Dolly Geist has been collecting salt and pepper shakers since she was in grade school.
“I got my first pair from Mrs. Esther Meish,” Geist said. “I was having a truly rotten day, and she could tell. She actually left us alone for a little while, something that no teacher in this day and age would do, in our little one room school house and went to her home. When she came back she had a present for me and it was this pair of salt shakers. A pair of sweet little honey bears, that when you put them together, side by side like this, they are hugging each other. It made my day. This was my first pair and ever since then I’ve collected salt and pepper shakers. Rarely over the years have I had to buy anything, almost all have come to me as gifts from family or friends.”
The large size table indeed seems to be literally groaning under the weight of all these perfectly matched sets of salt and pepper shakers. They are made of a variety of materials, from porcelain, wood, plastics, various metals, to clay and ceramic. The shapes they hold run the gambit from the simple and mundane to the obscure and fantastical with every variation in between. Some were done as serious decorative art or to model-like scale, to others as subtle and not-so-subtle jokes.
“This is probably the most valuable set,” Geist says, holding up a pair of pink canaries, decorated with what seems to be gold, and she confirms in fact is the yellow stuff in 10 carat. “This one is more than 100 years old as well.”
Each set has a story, a history and a memory associated with it.
“About anything or everything you can think of, it is here in salt shaker form,” she said. “Anytime a friend or a family member went on a trip somewhere I would inevitably be gifted with a new pair. At my last count, I had more than 200 pairs, and my last count was some time ago.”
Geist also collects spoons from all over the country and world, cookie jars, angels, music boxes, horses and cowboys, Elvis Presley memorabilia, and most especially dolls.
Like the salt shakers, the items show up in a variety of styles and flavors, just as the dolls vary widely in type, material and clothing style.
“I call them my little ladies,” she said. “I only started collecting them about 20 years ago, but I’m pretty proud of most of them.”
And you can’t help but note the sadness behind Dolly Geist’s smile when she announces that she plans to sell most of it.
“I’ll be honest, I’m not getting any younger,” she said. “I’ve reached the point in life where you need to start looking at getting rid of things rather than collecting them. Glen and Russell (two of Dolly’s sons) have talked about getting a consignment sale going next month, for the middle of October to sell some things, including a good share of their guns, and Harold (her husband) has announced that he’ll be putting some of his things up for sale too, and he’s a hoarder if there ever was one. So I thought to myself that well, it’s time. I may not be able to give up my Elvis or my horses just yet, but certainly the saltshakers and the cookie jars, and almost everything else will be up for sale. I did think about passing some of these on to family members, but I decided that because I didn’t want to start a fight or a family feud that if they really want something, then they could buy it at the sale.”
“I know myself well enough to say that some tears will probably be running the day of the sale, but it’s for the best,” she said. “Knowing that these things I’ve treasured will be in the hands of people who will treasure them in their turn will actually make me feel better. After all, I can’t take any of it with me when I go, so why shouldn’t someone else have the chance to enjoy them as I have?”