By Nick Wolochatiuk
When I was a youngster in Toronto in the late 1940s, my mom and I used to take the Queen streetcar to the Yonge Street downtown intersection. I would gaze at the marvelous Christmastime window decorations of Eaton’s and the across the street Simpson’s department stores. Trains appeared from behind mountains then disappeared behind other mountains. Oddly stiff clowns, dancers and reindeer clowned, danced and pranced in front of the spectacular settings. We went from showcase to showcase until we finally came to the window that had a waving and ho-ho-ing Santa Claus in his sled. “No, we’re not finished yet,” my mom would then admonish. “There’s one more window to see, the most important one.”
There was the manger scene of Bethlehem, with the infant Jesus bathed in the light of a star that hovered magically above.
Let’s shift from downtown Toronto of the late 1940s to Cornwall in 2009, to Second Street East, to the two front windows of the Seaway News. Once again there are miniature trains winding their way through tunnels and villages. There are all sorts of fanciful characters and marvellous scenery. It is the department store windows of the late 1940s in transistorized form. In a way, it is the homes and stores of Cornwall in miniature.
This wonderful display is the product of cooperation between Marie Morrell and her miniature train enthusiast husband Rudy Tabak. To discover how this display came to be, Marie was interviewed. This is what she said. “Rick Shaver, the manager of the Seaway News, had a few miniature houses in his office. The Seaway News staff hinted that he should make a little display in the front window.” That was the little start of a big project. “I have been setting up windows and miniature village displays for the last twenty years in businesses, stores, private homes, plazas and museums. For the last five years Rudy has been adding toy trains to the displays. Rudy and I are a team. We could not do this set-up without each other’s help.”
Some background: Rudy is an avid collector of toy trains and has one of the largest “O” gauge train collections in Eastern Ontario. He loves volunteering his train layout, free of charge, to charitable organizations and associations for special events. While in Ottawa, Rudy received the Helen Keller Fellowship award from the Lions Club for services to others.
More background: Marie’s claim to fame is that she is the only Canadian to own a complete collection of the Heritage Village from a company called Department 56 (D56) (high-end miniature villages) and started collecting its D56 Snow Village. She is only missing one house from 1979, “The Mobile Home” (a grey RV trailer) #56.50633 to complete her collection. Does anyone out there have it?
Marie and Rudy have a truly momentous project in mind for Cornwall. This is how she describes it: “It’s a miniature town project. If it could be implemented it would be called: ‘Cornwall in miniature.’ We are offering to be project directors/managers for the setup of a miniature city of Cornwall in 2010.” “The first requirement would be to find an empty place in downtown Cornwall to set up the display. Then, Cornwallites and businesses would participate by bringing a mock-up (criteria to be determined) of 2 feet by 18 inches, representing their home or business to make a replica of the city. We can have fun with this project by having contests and making it easy for everyone of all ages and backgrounds to participate. Participants get one free consultation with us, the project managers, in case they get stuck during the building of their project. “The project would also be an occasion to help Cornwall charities and food banks. It would also provide an opportunity for businesses, profit and not-for-profit organizations, sports teams, various groups, artists, artisans and performers to promote themselves. Such an endeavour would bring people together and have the effect of creating a municipal team. Once people get to know one another, they are more tolerant and ready to help others. They are open to have fun together, live in harmony, accept others just the way they are and include those with challenges because they all have one thing in common: ‘The miniature town project.’ We can learn something from everyone, even if it is just being grateful for what we have. “The 2010 set-up would start in the middle of October and displayed from middle of November until the end of the first week of January 2011. The beauty of it all is that once the mock-up is taken down there is no worry about trying to store everything since people take their display home. “Eventually it would be nice to have a permanent set-up representing the whole city, benefitting Cornwall’s economic development, keeping in mind the Government Recreational Infrastructure assistance for new endeavours as a source of funding, if still available. “We do not believe any other city has something like this; we would be the first. It is worth thinking about it. What do you say, people? Who wants to play in 2010? If you are interested, please call the Seaway News at 613-933-0014.”
Here’s the miniature of a 2010 project
By Nick Wolochatiuk
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