New this year, Antoinette's Mantel has expanded to a bookshelf addition.
Ted: Looks like a pile of rubble, and I hate to think what Tom paid to get
all that wood shipped out to Kansas, but it's very cool! What you've got, here,
is like finding the nearly complete skeleton of a tyrannosaurus rex! These are the
"bones" of a 1930's putz from an estate in Iowa. Those little wood tables and
all the other boards are supports to form mountains and landscape under sheets.
Those steps. I wonder they led to? - that Nativity, no doubt - as the center
piece. Those wooley wooden sheep alone would probably return his price on a
another auction. I bet that was quite a putz in it's day. I wonder if Tom can
figure out how it all went together? "Christmas Archaeology!"
Ted: Those steps bring back putz memories of Johnstown as a preschooler.
people's putzes with lots of little steps and ladders leading up to different
levels. Bridges over steams and between mountains. Very intricate (at least to
my young eyes) and you could study them a long time to figure just how the
imaginary residents got from here to there.
Tom: I'll just bet that's what this is. Many of the pieces are homemade
German figures? A real likelihood. I knew you would figure this out for me.
I have never seen those type putzes. I wish you had taken pictures - Ha! Tom
Ted: Boy, me too! But that was the early '40s and I was a 5-year old preacher's
kid going around with his preacher Dad on his shut-in visitations. I got a lot
of cookies and saw a lot of Old German trees and putzes that way. That's where
first memories of the spun-wire ornaments came from. And this one old old lady
- (I couldn't understand a word.She was "Old Country" and she and Dad spoke only German.)
She had the most
beautiful table top tree covered in the German ornaments and spun glass "angel-hair"
( remember that stuff?) . The lights were those old C-6 carbon filaments shaped
like pine cones. I touched one and it burned my finger instantly, like a solder
ing iron! I bawled like hell, but it also burned in a visual memory of that
tree and lady that has never left me.
I kept my finger in a snowball all the
Tom: Well this is all that there is. No idea if I am even close. Notice
the carefully homemade elevated ramp made of small tree branches on the left.
Must have taken some time as they are all evenly sized and the ramp boards carefully
split. The flight into Egypt group is in front of that. In the left foreground
is a little rabbit skinned dog pulling a wooden sled (from Japan). On the right
of that is the herd of sheep with the ram standing on a bleacher. To the right
of that is a Nubian figure and camel. I have seen this figure and his hand
originally is up to hold the lead of the camel. There is another critter ramp
made of masonite laying there. In the center is the "ox and ass" and a pane of
glass. The fence has stickers on them saying "American Made 100 percent".
Don't know how the ramps were used but believe the side steps are set up right
as they were tapered to fit under the tables. Is this anything like you
remember, Ted? Tom hull
Ted: Given what you've got there, I'd say that's probably pretty close!
The only thing I'm thinking is: "Where'd they put the tree?' I've got a set of
that "100% American Made" fence. You've got three! I first see it about 1938
in a Butler Bros catalog. You can be sure this was added during the war. It's
such an ideal size it has fit into every putz I've made since finding it.
(See mine in the first "PUTZES" section.)The truly great putzes had many levels!
Tom explains that this is why he cannot have a putz before the big front window.
Probably just as well because direct sunlight -even through glass- can fade these old
treasures in no time!
Carl and Emily Rice
Some very fine old pieces, here! A VERY nice collection! Perhaps they
will honor us with a few closeups?
Linda Starek: 2005
Linda's putz has mostly FABULOUS pieces!
I see several "House(s)of the Month" in it, with January 2006 about center and
January 2005 just to the right of it. Of great interest to me, also, is the
porched house lower left. I am reminded of the single house that appears under
the little feather tree in the last scenes in of the Margaret O'Brien movie
"TENTH AVENUE ANGEL"(1948)- but I think there were 5 slots
in that dormer.
Linda herself says:"I was so excited when I saw the HOM for January 2006!!!! I
had one in my 2005 village. It was handed down from my grandmother and is the
only house I have from her. In fact, it still has candle wax drippings on the
since she did put candles on her trees in the 30's. That house is also the
sister to the blue two-story house in the picture I sent you.
There is one more green two-story brother that goes with it. I had them
together in the village this year. I'm getting the pictures put on CD's so
that you can see them together." - L.S.
Left and right views of the overall. A Christmas Universe in a relatively
A big panorama! It's clear that Linda is no "coconut snob." While there are lots
of super prewar cocos, she also has haciendas, finer postwar - and even
a large American made Dolly Toy "printie," proving there are fine things from
Note, also, the tall skyscraper-like building up on the hill toward the back,
just off center. Actually, that is the "HIGH SCHOOL" shown as APRIL 2005
HOUSE of the MONTH. The April '05 HOUSE of the MONTH is missing the center
section, as was discovered later. Kathi, it's owner, actually fabricated a
flawless center section with it's double entries from scratch - to be seen in
the "1930s" SECTION under "CLOCK HOUSES." But i am still not convinced it didn't come
both ways. There is absolutely no disruption of the flat coconut roof on the
HOUSE of the MONTH version. No glue lines or cardboard strips to fit it over.
Karen, perhaps you can tell us if your roof is also plain or has something to
hold that mid-section in place?
She calls this her "Cathedral," complete with "Padre" and a wedding party. This is
one of the larger postwar churches.
In this night view of the left side, you can see the semi-giant with it's
Close on that single WW II large printie. She's added a clay-face chenille Santa
to the chimney, but a little hard to make out. This was her grandmother's,too.
"HACIENDA AVENUE," as Linda calls it - complete with skating party.
Night skating on "HACIENDA AVENUE."
Linda says:"This was the first time I put, what I call the big houses, in my
collection together in a village. It was fun to put up and sad to take down,
but you can't take the magic out of it!!!!!!!!!!!"
No, you can't, and thank you so much, Linda, for sharing your marvelous putz with all of us!
Donna Collins: 1941
Donna sent me these precious black and white prints - tiny little scallope-edged
things from 1941
- that she says were taken by relatives of hers in Scranton, PA. While it's an
enormous hassle to deal with paper prints, you know how I LOVE old photos
and these were
exceptional ( from the year of my birth ) - and so I wheedled my savy good
friend, Mike,who knows how - into bringing these to size and life.
These shots seem to be about the center of the scene,stepping deeper - showing a
liberal use of the gypsum/plaster "COMPO" houses on a prewar train layout and
lots of fanciful figures, pathways - all kinds of little "microcosmic" inner
scenes, each with story a kid could tell you about...for HOURS!"
Closer on the inner steets from another angle ...Lot's of "activity." More
A lionel #184 Bungalo on the right and a Lionel #191 Villa behind the plaster
I wonder what these little figures are. They're half the height of the
I remember, and the Lionel Train Figures were bigger, too.
Here's the "mountain" tunnel with farmstead atop. It's made of brown paper
grocery store bags all crumped up and accented with paint - the same way an
American Flyer collector friend of mine still makes his mountains to this day.
Here's a down-front lower-left closeup on the Lionel #137 Station with liberal
use of Lionel and Barclay figures.
Having seen only about 3/4's of the track layout, as an old train guy I was still
able to extrapolate
one of the most ingenious, self-running track plans I have ever seen from these
old snapshots. I never seen anything like it in any of the old Lionel catalogs and
publications of "suggested track plans" anywhere.
The old "High-Rail" 0-31 track and type 0-22 switches, with their "non-derailing"
feature,which when connected by wires to other switches - actually form logic
cells comparable to those in modern computers. The train would have taken three
different routes over the layout before repeating - with no human intervention.
And it will work in either direction. Amazing!
If you like maze-puzzles - get your pencil and trace this out....
Postulate two paired sets of switches. Each pair operates together to set and reset
each other always to the same position at the same time. "A" with "B" and "C" with "D".
The two pairs are
independent of each other.
The train coming through 45 deg. crossing "X1" toward "Switch A" triggers
"Switch A" to the curved position "1." "Switch A" is wired to "Switch B" so that "Switch B" simultaneously
switches to the "1" position (curved.) When the train comes out of the tunnel and
reaches "SWITCH B," it turns down the central track toward "Switch C." When it
reaches "Switch C," the switch is thrown to the "3" position (straight). "Switch
C" is wired to "Switch D." which simultaneously throws to the "3" position (
straight.) Meantime, the train is passing over "Switch C," over "X1" and down
around the left lower front toward "Switch A" and the tunnel again. Reaching "A,"
the switch throws to the "2" position (straight" and throws switch "B" to
position 2 (straight also.) So the train goes through the tunnel and comes to
"Switch B" again, but this time goes straight and into "Switch D," which was
previously set to the "3"(straight)position by "Switch C,"and continues straight
at "Switch D." It rounds the outer curve and passes back into the interior over
90 deg crossing "X2." It reaches "Switch C" again, and it throws it to "4"
(curved) position and simultaneously throws "Switch D" to the "#4" position
(curved.)The train comes down over "X1" again, and down around the front track to
"Switch A" again. Already set to "2" (straight), "Switch A" sends the train
into the tunnel and no change is made at "Switch B." It goes straight through at
"B," and into "Switch D" again, which was previously to the "4" position by
"Switch C." Now it turns at "D" and goes down through "X2"into the lower curve,
and left into our ORIGINAL STARTING POINT! - crossing "X1" heading toward
"Switch A" and the tunnel. ... and the whole thing starts over! 3 different
routes over 1 track plan with no human intervention! (Except train wrecks which
you will always have when you use switches.)
Picture the train - running counter-clockwise into switch A. If switch A is set
straight, the train will continue down and around front and up thru through X1
and into switch C. If C is straight it will proceed into switch B. Switch B will
act as master and set switch A to turn. The train now turns at switch A and goes
thru the other leg of X1 and up into X2 and into switch D. Switch D acts as
master and sets switch C to turn. The train goes on through switch B which sets
switch A to straight. The train goes through switch A straight, comes down around
again and through X1 into switch C - but this time switch C has been set to
turn out so that the train now passes through the other leg of X2 and out around
the coal elevator and into switch D again. Switch D now sets switch C to straight
again. The train goes on thru switch B straight. Switch A is already straight
and does not get reset. We are back at the beginning cycle again, and all track
has been run.
Without a doubt, this is the most amazing logical monkey-puzzle track plan I've
ever seen. Two cooperative wired switch pairs make for three diferent routes....
either direction. Theoretically, if another pair of switches could be worked in -
you could multiply that number before repeating, but so far
I can't even visualize a third pair. It's like the Fifth Dimension. I'm on my way
to the ibuprofen bottle as it is ....
I had not received this last picture at the time I formulated the above drawing.
It came later, showing the "northeast" corner of the layout, so I was
"educated-guessing" about the "Switch D" - "X2" configuration. There exists no
snapshot view of the "southeast" corner. But from the what I could see,
what I have filled in would be logical. I was right about Switch "D", but I used
a 90 deg. crossover where they had a switch below the coal elevator. Actually,
this makes my automatic theory of the layout work. I'm not totally sure, now, that
the "Miller Boys" actually had theirs working this way. Without that missing
view, we'll never know for sure, but they certainly did manage to reach down over
60 years and spark another mind!
Those Miller boys of Scranton really knew their stuff! Donna says they did
displays and even store
windows all over Scranton before the war. The name of one of the boys was
Clarence Miller who later married "Ruth." Donna never saw these pictures until
she inherited them after the Scranton Flood,but says she does remember they had
a big living room.(And obviously tolerant parents!)
I will be having more pictures of another layout that they did in website
this soon. And thank you, Clarence and Ruth Miller and Donna!
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