ALPENA, Mich. (AP) – Whether it’s model cars, cup-and-saucer sets, dishware, or nautical-themed decor, collecting is a way of life for John Konecki.
Tucked into various nooks and crannies of his Alpena home are dozens of items he’s amassed through years of collecting.
But, of all his collections, his assortment of more than 100 salt and pepper shakers is perhaps the most unique, according to The Alpena News.
While other of his collections are packed up in boxes and stashed away, he prominently displays his condimental collection in two glass cases – one in the kitchen and one in the dining room – with about 50 in each case.
In at least three decades of collecting, Konecki’s rule for adding to his collection is simple: If he sees something he likes, he buys it.
“I think it’s kind of a compulsion thing,” Konecki said. “Then, when you go shopping, you know what to look for and know what you want to buy.”
Standard salt and pepper shakers are found just about anywhere. But the sheer variety of vibrant knick-knacks in Konecki’s collection is remarkable. Most of them go together as a single piece for display and can be easily pulled apart and used as separate shakers.
Name an animal, and it’s likely in one of the cases, everything from a monkey sitting on a banana to various kissing dogs to a rabbit holding a pair of carrots to giraffes, teddy bears, and pigs.
You’re also likely to find just about any type of fruit or vegetable, with apples, watermelon, onions, corn, and blueberries among the sets tucked on the shelves.
There are Christmas-themed sets, like Santa Claus sitting atop his sleigh or a snowman that’s a three-piece set in which the two bottom pieces are shakers and the head is a toothpick holder. He also has popular cartoon characters, like Fred Flintstone, Barney Rubble, Popeye, and Tweety.
As someone who enjoys traveling, Konecki’s collection also includes a car pulling a camper, a boat with salt and pepper funnels, and Lionel train cars.
While Konecki can’t pinpoint exactly when or why he started collecting the shakers, he enjoys collecting them for their uniqueness and for sentimental reasons. While only used for decoration, the sets represent years of travels and memories.
There’s the lighthouse and sailboat set he picked up during a visit to Presque Isle. Or the set of hugging ghosts – that say, “Hi, I’m salt,” and, “Hi, I’m pepper,” on the back – he picked up on a trip to Myrtle Beach. There’s also the cowboy hat and boot that an aunt in Texas sent him.
As a kid, Konecki collected model cars and created houses for them out of shoe boxes, using his mom’s striped rugs like a two-lane highway.
“It really wasn’t a collection, I just liked to play with them,” Konecki recalled. “I would take a shoebox, for instance, and I would draw on it to make it look like a house. I would have all these different sizes and colors of shoe boxes as houses, and I would have all my model cars by these houses.”
Now, his home is filled with all kinds of collectibles.
Bookshelves hold dozens of old volumes of Reader’s Digest, dating back to the 1950s. An old trunk is chock-full of Johnny Lightning model cars and Konecki’s sun porch is filled with lighthouse-themed decor and knick-knacks.
Packed away in the attic are collections of cup and saucer sets and figurines. Another dining room cabinet displays gold-colored dishware. Even the kitchen – adorned with chicken decor – includes several chicken salt and pepper shaker sets.
A unique collection like salt and pepper shakers takes time to build, but it’s also one that’s easy to add to. Whether he’s at a thrift store, a garage sale, a flea market, or a souvenir shop, Konecki frequently finds new sets to add to his collection.
It makes it easy for relatives to find birthday or Christmas gifts for him too.
“When you get old, like I am, if people want to buy you something, but you don’t need anything because you’re old and you’ve got everything, this gives them an idea of what to buy,” Konecki said.
Though his cases are filling, Konecki said he won’t stop adding to his collection anytime soon.
“If I see something I like,” Konecki said with a laugh, “I’ll find a way to make room.”
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.