Laura Bush Book Signing

Sitting in the living room of her husband's childhood home Wednesday before more than a thousand people passed through to have their books signed, former first lady Laura Bush looked up from her table, pen in hand, and smiled as she thanked old friends for coming to see her.

"How are you?" Bush said, looking up to greet a group of high school classmates who had volunteered for the event. (VIDEO CLIPS: The Crowd AwaitsLaura Arrives)

The crew chatted briefly as Bush delicately added her signature to the front pages of her recently released memoir "Spoken from the Heart" and then handed the copies back before turning to greet the next bunch as her friends shuffled out the front door.

"She's still the real sweet person that she always was," said George Richards, who went to Lee High School with Bush and happened to be in town this week visiting from his home in Australia.

Whether friends like her classmates, long-time fans or locals who wanted a piece of history to pass on to their children, several of those in attendance said it was well worth the anywhere from six-and-a-half to two hours they invested in waiting.

"I would have stood in line five hours to get it signed," said Reatha Ricketson, who waited about 2 1/2 hours. (GALLERY: Roger shoots the Laura Bush book signing)

Standing at the edge of the sidewalk as Secret Service personnel set up a metal detector in the yard earlier in the day, Greg and Darrel Cleere said they were the first ones on site Wednesday because they promised their mother they'd bring her a signed copy.

"I got here at 9 o'clock and I thought I was going to be late," said Greg Cleere, who traveled from Colorado.

About 15 others set up lawn chairs near the front of the home to wait through the morning, though most didn't arrive until 10 or 11 a.m. By 12:30 p.m. the line had started to grow down Ohio Street with the crowd wrapping around the block and back to the corner of Tennessee Avenue and G Street by around 3 p.m. (RELATED LINK: The sweet allure of Laura Bush as vibrant now as it was back then, by Ed Todd )

When Bush arrived to complete part of an interview with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren just after 1 p.m., Midlanders crowded at the corner of the lawn and yelled "Welcome Home" and "Thank you Laura" as she waved and went through the home's side door.

"She's always been a real mentor and icon so I'd always said if there was one person I would like to meet it would really be her," said Dana Kiser.

Many of those who'd read all or parts of the book said they felt like they were hearing about their own lives during the portions of the memoir that dealt with Midland and its 1950s small town atmosphere.

"I was born and raised here so it's just like being there again," said Susan Rock. "She's lovely and we're very proud."

Others spoke of Bush like one of their own children, saying they were proud to see a West Texas girl with Bush's grace and class do so well in her role at the White House.

"We're proud of 'em," said Sue Adams, who has been a docent at the home for about three years. "Midland turns out real good for the Bushes."

In addition to the personal friends of the Bushes, several other Midlanders were eager to share stories of their own ties to the former first lady. Some said they'd met her in a local grocery store, others glimpsed her during an inauguration and still others have parents or friends who shared a church pew with the former presidential couple in years past.

"My dad grew up next to her," said Laura Smith, opening up a book freshly signed. "He's on page 50."

Emerging from the home after waiting more than two hours, Bill Fletcher held out a pair of old records and showed off Bush's signature.

Fletcher had purchased Ray Charles and Bobby Vee records at Friends of the Library years ago and noticed later the name "Laura Welch" had been stamped at the bottom corner of the each cover.

"She said that is really something neat," Fletcher said, pushing the records back in their plastic cover after sharing them with Bush. "Bobby Vee -- she remembered that."

Even after the line started moving at about 3:30 p.m. -- the official start time of the event -- it continued to grow, remaining stretched around the block corner until nearly 5:30 p.m. when Executive Director of the George W. Bush Childhood Home Paul St. Hilaire had to start turning people away.

"It's just been a big block party," said Jaime Brown, who was in town from Arizona visiting her parents.

Others agreed and said while they came to the event alone they left with several new friends who they got to know in the hours they were perched under a tree or stood exposed in the sun and 86 degree afternoon temperatures.

"We've always thought she was one of the classiest ladies around," said Bill Tolle, who waited in line with his daughter Ashley.

Several school children also attended with parents or grandparents saying they'd learned about the Bushes in social studies class.

"We think she's a classy lady that has grace, charm and is a great role model for our girls," said Greenwood teacher Tracy Farrow, who attended the event with 10-year-old student Crosby Cobb.

Opening the cover of a stroller to reveal the body of their newborn son, Samuel and Aidee Gonzalez said they brought one of the youngest attendees to the event.

"He was born Thursday but I want him to meet Laura," Samuel Gonzalez said. "I think it's a once in a lifetime thing to do."

At 5:50 p.m. nearly 40 people remained, though volunteers were able to move them through the home while also selling several copies of the memoir by around 6:15 p.m.

About 50 volunteers, including 30 docents as well as board members and former classmates of Bush took shifts keeping order throughout the day whether by passing out free bottled water, directing the line or working in the gift shop.

"We're thrilled to be a part of the first lady's book signing experience," said Board President Cadell Liedtke.

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