A 700-plus piece Dickens' Village and North Pole Series collection amassed by a mother and her daughter over several years is on display at the Lake Presbyterian Church in Osage Beach.
Susan Campbell, 102, and her now-deceased daughter Candy Wolfe began collecting the Department 56 Dickens' Village pieces that depict 1800s England in 1986 and the North Pole pieces two years later in their home. Susan, a charter member of the church, reached out to the church as a permanent location for the complex and extensive display after other potential locations didn't pan out.
Church officials agreed, and Jerry Ludwick, an elder in the church and friend of Susan through his wife, Carol, arranged to move the individually boxed pieces from Susan's home to the church basement with the help of church members. As a testament to Susan and her daughter, Ludwick spent nearly a half a year cataloguing and arranging every piece in specially designed and built display cases.
Ludwick said the collection was displayed in a bedroom at Susan and Candy's house, with many of the accessories stored in original boxes in a closet. As he carefully unpacked the pieces, he began to establish groupings and patterns and decided to catalogue every piece with original descriptions and pictures. He color coded the treasures into churches, items of interest and animations in a binder as a reference guide.
Many of the pieces are lighted and animated, helping bring the villages to life. Ludwick spent hours and hours first wiring the display cases and then checking and replacing bulbs in the villages, churches, Big Ben, the Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace and more. Each display case is individually lighted, and each section of Villages and accessories is individually lighted.
The original six buildings from Dickens' Village were issued in 1984, and Susan and Candy began collecting two years later. Their collection includes the original seven pieces from the Dickens' collection and the first three of the North Pole Series.
Ludwick estimates that Susan and Candy's collection represents about 85 percent of the Dickens' and North Pole Series pieces ever made, making it one of the most complete and priceless collections in the country.
Several of Charles Dickens' short stories and novels are portrayed in Dickens' Village. Besides pieces illustrating "A Christmas Carol," several other stories are represented including "David Copperfield," Nicholas Nickelby," "Oliver Twist," and the "Old Curiosity Shop." Dickens himself is featured in some accessory pieces.
Department 56 has managed to capture our imagination with its display of The North Pole. When the village was introduced, there were three buildings featured -- Santa's Workshop, the Reindeer Barn and Elf Bunkhouse. Now, the North Pole features more than 70 buildings and dozens of accessories.
Among the Dickens' Village pieces and the North Pole Series is a grouping of thatched-roof buildings, castles, a wharf scene, Christmas carolers, a train station, The 12 Days of Christmas, Elf Land, a Victorian station, people roller and ice skating, and more. Tiny elves are active year around making dolls, teddy bears, trains, rocking horses and other toys for little girls and boys.