by Dennis Dalman
Betty Brandt suffered many bouts of separation anxiety when she was faced with having to get rid of her vast collection of coffee mugs that number in excess of 2,000.
When she decided to move from her large home in Sartell to a small patio home in the city, she realized she had no choice. There would simply not be enough room for the mugs in her cozy but tight-spaced new home.
She tossed and turned, wondering what to do. Then one day, her daughter, Julie Blanchette, also of Sartell, came up with a suggestion:
“Mom, why don’t you donate them to St. Francis Xavier Church for the fall festival?” Julie said.
“Yes!,” said her mother. “Oh, my gosh, that’s the perfect opportunity.”
Instantly, Brandt’s anxiety level fell. She was happy, knowing so many fellow parishioners of her church would get to enjoy the mugs.
At the church’s annual Fall Festival, set for Sunday, Aug. 18, there will be a special exhibition in the Gathering Place called “Mugs and More” from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. The mugs will be placed in gift packages or festival goers can buy individual mugs, and one thing’s for sure, there will be a huge variety from which to choose. Brandt’s extensive collection includes mugs in the shape of virtually every animal on the planet, as well as shoe mugs, movie-star mugs, patriotic mugs and oodles of mugs for every holiday of the year. There are fruit-shaped mugs, vegetable-shaped mugs and mugs of wildly colored whimsical shapes.
It was Brandt’s daughter, Julie, who unwittingly caused Brandt’s long-time hobby. One day, in 1964, Julie bought a mug at a drugstore in Olivia, where the Brandts lived at the time. It was a small mug with ceramic flowers on it. The mug enchanted Julie’s mother, who kept saying how much she liked it. It didn’t take long before Brandt used every holiday or special occasion as an excuse to buy yet another mug. Her collection kept growing. Eventually, she ran out of shelf space to hold the mugs. Later, when the Brandts moved to Sartell, a huge basement room was equipped with wooden shelves running parallel to one another throughout the large room, the way shelves are situated in a library. Eventually, all of the shelving was filled with mugs of every description, resembling a veritable “Mug Museum.”
Brandt delighted in decorating her house with theme mugs. For example, she would arrange Christmas mugs throughout the house during Christmas – or bunny and egg mugs for Easter. On Valentine’s Day, there would be plenty of heart mugs to display here and there.
One reason her mug collection grew so quickly is her beloved granddaughters – Breanne, Ally and Jordyn – loved to buy their grandmother mugs, knowing how happy it made her.
Recently, friend Royce and Bonnie Nies of Sartell, along with Julie’s and Betty’s help, drove four vehicles plumb-full of boxed-up mugs to St. Francis Xavier Church.
Brandt did not have to give up all of her mugs, however. She kept a good part of her treasure – nearly 400 of her favorite mugs, including the ones from her granddaughters.
One day, recently, daughter Julie just couldn’t resist the temptation to buy her mother another mug. She purchased a “Quinlivan & Hughes” mug from the law firm where she works.
“Mom, I have a new mug for you,” she said.
Brandt accepted the mug, examined it with a big smile and said, “Oh, I love it!”
The new mug will have an honored place in Brandt’s patio home, among the nearly 400 others she will display.
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.