How often do you consider your salt and pepper shakers? Clearly these are no great shakes. But the ones our Bill Geist observed at a recent shaker assemblage most definitely ARE:
Rarely do you see such unbridled enthusiasm for salt and pepper shakers -- unless you're at the annual Novelty Salt and Pepper Shaker Collectors Convention.
Geist brought a sampling of his own humble collection (he has about 50) to the most recent gathering, this one in a Virginia hotel, where clearly he was out of his league.
"I have at least 5,000," said Joycie Porter, of Long Island. "It sounds to regular, normal people like, 'A salt and pepper club? What is that?'"
"They think you're nuts?" asked Geist.
"Well, they know me. I have never been called 'normal,' but then that's boring."
A member of the Canadian delegation explained salt and pepper shakers' appeal: "They're small, they don't take up a lot of room, they're pretty much everywhere so it's hard to come home empty-handed, and they're not expensive."
At the annual gathering enthusiasts dress in costumes depicting their favorite salt and peppers ... admire salt and pepper dioramas ... but mostly they're here to buy MORE shakers. Hotel rooms upstairs are stocked and open for business.
Karen Weaver and Sylvia Tompkins have a wide variety to fit everyone's pocketbook, from five dollars to top-of-the-line German sets.
The two women have co-authored a book about (what else?) salt and pepper shakers. At age 89, Tompkins is still out there collecting. But she has to be a bit more particular these days. "I have around 10,000"," she said. "I had to give up some because I moved to a retirement community and I don't have the room."
"So you scaled down to 10,000?" said Geist.
Weaver, on the other hand, has not scaled down. Her home in Ohio looks like the Metropolitan Museum of Salt and Pepper Shakers.
She showed Geist her "character room" of shakers depicting TV characters. "I have the Jetsons in the center. This is my very favorite."
And how many has she crammed in here? "I would guess around 55,000," she said.
Fifty-five thousand pairs! Shaker shock and awe!
Luckily, Weaver married a builder, Gregg, who has enlarged their house, and is building cabinets as fast as he can. "I thought once we ran out of room in a certain area, maybe she would slow down herself, but that didn't happen," he said. "It just kept growing and growing and growing."
They don't even try to explain any more. "A lot of people think, 'You're nuts, you're nuts!'" said Gregg. "And hey, that's fine, too."
"Yeah, it's fun to be nuts!" added Karen.
"Fun to be nuts" -- words we can all live by, at least once in a while.
For more info:
- Novelty Salt & Pepper Shakers Club | Become a member!
- "Shakers Gone Wild: Anthropomorphic Salt & Pepper Shakers" by Karen Weaver and Sylvia Tompkins (Facebook)