'A big lot of nutcrackers': Stratford woman's collection grows to 175

·3 min read
'I certainly didn't buy them to crack nuts, but they probably would, the bigger ones. But I doubt the smaller ones would work,' says nutcracker collector Daphne Campbell.  (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC - image credit)
'I certainly didn't buy them to crack nuts, but they probably would, the bigger ones. But I doubt the smaller ones would work,' says nutcracker collector Daphne Campbell. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC - image credit)

A group of 175 strong stand at attention in Stratford, P.E.I.

Some hail from Germany, others are locals: a soldier in his traditional garb, a red-hatted lady in rouge stilettos, a sailor, hockey player, mouse, girl named Clara and several Santas.

They belong to Daphne Campbell and are just a small part of her nutcracker collection.

"I've been collecting nutcrackers for over 40 years," she said.

"They all have a story to tell, whether it's a place I visited or they remind me of somebody."

It began when her children were young and "we had to try and find toys that were indestructible," said Campbell.

That mission proved successful.

Sheehan Desjardins/CBC
Sheehan Desjardins/CBC

The first to join the brigade is still standing to this day. And while he's smaller in stature, his white beard grew almost the entire length of his torso.

"It was the typical soldier and it's nothing very fancy, but it's just kind of a cute little reminder of how I got into it," she said.

"There are lots of soldiers and lots of ones from the original Nutcracker story, but there are others that are sort of little characters."

The collection has overflooded a large cabinet in Campbell's home. Each is entirely unique, well, almost.

"I call these the twins," she said, grabbing two identical figurines with matching black top hats.

"I had gotten one first ... and then later had gotten the other one, not realizing they are both the same. But in the meantime, our son and partner ended up having twin boys."

Sheehan Desjardins/CBC
Sheehan Desjardins/CBC

On top of the cabinet stands Drosselmeyer, a central character in the classic Nutcracker story.

"That might be one of my favourites," she said.

In the overflow seating to the right are more cherished individuals.

"These are two little special ones that my husband's cousin made," she said.

"They were just blanks when she got them and she painted them in the Irish plaid and in the Scotch plaid."

Sheehan Desjardins/CBC
Sheehan Desjardins/CBC

Below is another top pick.

"We have this one, which is very special. This is my red hat lady because my mother belonged to the Red Hat Society," said Campbell.

"When I look at it, I think of my mother — which I often do anyway — but it's just a constant reminder of the things that she liked and the fun that she had."

'Can't believe there's so many'

Campbell admits she doesn't collect nutcrackers like she used to, simply because she's run out of room. But with so many memories attached to so many wooden figurines, it's hard for her not to smile looking at her collection.

"When the twin grandsons were smaller, they used to sort of have a little army of the nutcrackers, and they would roleplay different things," she said with a laugh.

"The five-year-old granddaughter, she thinks it's kind of cute, and she likes the ones that are girls and that have pets."

Others also tend to be enthralled with the set.

"Usually, the first thing [they say] is, 'Wow!' because they can't believe there's so many."

And looking back neither can she.

"If you had told me that 40 years ago, I would think you were nuts," Campbell said.

"But yeah ... it's a big lot of nutcrackers."

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