watergate affair., As he had hoped, the scrapbook earned him an invitation to the White House. Although he did not meet President Nixon, Mr. Bostock was given a tour of the West Wing, which holds the Oval Office, and the East Wing., “As we were leaving, Mr. Genader came back with a photographer. He escorted me back to the East Wing and gave me the pen and matchbook, which I, of course, thought was the coolest thing ever,” Mr. Bostock said., The gifts piqued his interest in presidential giveaways, but it was many years before Mr. Bostock embarked on assembling his collection., Mr. Bostock has always been interested in history and politics. As a 10-year-old, he handed out fliers for the Nixon campaign in 1968. He was fascinated by the response they generated — in favor of Mr. Nixon, opposed to him or just plain indifferent., After Mr. Nixon was elected to the presidency, Mr. Bostock began to follow him. As a 14-year-old, he participated in the president’s re-election campaign in 1972 by working the telephone banks to get out the vote. He was elated when President Nixon won re-election., Mr. Bostock parlayed his interest in history and politics into a career as a freelance author and speechwriter for politicians. He was the speechwriter for former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, and also curated centennial exhibits for President Nixon and former First Lady Pat Nixon at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in California., Mr. Bostock, who is the director of strategic communications at the state Department of Environmental Protection, initially began to collect political campaign buttons, but changed his focus after joining eBay in 1999., His collection began to grow in earnest in the 2000s, and has continued to expand. He purchased some items on eBay, and acquired others through people who either worked for a president or whose family members worked for a president., Often, the children have no interest in the memorabilia that their parents were given by a president, Mr. Bostock said. One example on display at the Lawrence Library is a bagful of Lifesavers candy, which he acquired from a woman whose father was a crew member on the president’s jet, Air Force One. The Lifesavers were used to fill the candy dishes on Air Force One., Besides the bag of Lifesavers, one of the more unusual gifts and giveaways on display is a ceramic hat from President Lyndon B. Johnson that is a combination cigar holder and ashtray., Also, there is a silver notebook cover from President Bill Clinton. There are cuff links, tie bars, key chains, golf balls, decks of playing cards, drinking glasses from Marine One (the presidential helicopter), and even a woman’s bracelet from several former presidents that range from Lyndon B. Johnson to George W. Bush. There is a giveaway from President Obama, too., Reflecting on the recent presidential election, Mr. Bostock said, “It is helpful for us to look back and think about the Office of the President. The men who inhabited the Oval Office had strengths and weaknesses.”, “We need to respect the Office of the President. It’s the continuity and the traditions of the presidency. That’s what this exhibit is all about,” Mr. Bostock said.

a former Lawrence Township Councilman
has an extensive collection of presidential gifts and giveaways
which are on display at the Lawrence Library through Jan. 31.
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