Smith stays with hobby that is worth its salt

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 6, 2001

VIDALIA, La. – Almost 50 years ago, Evelyne Smith found a hobby worth its salt – and she’s stuck with it ever since.

In the days before before salt shakers, she explained, miniature bowl-and-spoon sets filled with salt were placed at every place setting at a table.

Forty-six years ago, Smith was at a friend’s house and happened to admire the friend’s collection of these &uot;individual salts.&uot; So the friend gave her a piece from the collection, a tiny salt with the initial &uot;S&uot; – and a hobby was born.

&uot;It’s hard to pick my favorite,&uot;&160;Smith said.

As she spoke, she gestured to two ceiling-high curio cabinets containing more than 1,000 salts in crystal and porcelain and every color of the rainbow.

&uot;Every one of them has a story behind it,&uot; Smith said.

Take a set of six salts Smith acquired in 1946, for example. That year, she and her second husband, Welcome &uot;Shorty&uot; Smith, were traveling to Arkansas when they stopped to browse at an antiques shop.

A salesman there swore the set had been made by a famous crystal craftsman – but since the pieces did not carry the maker’s signature on the bottom, Evelyne Smith was skeptical.

But her husband, thinking there might be a chance the pieces were authentic, bought the entire set for $50, hiding them and later giving them to her as a gift.

&uot;And in every other antiques shop we stopped in along the way, they were selling for 50 cents each,&uot;&160;she said, laughing. But the set is still precious to her because her husband, who has since passed away, bought them for her.

There are others that her husband, an oilfield equipment salesman, bought for her as gifts, such as one he bought in Kansas to surprise her.

Then there are those she has collected from such far-flung places as Czechoslovakia and China.

There is even a salt from Alaska, complete with a spoon resembling a tiny totem pole.

Once a year, Smith inventories every piece in her collection, and every piece bears a tag with a catalog number for easy reference.

She even belongs to a salt association, the New England Society of Open Salts Collectors.

But collecting salts is not the retiree’s only hobby. Smith, who worked as a florist for 25 years, also grows potted plants, including geraniums and vinca, and also grows a potato vine that winds its way across the edge of her carport.

She also cuts pieces for quilts as part of a neighborhood quilting group.

Quilts she owns and helped make include ones with designs such as bow-tied bears, green stars and multi-colored tulips. She also cross-stitches and collects angel figurines, including several she made herself and one that was made from a beer can.

And in her spare time – what little there must be of it – she reads the latest best-selling novels.

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