Metro-East Living

Swansea woman has more than 800 key chains in collection

Keychain Collector Elma Bevineau

Swansea woman has over 800 keychains from throughout the USA and beyond.
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Swansea woman has over 800 keychains from throughout the USA and beyond.

Elma Bevineau smiled when asked what kind of key chain she uses for her car keys.

The Swansea woman went to her purse and pulled out her keys, only to reveal no key chain at all, just the remote for her car doors.

“I don’t use one,” she said.

That’s surprising because Elma owns more than 800 key chains. She started collecting them about 25 years ago.

“It was just something to do after I retired,” she said.

Elma taught kindergarten and first grade in East St. Louis for 33 years.

She has key chains with birds and animals, figurines and landmarks, caps and shoes, toys and crosses, mascots and slogans. Most were gifts from family and friends.

“It’s a very extensive collection,” said her husband, Lumley, a retired civil servant at Scott Air Force Base.

Some of the key chains are nostalgic. There’s a giant Indian head nickel, a purple-haired troll and a miniature Etch A Sketch.

33 years teaching kindergarten and first grade in East St. Louis

25 years ago she began collecting keychains

The Pillsbury Doughboy is represented, along with the Oscar statue, Mr. Peanut, Mickey Mouse and even Darth Vader.

“I don’t know where he came from,” Elma said.

There are key chains with boxing gloves, golf shoes and balls from other sports. A red, white and blue tennis shoe is a souvenir from the 1992 Summer Olympics.

“Of course, I have one with Dr. Martin Luther King on it,” Elma said. “And here’s President Obama. That’s one of my newer ones.”

Some of the key chains are amazingly detailed. A Monopoly game includes a palm-sized board, dice and pieces. A tiny denim jacket has snaps and pockets. Other key chains are more practical, such as those with a toothpick holder and sewing kit.

I’ve got one from every state, and two or three from some states. When our friends traveled, they would bring me back key chains.

Elma Bevineau on her collection

“I’ve got one from every state, and two or three from some states,” Elma said. “When our friends traveled, they would bring me back key chains.”

The Bevineaus bought several of their own during a European vacation. That includes a brass Eiffel Tower from France and wooden shoes from Holland.

Elma has many key chains with crosses and other religious symbols. She uses those to decorate her purses.

“My favorite used to be a white, fuzzy poodle,” she said. “But my daughter-in-law liked it, so I gave it to her.”

Elma grew up in North Carolina and graduated from Shaw University. She met her husband when he was stationed in Georgia.

“We came to Illinois to be near his family,” she said. “He’s from Centralia.”

The Bevineaus have a son, Michael, who lives in Florida, and three grandchildren. Their other son, Rennie, is deceased.

Years ago, Lumley hired someone to make a folding wooden case with hooks for his wife’s key chains.

“There were so many of them, I thought that would be a good way to keep them in some kind of order,” he said.

The case has wheels on the bottom so Elma can slide it in and out of a closet.

“She has the key chains displayed very nicely,” said Alice Arndt, a friend from her exercise class at Zion Lutheran Church in Belleville. “You don’t have to dust them.”

Elma used to collect matchbook covers but gave that up. She still collects stamps, postcards and snowman figures, which she displays at Christmastime.

“I enjoy collecting,” she said. “I don’t know why. I guess it just gives me something extra to do.”

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