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December 12, 2007 > A holiday collection becomes a Christmas Village

A holiday collection becomes a Christmas Village

By Emma Victoria G. Blanco

A cold winter night conjures up visions of curling up on the couch in front of a crackling fireplace. For Mildred King, the fireplace is replaced by a bustling country village - one that she lovingly and painstakingly put together herself.

The Victorian-style buildings are all lit and cast a warm glow to the entire miniature community. Curious faces who take a closer look instantly smile as they observe children throwing snowballs, a couple cuddling on a park bench, skaters gliding on a frozen pond, and carolers filling the night with festive song. Take a peek into windows of grand homes adorned with holiday decorations and stroll pass charming and intricately handcrafted and hand-painted village structures like the fire station, city hall, the museum and a pet shop, and you are at once transported to experience "old towne Christmas."

The beautiful holiday family tradition began over a quarter century ago when King purchased three unique buildings (a house, a church and a school) from Mervyn's annual holiday collectible promotion. Every year, King has added to the collection, usually receiving the charming buildings and figurines as gifts. Her daughter, Nancy Bruns, who used to work at Mervyn's, has given them to her on Thanksgiving as early Christmas presents.

Today, King can proudly showcase 56 buildings in her collection, arranged to create heartwarming country Christmas village scenes. Her collection has grown so large, that not only has she had to lengthen and widen her 108 inch dining table, she has also had to extend placement of the collection to the space below the table to accommodate every piece. What is most impressive is that she does it all by herself. Her daughter may help by bringing the collection out of storage, but King does all the "labor" herself. First, she draws out a "blueprint" of the village, and then puts it all together, including the electrical wiring and sewing "snow" batting to the garlands. She used to start building her village on Thanksgiving Day, but since her collection has become so vast, she now starts working on it the first week of November. King is so exacting when planning the village and meticulous when putting pieces in their particular spots that Bruns has teasingly referred to her as its "city engineer."

A Fremont resident for over 40 years, King, is an energetic 76 year-old, whose infectious humor and kind personality quickly puts you at ease. She keeps busy with work and church activities, teaches piano to children four days of the week and is a part-time secretary at Alder Avenue Baptist Church. King plays the piano at church on Sundays and, in her spare time she coordinates fun activities for the church's Red Hat group. Her home is an inviting testament to a predilection toward collecting and a fondness for birds displayed as figurines in glass cabinets or painted on china plates showcased on her walls. To date, she has over 600 thimbles, a collection that began when "my mother was pregnant with me. A gentleman friend didn't know what to give her, so he gave her a brass thimble as a gift," says King.

On the weekends during the holiday season, King entertains family and close friends (many from her church) and shares the wonderment of her collection. One young visitor remarked, "I want to live there." Indeed, the unique buildings and figurines are so captivating with their ornate details that they appear to come alive. "I enjoy sitting here by myself at night, just looking at it," says King. She and her guests can enjoy the awe-inspiring display until the end of January, when the village is taken apart and once again placed in storage, making room for the next holiday decorations.

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