Thursday, August 27, 2009

Shaking It Up in Gatlinburg

I must admit that the morning after Dollywood, I was pretty exhausted. I couldn't wait to get on the road and head towards Memphis. Not like there was really any rush, but I just wanted to get the heck out of Pigeon Forge. I needed to put some distance between myself, “the Comedy Barn,” and the surprising number of Stars & Bars that popped up along the main drag.

Jeff had other plans. Plans that involved dragging me to the world's ONLY Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

For those not in the know, my fraternal grandmother collected Salt and Pepper shakers for years. My older sister, Rachel, was obsessed with them as a child, so when my grandmother moved out of her house and into my uncle's place...Rachel inherited the collection. Since then, it's nearly doubled in size to almost 200 pairs. I live with my sister, so I see more than my fair share of salt and pepper shakers nearly every day. The last thing I thought I wanted to do on vacation was drive out of the way to see more of them.

My lack of enthusiasm only managed to grow by leaps and bounds, when we got lost on our way there. It turned out that the museum website didn’t have an official address, only confusing directions that Jeff hadn’t been able to decipher. When Jeff called up the museum and asked for the address of their location, the woman who picked up the phone told Jeff that she “didn’t know.” I was ready to throw in the towel, but I couldn’t let Jeff (or my grandmother) down. Thanks to the help of the Google Maps Application on his Blackberry, Jeff was able to figure out an approximation of the museum’s location and we were back on track.

Within seconds of pulling up to the museum, I realized that Jeff was right and I was wrong. The outside of the museum was emblazoned with very persuasive testimonials of former museum patrons.

Clearly, the 20,000 treasures that lurked inside made for a transformative experience. And so, I entered the museum with a giddy excitement. Like a child at Christmas. Or like the time Jeff became bewitched by the hidden charms of Drunk Jesse.

Inside, we were greeted by Andrea Ludden, the owner/curator/founder of “The Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum.” Andrea was an adorable Belgian woman who appeared to be in her mid-sixties. She spoke with a thick French accent as she welcomed us to her museum during a quickly delivered speech (a speech that she had clearly delivered hundreds of times before). Andrea explained that she loved the creativity of the salt and pepper shakers and encouraged us to focus on said creativity during out tour of the multi-roomed museum.

Thanks to the power of the Internet, now you too can enjoy Andrea’s speech…

Room after room…shelf after shelf was filled to the brim with every kind of salt and pepper shaker imaginable.

Jeff's good cheer really PEPPED up Jon's SALTY mood.

Holy Salt and Pepper Shakers!

Who wants a Banana Surprise Salt And Pepper Shaker?

Buses for Bookie!

I have a sneaking suspicion that Andrea isn't Jewish.

Robo-Santa wants to "spice" up with holidays!

Who wants their salt and pepper served with a side of racial stereotyping?

It's a Dutch Wonderland of Salt and Pepper!

Unicorn Salt and Pepper Shakers! Rachel has one in the top left corner!

It's just like legendary Jack the Ass! Only not.

Some salt and pepper shakers were a little more extraordinary than others...

Every section was VERY organized and arranged by type.

We even learned the history of everyone's favorite brand of salt!

Jeff and I were not the first “Hollywood types” to visit the museum. This shrine to basic seasoning was featured on the Food Network’s “Unwrapped” in October 2, 2006. A moment that was clearly huge for Andrea, as signs commemorating the visit were posted all over the displays, including the appearance release... know, just in case the "Unwrapped" camera crew comes back for "pick-ups" or something.

And even though the museum moved to this larger location a few years ago...’s clear that the space is not big enough for Andrea’s collection.

The end of the tour did end on a sad note, when we discovered that Andrea wants to sell the museum:

Maybe it’s time for my sister to stop being a lawyer and move to Gatlinburg to launch her new career as museum curator?

As you may have gathered, I couldn’t be happier that Jeff convinced me to make this detour. By the end of our time at the world’s only salt and pepper shaker museum, I was no longer cranky. The sun seemed brighter, Tennessee seemed less terrible, and the idea of spending over seven hours in a car didn’t seem quite so daunting. I couldn’t wait to see how the rest of the day would…uh…“shake” out.


  1. :)

    Pity she doesn't have someone to take over. There's something kind of nice about witnessing the extent of one persons strange obsession once you get past the big "WHY?" sometimes peoples odd collections can be genuinely interesting. So whether its egg-cups, or teaspoons or, indeed, salt and pepper shakers you can actually learn something new, be amused and enjoy the experience

  2. When I win the lottery, I am buying this place.... :)

  3. I'm SOOOOO jealous that you got to go to what has to be in my top 10 museums in the world. (It might actually compete with the First Ladies gowns at the American History Museum in D.C.)

    I bet that she didn't have our hooker and police officer salt-n-pepper shaker set. Or the salt-n-pepper shakers that shake themselves!!

    OR the most recent addition to my collection - rhinos from Tanzania! Hah!