Getting into Guinness is a numbers game

It all started with a trip to Aunt Margaret’s.

It was 1958. Irene and Alex Simms moved from Russell, Manitoba to the huge metropolis of Toronto. One of the first things they did was connect with a relative in Frankford… Aunt Margaret Loney.

That visit proved to be life-changing for Irene Simms and it culminated this winter with her application for recognition in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest collection of salt & pepper shakers around the globe.

When she and Alex and their daughter Cherylle visited Aunt Margaret, Irene was quite taken with her aunt’s collection of salt and pepper shakers. She had 225 sets in her collection and Irene was enthralled. Uncle Bert (Loney) owned the local hardware store and honoured Irene’s enthusiasm by giving her the start of her own collection. He took her down to his store and she chose her first five sets of salt & pepper shakers.

And that¹s how Irene Simms got started.

Fast forward to 1988 when Irene Simms moved to Barrie, and then a few years ago when she joined her daughter’s family, collection in tow. Cherylle explains the care her mother gave to her collection during her move.

‘She wrapped each shaker in its own paper towel, and then the pair together and then in newspaper’ says Cherylle, summing up how important the collection is to her mother. Irene moved to Victoria Village recently, but her collection remains under the watchful eyes of her family.

As Cherylle looked at shelf after shelf after shelf of shakers, she decided to apply to the Guinness people, to find out just what¹s involved in an application to unseat the world record holder for salt & pepper shakers… the 1999 record was established with 2,202 pair. Irene¹s collection could certainly outnumber that and Cherylle sent away for the world record count kit.

It’s no small feat, this Guinness stuff. First, Cherylle and her daughters had to categorize the entire collection. For instance, there’s a Christmas category. And under Christmas are a number of sub categories… Santa Claus, animals dressed as Santa Claus, Christmas decorations etc.

Just before Christmas, Cherylle had 14 people in to help sort and categorize and cull out the duplicates. They organized all day and then began the count. The shakers consume one entire room, nestled on shelves mostly built by Cherylle¹s father who passed away last year. They spill over to the living room with several more shelves. On the first day they counted and catalogued 1200 sets.

The count ended almost two months later with 3,003 sets (duplicates excluded). More important than that, these shakers are a historical walk through fashion, design, colour and attitude. The 50’s are in full form with the home decor category… peg legs were the ‘in’ furniture item and they’re apparent on television sets (complete with rabbit ears), sofas and chairs, kitchen tables, end tables… yes, really, salt & pepper shakers shaped like sofas and chairs.

It’s truly fascinating… the pig category, the delft category, transportation items, sports, novelty, silver. Household objects such as vegetables & fruit, furniture like washers, dryers, fridges, stoves, fry pans, toasters, irons, spoons. The food category is enormous. Sandwiches, hot dogs, ice cream–no kidding.

Ceramic, china, plastic… there’s a souvenir category with sub categories of Ontario, Canada, United States and outside North America. Though the Simms never left Canada, Irene has shakers from all over the world, enthusiastic gifts from friends who travelled.

It took over 200 hours just to count the shakers once they were sorted, and now Cherylle¹s busy getting the catalogued sheets photocopied, digital pictures taken, and the entire list notarized by professionals in the community. The 3003 total will put Irene over the top. Cherylle plans to celebrate with a tea in at the end of it all. She expects to have the certificate within weeks.

As Irene, now 86, gets to know her fellow residents at Vic Village, she’ll be able to point out her certificate and a few sample shakers that the family will bring to her room there. And she’ll have her own fame for the collection that took almost a half century to amass.

For Cherylle and Irene’s grand-daughters, it¹s the culmination of literally hundreds of items that have been part of their lives forever.

Interesting. Very interesting.

Thanks, Irene. Thanks, Cherylle.