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Convention Notebook : Cover Story: A Tale of Two Quilts

Staff and Wire Reports

Under the suffocating blanket of heat in Atlanta during convention week, who could be worrying about quilts?

California delegate Sadie Reid-Benham of Santa Ana stitched a quilt as a gift to the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who talks about people being pieces of a quilt in which all are needed.

For two days, she toted the coverlet around Atlanta and finally, at 1:58 a.m. Wednesday, at a Jackson speech celebration, she got her chance. “That’s right, sister,” she said Jackson told her as he accepted the gift. “You’ve got your pieces all put together now.”

And Eileen C. Devine brought a quilt to Atlanta too, embroidered with squares bearing the names and flowers of each of the 50 states--eight of the squares embellished with the autographs of the eight original Democratic candidates, from the anything-can-happen days of the Iowa caucuses.

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She is raffling off chances on the quilt, and Devine, of the Keokuk County, Iowa, Democrats, says the election-day drawing “guarantees you’ll win the signature of the next President.”

How? Devine flipped up the edge of the quilt. On the other side is the identical 50-state needlework, with the signatures of the seven original Republican candidates.

Speedy communication was of the essence during those critical convention votes.

But for all the whiz-bang walkie-talkies and floor phones, the laurels for reaching out and touching went to Pennsylvania’s delegation, which inserted messages into sliced neon-green tennis balls and tossed them to delegates.

“We have been told to cover all contingencies in the Pennsylvania delegation,” said state Sen. Craig Lewis. “In case all this electronic wizardry breaks down, we need to be able to beat the system.”

The Atlanta Public Library’s information booth near the convention hall ended the week fielding queries like, “How do I get to my hotel?” and “What’s happening in the convention?”

But before they arrived, says library spokesman James Taylor, media callers were asking things like, “Is it hot in Atlanta in July?” or “How do I get to Tara from Atlanta?” and “What time do you people eat lunch there?” By now they’ve presumably learned for themselves the library’s answers: “Yes, it’s hot” . . . “Tara was a figment of Margaret Mitchell’s imagination” . . . and “Atlantans eat lunch at the same time as the rest of America.”

Jackson may have the Rainbow Coalition, but Michael S. Dukakis exerts a powerful hold over Democrats of all stripes.

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A contingent from San Francisco, home of the rock group The Grateful Dead, wore “Dead Heads for Dukakis” buttons featuring the band’s emblem--a skull--with an American flag emerging from the top. “Dead Heads” is the name that serious “Dead” fans give themselves.

Said delegate Stephanie Mischak, a Dead Head herself, who sold the buttons for $1 each: “I’m not making any profit on these. I have too much respect for the artists who designed the buttons for that.”

If you were watching, yes, those really were “Nixon” signs you saw being waved in the Democrats’ convention hall.

Not to worry. This is a really new Nixon--Jeremiah W. (Jay) Nixon, 32, Missouri’s Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, and running far behind the Republican.

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So Missourians promoted Nixon for free with their sign-waving. “You can’t buy time like that,” said state Rep. Bill McKenna.

“I have a first cousin named Richard Nixon,” Jay Nixon said. “There was a time when he couldn’t cash his own checks.”

You remember what Abraham Lincoln said about a house divided against itself.

So, in the midst of the Democrats’ unity, the Lytle household will be reunited too.

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He was for Dukakis, she for Jackson, but delegates Albert and Eyvonne Lytle of Marion, Ohio, have kissed and made up, politically.

Both dedicated Democrats are going home reconciled. “Somebody’s got to win and somebody’s got to lose,” Albert said. “If we’re going to win in the fall, we’ve got to remember that.”


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