By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
Look, there’s Flick, the kid whose tongue gets stuck to the icy pole in the movie “A Christmas Story.”
There’s the Bedford Falls Trust and Savings Bank, where greedy old Mr. Potter bedevils George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” And isn’t that the bridge where Jimmy Stewart as George nearly ends it all in the classic film?
Oh, and there in the Old Town neighborhood is O’Donnell’s Pub, a cheery looking place to escape the wintry streets.
Where are we, anyway? It’s like a mixed-up scene from a Christmas movie dream. There are no freeways or strip malls. No one carries a cellphone. Illuminated by twinkling lights, the past looks even sweeter than we remember it.
It’s “Larryville,” a holiday village display that fills a dining room and more at Larry O’Donnell’s 1905 home in Everett.
“The thing I really like about it, I’m in total control,” joked O’Donnell, 75, a retired Everett School District administrator. “I’m the mayor, the city planner and the police chief.”
Larryville has been a dozen years in the making. As his collection of pint-size buildings, cars, trees and characters has grown, the scene has evolved from a small town with nearby farms into a nearly 20-foot-long spectacle.
At one end is a carnival — with a carousel, bumper cars, a midway and a parking lot filled with vintage cars. None of the cars and trucks in Larryville are models newer than the 1950s. There are two trains, one a kiddie ride at the carnival and the larger railroad, the “North Pole Central,” serving the city. A sled and ski area is called “Lone Tree Mountain.”
O’Donnell’s brother, retired teacher and local historian Jack O’Donnell, and other members of the family have special places in Larryville.
“Jack and I are the worst mechanics. So I have Jack’s Auto Parts and Jack’s service station,” O’Donnell said.
Tim’s Christmas Tree Farm is named for Jack O’Donnell’s son, and Mike’s Boathouse is a nod to Larry O’Donnell’s son. A restaurant, Katie O’Donnell’s Cafe, is named for Larry’s granddaughter Caitlyn.
Larryville is an idealized reality — five theaters but no dental office. It looks magical, but creating it takes some doing.
Work begins right after Thanksgiving dinner, when O’Donnell escorts guests to the basement to bring up the boxes that house village pieces.
As a Christmas village collector, O’Donnell is no purist. “The Rolls-Royce of this stuff is made by Department 56. Those pieces are more intricate,” he said.
He began with about six pieces on his dining room table. “Then I started buying anything I could find,” he said.
That’s how he ended up with “It’s a Wonderful Life” figures from Walgreen’s and “A Christmas Story” pieces from Sears — including Ralphie’s house and the Chop Suey Palace where the movie family has their holiday dinner. On a road trip several years ago, Larry and Jack O’Donnell visited A Christmas Story House and Museum in Cleveland, the setting for the 1983 movie.
Larryville now takes up the dining room table, plus an adjoining ping-pong table, a card table, and the kitchen table O’Donnell’s parents had when he was a boy. It’s roughly 100 square feet of fun. He fashioned a table-to-floor skirt around it all to hide power strips and electrical cords.
“I have about 120 structures. I have no idea the total value,” he said. “I have spent as little as $5 and as much as $110.”
With rain pouring down Wednesday night, O’Donnell said he started Larryville to avoid the annual chore of climbing up on his roof, often in stormy weather, to put up Christmas lights. Now, the light is inside to enjoy.
Creating the display takes at least a week, and O’Donnell has drawn a map to help set up the Old Town area, the downtown, two schools, the carnival and all the rest. He hosted a neighborhood party recently, and Rotary Club friends. “The fun thing is just sharing it,” he said.
Larryville stays right where it is all the way through January.
“Every year, it’s hard to part with it,” O’Donnell said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, firstname.lastname@example.org.