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The Pace Remains Brisk at Nixon Library : Tourism: Even the gift shop has a 20-minute wait. Campaign souvenirs and memorabilia of the late former President are hot.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The hour-long wait Friday to sign the guest book at the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace was too long for Carol Sullivan to face. So was the wait to file past the site where the former President was buried Wednesday.

So Sullivan, 43, a tourist from Atlanta, went to the library’s tiny gift shop, thinking she could at least get in there easily.

No such luck. There was a 20-minute wait there too.

“I just want to buy some postcards for my kids,” Sullivan, 43, said as she stood in line in the flower-filled museum lobby. “Nixon’s time was an important one for us baby boomers.”

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Business at the gift shop has been brisk since Nixon’s funeral, said gift shop manager Bobbie Way, who was letting just 10 people into the shop at a time. “The Elvis postage stamp day was big, but nothing compared to this.”

Besides the ubiquitous postcards, other hot gift shop items were old campaign buttons--from both the 1952 and 1968 elections--and birdhouses modeled after the simple, white-frame house that Nixon lived in as a child, Way said.

Videotape sales were also up, with “Nixon About Nixon” being particularly popular.

Many visitors, some from as far away as New York, were happy with the tried and true: refrigerator magnets sporting a color photo of Nixon, and Nixon library baseball caps.

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Items with a higher collector value, such as campaign posters and memorabilia from earlier Nixon visits to the library, had for the most part already sold out on Thursday.

“It’s been just a little slower today,” store employee Michelle Shelton said, as she moved from the cash register to customers who needed help to the constantly ringing telephone. “People came in here yesterday the minute we opened up, trying to get their hands on collectibles.”

The shop carries several T-shirts, including one with a picture of a smiling Nixon giving the thumbs-up sign and the words: “Nixon in ’96: Tan, Rested and Ready.” It wasn’t too popular among Friday’s visitors.

The Nixon library isn’t the only outlet for T-shirts of the 37th President. Part-time entrepreneurs are marketing their own Nixon mementos, just as people did with “I survived” shirts after the 1992 Los Angeles riots and January’s Northridge earthquake.

Sonny Hastings, a paralegal, is one of them. He and a buddy drove all the way from Medford, Ore., to sell their $18 homemade T-shirts that say, “Richard M. Nixon, you made a difference.”

Hastings said he thought selling the T-shirts around the library during the public viewing of Nixon’s casket and the funeral later would be in bad taste, so he hit small, independent clothing stores in the area, who bought more than 100 of the shirts for resale.

“I’m a very big Nixon fan,” Hastings said. “The idea was to pay for my trip down here to see the funeral. I missed the viewing because I was running around, but I did pay for the trip.”

The employees at the library gift shop said they don’t expect the crowds to thin out for several months. Even then, they expect sales to still remain high.

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“Maybe before people didn’t know (the library) was here,” shop manager Way said. “Now they do.


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