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Letters from Folks
I used to have guestbooks, but things always went wrong. Suddenly the host would just evaporate or, as in the last case, the relentless vandal-pornographers found it and there was nothing I could do to stop the flood. The whole spirit of this "place" is as an island of refuge from that vast, dead sea of corruption, so I just had to take it out.
My heart is heavy with the loss of literally hundreds of lovely messages and stories. So-
I will here again attempt to save your letters.... and. especially, your STORIES!
They make it all worthwhile.
If you had written me in the past and your letter was lost, please write again!
Ted…I’m both saddened and gratified when reading your ‘announcement’. Saddened of course, because of your ongoing struggle. Gladdened to perceive that you’re making a Stand and continuing on as best you can. Rough times ahead; certainly. Challenges: certainly. A reflective and increasingly enlightened outlook on your life, along with a rewarding new role you’re to play in it? An absolute certainty! Miracles? Well, like thousands of others…you may become one!
Ted…you know, as well as I…when one door closes…others open. I can say that with assurance from personal experience. Yup, I also found myself in a similar, perhaps not as severe (malignant melanoma; Clark scale: 4) situation as has been ‘dropped’ on you. Age wise, I’ve a few years on you, so don’t take this as preaching; rather, a friend-to-friend reminder; He…will not lay anything upon you… He knows you can not handle.
And likened to my experience…your life is about to refresh. As for new doors opening He has not taken His wondrous gift from you…you’re ability to think. With guidance from family and friends…I’m confident, and He knows, you’ll choose the right door.
It’s been twenty-five years since I almost lost my left arm to cancer…and I’m still discovering new doors. So if, Papa Ted’s Place’, which has brought joy to millions, winds down a bit…I believe it’s His way of making room for you to choose other doors.
As for myself and Editor Jerry Azzaro…we feel deeply that the publication of ‘Papa Ted’s Place’ photo feature will frame a fitting tribute to you and your ‘Place.’ A place you’ve made for yourself in the hearts of millions around the world.
Unless I hear differently from you…The Side Track will be placed on the cyber news rack in the beginning of December…with advance ‘copies’ of your Feature Story going to you and Antoinette . And, I’m sure; our readership will also find a place for you…in their hearts!
With sincere respect warmest wishes
Jack, I'm not sure just what kind of miracle brought you to my website and to cherish it the way you do, but I'm sure you are a Godsent angel. You are one of those doors that opened... just when all seemed to have closed.
It seemed in view of all this that little Christmas houses were a trivial, materialistic kind of thing - especially in view of the terrible plight of so many of us in America - and the world - these days. I was actually ashamed of it and of myself for being so delusional and small. But a few like you have made me realize that somewhere, somehow - evidence of what we once had - and were - had to be laid down, because two current generations, now, have no notion of it and have come to accept our terrible decline as "normal" and are being swayed into accepting less and less with every passing day. No! There once was an America like that where people could delight in trivial but lovely, happy domestic little things. The little Christmas houses were but one of the many happy "little" things we took for granted. The little things added up to the Big One - Happiness. Giant skyscrapers are built from tiny bricks, the vast Universe of tiny atoms. Instead of the happy trivialities we once enjoyed, I now see fear and worry from every side. Instead of little Christmas houses I see real houses rotting vacant from foreclosures, drugs and suicides. Instead of the joy at birth of a child, I despair of what kind of life that baby has been born to.
If it is time for me to go so be it. I'm too old and weakened to adapt much anymore. There is no time left to realize my dreams, and i had many. But I enjoyed my time. It's been a "Magical Mystery Tour." I saw America as She was, but is no more.I've seen other parts of this world as well. I've had my three score and ten and though never rich, I lived like a king compared with so much of humanity. I've got no room to complain. . I'm fighting it, but really wonder what there is to survive for. Perhaps I belong in "Papa Ted's Place." Part of me certainly does. But possibilities have arisen that may extend my time and if that's the case it means that He has more for me to do - and my next job will be discovering what that is. Pray for further doors to open, for further good acts I can do - even if it's just the right word to say to someone when they most need it now and then.
I am so looking forward to your article and as soon as you have it online, please send me the link so i can post it? I know it will add a fine thing to the site. I will be proud of it that someone cared that much.
Thank you, Jack. God Bless you. I will be posting your letter and this response on "LETTERS FROM FOLKS." tonight.
October 26, 2011:
Hello Papa Ted....Just re-found your sight (I kept looking for uncle Ted and getting Ted Nugent!!lol!)
Sooo sorry to hear of your health problems....Please know that I am placing you on several prayer lists and will personally pray for you on a regular basis....Please do not give up hope!! I LOVE your site, as it brings back 'warm and fuzzy' memories of a simpler time....You are such a GREAT asset to the vintage Christmas community and have given us such a wealth of information-for this I am truly grateful.....
I am a 48 year old housewife/Mom who is bedridden from severe Lymphedema (severe swelling in both legs and hips from a botched c-section 17 yrs ago)....I collect Putz houses and vintage Christmas plastics (wreaths/trees etc) and enjoy setting up my village every year, as it brings back memories of childhood and an escape from the realities of adulthood which are not too pleasant.....I also sell stuff on ebay to bring in some grocery money, as I am unable to work......
Please know that you are thought of everyday, and wished nothing but BLUE skies, SPARKLE cotton, and the HAPPIEST of memories!!! GOD Bless!!! Mrs. D
I hardly know what to say to such a touching tribute, "Mrs. D." These have been sad and fearful days, indeed, and the thoughts that come so dark so often. One wonders if one has done a single good thing in this world or been of any value in it. But when I hear something like this I feel perhaps i may have done a little good afterall. Efforts are in progress to reconstruct the site in dfifferent locations so that it will be there - somewhere - after I am gone.
But that may be a while. So many good folks have been praying for me - and I just got news of a possible new therapy for me that seems a miracle. So keep those prayers coming! I absolutely believe they work!
- and God bless YOU!
December 19. 2010:
Hi, Mr. Althof,
I read the article on your collection in the Post Gazette and wondered if you can help me out. I have been looking for years to replace some small chalk Nativity figures. I inherited what is left of the set from my mom and believe it dates to the late 1940s or very early ‘50s. The pasteboard stable is gone but I still have the crèche and several of the figures. I am particularly interested in finding small chalk lambs and shepherds. Do you know of anyplace or anyone that might have these items? I’d really appreciate any assistance you can offer.
Mary Ann Smeltzer
Gee, Mary Ann - i wish I could, but Nativities and Crech's are not my forte'. I don't collect them, though I do have one of the chalk sets you speak of. It was a cheap one from one of the dimestores years ago and is the same as the one we had when I was a kid. We kids used to ride the Baby Jesus around in the train, afraid He might be getting bored.
Those types were sold by the millions right up into the '60s, and I see chalk pieces often in antique shops and flea markets - even occasionally in the Goodwill and Salvation Army stores. My advice to you is to go on the prowl in such places. I'm sure you'll turn them up eventually.
Good luck and Merry Christmas!
December 14, 2010:
Hello, I will like to know if you ship out of United state to Dublin in Ireland and if you also accept credit card as form of payment.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Well, I've never shipped to Ireland but would certainly do my best. What is it that you want?
I can't accept credit cards because I'm not really a business. I just supply these little doors and windows as a sort of hobby thing to fellow Christmas house collectors.
This is very curious to me. There is great interest in this sort of thing in Canada, Germany and Holland, but I've never heard of this from Ireland or the U.K. I've never known if this sort of thing was practised on the Emerald Isles. Please tell me more?
December 10, 2010:
I wanted to tell you that I love your website. Thank you for sharing all of the wonderful photos and information about putz houses. A good friend of mine has spoken fondly of the train platform that they had when she was a child. She believed hers to be the only one in existence, a wooden board with a place for the tree and a beautiful miniature metal fence, made by hand by her grandfather. (if I can get a photo I will email it to you). They have a few of the putz houses, although I believe that, from the size of the platform, only a few of them have survived. She was amazed to see that her platform was not alone.
I wanted to make a comment or two on your mystery 30's - 1927 / 37 / 41 photo. One thing that caught my eye is the flag on the wall, the 3 american flags, and the toy soldiers. I was thinking that the diamond 2 is some kind of second rangers flag / pennant / guidon. The second rangers wore a 2 in a diamond on their helmets during WWII. However, the second rangers were not formed until 43, which does not support your 41 theory. The pennant over the curtain is consistent with 30's / 40's style that were sold at PX's, but were also common at tourist locations (I collect wwii militaria and have several of these pennants, everything from the Army Air Force to the Empire State Building). But again, hard to date them to an exact date. Another interesting is the "Boy Scouts to the rescue" book - Scouts to the Rescue was a movie in 1939. And the book, Boy Scouts to the Rescue was first printed in 1921 (although this is not the original cover art). Donald Duck is another clue - he debuted in 1934, but his body was changed in 36 to the body that we now associate with donald. Donald did not get his own cartoon until 1937. Donald Duck remains more popular than Mickey throughout the war.
I'm not sure I helped much, but I believe this is either 39 (and the flag is something totally unrelated to the US military or a WWI souvenir) but could possibly as late as 45 / 46.
Thanks again for taking the time to make the site.
Your friend was certainly under the wrong impression that her train board was the one-and-only! They must not have gone around and seen other people's Christmas gardens as we did. Outdoor lights were expensive and primitive in those days,and although some did, the emphasis was the indoor display. Some people competed ferousciously with it - then as now. Lucky for our present day collectors!
Every once in a while I google my dad's name to see what is out there. I found your website and I am quite touched by what you said about my dad's book. Thanks for keeping "his life's devotion" out there. For surely Christmas was that to him. Did you know him?
How amazing to hear from you, Eve. But you needn't thank me. We need to thank your Dad for "The Christmas Tree Book." If one were to have but one book about Christmas, that's the one to have.
November 30, 2010:
I am so happy to have found your site! My Dad recently passed away and my family has inherited a few Lionel train sets and about thirty little paper houses. I don’t recall seeing them as a kid – probably because they were put away with the trains – which my Dad wouldn’t let us touch even when we kids were well into our 20’s and 30’s. (I cannot say that I blame him!) My husband and I have been given the honor of building a train garden using my Dad’s stuff. It has been so great to learn so much about the “Glitter Houses” along with safe ways of cleaning and restoring them. Most of ours are torn and warped, but I hope to have them ready for the train garden soon.
Also, I wanted to share something that has worked well for me. Rather than dismantling the houses and ironing them I have had success putting them in a veggie steamer (over hot water on the stove) and just reshaping them while they are warm and damp. Some of the really bad warping required 3 or 4 steamings and coolings to work back into shape, but for me it is much better than taking them apart. Also, while the paper is still warm and damp, little bends can be straightened without tearing or breaking.
I will send some pictures when I have a few completed. I am very excited about my kids and great nieces being able to see it all!
Thanks again for your web site!
Julie Ann Craft,
November 29, 2010:
LOVE YOUR WEBSITE! Thank you for having this wonderful website with so many vintage pictures, I am especially fond of all those that show the wonderful way that Christmas trees used to be decorated, as well as the less than perfect shape and size of the trees. The ones we get in my part of the world (South Carolina low country) are very "perfectly" shorn in N.C., so, we have gone to the field for the past 5 years to cut ours down. I just have to have a more natural looking tree.
I am fascinated by the Dickey family photos. You can trace some of the tree ornamanents as they appear over the years.
I had never heard the term putz until discovering your website.
Thanks again and have Happy Holidays.
Thank you for writing to tell me that, Terry!
Yes, I am with you. I love the style of trees back then - as I remembered them as a kid. Lots of open spaces for ornaments to hang free and catch the lights like planets in the mysterious Heavens. No two alike. Yes, we have the same featureless "cones" up here, too. That's the way these farmers grow them deliberately now, and I don't like it. You practically have to pound the ornaments in with a rubber mallet. Then everybody's tree looks the same. It's as if they couldn't make artificial trees look real - so they turned it around and made real trees look artificial. There is something very wrong about that. It's against the very Will of Nature which makes no two snowflakes the same and gives different fingerprints to identical twins.
I remember my Mom was always looking for the perfect tree and never found it and thank goodness! I don't think she'd have really liked it afterall if she did.
November 25, 2010:
My son who is 37 forwarded this site to me. we are originally from Pgh, Pa but now live in Florida. Thank-you so much for all the childhood memories. makes me very nostagic but at the same time i get that warm and fuzzy feeling we all love. Just wanted to say thanks. Definitely you're site will be bookmarked.
I’ve just come across your (very fun) “Christmas in the 1920s” page, and I have a little more information on the “Hauck family” photo, which might interest you. The photo shows the Huck family’s Christmas tree in Takoma Park MD, in (according to the family) 1912. The dollhouse visible to the right was donated to the Montgomery County Historical Society by Lona Huck, whose father Joseph built the dollhouse, and Ms. Huck provided a copy of the photo to go with the toy; information provided by the Ms. Huck, as written by the gentleman who delivered it for her: “The photograph was taken in 1912. Actually three trees were bunched together to give the appearance of a single tree. All of the decorations on the tree, with the exception of the Christmas balls, were hand made by Mr. Huck.”
I hope this info is helpful to you!
Director of Collections
Montgomery County Historical Society
111 W. Montgomery Avenue
Rockville, MD 20850
November 24, 2010:
Greetings: I came across your website and wondered if you might be interested in some images of our annual Christmas putz. In our case, we don’t always use a tree (though this year we did). We are very fortunate to have the huge putz collection accumulated by one family in Allentown, PA – ranging in date from the 1920s to the 1970s -- to draw upon, and every year it can be different. I think we are the only museum that has an annual putz here in the U.S. – other than the Christmas museum!
This year’s theme is Alpine Village – last year (pictures attached) had 6 tables with different themes.
Please feel free to contact me with questions! We love our putz!
Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center
November 24, 2010:
Dear Papa Ted,
The Christmas Putz in The Lutheran Home at Topton, PA ("A Tinplate Christmas Putz"), will be open Saturdays and Sundays of December [closed Christmas Day] from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM. Admission is free. For directions, use the following name and address: The Lutheran Home at Topton, One South Home Avenue, Topton, PA 19562.
Thank you for providing a Link to the Putz on your wonderful Website.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Philip Smith
November 20, 2010:
My Dad died in Augest of 2009, and I inherited all of his family slides. I was scanning a bunch of them when I came across these old photos. I never remembered that my Grandparents had a Putz Village under their tree in 1958, but I was only 2 years old that year. Not sure what happened to them, but they never displayed them again after that year. I did inherit their Spinner Ornaments though that can be seen on the 1958 tree. I also found a few photos showing the set that I now own that we displayed as a family in the late 1960's. It was a set of the Alpine Village Lights that I think we got at Sears. The last (1975) photo was the last time the village was displayed by my family until I received and displayed it last year for the first time since 1975.
I'd be honored if you posted these on your website. I'll have photos of my own Putz Display next month sometime. This year it is going on our newly acquired cardboard fireplace. I also followed your recommendation, and acquired about 3 dozen of the newly produced Barclay Mini Figures for my village this year. I also won a few dozen of the old flat Heinrichsen figures as well. Thanks again for your site.
Dear Papa Ted,
Really enjoying all the vintage pictures you put up on your website. My sister and I are drooling over some of the Christmas presents and ornaments on the trees. I posted one of your photos of a five and dime drugstore from the 1920’s on Mike Wolfe, American Picker’s Facebook page and got many responses including one from Mike Wolfe! I am going to put your link up on his page to give you credit since so many of his fans would really appreciate your photos. Thanks again for sharing…
Oh,dear! I hope those Pickers don't come here and try to "pick" me!(LOL) But thanks for the boost and for enjoying, Bonnie.
November 04 - ?, 2010:
Good day….regretfully, not having heard back from you and considering a soon approaching deadline, I’ll likely have to call off my proposal for featuring ‘Papa Ted’s Place’ in our T.T.O.S. newsletter until perhaps, a future Winter issue.
However, on the chance that you have been too busy catching up with other projects, you might recheck your E-mails for the idea that I send on November 9 or 10th. Also, as I suggested, maybe just a listing of your site address with a few introductory words would suffice and indeed, be better than a larger presentation….that is to say; Let ‘Papa Ted’s Place’ speak for itself!
In retrospect, I’ll confess that I was perhaps a little too eager and elated from not only hearing from you but that you also suggested placing a ‘Pineville’ pix or two of mine in the ‘Putze’ page! If that enthusiasm reflected too strongly in my proposal for a feature article of your Site, I apologize…particularly, if it added to the concerns of your workload. In the meanwhile, I’ll continue being enthralled with your site and look forward to continued communication with you.
With warmest regards and respect,
Oh, Jack! You have my profoundest apologies! It's all my fault. At this time of year I get virtually inundated with e-mails and pictures and they sometimes just sink into that quicksand of "scrolling down." But I am (finally) getting around to putting your exqusite little "Pineville" putz on the website. Those humble "Pinevilles" have a special place in my heart and history, and I would be honored to be mentioned in your newsletter.
November 01, 2010:
Hello Papa Ted!
I've been lost browsing your site for a couple of hours now!
I don't even know how I stumbled upon it, but I just want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for putting this together, and articulating the sentiments of "The Magic Window"...
I just turned 40 this year, but my goodness, I've been realizing lately that the world is losing something so, so, special.... and real... and substantial.... and tangible... and relevant.... with the passing of the pre-war generation - and your site just articulated exactly the vague but distinct sense of an almost mourning that I've sensed lately... whenever I read an old magazine or book, watch an old movie, fight it out with the teachers at my daughter's school about why kids still need to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic and especially when I walk through a WPA park, bridge, fountain, library.... you just perfectly put that feeling into words!
Yes, Vanessa, I think the Country is in a sort of mourning, but doesn't know for what. The holidays have become confused as has everything. Pumpkin trees at Halloween, for Heaven's sake! We're two full generations from the kind of Christmas and National Spirit I've depicted here. The now kids never knew it, and too many of them just don't get it. Their parents didn't get it, either, and that's why. The wrong views were put before their "Magic Window." Too many failed to clean the glass...
December 08, 2009:
Greetings, My wife Cindy and I discovered your website just a day or so ago; since then, we've enjoyed quality hours enjoying and making mental notes of the wonderful vintage and contemporary displays. Somewhat a generational thing in my family has been creating "Christmas Yards" or "Layouts" each Christmas season, combining our love of toy trains with the creation of villages or towns under the Christmas tree. I had often been told stories of the grand Christmas displays created by past generational family members, all of whom were born and raised in the Reading, Pennsylvania region. According to my mother, an uncle of hers would begin work on a major Christmas in the parlor of his home sometime in September or October; furthermore discribing the elaborateness of the layout, landscapes and animated scenes. Regrettably, any photos that may have been taken have for all we know been lost through the generations. Again, Cindy and I find your website very inspiring. I would like to order a copy of the CD that you are offering. Does this CD include all the photographs (both vintage and contemporary) that appear on your website; the two of us just really enjoy admiring and studing the details of the vintage scenes? A toy train and particularly a prewar Lionel toy train enthusiast, I really love to study and spot familiar toy trains in the vintage scenes.
Thanks so much, Mike. That's the Spirit of the Thing, all right. I remember my disappointment when we left Pennsylvania in 1948 to discover the custom not so widely practiced in other parts of the country. It definitely originates here. As to ordering a CD, I always advise folks to hold off on that until around February because so much new stuff comes in over the Holidays and it takes me a while to get it all in... but to answer your question: Yes. The photographs will all be there. Active links to other websites will only work if you are also online at the time.
November 19, 2009:
I can't remember how I found your website but I am delighted that I did! To find kindred spirits who love Christmas villages is a joy! I haven't even scratched the surface of touring your website but just knowing that I can makes me very happy! I am one of those "children at heart" who spent hours laying by our Christmas tree way back in the 50's looking at our humble Christmas village -- the Japanese paper houses on one side, a sheet taped up to the wall for a "hilly" background; a little fence all around; and my Mom's old manger scene on the left side. We had eight kids and not a lot of money, but I had all the dreams and joy I needed laying by our tree each year! Over the years I have collected my own "eclectic" village and it is my prized possession. The oldest pieces are two that belonged to my Mom, and I'm not sure how old they are. I don't have an expensive "Dickens" village but to me it has meaning and charm. Can people send you photos? Do I attach them to an email? I'll have to take some new ones as my computer crashed during the past year. My son the engineer (bless his heart) built me a special 3 tiered table for my village that fits in a corner. I also have my "tiny village" that goes under the tree. Christmas is complete for me if any small kids happen to visit and I see them get lost in their imagination, just as I did. Thanks for your website!!
Happy Thanksgiving -- and then the fun part -- Christmas!
Thanks for the swell letter and story, Sharon. I may post it on LETTERS FROM FOLKS, if that's all right with you - and yes: that's the way I get almost all my photos - attached to e-mails. I'll be looking forward to them.
PS -We were rather poor, too.....
Thanks for replying. You certainly can post my letter. I forgot to mention that my sister is a "kindred spirit" too. Her village grows every year; we laughingly call her village "urban sprawl". It is so much fun, the high point of Christmas!
November 6, 2009:
I found your site while researching vintage Christmas images and never moved on..I'm working on our old dollhouse- getting it ready for Christmas (1930s) - I've been on your site for over an hour- love it!!!
We also have my dad and grandpa's (pre WW2) Lionel train set that goes around the tree according to tradition (water tower, station, tunnel and all). I'm not a big collector; more of an accumulator recreating our "magic window" of Christmas and loving it. Like your daughter, I was born in the early 60s, and we had all the old stuff from Japan (& sometimes Germany), even the silly mini pine cone chenille elves that are oddly important to me. The small buildings on your site are fabulous. If my parents had any they were gone by 1960. Darn. Thanks for putting the site there for us all to discover.
Thank you, Ms. Tangeman! I feel as if I've just been sung -
- a Christmas Carol :>).
October 30, 2009:
Dear Papa Ted,
Your web site is wonderful. The clear black and white pictures are great. Thank you so much for sharing them. I am a vintage Christmas collector, so I really enjoyed the Christmas scenes from the past.
Thank you again.
Missouri Valley, IA
Thanks, Dennis! Those old photos - just can't get enough of 'em!
Dear "Papa Ted,"
What a very, very special man you are! I have spent a good bit of quality time on your extraordinary site this afternoon, savoring the photographs and information on Japanese dimestore houses, and am writing to thank you for being generous enough to share your information, passion and eloquence with those of us fortunate enough to discover you.
God bless you, sir.
Susan C., an admirer from New Jersey
Oh, Susan! I'm blushing! What can I say? May I post your message? Such sentiments are treasured.
Dear "Papa Ted,"
The compliment was heartfelt and well-deserved. I'm delighted you want to post my message; please do.
And incidentally, you are a treasure.
With best regards,
Visited your site this morning and enjoyed it thoroughly. I am a train collector and have had some of the Japanese houses from time to time when they came with a box of trains. I have sold them off as not part of the Gilbert, Lionel, Marx lexicon. It is a pleasant surprise to find someone interested enough to sort out the categories and document the development. What I have been interested in is the cardboard put-together sets for use with the trains primarily Skyline and Built-rite, but a couple of others as well. While they weren't particularly Christmas oriented, my guess would be that they wound up in a Christmas garden or two along the way.
Thanks for a magic moment and the work that has gone into it.
Well, I'm a train collector, too: TCA #76-10168 - HR - and had the same experience, but I got interested in that old Christmas stuff. I would find things that I hadn't seen since I was a kid and got into collecting old Christmas lights as well ... and everything else, because it all went together. Though I have representative items from all train periods , I'm mostly prewar - all makes and gauges - and wanted my layouts to be as they would have been in their day. That meant lots of the old "dimestore" stuff. Thanks to the narrow view of so many train collectors, i have picked up my most SPECTACULAR bargains on old Christmas stuff at train meets over the years.
Even by the time I started collecting nearly 40 years ago there had already been a lot of books come out about the trains, the ornaments and the lights - but nobody had done much of anything about the little village houses. I had been thinking about them for years, and so i decided to take on the job when the internet became available. I soon found out why. These things had no model numbers, no catalogs about them. It was really tough to track them down and date them , but as I did so over the years I found they paralleled much of American History in the first half of the 20th Century - and the history of the trains, and my own personal history as well. You can't separate this stuff. It's all part of one big story, which i am trying to tell.
Glad you enjoyed it! That's what it's for.
The CD is great!!! Zipped around on it for a couple of hours. Updated my printed workbooks that I keep in the workshop for reference.
I have one whole three-ring binder with HOM. At the end of 2009, they're will be TEN years of pure enjoyment!!!
Keep up the good work!!!!
Yes, the CD is very fast and a great thing to have in a situation like yours where you can't get high-speed internet service. Ten years! Well, i guess that's so, isn't it?
I've just come across your website while looking for info on cleaning and repairing old cardboard and paper Christmas houses. After doing lots of reading, drooling over the pictures and making my wishlist, I have a couple of questions.
What features do you look for when buying houses and buildings for your own collection? How do you qualify a piece to be worthy of purchase?
I also noted several references to Pittsburgh, PA and now am curious as to where you're located? I live less than two hours away from there in NW Pennsylvania.
Keep up the good work & thanks for your time,
Hi Debbie! Welcome to the website. In looking for houses, the main things are style, size and complexity. We all tend to favor the period from 1928 to about 1935 when the best ones were made. Those covered in shredded cellophane or "coconut" as we call it, get the best prices on eBay. Some amazing prices are realized for those.
As I'm sure you read - the website is not just my collection, but a collection of collectors who send in pictures and information as it turns up. None of us alone could have assembled all of that knowledge on our own. But over the years, a pretty solid history has been established. Many many unique examples have been recorded.
Yes, i live about 21 miles up the Allegheny River from Downtown Pittsburgh -in Tarentum - but i don't have a store or museum or anything. I haven't been collecting for some some years, either. I just ran out of room. The website is my "collection," now.
Could you tell me what search words you used to find the website? I'm always interested in that.
I hope you can find all the info you need on the site, and will become a "regular."
Ted, I hope you saved the text of that article off into an archive or something - it was published in an "independent" newspaper, and that site or at least the article, could be removed at a moment' notice.
Oh, yes i did save it, Paul: Immediately - and i can't thank you enough! I figured that could probably happen. It now has a permanent place on the website as the "Dolly Toy Obit." and you can access it from the Table of Contents under "The History" and also from the Feb. 2009 "House of the Month." The article mentioned pictures of left-over products would be appearing on eBay, but i could only find the one - and could not the find the author's by-line. (name.) I couldn't see evidence of a second page, but the article seemed to have come to a conclusion.
The whole thing is almost spooky. None of us had any idea the company was still in business that long. Here I decide to feature an exceptional set in January, and then the "Last of the Dollies" in February - and then, just as i think the whole thing is complete, this article turns up! - about the death of Dolly Toy just weeks before - just about the time I started working on the Dolly Final Tribute series. It's like one of those stories you hear about in which a relative appears in a vivid dream - even a waking dream - and then shortly thereafter you discover that the person had died at the moment of the apparition. It's like Dolly Toy was crying out to me to sing their song - wanting me do it. I had absolutely not the faintest notion that it would turn out like this at the outset. Bu this is sure the place to sing it.
Dolly hadn't made the Christmas houses for 50 years, but i think it's those for which they'll be most remembered. Collectors tend to turn their noses up at them on eBay and elsewhere because they are rather simple and still easily found, but say what you will - they were a huge part of the American Christmas through World War II and well up into the '50s. I had them under my own childhood tree, as did so many that i hear from. Perhaps now they'll get some long-deserved respect and dignity.
Looking at your February house, Ted, prompts me to write to all of you. With all my houses in boxes these days, I take one out each month, light it up and give it a place of honor on my dining room buffet and call it my house of the month. if I have one like Papa Ted's HOM, it will be that one, or maybe a new acquisition or maybe just one I need to look at some more. In that little way, I keep the Christmas houses out and active all year long and enjoy them even more.
like robby, i have a house or two out all the time...either in the shop or on the buffet...
also made a "desktop" size images of favorite houses for my computer...
a picture file of houses is set as my "screen saver", too...
i'm sure others are doing the same...
my very best regards...
Howard Leroy Lamey
Really nice custom, Guys.
I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed finding your website. I started collecting Putz houses after my I got my mother's original 9 after she passed away. I didn't even know what they were called at the time. We just remembered them as the little cardboard houses that everyone pushed in the doors and windows as kids. My mother used to tell us every Christmas that if we were good enough, we would see the people in the houses and Churches. I remember straining my eyes to see if I could spot them. Those houses hold very special memories along with the celluloid plastic Santa's. I even started to expand my collection through Ebay. Thanks for all the helpful tips on the houses. I also enjoyed seeing those vintage pictures on your web site. It's nice that someone is keeping a wonderful memory alive.
Sue Reingle (circa 1956)
Yes, we didn't really have names for them before, did we? Thanks, Sue! "Papa" Ted (circa 1941)
January 10, '09:
Your web site is an absolute joy! It inspired me to do something that I had put off doing for too many Christmases. I was raised in western Pennsylvania during the 1940's. At Christmas my mother would place a white sheet under the tree and then arrange the dimestore houses in a village scene. A nativity scene and an electric train were also included. Unfortunately, those Christmas items are long gone.
I have wanted to recreate this under the tree scene for many years, but other things always came first; however, after finding your web site, I decided that this was the year. I started building my own putz houses in February and continued into March and April. I enjoyed every minute spent designing, cutting, gluing, painting, adding fences , wreaths, trees, and snowmen, and finally putting it all together as a village. The scene does not fit under the tree, but fits nicely in the bottom of the TV cabinet.
Thank you for the inspiration.
Me,too, Nancy. Johnstown, PA 1941-'48. White sheets, train, little village and everything. Lots of putzing and train setups, there, and you always had a White Christmas.
January 02, '09:
Hello, what a wonderful web site. I am wondering if there is a way to restore faded bottle brush trees. My Mother put her houses in the picture window and even though they are in great condition, the sun faded the trees. Hope you can help. Thank you and Happy New Year. I am also going to be ordering your GSK 1 kit. I have some other houses that need new windows and doors. Barbara
Hello Barbara! Thanks for the kind words!
Ah, that old sun! Have your mother be careful with the houses, too, because they will fade as well. I've got a whole forest of faded trees I need to get to, but here's my plan -
First - if they are dusty, rub dry cornstarch into them and vaccum them out. Then you simply dye them green as you would a cotton fabric. I thought about rolling them in green fountain pen ink. They used to have it in many colors, but I doubt they do anymore. Who uses fountain pens these days? But a strong, dark green fabric dye will do. Then immediately blow them thoroughly dry with a hair dryer. Be sure to get them dry clear down to the twisted wire core, because rust will start if you don't. It might not be a bad idea to bake them in the oven for couple of hours at about 200 degrees just to make sure you've got them truly dry.
Do NOT use a microwave!
Then, if you want snowy tips - lay out a little plain old white latex wall paint in a roller tray and roll the trees sideways in it so just the tips pick it up. Just keep doing this until it looks right. Then - while the paint is still wet or pretty tacky, sprinkle on or roll the trees sideways in clear diamond dust glitter or some old-fashioned "artificial snow" mica flakes if you've got any. They sell them at the Vermont Country Store online. And viola! That should do it.
Let me know how you make out.
Happy New Year,
December 21, '08:
Just wanted to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas!
Your site looks better than ever and I keep being amazed at the stuff people send in. It looks great and some of the Putz's are just terrific. I get alot of referral "hits" on my site (toytrains. 4t.com) from yours so I know you're busy. Keep up the good work.
Thanks, Jim! The site would not be half of what it is without all those good folks' contributions!
December 20, '08:
I have looked up several sites on my houses from Magazines but yours is excellent.
Thank you for the time and effort. I have not fully explored your site, but finding it puts a smile on my face this christmas.
Bonnie Pacuta - Tecumseh, Canada
I'm glad, Bonnie! And especially over the years to discover this charming practice has always been a part of Canada's Christmases, too.
Dear Papa Ted,
"Thanks very much" doesn't cover my gratitude for your Magic Window...
At about the same time as you (I could give you a couple of years!) on the other side of the world (the UK) I too grew up with the most special Christmases ever in my childhood. It was wartime, and the few years after the war, Mum and Dad had very little and presents and decorations were a little hard to come by. But that didn't matter one bit. Those Christmases WERE Christmas for me, and they still are, in my memory and in my heart. Times change, I've now grown up children and this year my first grandaughter and I just hope I can go on creating for them the magical memories I had. The other day I was talking with my husband about preparations for the holiday season - he has rather a Bah, Humbug! attitude to it, I'm afraid...(he must have missed his window!) and I was trying to convey what the specialness, the magic of it is without much success - and for a while he actually made me doubt it myself. Thank goodness he didn't, it would be like denying childhood. I've not long left teaching - I had the little ones - and for them the magic is very strong indeed. By a stroke of internet luck I came across your site; I'm making a putz village for around my goose feather tree for my grandaughter, and I plan to do it year by year until it's ENORMOUS and she can help me build it too. Well, your Magic Window was just what I needed to read to tell me that I might have grown old but my belief in Christmas is as young as ever.
May your God bless you and continue to sprinkle your putz villages with magic dust.
Love and very best wishes,
Oh, Hazel - what more is there to say? Thank you so much, and may your Holidays be evermore blessed ones. - Ted
Dear everyone -
It was LOL over the comment about Republicans and Kansas! Just a note to say how much fun it was to scroll down and see all of the 2008 HOMs again. The photos are so good, showing clear detail, and what a variety of little houses! Every time I'm on the site, between the music and the photos, I get transported away to somewhere else for a short time! I just want to express my thanks for all of the sharing that goes on. Such positivity is a beautiful thing, and what a relief from the continuing serious national and regional problems...
One of the Michael's craft stores here in Las Vegas has pre-made card-stock structures -- a little house, and a little church, $2.00 each. I bought the house, took it partially apart to put in tissue windows, made a hole in back for a light bulb, then painted it. Then I brought it to life with three types of glitter, all of which I've had for at least 20 years and which were old when I acquired the jars. One glitter looks like flaked sparkly snow and is very white. Another consists of teeny-tiny clear "balls". The other is I think a clear "diamond dust". It all turned out nicely and I'm quite pleased to be using some of these old glitters. Recently I sent away for several different kinds of glitter from Blumchen's, and I'll see if any of it is like the ones I have.
This note is just to keep in touch and to let you know I appreciate the website and the e-mails and the dear enthusiasm that continues to shine -- a sun of its own. Oh yes, I loved the August and September HOMs, but then I love each month's presentation. Thanks to you, Ted, and to everyone.
Thanks so much for those very kind words, Thelma - to me and all of us. Those "teeny-tiny clear balls" you mentioned are what is known as "Venetian Dew." It's getting rather hard to find, these days, and is rather expensive - but it's one of the most beautiful glitters of all. It's one of the things that made the exquisite little Czechoslovakian house ornaments so unresistable. The tiny balls are made of glass and do things with reflected light that no other glitter can do. It's also what gave the old movie-days the term "The Silver Screen," because movie theater screens were coated with an even layer of it, making them so bright and clear.
Thanks for the quick reply! [Both by email and mail.] I have some heavy gauge acetate myself...maybe I'll try my hand at flocking my own windows/doors one day for that church.
I am enjoying your website tremendously! I wish I could say that I have a story similar to the others but I don't. I am a 38 year old mother of two living in rural WV and I NEVER heard of the cardboard houses until this past Dec. I noticed an article in the 'Country Sampler' featuring these little houses but never gave it much thought...until Christmas Eve. We were traveling to visit my husband's family when we past a 'junk' shop along the way. On a whim we stopped in and while browsing...my 14 year old son [of all people] called to me and said, 'Mom, look at these...can I have one?' When I got there he had found a whole shelf of the little cardboard houses that were 'virtually devoid of charm and detail' as you put it. I was amazed that my 14 year old was so interested in them....he had no prior knowledge of them whatsoever, but they just caught his eye. I told him that I thought I had seen an article recently on them...but couldn't recall much about it. We couldn't find a price so my husband ask the owner what it was...he couldn't find a price either but said that he'd sell them for 15 cents a piece. We were tickled and bought all 17 of them for a grand total of $2.55. We couldn't wait to get back home that night to set them up. [We later found out what a deal we had.] My 11 year old daughter and her brother had a blast setting them up. My husband and I mused at how a handful of old cheap cardboard houses brought us so much joy. We *love* Christmas, and we are very much into traditions. We could see how setting these little cardboard houses up could be a fun one to have each year. After Christmas...I dug out that article and gave it more attention. I found your web address there and was instantly introduced to a world that I felt I had been a part of all my life even though I had no prior knowledge of it's existance. Growing up we used to have those diaroma ornaments with the tiny scene s in them and I used to spend hours imagining a whole range of activities in those little worlds. I could instantly see how a whole village could raise the bar on that childhood dream world. And the best part is that all 4 of us as a family..fell in love with them. We've decided to leave them out all year long. And I [since I studied architecture in college] am especially fond of them because of their fun and unusal architectural details . I have to say that I enjoy them all but the 'Haciendas' seem to be my favorite, but any of them with fun details and colors are welcome. We are really enjoying the hunt for them now. We'll see a junk/antique shop and we'll all jump out and spread out in search of them. My son seems to have the best eye for them. We have aquired 4 others since Christmas and I am hoping to fix up their windows, so you'll be getting an order from me shortly. I appreciate your help and the information that you share on your website. It's been a wonderful learning experience and a pile of fun for us... and a blessing to boot! I'm trying my hand at making some of my own as well. [I'll attach a couple photos of those.]
Thanks again for your courtesy!
Blessings, - Diane Myers, WV
Thanks so much for very kind words, Diane. I am so glad your family has found this very important element of Christmas. What you say about hours of imaginings is what it's all about. I was under the tree every minute I could be as a kid, and I think it's so valuable in developing a child's thoughts and early leanings toward a sense of community - and has great meditative value for as adults as well.
I really enjoy your site! It inspired me to dig out my grandmother’s collection, since she isn’t using it at the moment. I took some photos, just in case there was anything interesting for your site. I have a feeling not, but I’ll enjoy them just the same.
There’s a mix of Japanese and American Houses. My grandmother says she started collecting as a teenager, so she probably started collecting in the 1940s. She lived in Chicago at the time.
Dear Papa Ted:
Every year I look at your site because it is so enjoyable, and this year I knew I had to write to tell you how much pleasure it gives me to look at the photos. I was born in 1952 and everything I see on your site gives me a bittersweet thrill.
I bought a small collection of Putz houses on ebay and I keep thinking I need to fix them up. I, too, remember Christmas as it used to be. I want to thank you for keeping the memory alive.
I was searching the internet for information on cardboard houses by the Dolly Toy Company. I helped a friend clean out his Mother's home in Erie Pennsylvania this summer. He has a plain square box with "One #35 S6290 #200 Xmas Village Set - To: Spiegel Company, Chicago - From: Dolly Toy Co., Tipp City, O". Inside there are eight slots with the dividers having picket fences imprinted on them, so you can pull them out and use as fences. The houses look like Swiss houses. Also in addition to these houses, he has three other houses which I found on your web site. These houses are smaller. Your web site was the most helpful.
Do you have any information on the set I mentioned above or know where I could find additional information? Bless you for having the information you do on the internet.
Sincerely, Nancy Watson, Indianapolis, Indiana
Gee, Nancy - Dolly Toy Co. made so many variations from year to year and specials for big promoters like Sears and Wards that it's hard to say. But I suggest you peruse the POSTWAR section of the website. There ares some catalog pages that show the village sets with stand-up figures and fences. Perhaps it's one of those?
I'll post this e-mail on LETTERS FROM FOLKS because it's an interesting enquiry.
Thanks, - Ted
December 29, '07
Dear PaPa Ted,
Several years ago my daughter introduced me to your website and we have been thrilled ever since at the enjoyment it gives to us! I emailed Antoinette Stockenberg this week to compliment her on creating such memorable putz scenes. I also have been pondering for MONTHS on how to light my putz/village as she did with little Lionel/K-Line street lamps. She was kind enough to reply with a wonderful letter and to let me know that she would forward my questions on to you, as YOU were a real model train lover! I do not have a train, but have been doing putz displays at holiday time all of my life(I will boldly tell you that I am almost 70 years old) and learned all the wonders of Christmas from my mom and my wonderful great aunt. Not knowing anything about trains and transformers I have been frightened beyond belief about wiring such things. I even visit ed a model railroader's show today, but alas, none of the displays had "older" trains, or any sort of street lamps other than the modern stuff. When I inquired about my desire to learn how to wire together my nine (9) street lamps and hook them to a transformer and use them to light my village of cardboard houses from the 30' & 40's, the young men just looked at me. I don't know if it was the idea, .... the idea coming from an older lady...or probably a bit of both, but it was really something that made me chuckle to myself. Anyway, they really didn't respond with any real ideas or advice...they were polite and they had wonderful train displays..but! So I was really excited when I return ed home and found Antoinette's email and the information that yes, her husband had wired them together in line and used a transformer. I began to believe in myself a bit more. Then she told me that you have such great knowledge of the model train world and perhaps I could obtain a little advice from you. I realize what a busy time of year this is, and certainly am in no hurry about this. I know how very much time you must spend with your most wonderful website. It is so marvelous and gives so much pleasure and enjoyment and peace to all who view it! Any advice you might be able to provide or even encouragement on the subject of the street lamps would be so appreciated, whenever!!! Please keep up your wonderful work, you provide us with the contentment that only comes from memories of those wonderful times that are tucked away in our minds and hearts, but remain as fresh as the days they first happened!
May your coming year be wonderful and happy!
Thank you so much,
Thank you so much for the kind words, Gail! Messages like this are what keeps me going at this. What you need to do is get hold of one of the little starter set Lionel train transformers that came with sets, such as the #1029. These reduce your wall socket voltage of 120 to the 15 volts or less that the old train bulbs ran on. They were meant to control the speed of a train, but work very nicely to control the brighteness of the bulbs found in street lamps and other accessories. They vary voltage between 8 and 15 volts and if you run your bulbs at lower voltage they will last a long long time and not be so piercing to the eye. There are untold thousands of these transformers still around and the train guys don't want them because they are not powerful enough to run trains really well, but they light up to 10 of the old street lights adequately and I have picked them up for $1 on eBay. The little Marx and American Flyer transformers are just as good for this purpose, too. All the old trains ran on these voltages. You have two wires coming from your streets lamps and two "track" connecting posts on the transfomers. One wire to each. Easy as pie! Just remember to plug your transformer in and be sure your bulbs are good.
This year was the very first time I did a putz under the tree in the grand old tradition of the cotton man-made hills and dales found in the old photos on Ted's site. I have had putzes elsewhere in the house but for me this little place, with its pond and tiny train, its vintage, new and home-made creations, is the kind of place I have always wanted to live in.
There's always snow at Christmas... And little girls are always warm and well fed. Where the train always runs on time, and the local churches welcome everyone. Where it is still okay to say Merry Christmas without fear of offending someone....somewhere.....
Merry Christmas everyone! - Maria
For the sake of history . . . my grandfather bought the coconuts in Chicago. My dad's older brother and his family in Chicago had a village of coconuts under their tree.
When I was a girl in the mid-50s, living in a suburb of Chicago, my dad would carefully set up our village under the tree and it included six or seven coconuts, one hacienda and Barclay figures skiing, sledding and skating. I would spend hours and hours day dreaming about what life would be like in the village, and this is where my love for this collection started. I was thrilled when the village was passed down to me, and I've treasured it, added to it, and now display it year round.
Merry Christmas everyone,
Omigosh, Dianne! That's exactly IT. That says it for everyone!
I admire your enthusiasm for old fashioned villages. You have a beautiful collection. You are correct that "putz" comes from the German verb "putzen".
However, "putzen" is the verb meaning "to polish, scrub, or clean well". It does not translate into English as to "put or place". The Putz (or as my German grandmother referred to as the "Garden") was meant to clean or polish up the base of the tree to hide the stand or an unsightly trunk.
Frohe Weihnachten, - Keith
The "collection" is hardly all mine, Keith. Don't I wish! Most of it comes from fellow collector's contributions.
I wanted to post your letter because it's rather a shock. I got my information from Phillip Snyder's "The Christmas Tree Book," which is generally thought to be the "gospel" on the subject. How, then, has the word "Putz" come to signify the under-the-tree scene? It's been used that way for a long long time. According Snyder, the Moravian German immigrants brought the custom to the USA in the early 19th Century. Could it be a variation in their particular dialect of 180 years ago? Is it not that far a stretch to conceive of concealing the ugly tree trunk with a scenic display as a form of polish? Sort of the "finishing touch?" I know we always put the village scene up last. Then we had Christmas!
I find this very interesting, indeed. Still, it seems a shallow assessment of such a delightful and imaginative endeavor... I think there's more to it than that.
The term "Garden (Garten)" is a close second to "Putz," and I've always thought it more accurately descriptive. What would be the German? "Weihnachtsgarten?" "Christbaumgarten?"
Put me down in the column for not wanting "glitterhouse" to become a generic term. Cheesy, shmeezy, it's just not accurate enough. There is ZERO glitter on the houses we most value, the ones from the "Golden Age" of the late '20's to '30's. I think that Paul's acquaintance with Christmas houses is perhaps with those of more recent vintage, which have glitter aplenty. But that won't tell the whole story! When I see the word "glitterhouse" (a very new term for me) I instantly picture those simple little structures from the '60's that sparkle a bit in the sunshine.
What do ALL houses from the late 1920's to the 1960's have in common? Cardboard. They're made of cardboard. Call 'em Christmas cardboard houses and be done with it.- Antoinette
Ditto! I’m not sure what we called them in my family other than “The Village.” I am 100% positive we did not refer to them as “Glitter Houses!” - Janet Watt
Well being from the great plains I have no trouble with the word putz as I only think of it as the under-the-Christmas-tree villages. HOWEVER I am not overly fond of the term "glitterhouse" as to me it implies something cheap and somewhat tawdry and from the fifties when we used glitter on everything. I guess the P.C. speech policepersons job is never done! - Tom Hull
Yeah - I have kind of a cheesey feeling about it myself Not my favorite by any means, and I'd hate to see it become the generic norm. "Glitter" does equate with "cheap and gaudy" in our language anymore. But it is tough to come up with a domain name that the majority would harken to in a single word. Nothing was ever standardized over all those years. But we just called them the "village houses" in my childhood, too. -PT
Ted, I am using the term "glitterhouse" only because "putz house" means nothing to most people, but "putz" by itself has obscene and derogatory meanings in Yiddish and German. So when I use the word putz, in my "family-friendly" sites, I'm VERY careful to define it. :-)
In the meantime, I'm using the word "glitterhouse" in my article titles so folks who know German or Yiddish and don't know what a "putz house" is won't take off ense. I actually thought it up on my own, although I'm not surprised that other people have independently called them the same thing. It's easier than saying "vintage pasteboard houses imported from Japan with colored celophane in the windows and a hole in the light for a C6 light bulb."
I just sent the link to my glitterhouse articles in my e-mail newsletters to a mailing list of several hundred people, so hopefully, you'll be seeing an increase in traffic and interest.
Thanks again for your help, -Paul
"Putz" is negative in the American Yiddish, yes - but not in German. It's a German word from the perfectly correct German verb "putzen" - to put or set in place. Likewise, "schmuck" is derogatory in Yiddish, but in German means "ornamentation." "Christbaumschmuck" means "Christmas tree trimmings." "Christmas tree ornaments."
My guess they're American slang-bastardizations that probably sprang up around the latter part of the 19th Century on the Lower East Side of New York and the Jewish quarters of Chicago and other large eastern cities. American Yiddish only, and now part of the common American language. If you ever get a chance to visit the fabulous "Kristkindle Marts" (open-air Christmas fairs) of Germany and Austria at this time year, you'll see those words everywhere and they're not derogatory in the least. Not very musical to our ears, but certainly do set little German kiddies' eyes a-aparkling!
I've been seeing "glitterhouse" all over eBay and hearing it for years, so it's in wide use to be sure. I was just wondering if it's peculiar to some portion of the Country. I hadn't heard the word "putz," either, until I got into this thing. Most often it was "The Christmas village houses,"( that's what we always called them) or "snow village houses," or "village scene." I actually never heard the term "glitterhouse" till I was in my mid-fifties.
I am in awe. I just visited your site at the suggestion of someone else and it is amazing.
My Mom introduced me to villages...I believe she got hers from a store many years ago (she's 82) and she gave it to me a few years ago. We put it up for the holidays...brings back a lot of memories.
Your site is indeed a museum.
I wrote to you via eBay because I have the 122 houses for sale...I collected them over the years, and simply cannot put them up because we have 3 dogs and 2 cats that would terrorize the villages!
If you get a moment, if you could comment on my collection I'd appreciate it. The lady who referred me to you, Barb, said most of my houses seem to have been made in the 50's. I didn't really see too many churches at your site, at least the kind that I have. And, does having the two in original packaging mean anything, or is that more of a "that's nice Rob, but, um, who cares"?
I know I have over $800 in the whole collection because I bought pieces individually off eBay over the years. I was hoping to get $500 for the whole lot. Reasonable? Or do you think I'm going to need to break it up into individual pieces...ugh!
Any advice/suggestions/comments/quips or other thoughts are certainly appreciated.
Regards, Rob Teeple
Thanks for the very kind words, Rob. Actually, it's been a lifetime in the making.
Gee, I sympathize with you. I am in the same boat myself - have way too much stuff and dealing on eBay has just gotten to be more trouble than it's worth (in my opinion.) Without seeing your houses there is no way I could tell you much, but Barb knows her stuff. I have thought of dribbling my excess out through local antique dealers, but so far haven't moved on that idea. Sorry I can't be of more help. I will post your letter and perhaps someone out there might be interested in the lot.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
You have reminded me of much that seemed forgotten.
That's the amazing thing about it, Tom. You find these things you haven't seen for 50 years and it all comes back, doesn't it? I think that's why people collect.
November 20, '07
Dear Papa Ted,
I just love your site and have wrote in the past telling you how informative it is. We finally brought my husband's childhood Christmas items from his Mom's house. She is 92. Among the items were mica snow houses marked Made in USA which I haven't identified yet. They seem very basic. Manilla colored cardboard and muted color s on just the house and roof. (one is a mustard gold house with a reddish roof and chimney. The corner piece of fence is goldish on the side and white on the front. There are splashes of mica white snow on the roof, the front fence piece and the chimney. A loofa brush tree has some mica snow on it next to the chimney and the windowns are green and silver. Based on my husband's age and old pictures they may be from the early 1940's unless they were in his Mom's family and are older.
But what I really was happy to find are these unusual garden pieces. First is a metal arbor made of chicken wire with Christmas greens growning over it. The second piece is a well with a moving bucket. The paper tag reads 100% American Made. It is made of wood with what looks like dribbled paint all over it. The Thrid piece is a bird bath with a plaster bird on it that says Japan. Then there are 2 garden stands with those reflecting balls that match the bird bath. They are painted to like like cement grey. Also two matching potted trees in what looks like cement pots.
Do I have 3 different sets? The bird bath, 2 trees, and two reflecting glass globes look like one set. The wishing well and the arbor look like two different makers.
I can send you a picture if you would like. I think size wise they would go with the biggest houses like the large loggies. They are just unusual. We go to at least 1 antique auction a week and I have never seen the reflecting balls and rarely the other items - maybe someting similar but not the same. Keep up the good work. We are emptying a 15 room Victorian house that was owned by a hoarder. But we yet to find a real real old house. Thank you again for your time and wonderful site.
Gini Steigerwalt -in the heart of the Poconos of P A.
Well Gini - it's good to hear from you!
I think I can visualize just about every item you described. I'd bet you have Dolly Toy Co. houses.(See the WW II and POSTWAR sections of my website.) I have one of those "chicken wire" rose arbors, too - and the dipping well and so forth. I was pretty sure those were German, but your "100% American Made" lable has me rethinking that. Hmmm. That almost certainly dates them to the heat of WW II, because anything Japanese was anathema and that pronouncement was totally characteristics of those years. I have a bird bath with crinkly flat wires supposed to be a fountain, a lead-cast"general" on a pedestal, some lawn mirror balls and some papaer mache "hedges" that I loosely call the "park set." I had supposed they were sold in dimestores meant to be accessories to doll houses and always assumed them to be Japanese, but you give me pause to rethink this. I have used these items arrayed in front of vintage Lioenl train stations on some of my set-ups. It would be very interesting to discover after all these years that these were American, and if so - who made them????
Yes - if you could send pictures I could tell you more.
Oh, gee - a hoarder! I pity you. What a job! I fear my own family will be faced with this when I pass along, but for now - I love my stuff!
Hello, Just a short note to let you know how thrilled I am to be adding more Putz houses to my set. By set I mean I have collected over the years and at xmas I set up a little village. Well now I am so hooked I am looking for more to make a whole town. LOL LOL I was bidding on the ebay and some nice gentleman advised me to go on your web site for instructions on the fixer upper houses. I am enthrolled I love it. I am 65yrs old and so sorry I did not get started earlier on. At xmas for years my thing was houses ceramic with little people. But now I have another dream hobby., Thanks very much for printing the letters people send and advice.
Sincerely Sonja from Calif.
Well, Sonja - Thanks for writing and welcome to this delightful addiction! I am one year older than you. These things from my childhood were missing from my life for many years and almost forgotten, but I began to rediscover them a few decades ago. It brought the child in me to life again. We live together in peace and love now. He (I) has become the son I never had. I have bought him back most of the toys he longed for and never had. His heart is no longer disappointed and neither is mine. We are so alike, he and I - what better son could I have wished for?
Hi Ted! Greetings from the Green Mountains of Vermont! Yesiree! Way up North by the Canadian Border - about as far north as one can go in this US of A! Well anyhow, after ordering your little kit of samples for the window and door replacements, I took the black and white illustration identifying the windows and I marked the I.D. order number on each window, then I placed the sheet on a self sticking felt sheet as a backing. Then I cut each window out and placed them all in a little box. Now when I wish to measure a window for replacement - it is SO EASY to hold one of these actual sizes up to the window and take the number of f it and record it. Also with the added thickness of the felt backer on the windows they are really easy for fingers to hold and to manage. As I go along and i make my order list! So I thought I would pass this information along to you in the event it has not been achieved by anyone yet.........but with the popularity of webb site, I kinda doubt that. But sending it along just to make sure.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! And ditto to every soul who has expressed their joy and gratitude to you for your wonderful webb site!....it is priceless and so contagiously wonderful....
Thanks, PJ - and you know what? In all the years of sending out these kits, you are the first to report back the way anybody actually uses them! I suppose everyone does it a little differently, but this is a great idea and you will have those silhouttes to size up what you need for a thousand houses to come.
The actual-size silhouettes are for the clear CEL types, of course, but since we're on the subject - I wanted to discuss something that has always puzzled me about the paper doors. They are always too big for the openings, and you never see the borders. I often wonder if the Japanese hadn't planned a series of larger houses and then never got around to it. But that's how they were - and are. We took all the designs from actual originals and very carefully kept the exact size.
I am so grateful that you have allowed me to participate in your site. It has meant a lot to me. Whenever I am stressed I turn to your site and revisit this happy place. This and singing with a local group of barbershoppers are really good outlets for me but with your site I can visit any time I wish. It is so good for me to get away from the cares of the day by "talking" about these houses. I have learned so much from your site, you and others and what we have with your site is a sort of a "Christmas archeology" as it is so much based on what ever remains behind from those decades and what ever we can deduce from them.
I had hoped that perhaps a Japanese correspondent would become interested in these very charming houses and the associated activities of their immediate ancestors. But so far this has not been the case. We really need to hear from them to get the Japanese perspective on these historic houses and fill in some gaps in our knowledge of those times.
As the seasons of festivities draws near and we set out our Putzes let us remember the joy of Christmas past as well as Christmas present and be thankful for all that we have and can truly feel the peace that only God can provide.
"God bless us everyone" T. Tim.
We are all so grateful for your extensive contributions, Tom. You have added SO much! I think your construction articles have launched a whole new National hobby. And, Amen!- "God bless us, every one."
November 11, 07:
Dear Mr. Althof,
I just wanted to take a moment to say "Thank You" for providing such a wonderful, informative website: Papa Ted's Place. I have been utilizing many of your restoration tips on some old Putz houses I have acquired. The "cornstarch cleaning" is excellent. I am going to be ordering some of your windows very soon.
I also wanted to add two tips: I acquired an old "hacienda" style putz house with the santa figure on it. I cleaned the house up beautifully by following your "cornstarch cleaning" instructions, but I couldn't get the little Santa clean. So, I used a TINY dab of Dawn dishwashing liquid on a slightly damp corner of a paper towel and wiped him down GENTLY. It worked! He isn't PERFECT, but he is MUCH cleaner than before.
Tip #2: I found some PLAIN cellophane rolls of red (and blue) cellophane at Papermart in Pittsburgh for a couple of bucks per roll. I thought I may use this PLAIN cellophane to replace PLAIN windows, since you don't sell those. Just a thought.
Also, do you know how to clean the Dolly toy company foil-like finish houses? Well, thank you again for a GREAT website, I'm recommending it to everyone interested in Putz houses.
Sincerely, Susan Reeb
We have Tom Hull to thank for discovering that cornstarch method. He got the tip from an old old lady in Kansas who told him it was the basis of home-made carpet cleaners since the 19th Century. It is, indeed , almost magical the way it works - and nobody can really explain why.
I'm glad your dishwashing liquid worked on that Santa, but I'd never have chanced it myself. I restore old electric trains now and then, and one of the techniques is to soak the old tin car bodies in a detergent solution. The old, decrepit paint just slides off like mud in water. I would be afraid to apply detergents to these very old prewar paints. I think you were lucky! I have used liquid car wax and tissues to clean old paints on hard surfaces at times.
Looks like you are very close to me (I'm in Tarentum.) I never heard of "Papermart." Where are they? Do they have a website?And are you sure that's real cellophane and not polypropelene film?
Thanks , again, for writing and continued good luck on your projects! Keep us posted! _Ted
November 9, '07:
Ted, I love your site and consider it a true museum. I like to make houses with my family. We use 4 oz. milk cartons as bases and some of my relatives have really produced some fine pieces. They are like little chalets in shape and decorated with seeds and beads. I was inspired by your Czech house in one of the Houses of the Month. The house has a grey backdrop with white trees. I made a similar one using matte board. It came out pretty good. I made the houses full size rather that relief though and I think the relief is very effective. My family and I sit around on Christmas night and the day after Christmas and make houses. It is a very soothing atmosphere and we have great conversation s. It pulls everyone together. I like to tour through your museum to get ideas.
Thank you for all you have done.
Wonderful, Jane! Things like this are what I hope for.
Really enjoyed the castle and could "feel" Tom's excitement about the nooks and crannies coming off of the screen! Very cool. Also enjoyed the houses that Aimee sells and believe it adds a nice "touch" to your ever-charming site. Thanks for notifying us of March offerings. * Thelma Bernard- Las Vegas, NV
Entirely welcome, Thelma! No problem!
I am having a ball restoring these little beauties. My kitchen table looks just like your work area. I find myself looking for the houses in every antique store I enter. So glad I found you! Can't wait to get to the post office some days.
* Lois Bennett - Nellysford, VA
Thanks, Lois. Sure sounds familiar - and good hunting!
Mr. Althof -
Enjoy your site immensely! What childhood memories it enkindles. My old Polish Grandma in Syracuse, N.Y. had a village of over 100 houses when I was a child. What magic it was! Unfortuneately, after she passed away, it was stolen from her basement where it was stored.
I have a meager 20 houses - mostly inherited from my Mom - nothing extravagent But i treasure every one. Your site gave me the courage & information I needed to refurbish them. Thanks so much for the information! Know you have a big fan down here in Louisiana - where the cardboard Christmas houses are few and far between & relatively unknown.
Thanks again! * Dodie Ramsey - Pride, LA
Oh gee, Dodie - what a loss! We sure would have loved to have seen your Grandma's collection! But this same story crops up and up again, and it is also true of me; all the original stuff except my old train engine was gone. Then one day you come across something in a flea market or yard sale you hadn't seen in 50 years and it all comes flooding back again. It re-unites us with who we have been from the beginning.
Ted, I was born in 1950. My mother always put up the decorations. Dad would haul the tree/train platform out of the basement. He would set it up below the front window,put the tree in the center. And of coarse that was it for him [he probably didn't care that platform was a full size sheet of 3/4" plywood and until us kids got older,well] A 4by8 area gave mom plenty of space to fill. And she did!! We had the train on a rectangular track and the tree was a good18' higher so she would build mountains and hills out of cardboard boxes she used the same boxes every year. She would cover the boxes with cotton sheets and some real sheets, and set up at least a dozen. separate scenes. I'm sure I could go on and on about them. But I'll just say this. When you would lay on the floor and run the train you would go to all those places. Anyway we had several putz houses of different sizes. All these things are gone now ,and it is painful to try and remember what happened to it all. My wife comes home from an estate sale with a few of these houses. They had pieces missing. I like to tinker so I fixed them up. You have to look close. I was able to match the paint colors and made a chimney. We just down sized and moved. We have a entire closet with just X-mas decorations three trees. We barely have room for one tree. My wife sold them on e-bay and I pretty much thought that was that. A week latter I stumbled on too your site. Read your story and some of the letters . I have practiced the art of bonsai for over twenty years and will read anything about Japan arts and design Well I just can't stop thinking about restoring these wonderful little houses. I have since been able to find about 20 of the little devils most of which need a lot of repair, if not just a good cleaning. I've got the cleaning part down. My biggest concern is how much restoration can be done with out ruining a authentic piece? I note that you talk about latex house paint I used artist acrylics and acrylic craft paint. Are there any no no's I need to know about before I start? Would apreciate any help you could give me. I will continue to watch your web site truely a treasure in it's self. Hope to hear from you soon.
* Nick Nicholson - Webster Groves, MO
Well, Nick, that's just exactly the way putzing memories happen. Good story! - and my story, too! - I, too, would lie beside the display and watch the train and imagine what unknowable places it was coming from and who was coming home to which house. I believe that kids who missed out on having a putz custom at home have missed out terribly. As a preschooler, safe and encloistered in the known world of my parents and my house, the putz started me on the realization that this reflected a far greater world outside. I began to think about that world and to compare the town around me with the putz as we went driving. I truly do believe that it was the starting point of my whole social sense of community and world beyond.
If you are matching colors and replacing lost cardboard already you are pretty well on your way. Just about all i know can be found in the REPAIR-RESTORATION section and its sub-sections. I see no objection to doing extensive repairs so long as one tries to get the original look. It's when people goof them up with doo-dads and silly add-ons and wierd paint schemes that the value is ruined. We see those tragic cases on eBay now and then. One big no-no I would caution against is using hot glue guns. Don't do it! And NEVER use that awful spray-on "snow!" The secret of replacing windows is to get the inside edges clean and free of old debris and smooth before hand. A common nail file will usually do it.
Some really nice new houses are starting to be available, and that's fine for young families starting a putz tradition - but no new stuff really "does it" for us older hard-line collectors. We want mysterious "ghosts of Christmas Past" dwelling in our old houses. We love to wonder and imagine what long-gone Christmases they saw, what stories they might tell. So, lovingly doing authentic restorations of old beat-up originals is fine with me. The more that can be saved the better!
Absolutely Outstanding!!!!! I not only love the house but the commentary. (Feb. 07 House of the Month)As I have said before, this is how I learn about the houses. Each and every thought and view is so important to the process of learning and identifying houses. This is as valuable as the histories themselves that you put together in your site.
Loved the intel on the Butler Bros. stuff. Where do ya'll get all this info. I need to start researching too. I feel so inadequate, kind of like the "Lone Southerner" with no Putz info to share. I need to "beef up" my knowledge so share everything!!!!!!!
* Janet Watt - Columbia, SC
Well, don't feel inadequate about it!. When i started the site I had some idea, but then with people catching stuff on ebay - stories coming in - the contributions of enthusiasts - finding rich old catalogs, etc. - this knowledge has come in by all kinds of surprising directions over 7 years! I can't tell you how many times I have had to revise stuff I wrote, but I love it! Lots of people say they want it to come out in a book, but I really think this is better. A book is a frozen thing. Once printed, that's it. I have a shelf of collectibles books that are now known to be full of errors and obsolete - written in haste to make a publishing deadline. I only keep them for the pictures; the information is very often inaccurate.
Just in the past two years, however, this may no longer be so about a book. With the advent of such findings as "The Chicago Dates," "The Butler Bros. Catalogs," and "The Fair Set," - I feel the knowledge is getting pretty good. I really don't forsee radical upsets anymore - just evermore fascinating details.
I also want to thank you for your link to the Christmas light “museum”
My fella and I are crazy about bubble lights and it was wonderful to read their history
Thank you so much again -
* Maria Cudequest - Croton on Hudson, NY
I'm nuts about the bubblers - and all the old lights, too - as well as trains and toys and ornaments - but tons of stuff had already been written on those subjects, which is why I chose to tackle the Christmas houses. There was almost nothing on them at the time I started this project. Just a few scattered references. That's a really great non-commercial website, isn't it? I'm proud to be linked. He's doing a great job!
Ted, I came across this Butler Bros. entry in an online Chicago encyclopedia. The interesting facts are that the catalog operations were stationed in Chicago -- and one can see why. The heartland warehouses would have been optimal, centralized shipping to the entire country.
The other interesting aspect of this entry is that Butler Bros. supplied the Ben Franklin dimestore chain. Ben Franklin 5 & 10's were the first retail franchise, each store owned individually, mostly in small towns. So if we find any houses with Ben Franklin price stickers on them, we can bet they were supplied by Butler Bros. (who had a 16-story office building on -- where else? -- State St. in Chicago).
I knew about the Ben Franklin's. I believe there is already a reference to that on the site, or a link to one. I know that those warehouses must have been vast, because every now and then stuff would come into the old BF in Russell, Kansas that was decades old, but we didn't know it. For example, when the big SCI-FI space-toy craze hit in the early fifties, there was suddenly a lot of rather quaint Buck Rogers stuff there one summer. We bought a whole series of these little die-cast space ships that rolled down a string on pulleys - and I got one of the big gold sparking Buck Rogers metal ray guns made by Daisy for $1.49. We rigged up a whole solar-system in the cellar arranged around those little rolling rockets. What a ball! There were 3 different kinds, as I recall. Having read toy collectors books since then, those were made in the '30s. NOS - forgotten then found somewhere in the dark recesses of those big warehouses. dusted off and shipped out to the stores to meet the new craze of 20 years later. Boy, i wish i still had them! We paid 25 cts. for the space ships and they are worth in excess of $700 each today. The gun is worth $500. But it's not just the money - those things were simply great!
Ted, I was just on your site, looking over that huge estate sale from a couple of years ago -- and was saddened all over again to know that that wonderful, comprehensive collection, gathered together with love and time and care, got broken up. Frankly, I can't even blame the seller -- the set was far too massive to offer as one lot and would not have attracted enough buyers or made enough return -- but, oh, to see it go in bits and pieces. So, so sad. I wish Junior could have lived forever. I wish his houses could have given him comfort as he did.
It's so good that you posted what you could fit on PapaTed's Place. -
* Antoinette Stockenberg - Newport, RI
Thanks. At least there is a published record of it now ... as with The Fair Set. I wonder if we'll ever see the like of these entries again.
Ted, I have been reading your website for several months and WOW! I thought the little putz houses my mom had were the typical Christmas houses. Well, hers are mostly the post-war, white card-stock kind. I have them now and after aquiring a grocery bag full of houses at our local antique mall (they were mostly fixer-uppers) when I found your site, I gained the confidence to start the restoration process! Now I'm HOOKED! I even made 10 houses of my own this past Christmas - I gave most of them as gifts. My real challenge was to make a house resembling my sister's rather modern house with many windows and decks! I think i succceded in giving it that 'putz' style.
Thanks for rekindling so many Christmas memories for so many people. I remember my brother's train set-up in the early 50's (I was born in 1951) Sadly, it was in a repair shop one year and it was the victim of a fire. Lots of little boys probably lost their favorite train sets that year! I'm now on a quest to collect the little pine-cone elves I remember hanging on our tree. I'm happy to say that just a little bit of Christmas Vintage is enough to satisfy me. I don't think i'll get too carried away! But I still can't believe the absolute beauty of those Coconuts i first saw on your website. It's not easy to explain it to others! I just refer them to Papa Ted's Place!
Thanks so much, * Sue Stewart
Well, I hate to break it to you, Sue, but too late! You are carried away! Really nice job on those houses (see "PUTZES 2006") you made. If you can make those, pinecone elves should be a snap!
Hello Ted, I hope your holidays were happy and healthy! I had the most wonderful time setting up my mantel putz this year (no great pix sorry to say) and the hardest time taking it down .
Would you look at the house/hotel building I won on ebay today? It is in need of some repair, the fence is partially missing which I can model from the other side. Also appears to be a balcony missing from above the door, see closeup. I checked your website to see if I could find anything like it but didn't see it. Have you seen this before? Any idea what the balcony should look like?
Is it possible that I could get it touch with your friend Tom Hull for repair advice ? I'd be happy for you to give him my email if you aren't comfortable giving me his. Thanks so much!
I love the additions to your site, and really enjoyed peoples letters to you!
I will forward your message to Tom hull, Barbara. I have not seen that house before. It's very interesting! And I know what you mean about taking it all down ..I have a train-putz in my living room that's been there for 15 years! Strange sounds come out of it .... wooo!
Hello Ted, I know that that Xmas has come and gone for this year, but I just had to write and tell you a big thank you for your wonderful website!
I have always looked longingly at these displays in store windows and at other people's homes when I was a child, but somehow my parents never really got into xmas decorating much. I was innocently looking for something completely unrelated on eBay and came across these dear little houses and bottlebrush tree scenes. Well, long story short, it rekindled my childhood dreams (I'm 52) and thus I found your website, purchased some houses and trees ( a mix of old and new) and I can't wait for next Christmas!!! I am going to try make some of my own as Cody Foster and others have done, as those nice collector houses are unfortunately way out of my price range.
I have nothing but Christmas Villages on my mind now as I look for likely places in the house to display and literally whooped with joy while dusting an old mirror when I 'saw' that will make a great ice rink for the village! hehehe. Thanks for the inspirations, the history lessons and sharing the joys of these totally cool new "old" things.
Warm, regards, gg
That's the spirit, Gretchen! It's never too late!
January 12, '07:
You really outdid yourself with the January HOM pictures! Thank you for preserving the set in photos for everyone to enjoy. I agree with you, it is a crime to break apart a set that has been together for years. It would be great if they all find their way back to their original box, sigh.
Thanks, Joye! The real credit belongs to Antoinette who had the presence of mind to capture the pictures off the auction! If not for that, this key piece of the knowledge would have been lost forever.
January 10, '07:
I cannot tell you how truly happy I was to find your site. And of course I was so excited when I saw that there was someone making them—alas, who no longer is.
Should that change, please let me know. Because I would buy at least one of his houses a month all this year!
Thank you for your wonderful site.
January 9, '07:
What warm, wonderful memories the pictures bring back to me...we had 8 houses and 8 Noma lights when I was a child back in the dark ages...(I'm a '43 baby and my sister came along in '46)...Each Christmas we would build a scene under the tree or on a table with the little cardboard houses, American Flyer trains and houses we built from American Plastic Bricks and Lincoln Logs...I'm sad to say that the houses, trains and other items were sold when I was a teenager and needed money for something or other.. After finding your site, I have inspired to make some houses and start all over...(with an electric train, too)...I will send you some pictures when I am further along...
Howard Lamey, Jacksonville, FL
Gee, Howard, but we're close in age and experience! I can identify with everything you said. I can't tell you how many collectors I know who lost all their original stuff in one way or another - only to be willing to pay a small fortune to restore it and go way beyond. Who knew how deeply these "trivial"things had entered into us?
December 30, '06:
Hope you’ve enjoyed a merry and blessed Christmas. Many thanks for the replacement windows and doors you sent earlier (particularly the extras which, as it happened, were needed). I’ve been doing a bit of “house-hunting” since our earlier communication, and am enclosing here one of two sets of putz pictures which you might wish to post on the website. This one is a small bookshelf putz which, as you can see by the “big picture”, is part of a larger display. The Mary and Joseph figures in the crèche scene at the bottom are the last two surviving pieces from my grandfather’s old terra-cotta nativity which was either brought from Italy (c. 1901, when his family emigrated here) or ordered from there when he was an adult (which would be c. 1928-1935). My mother has vivid memories of this set being displayed in the basement of their home in Jersey City when she was a child; a star was rigged up at the top of the cellar stairs which led one down to the “presepio”, which took up most of the basement. It was, apparently, sufficiently impressive to have merited an article in the local paper. Grandpa had a lively competition going on with a fellow Italian émigré whose display included moving figures, which he operated from underneath the table on which the whole works was displayed. According to my mother, both of these Nativity displays included numerous peasant figures in addition to the shepherds and wise men, which was typical of many European crèche displays (and can still be seen today in the unending supply of figures produced by Fontanini).
After my grandfather died in 1983, I inherited these two surviving figures. For years, I displayed them more or less as you see here at the bottom of this old free-standing bookshelf with a replacement Baby Jesus. On the divided shelf directly above, I would put the Neapolitan-style angel (a garage sale find) flanked by two composition fruit topiaries (my own creations, along with the Star of Bethlehem which you can partially see on the top shelf). The effect reminded me of an old altarpiece. I was always at a loss as to what to put on the second shelf from the top, and usually settled for a row of assorted Christmas knick-knacks in front of the books. This year, I decided to create a small pastoral scene similar to the ones which probably featured in my grandfather’s layout. The figures are from the Britains Ltd. John Hill Farm series (except for the running deer, which is of French origin). I incorporated four of the putz houses, choosing three of the more rustic-looking ones in country colors (coal black, barn red, and yellow) and a “loggie” (ideally, I suppose, it would work best using all loggies, but I have only this one). Preserved moss, cotton batting, bottle-brush trees, and dried branches provided the scenery. To create the different levels on this, as well as the next putz I’ll be showing you, I used the various books that were displaced from the shelves for the creation of the display (which saved me having to find a place for them until after the holidays!). The whole “village” is all of 2’ long by 11” high (maybe we should call this “long story, short putz?”). Judging by the reaction it’s received, I think it will become a permanent part of the “altarpiece”.
Hope you will enjoy the pictures; more to come.
Thanks, Jim! I have been sorely remiss in getting things on the site this year, but am catching up, now. I'll have your pictures on at some point as I build "PUTZES 2006" from now till Easter! Lots of neat things to come...I promise!
Dear Ted, I discovered your site a couple of days ago after finding a bag of these houses at a thrift store. I paid $1.99 for the lot of sixteen. I had never seen items like these before. I come from a part of the world where these villages were not one of the Christmas traditions. They were a bit battered with many of the windows punctured but I liked them anyway because of my weakness for little houses. I asked another shopper if she knew anything about these houses and she explained that all she could tell me was that they were very old because she was 61 and had known houses like those as a child.
In this bag there were about eight "Made in Japan" houses and about the same number of plastic ones. The "Made in Japan" houses are lightweight and have fine wire and cord loops so they must have been made for hanging on the tree. There are holes at the back to insert the lights. The plastic ones are not like the solid color plastic ones that you included on your site. These are white and the fronts slide off from the roof and base. There are printed sticker facades stuck to the fronts and the entire house illuminates when lit and gold glitter along the eaves. I don't know where the plastic ones were made but they go well with the Japanese ones.
I had to satisfy my curiousity so I went on the Internet to find out if anything had been written about them. Your amazing site answered most of my questions and I felt that I was in the presence of someone who feels the same wonder. Now I also want to know more about the people who made these Japanese exports and what prompted that industry. Thank you for acknowledging their contribution.
I also loved what you said in The Magic Window. That is exactly it! Although these houses were not part of my formative years or my culture, as I hold them, the aura that I sense around these well loved and worn houses certainly was, one of innocence and tranquility and homecoming. We really do go home for Christmas, if not physically then in our hearts, a sentimental journey that for some is either joyful or sad or a mixture of both. Thank you so much for all the work that you lovingly put into this site. I wish you and yours health and happiness and peace.
(Lumiere grew up in Trinidad and Tobago in the Carribean.) Thank you so much, Lumiere. It sounds like what you picked up are some of the "Alpine Village" pieces of the late 1960s... the very last of the "Made in Japan" houses. At that price you can hardly go wrong! Nativities and putzes are the same idea - a little world beneath the celestial majesty of the tree. The Moravian Germans who began them started mainly with Nativities or Noah's Ark scenes. A story on display. I'm so glad you have found this new interest! It's a warming,pleasant thing... and you are exactly right; it's all about a sense of home.
My name is George and I love your site. When I feel down I just go to This wonderful place you have lovingly created. Bless You Ted. Today I came to buy some of Karl's beautiful creations for my ever growing Chritmas Town. Sadly I see he is not currently making them. Please let Me know by e-mail if he decides to resume and begin making them again. I feel sad as I was putting this off for a while. I guess I should have ordered them when I first saw them on Your site. Much continued success with this beautiful heartwarming place I can go to. Thank You Sincerely Ted.
Blessings to You & Yours, George Bogart L.I. N.Y.
Thank you so much for the kind words, George, and keep the faith because Karl informs me that after they have moved and settled in it may well be that his houses become available again. Perhaps not this year, but possibly next.They are going through a major upheaval in their lives right now. I will certainly let you know.
I have decided to suspend production of my Christmas Houses indefinitely. Between my job, family demands, and our efforts to relocate, there is simply not enough time to devote to the houses. When we finally get re-settled we may attempt to re-start the business, but at this point I'm afraid it's already too late for the 2006 season. At this time last year I had 75 houses on the shelves. This year I have none. - Karl Fey" (06/12/06)
I'm so very sorry, Karl. Those who have aquired your pieces thus far are very very lucky indeed. It was a very valiant effort, and I understand. Family and health must come first. We'll re-open this any time you say. - Ted
I've enjoyed browsing your fascinating and nostalgic site. The cardboard houses we used to decorate with when I was growing up were among my favorites, and I always regretted that, while I have many decorations from my past, none of the houses survived. There is one particular house that I remember, as it was one of my favorites. We called it the "mirror house", and it was like a little stage. It had four walls- two very narrow side walls and a large pentagonal back wall that was folded into two halves. Each of these halves had a pentagonal mirror bordered by golden glass beads (which also border ed the front). In the center was a small composition Santa sleigh with two reindeer, two red-capped composition mushrooms, and a few scattered tiny bottle-brush trees. The front was open, and little scene was reflected in the mirrors. It had a flat cardboard base; the walls were white and the roof red, both were sprinkled with glitter (silver, as I recall) and a tiny metallic red star was affixed to the peak of the back wall. It was apparently not intended to be illuminated; there were no windows and no place to insert a light bulb. I was born in 1958, and remember this house as having been a recent acquisition, not an heirloom; my parents would probably have bought it during the early sixties. I haven't seen any houses like it on your site, either in the pictures or the catalogue pages, nor have I seen it mentioned. I was wondering if you or any of your readers recall such a house from their own Christmases past and have any information about it. I was also reading the section on tree restoration, and have a bit of advice to offer regarding loofahs- my local IGA supermarket sells full-sized loofahs in the aisle devoted to soaps and cleaning supplies. I'm told that any supermarket or bodega which caters to a large Latino population will probably have some on hand, as they are quite accustomed to using them.
Hope I've been of some assistance, and I hope there's someone out there who had a "mirror house" in their past.
Jim McLean Brentwood, NY
Well, Thanks, Jim - for the kind remarks and info!
Actually, I have often seen those mirrored ones as you describe and think that down in the depths of my collection somewhere may even have a few. I hadn't gotten into them (yet) because they are not quite houses - actually ornaments to be hung on the tree and reflect the lights. I have seen at least 3 variations with Santa & sleigh, a tiny white church, and (I think) snowman figures. The figures I recall were celluloid. I personally call them the "shrines" because they seem like shrines to something Christmassy. I think they are some kind of a cultural confusion relating to the "Creche:" - little mixed-up manger scenes. To me, they have an almost "pagan" quality, but that's okay; Christmas was originally a pagan celebration. ...4,000 years ago at least.
You shouldn't have too much trouble finding those on eBay or at flea markets, antique shops - etc. Most of us collectors are trying to find the stuff Mom threw away, and these are of the late 50's to early 60's, I think....They even made large ones of wood and mirrors that had built-in lights in the '60s. And you are right - they do have a proscenium stage-like quality about them,
I will pass this e-mail along to the gang . We don't have IGA in this area, but others might. A good source of luffah is always welcome.
Thanks again, and I hope you'll revisit the site often.
Best regards, Ted
I have enjoyed your web site so much. My husband and I are making a village with some of Martha Stewarts 2005 December article influencing us only because we don't know what we are doing, but looking forward to many years of a fun hobby. Keep your web site up! I am going to need a lot of pictures and advise to learn all I can. Happy Holidays all year long, Val hanks, Blackduck, Minnesota
Have collected for myself for 20 years and still have @ 40.I have given @30 to my daughter and a neice who also love them.. I remembered then from my mother using them under the tree every year from 1920's on. Do you remember how they smelled in the early days when they got hot?? We used to have to turn the lights out before they caught on fire. I remember they used to sell sheets of replacements for the doors and windows . I sure wish they did again! Do you know if they still do. Please let me know if you know anyplace I could buy some. Just love your collection. At first used to find at garage sales and yard sales for 50 cents!
Thank you. L. Carolyn Sitler
Papa Ted: I probably should have asked your permission now that I think about it . Please forgive me. I love your site and go there often. What a thrill to see a ll your research and hard work. A wealth of information. Hopefully I did not cause you any heartburn. I truly just wanted everyone to have a source for repairing and cherishing their houses. Blessings to you and yours. Keep up the good work. Jon aka Christmasdude.
No no no, Jon! I don't mind a bit, in fact i appreciate it! You have no idea how many people use my material without even crediting the source. Site fans are always alerting me to these, and it kind of hurts because I don't mind. I just want to spread the word. - PT
Cathie De La Rosa wrote: Well, I am so excited and surprised to have found "my little houses" on e-bay and then to find a link to your site that told me so much about them. Like many they were a part of Christmas for me. My grandmother put them out every year with (barclay skaters!) and I loved them. Over time, my Mom got them and then last Christmas I found them in a box in her loft (she never put them out anymore!) and so with a little whining about how much I loved them and how sad that they weren't out and they came home with me! I must say they were "tired" and in need of some care so I fixed the missing windows with red cello (now I know where to get real windows!) and carefully reglittered with original colors and they were ready to be used again.
So, my husband thinks I've gone crazy because this is now my collection I am working on. I was in the attic getting down the box to examine what I have (about a dozen houses and assorted barclay skaters and Santa) I always thought these houses were a magical gift but now I know even more! What a wonderful history.
I appreciate all your research and having pictures from different decades as well as the magazines (I've even seen ornaments that my grandmother had and now I have some of!) I want to be a "savvy" shopper and not spend on a house just because it's the "thing" right now. So it has helped me tremendously while looking on e-bay. I keep both windows open to your site and where I'm looking and compare to see what is what. This has been so helpful!
I feel like a true super slueth! And to think that my style house were all I thought there was! Finally, I have located a house that I believe is from the 30's. I think so because it has the preacher figurine(looks like one) in the yard by a church with a unique steeple and a cross on top. It looks just like the ones in the magazines and pictures you have shown. Can you tell me what would be a reasonable price to purchase it for? It does need repair in some areas. I would love to add it to my collection and I feel fairly certain it is from this time period. Any input you have would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks again for sharing with so many all of your work!
Cathie De La Rosa
Dear Papa Ted,
Many thanks for sharing your knowledge of these wonderful houses we love so dearly (And in many cases - pay too much to aquire.)You website is a true joy and I see something different, or see something in a different "light" everytime I visit.
Wishing you much happiness, love, joy and peace in 2006!
Janet Watt - Columbia, SC.
From a special Christmas Card,'05:
We have all been blessed with Papa Ted's Place. Such a gift of the "Magic Window" that touches our childhood memories of Christmas all year. God Bless you in the New Year.
Love, Cathi & Jim
Well, I took the plunge and decided to list some of the houses I fixed on ebay and I have received about 10 emails a day for the past week asking where I got the windows, so I tell them all ... proceed with caution ... once you see this site you will love putz houses more than ever! Hope you don't mind I gave out your web-site to all these folks, but hey, if it will keep you printing windows, I'm all for it!!! If you like, I can just provide your mailing address and tell them to send for your sample pack but I wouldn't want to do that without your permission. Let me know your thoughts.
Thanks, Judi! - Heck, no! I sure don't mind you referring people to the website, in fact I TRULY appreciate it! Word-of-mouth is the best kind of advertising there is. There are SO MANY websites out there; I am like one tiny little cork bobbing on an ocean of millions of other tiny little corks. It took 3 years to reach 1,000 on the visits counter. but after that it started to snowball. I got 20,000 this year. Don't send them my e-mailing address; I am constantly answering questions that would have been easliy answered if people had read the website. Just refer them to the main site and tell them to click on "REPRODUCTION PARTS." -Ted
I saw your website in Martha Stewart. I can't even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed "wandering" around your site. I love those putz houses. Would you know if there are any other books about them. I would love to learn how to make them. I certainly will bookmark your site as a "favorite".....by the way, love the music!!!! I just sent this site to my dad who is going to be 86 in March....he'll love it.
Thank you, Sue! Sorry, but no - I know of no other books on this subject. When I started the site 6 years ago there were tons of books on ornaments, vintage Xmas lights, toys and trains, but nothing on the little houses. That's why I took the project on. We learn a little more each year.- "Papa" Ted
just wanted to tell you how wonderful Karl's houses are! My Mom had about 15 of them - couldn't wait to have them put out at Christmas time. She has passed and now they are mine - so many memories! I love the ones here and would like to expand the scenes - have a birthday coming up and will let hubby and the kids know about your site. Thanks so much for keeping this alive and doing it so well.... amazing! Linda Gately
Dear Papa Ted, I am 27 and have been collecting and researching Putz houses intensely for the last 1.5years looking for others and ways to display them. I have always grew up with them, my grandma had them and then my dad took them over when she pasted and he has a giant village on top of an old library table and he has two satelites, one on top of their entertainment center and one in the window. He has collected them for years, being an antique enthusiest and my brother and I would always help him pick some out at the antique shows we would go to. I move d away and now live in Oregon and have spent a couple Christmases alone and decide to start my own village.
Your website is truly awesome!!!! I am so excited that I finaly stumbled upon it. I had no idea what to call certain things and how many different types of houses there are. I would like to send you pictures of my village, but I will have to wait untill after Christmas(I have to wait for my wife to open her digital camera). I am encouraging my Dad to send you pictures of his village in Iowa. Our villages are similar in set up being that he was my inspiration. It is good to know that your site is there for everyone even though I wasn't around in the day of the dimestore I really appreciate the art of the little houses.
That's wonderful, Brian! No kid who has grown up with a putz at Christmas will ever forget it, or want his own kids to miss it. There is a great ressurgence! I would love to see those pictures! For your own sake, too - try to get pictures of your Dad's while you can.- "Papa" Ted
Merry Christmas Ted. Today is Winter Solstice. We will only get a few hours of sunlight today if that. I had woke early to finish writing back to the last children who wrote Santa Letters. We don't have postmen here, so I have to get them in their mailboxes so they can be picked up before Christmas Eve. This one letter I must share with you. She had dropped her little pink envelope into the Santa Mailbox early, Inside she had written in lovely printing that she would like a new packback because her old Winnie the Pooh backpack had a hole in it and her skates kept on poking through. I smiled to myself and thought no problem . Till I turned the letter over and NO RETURN ADDRESS! Just thanks Yuuka. On no I thought, What now. So I said a little prayer that the information I needed would come to me in the right time and waited. In the meantime I asked everyone I knew if they knew any families with a little girl named Yuuka. Nothing. Well yesterday I looked for the last time in the Santa Box and what do I see at the bottom of the box, the same familiar little pink envelope and lovely printing! Thankyou God. Someone maybe her or her parents or Yuuka herself had figured out since Santa hadn't written back yet. Maybe there was a problem and had sent me another letter with the information Santa needed. I quickly opened the letter and didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Little Yuuka wrote Dear Santa, Forget the backpack. I got one. Please send me a new clock. Still no return address or even a last name. I left work that day wishing things had worked out different but wished I could write back to Yuuka. Just as I turned the corner, I bumped into a nurse I don't really know who works at the doctors office. As a last resort I told her who I was and what I was doing. As soon as I told her about the little girl with the unsual name, she said Oh I know that family, I think they live in Lake Louise. Thankyou God. Bye for now Love Karen
Lovely story, Karen! It sounds as if you're far enough north to hand-carry those letters to Santa himself! Where are you writing from?- "Papa" Ted
(Banff, Alberta, Canada)
Dear Ted, Merry Christmas. I imagine this is a very busy time of year for you. Me too. After we last spoke I built myself a putz ! Will send pictures as soon as I can get someone I know to take digital pictures. I took my post-war putz down to the Canadian Legion and started to set it up when everyone oohed and awed and talked about their memories at Christmas. The special reward that building and creating bring. I also write back to all the children in town who write Santa. Their letters are priceless. I know that as soon as everyone sees my houses the phone will start ringing for them up here in the mountains but I would really like to partner with you. Let's talk after the holiday. May this e find you and yours healthy and happy. Love Karen
Gee, Karen! You must save the best of those and perhaps share them with us? I'd start a whole new section for that!" - "Papa" Ted
I’ve been thinking that it’s about time for me to start my own collection. Those cardboard houses were always there for Caroline and me during Christmas, and it’s about time that I brought them into my own house now. That was one of the best arts of the season…pulling the boxes out of the attic and setting up the putz. Can’t let a tradition like that die. I really have to purchase a batch from Karl once the season dies down for him. The craftsmanship he puts into those things is astounding… what a labor of love! His creations would still be a deal at twice the price. Seriously, he should raise his prices. I think my two favorites are the pink hacienda and ‘The Blue House.’ Those in particular are absolutely amazing in color palette and structure. He could get a masters from any design school with creations like those. It is amazing what all these ‘post-martha’ collectors are dishing out on ebay! You should put some junkers up to reel in a quick dollar or two. Get those rembrandt lights out! Man, I wish I had the expendable income to drop $500 on Christmas houses! (I’d probably spend it flying to Belize instead though!… escape this bitter Ohio cold for a minute or two!)
Well, all my love and wishes for continued success with the site! By the way, great new piece by the b&w girl staring up at the Christmas tree.
Your diehard liberal nephew,
Thanks, Chris! - and Happy Holidays! You of all people would do a resounding putz, I know! And if wee-Chrislets ever occur, you wouldn't want them to miss it! Love, Uncle "Papa" Ted
Dear Ted, I saw your name mentioned in Martha Stewart magazine and had to view your site. Gee! I loved looking at all your houses and those that others have sent pictures to share. I would like to be on your email list and thankyou for that. Now, I have spent too much time looking at all the great stuff when I have to wake in four hours ha ha. I bought a complete set of some old Montgomery Ward houses in the original red striped box at a thrift store quite a few years ago for twenty dollars. The cord has a "tax tag" on it(like the ones on the old playing cards). Now I forget if it says Made in Occupied Japan or just Occupied Japan. Anyway, this story is both sad and funny. The set was pristine and it had lots of those batting figures with the foil accents on the clothes and hats. After displaying it for Christmas, I placed it back in the attic. The next year I brought it down, opened it up, and mice had eaten ONLY the foil parts. Little hats now with nibble marks, etc. I'm 52 and when I found that set in the thrift shop, it was all I ever wanted. The same year I also found an original, in the box, never used, cardboard fake fireplace. Remember those? Now that I'm working FT, I don't have time to go to the shops. That sure was fun. I didn't see on your site replacement foil...have you ever been asked for that before? Thanks for putting your houses on view. The prices you showed for some houses on eBay are too funny. Sincerely, Amanda Hutts
Gee, Amanda! I've run into a lot of mouse-nibbles before , but they were always around the cardboard door and widows edges. The mice were after the old animal glue used to keep the paper or cellophane doors and windows in place. I never in my life have heard of mice eating tinfoil! So, no! Nobody has ever asked me for foil before. Sorry! - "Papa" Ted
Happy Holidays! -"Papa" Ted
Hi, I just found your site from MS magazine. Looking through your photos and infomation which is facinating, I found Mr. Alleger's christmas pictures of his village when he was 3. It is so much like one my aunt had when I was little, (I was born in 1946) that it brought tears to my eyes. How I loved that little village around her little fake tree set on a table which was covered with the same paper bricks Mr. Alleger shows. My aunt had no children, but I don't know what ever happened to all the little snowy scenes she had. Thank you for such a nice memory. B. Bade
Dear Papa Ted. Love your site. Like going back to my childhood. Wonderful. When you get a chance you might change "heard" of celluloid deer to "herd." This isn't criticism! The rest of the site is perfect! Karen Kinnane
Ted, Well its beginning to look a lot like Christmas ...... Don't know if you remember me but I'm the guy who had the website "Hartney Family Putzs"! You helped me by giving me a "show" on your site and also some valuable advice on website setup and management. I peruse your site regularly and it has been fun watching it grow and prosper. I see where you have given up on the guest book -- me too. You had helped me set mine up and it did OK for about 6 months then the pornographers set in and I just eliminated it. What a shame. My putz goes up this weekend and I'm in the midst of updating my website at http://www.toytrains.4t.com. Pls visit if you get a chance. Keep up the good work and have a Merry Christmas, - Jim Hartney
I ordered this kit of little houses from the Christmas JC Penney catalog in either 1974 or 1975 for $9.95 (lights included).I have it intact today. I almost threw it out til I learned it was my son and daughter's fondest memory Christmas item. It was in pretty bad shape from years of display so last year I refurbished the glitter and it looks "brand new"
I was reading the Martha Stewart magazine at the hospital today, wrote down your website and was awed to see my glitter houses on your site. -M. Calvey
You have a most wonderful site! I have been searching for information on how to make some of these little 'fairy houses' as my daughter calls them. I stumbled across your site and have bookmarked it for frequent visits. I was born in 1967 and agree with your daughter that the "American Christmas" is alive and well. We live in a small Western New York town which still has a town caroling and tree decorating party every year at the town hall and community center. Ours will be today starting with a day of fun for town children, caroling, reindeer to pet, a decorated tractor and truck/car parade on Main Street and then Santa will come for pictures. While so much of the world marches quickly, without a backward glance, towards future technologies and gizmos we remain true to our heritage. That includes Christmas ( and many other items of both holiday and daily use) decorations which have a long and colorful history from generation to generation. Many have been repaired many times and handled by so many children that the colors are rubbed off. Unfortunately I have no miniature homes for our elves to inhabit but I am going to make several for a mantel display even if it takes me until next Christmas- or beyond- to do. While I have no information to share on these houses I wanted to tell you how much my visit to your site has encouraged me to figure out how to make a variety of these in different styles from simple to hopes of a castle and perhaps more. Happy holidays and good wishes on the book. Jeanne Kacprowicz Marilla, NY
Hi, i just saw the Martha Stewart article. I LOVE YOUR HOUSES. My grandma and grandpa had quite a few little tree ornaments that I always loved, then one year, a "well meaning" relative fixed their tree up with all new ornaments and the houses disappeared. Somehow, one larger church survived!! I got my hands on it and keep it out year round! I don't know why, but the simplicity of these houses warms my heart. Anyway, long story - my grandparents are now deceased, and I was too young and naive to get the background info on many things in their lives, including the little church. Do you happen to know anything about these? You seem very knowledgeable about these houses. Here is a photo I found on ebay of a church that looks identical to mine. Thanks for all the info that may have. Vicki
Ted - Just wanted to tell you once again how much I enjoy your perspective on things. What you wrote in one of your forwarded e-mails about Santa Claus, how he is more "real" than what is supposed to be real, is a good example of what I'm referring to in this sincere compliment. Therefore, I am doubly appreciative of your e-mails, since they share what you are telling other people and your heart- felt conclusions and analyses come through from a different viewpoint than one usually finds. You really are an exceptional thinker, a person who thinks with his heart. I hope there are moments in your life when you sense your parents around, looking in at you, or that they appear in dreams for you. Anyway, Big Kid, thanks for all the sharing. Take care. -Little Kid T.
KACEY COMINI-SHERROD wrote:.........The "SECRET ELVES!"
JOYEUX NOEL EVERYBODY!
Happy Holidays. I know Christmas is almost here when I have to go rooting through the attic at 6am on the day after Thanksgiving (before the kids wake up). We have a tradition in my family where I secretly put out these old 50's knee-hugging elves to watch over Henry and Royce. These magic elves send reports back to Santa, of course. They only look plastic, and the made in Japan stickers on their butts are just disguises. They really do come from the North Pole. It keeps the boys on their toes. (Henry is sworn to secrecy about the fact that Santa is really mom - upon penalty of death) I'm hoping to keep Royce believing in Santa for one or two more years. He's been running around for days with the Target toy catalog and a pen in his fist.
With us it used to be the Ward's Christmas Wishbook, the Western Auto Holiday Flyer, and the one from Firestone -which 10 1/2 months of the year was nothing but a boring tire store , but which for Christmas sold Lionel, American Flyer, and Erector Sets and had them all set up and running in a dazzling, roaring display. I know I still have a noseprint on that Mainstreet Russell, Kansas window to this day. In- delible!
.....I collect old Christmas Wishbooks when I can find them, and it's always amazing to me to find them at all. Any that have survived must have been sent to childless people, because ours were in worse shape than the Dead Sea Scrolls when Christmas FINALLY rolled around! - P.T.
Copyright 2000-2012 Theodore H. Althof,Jr.Except where noted, the contents of this website and all it's pages and submissions therein contained are the intellectual property of Theodore H.Althof,Jr. All rights are reserved. (Background musical selections are,of course, excepted.)
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