MANCHESTER — If you were dining at Betty Carroll's house and asked for the salt and pepper shakers, you might be in for a big surprise.
A collectorof salt and pepper shakers, Carroll has amassed more than 1,200 of the spice holders since she started her collection while a student at Franklin High School in Reisterstown more than 30 years ago.
"I remember we went on an eighth-grade trip to (George Washington's home in) Mount Vernon (Va.), and I saw a wooden salt and pepper shaker set that said 'Mount Vernon,' " said Carroll, 47, a mother of two. "I thought they were cute, so I bought them, and I have been buying salt and pepper shakers ever since."
The next pair Carroll bought also commemorated a school trip, this one to Gettysburg, Pa.
"I really like to collect wooden salt and pepper shakers, so when I wentto Gettysburg shortly after the trip to Mount Vernon, I saw another wooden pair that had Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jefferson on them," said Carroll, who has been a teacher's aide at Sandymount Elementary School for six years. "I liked them too, so I bought them."
As Carroll became more involved in her hobby, she found that her unusual interest caught the attention of family members.
"Every time I went to a special event, the memorabilia I would buy would be salt and peppershakers, if they were available," she said. "My mother and father would go away on trips, and they would always bring me back a set from the places they visited. Even my friends that knew I was collecting would bring me back shakers from places they would go."
Carroll recalled a special pair of shakers that her parents brought her back from Canada some 20 years ago.
"I have a pair (depicting) Canadian Mounties on horseback," she said. "I thought these were neat, because the Mounties sit on the corks on top of the horses and these hold the salt and pepper in."
In the late 1970s, Carroll was working at theHampstead Pharmacy when her friend and co-worker, Gene Zepp, gave her a pair of bisque salt and pepper shakers.
"These bisque shakers are very special to me, because I know that Gene probably had them for a long time at home and now she wanted me to have them," she said. "They are so cute, they are bisque babies that have tears coming out of their eyes and wings on their backs."
While family and friends have helped contribute to her collection over the years, Carroll has found the majority of her salt and pepper sets at yard sales, flea markets and auctions.
"My husband and I like to go to yard sales andauctions, and we would buy a pair here and there. I have probably gotten 75 percent of my shakers from the sales over the years."
Withall these shakers, Carroll must find creative ways to store and display the sets so they can be enjoyed by others.
"About four years ago, my husband had to build me a wall of shelves in a extra room downstairs, so I could store and display the shakers," she said.
The wall is 12 feet wide and 9 feet long, with 12 shelves stretching across the width of the room to hold the hundreds of sets.
"This wall houses some 800 to 900 sets," she said. "And I still have a large cupboard with eight glass shelves that holds another 350 sets, in addition to the 45 chicken-and-rooster sets that are in my laundry room."
Of course, you could expect plenty of variety in such a vast collection, and Carroll's holdings do not disappoint.
"I have a lot of the old metal-type salt and pepper shakers. Little irons, dogs and cats, the old-time radiators, rocking chairs, trolley cars, and dogs hanging out of a shoe are some," she said. "As far as I know, they do notmake shakers like this anymore. These have to be at least 30 years old."
One of her favorites is a single shaker from a set of plasticshakers, the match for which Carroll searches at sales and auctions.
"I am still looking to collect the plastic Aunt Jemima," she said. "I have the black man which would match the Aunt Jemima, and I would really like to complete this set since it must date back to the 1940s."
Carroll has other notable plastic sets, including Willie and Nillie the penguins, Mr. Planter (of peanut fame), Poppie and Poppin,the doughboys mascots from Pillsbury, and a variety of appliances.
"I have a lot of different appliance salt and pepper shaker sets like mixer bowls with beaters, televisions and even a Westinghouse washer and dryer set," she said.
Carroll also has numerous sets depicting animals and food.
"I have all my animals, my cats, dogs, elephants and even a pair of giraffes that are on one shelf," she said. "Ialso have shelves of vegetables, like potatoes, celery, carrots, beans and corn that I keep in one place and also the fruits, like apples, cherries, peaches, bananas and pineapples."
Not all of Carroll'sshakers are displayed year-round. Space is limited, and some of the sets are seasonal, like her 45 pairs of Christmas shakers.