Mary Brauer remembers her first dollhouse.
“I got it from Santa Clause in 1943,” she said this week. “I bought most of the furniture at the five and dime store.”
The sheet metal dollhouse is long gone, but Mary still has the original plastic furnishings in a reproduction of her original.
It’s one of approximately 15 doll houses Mary and her husband Herb have built and decorated in the E. 3rd St. home.
Why does Mary like doll houses?
“It was the only toy my sister couldn’t play with!” she said with a laugh.
“I just like little things,” she continued, speaking of her life-long hobby.
When she married Herb, the doll houses became a group activity. The couple divide the responsibilities: Herb assembles the houses and creates the furniture, while Mary creates the final settings.
Mary said they don’t usually have themes for doll houses in advance.
“It just depends on the supplies we have,” she said.
Herb and Mary began attending doll house craft shows back iin the 1950s.
“We went on a cruise on a ship in 1958, and all the people on it made or sold dollhouses,” Mary said.
Herb said, “We’ve attended shows with about 200 women, and three men.”
The Brauers’ biggest problem now is deciding what to do with all the miniature houses. They’ve given some away as personalized gifts, but for the time being the rest are just on display at home.
Mary admits that if she wanted a doll house to give to her children, she’d just head off to a good toy store. The houses she buys and builds are a whole separate category.
“Now doll house collecting is very professional. The store we visit now are more for adult collectors,” she said.