(Editor’s note: Former Palisadian-Post Editor Bill Bruns told CTN, “Pepper Edmiston wrote dozens of columns and first-person stories for the Post about her wild, adventurous and sometimes whacky life, and they were always entertaining — often laugh-out-loud funny, but also poignant, such as the tribute she wrote about her oldest son David after he died. Pepper, as a writer and a person, is a true original.”)
Pepper Edmiston, who has collected more than 175 colorful and amusing cookie jars over the years, has decided to sell select jars at Collections Antiques and Books, at 15326 Antioch Street. This is a fantastic collection and the opportunity to purchase one for a special present for someone is limited.
It goes without saying that with a maiden name of Pepper Salter, this long-time Palisadian would have to develop a sense of humor – and her various columns for the Palisadian-Post did indeed yield laughter.
After growing up in Beverly Hills and graduating from UC Berkeley, she married a lawyer named Bud Abrams. She received her teaching credential from UCLA.
The couple had two sons, David and Jonathan. When David was two, he was diagnosed with childhood leukemia and given a 50 percent chance of survival. He survived, but the treatments left him brain-damaged and epileptic.
Pepper had three more children, Matthew, Susan and Benjamin, and “David was one of the gang.” When he was eight, no children’s camp at the time would take a child like him, so in 1982 Pepper and her parents founded Camp Good Times to provide outdoor retreats for children with cancer. On her website, Pepper writes, “David and his pals flourished. President and Mrs. Reagan were regular visitors to Camp, and they loved it, too!”
How do you keep order in a household with five children? According to Pepper, “To survive, Bud and I surrendered our authority, letting the kids control the narrative. Bright and competitive, except for my darling David, the Abrams kids did fine: three lawyers and a marketing guru, solid marriages and sweet offspring.”
Then Bud and Pepper divorced, and her friends wondered, What man in his right mind would want to inherit this clan? Even Pepper’s mom said, “Nobody, but nobody, will want a person with five children and a donkey.”
Turns out that Joe Edmiston, who grew up as an only child, was happy to jump into the fray. He was executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and had fought numerous land-acquisition battles for years, so living with five kids in the house didn’t faze him.
Pepper said, “He was constantly asking why the kids were insubordinate and what was ‘brotherly love,’ as he watched my boys pummel one another, from big to small to smaller to smallest.”
Soon, Joe and Pepper added two of their own children, William and Charlie, to the clan.
But, “when the youngest began to walk, my empty arms craved something to carry,” Pepper said, and in 1988 she found her first “replacement baby – a cookie jar.” That jar was a tubby lady in a bathing suit.
“Whenever I missed holding my babies, I’d buy a new jar. Problem solved.”
Pepper said that before the internet, she collected jars from estate sales, garage sales, antique stores and gift stores. “Once Joe and I drove across the country and had a great time finding treasures in small towns where people spoke in a foreign language,” Pepper said. “Now it’s the internet, eBay and Etsy.”
Her favorite jars are Raggedy Ann and Andy because she had decorated David’s room with that theme.
“The most interesting jar, and also the ugliest, is of a merchant who lived long ago in New England,” Pepper said. “He was so fat he carried his stomach in a cart. A handful of jars were made to remember him, and I have one of them!”
In October 2020, one of Pepper’s biggest cheerleaders, her mom, passed away. “I got really depressed, missing my son David, and my dad and my mom,” Pepper said. “The only way I could cheer up was to buy more people jars.
“Then it occurred to me that cookie jars could make kids happy, too. Not people, but animal jars. So, I bought an alarming number of them. Then I realized that bright-colored canvases that pictured happy jars would be wonderful for children’s rooms.”
That was the start of Pepper’s new business, Baby Art Mart, which sells colorful prints of her favorite cookie jars, which will be available in January.
“I have 200 jars to sell,” Pepper said. “I am still keeping most of the people ones — I narrowed my collection to full-bodied fat people jars. They are all over our home and make the place cheery.”
She said that every single jar is special to her – just like each of her children.
Ah – THANK you for news of Pepper! I loved her occasional columns, I knew her son Charlie, and occasionally spent the day with sweet David. I’m grateful to learn her background – because I’ve never met a woman as downright loving (with wit!) as Pepper.