Posting this because we're still getting questions about Ted and his site and houses:
After years of acting, performing music, and collecting and writing about his favorite Christmas traditions, "Papa" Ted Althof succumbed to illness on October 29, 2012.
If you didn't know "Papa" Ted, know that he loved all things Christmas, especially the kind of Christmas villages that Moravian-Americans and German-Americans used to make around their nativities or Christmas trees. They became known as "putzes," related to the German word for "put" or "set out" and the Saxon word "putter." Because folks who set them out tended to putter with them all season long. In the early 1900s, the little cardboard candy houses that came from Germany and Japan were often set out alongside the nativity and the electric trains. But the "putzes" really came alive about 1929 when electric light strands allowed the Japanese houses to be lit from the inside. Ted was so fascinated by these putz houses that he researched them and wrote about them incessantly for the last two decades of his life. He also bought all he could afford and then some. In fact, many other putz collectors first encountered Ted when he outbid them for some piece they wanted. But to my knowledge, those encounters all led to friendship and, eventually, appreciation for what Ted was trying to accomplish.
Ted documented his findings and his "educated guesses" in a web page that was originally called PapaTedsPlace.com. For years that was the only major Internet resource taking the study of putz houses and related collectibles seriously.
When he realized his was ill, Ted worked with CardboardChristmas.com to help establish an archive of his web site. Ted also posted to the CardboardChristmas.com discussion forums several times. He was obviously glad to have direct conversations with our readers, many of whom he knew from earlier interactions. We, in turn, were glad to support Ted's efforts, and worked hard to make certain that our archive of his site would continue to inform, encourage, and bless other lovers of Christmas tradition for years to come.
ABOUT THE "OTHER" ARCHIVE - Soon after Ted's death, we learned that Ted had asked two OTHER people to maintain an archive of his site at the original web address (retaining his original domain name). We assisted them as much as we could, and posted links to that site from every page of our archive. That said, they eventually abandoned their efforts.
ABOUT THE DOMAIN NAME - Unfortunately, the other folks did not transfer ownership of the original domain name, and they stopped renewing it. So a professional web domain name "squatter" snagged it when they let it expire. Now when you click on PapaTedsPlace.com, you get a page of unrelated ads. Don't click on anything - the squatter will make a few cents, and do you really want that?
ABOUT THE DOORS AND WINDOWS - Papa Ted loved selling replacement doors and windows to help people restore old putz houses. Most people thought that Ted had made them himself or paid to have them manufactured, but they were actually made by other folks and given to Ted as a way of supporting his site.
The last year of his life, Ted felt too bad to keep selling them, but he didn't want the general public to know how sick he was. So he claimed he was out of stock. When he did pass away, many folks asked us where we could get doors and windows. As far as we knew at the time, the stock was really gone. So we spent many hours developing resources to help folks print their own or to cut out using a craftcutter like Silhouette.
We later discovered that Pete Oehman, another collector, had tracked down the sources of Ted's original stock of windows. Pete is now offering "Ted's" doors and windows (as well as many excellent related products that he has developed) for sale at his own site: http://cardboardputzhouses.com/
To make it easier for folks to order the products they were used to getting from Ted, we cleaned up Ted's original "online catalog" pages and uploaded them to Pete's web site for him.
In the meantime, some folks have found the resources we developed useful, so we are leaving them available. Those resources are listed at http://www.cardboardchristmas.com/html/resources.html
ABOUT ONGOING SITE MAINTENANCE - Ted put together a remarkable resource considering that everything he knew about HTML was self-taught. But some of the organization is, shall we say, labyrinthine?
Unfortunately, Ted declined to give us a CD with the site files on it. He said he didn't know how, but later I learned that he had also promised his web hosting guy the exclusive right to maintain an archive of his site. Apparently Ted was worried that he would "tip his hand" if he asked his web hosting guy to send me a CD. How could Ted promise at least two different people the "exclusive" right to maintain his archive? I think he was desperate to know that his legacy would be carried on somehow. We who knew and loved Ted have long been used to forgiving him for such glitches, because he was generally so good-hearted and because we appreciate all he did for the hobby.
So we actually rebuilt our archive of Ted's site by downloading a file at a time, reassembling it on our own hard drive and uploading it to a new server. That meant countless hours of reconstruction, and quite a bit of detective work.
It also meant that in some cases, our archive was better than Ted's original site. For example, when we first posted the archive, we came across dozens of places where photos didn't show up because Ted had typed the wrong spelling into the HTML or something. We fixed all of those as we found them.
A year later, we stumbled across an entire directory we didn't know existed, because Ted only had ONE link to it from ONE page. Fortunately, we were able to restore that directory as well.
Later, when the original "PapaTedsPlace.com" domain name was seized by squatters, we went back through and removed all of the links to that domain that we had embedded in our archive (at least one per page).
We have also updated our announcements several times as more information came in. These went on all of Ted' "Home" pages (he had several that you would get to from various parts of the sites - they all looked similar, but they weren't/aren't all the same).
In other words, publishing our archive entailed far more than just getting a CD from Ted and uploading its contents to the web page. And there is still ongoing maintenance whenever we discover a glitch that we inadvertently caused or that was left over from Ted's original site.
If you find something that needs attention, we will be glad to hear from you. But mostly we just wanted you to know that, even though the original massive effort of posting the site is behind us, we're still "on the job."
ABOUT TED'S COLLECTIONS - Ted's closest heirs found his house so full of putz houses, trains, musical instruments and old electronics that they literally could not get through some of the rooms. The trains and musical instruments were relatively easy for them to post on eBay. The putz houses were a bigger problem - literally. They were stacked everywhere, even on the rafters in the attic. Thank God, there was never a fire.
Not being putz collectors themselves and overwhelmed with the sheer size of the task, Ted's heirs contacted putz collectors, flea marketeers, and eBay sellers to come out and make offers on the electronics and putz houses. As far as I can tell from folks I've talked to "behind the scenes," no collector who was willing to drive out went away empty-handed. And most of the resellers gave reasonable value for the "lots" that they bought, considering that they were unsorted, uninventoried, and not exactly hermetically sealed against dust.
I expect that most or all of the items from Ted's various collections have found or will find their way to "good homes." But I have no more visibility into the disposition of the individual pieces than the average eBay surfer.
CONCLUSION - In his last months, "Papa Ted" was obviously worried about whether his "legacy" would continue. In fact, I think he would have GIVEN me his houses and trains if I had promised to display them somewhere. But it would have taken a warehouse-size building to display even a tithe, and it would have been a full-time job just to keep them dusted. What we could do, and have done, is keep his original web site in the best possible condition. Please let us know if you see anything else that needs work.
In the meantime, we hope you do your part in carrying on "Papa" Ted's legacy by enjoying all things Christmas, all year long!
- Paul and the rest of the CardboardChristmas community.