Make PEZ great again

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

Some people collect stamps, and some collect comic books, but despite the diversity of the collector’s chosen object, they generally have one thing in common – showing off their respective collections.

Master Sgt. Linda DeMuro, 30th Operations Support Squadron airfield manager, is one such collector, and her chosen object, PEZ memorabilia.  

The small plastic figures adorn almost every surface of her office walls, and it doesn’t stop there, the rows of neatly organized candy dispensers are merely the tip of the iceberg. On the floor and behind the door and everywhere there is unused surface space, rests small sculptures and figurines of the distinctive candy containers. A Darth Vader dispenser nestles near Easter bunnies and robots, the rainbow assortment eyeing passerby’s, as if daring them to take a mint.

“I began collecting the simple dispensers when I was in junior high, because I liked the colors,” said DeMuro. “I do everything in color, I even write in color coded pens. It was those bright candy colors that first drew me in, and after collecting for years and putting them away in a box I realized that they needed to be displayed. When I got my own office I thought to myself, ‘this is perfect!’ and started showcasing my collection for everyone to enjoy.”

Having such a unique collection fits hand in glove with her job at the airfield. Many Distinguished Visitors pass through the air terminal, and consequently DeMuro’s office often becomes a memorable, unplanned stop on their journey.

“Her office is incredible, you can’t walk by without craning your head,” said Capt. Jaye Smith, 30th OSS airfield operations flight commander. “We get a lot of distinguished visitors passing through here, and of all the neat things we have, when they walk by her office they are flabbergasted. It often becomes the highlight of the tour. I think it’s awesome when people take that much pride in their workspace, and with the amount of work she puts into organizing and displaying her PEZ collection, she has a lot of pride. When she first got here, I thought, ‘okay, she won’t be able to fit anything else in her office,’ and yet almost weekly, I see her adding new items. It is pretty impressive.”

Her office, often mistaken for a snack bar, never fails to elicit a response from first timers.

“The reactions are the best, always,” said DeMuro. “I don’t think anyone can pass by without stopping, and if they do pass by, they back up and do a double take. A lot of people think it’s a museum or a snack bar just because it’s so vibrant in here. Everyone thinks it’s fun, and that is the best reaction I get, it’s hard not to be happy when you walk in here in the morning.”

According to www.us.pez.com, a candy maker named Eduard Haas III created the original PEZ mint in 1927, Vienna Austria. It wasn’t until the 1950s when the company started marketing in the United States, that they evolved into the form we know today.

“It was originally marketed as an alternative to smoking,” said DeMuro. “The early PEZ containers weren’t customized with characters on them. They operated similar to a lighter and you could dispense mints with them. The German word for peppermint is pfefferminz and is where the name PEZ originated.”

DeMuro hopes to broaden her collection as she seeks out more unique and fun PEZ memorabilia, and in so doing, make her work environment more eclectic and enjoyable for her colleagues.

“I’m a pretty eccentric type person, and this very much reflects that,” said DeMuro. “The décor gives people a good idea about what my personality is like. I am really glad I have the space to show them off, they are fun and colorful, and I want everyone to enjoy them as much as me. And of course I am always looking to add to my collection, if it has PEZ on it, I want it.”