Archive for Thursday, January 24, 2002

A mighty mouse collection

A Eudora teacher goes gaga for anything Mickey

January 24, 2002

The Mickey Mouse collection Jeannine Sample started some 25 years was a joke, but the number of Mickey items she has now is nothing to laugh at. At last inventory, Sample said she had about 25,000 collectibles in her basement, very few of which were duplicates.

"Until people get down here, they don't have a concept of how big it is," she said.

The joke started when Sample taught at Seaman High School in Topeka where one of her students was David Adkins, now a state senator from Overland Park running for state attorney general.

"He asked me who my hero was, and I said Mickey Mouse and told him to start reading and to do his work," she said.

After that, students began both making and purchasing Mickey Mouse items anywhere they could find them.

"It became a real joke to go to their toy chest and see what they could find," she said.

Students made their own Mickey items, even hall passes, which she kept in her classroom. Sample said she wears something Mickey Mouse every Friday to Eudora High School, where she now teaches.

The majority of the Mickey Mouse items filling the shelves and walls of her basement have come as gifts from students, friends and family, especially those who frequently travel out of the country. Sample asks them to find Mickey items from other countries, especially comic books or storybooks. On Sample's shelf are Mickey Mouse and Disney books from Italy, Germany and Korea.

"I'm very easy to buy for," she said.

Sample can point out only two Mickey items her husband, Dale, purchased for her a waffle iron and a watch.

"That is one thing he won't buy for me," she said. "I buy some stuff, but it has to be pretty unusual."

Some of Sample's more beloved items, most of which come from other countries, are unlicensed replicas of Mickey, like the famous mouse's face carved into a coconut or on a Mexican Day of the Dead toy. Homemade gifts from students, friends and family, like a crochet Mickey doll and a clay Mickey head, stay close to her heart, too.

Probably the oldest item Sample said she had was a Mickey Mouse gift tag from a childhood Christmas gift given to a woman now in her 80s. Finding vintage Mickey items requires deep pockets, said Sample, who frequents e-bay to look for unusual items.

"It would give Dale a heart attack, or (their son) Kris would have to drop out of college," Sample said of the price tags on some items.

Instead, she's content to collect a menagerie of unusual items like corn-on-the-cob holders, a white Mickey glove hat and an unlicensed cigarette lighter.

Although she keeps a small Mickey-decorated Christmas tree on display with her collection year-round, the real holiday proves more fun for her, especially with friends who always find something Mickey.

"I'm like a greedy little kid," Sample said, laughing. "I know it's going to be Mickey, and it's going to be something new."

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