Pop, a.k.a Gene Spangler, was always an avid hobbyist. He enjoyed working with his hands and had talent to spare. For awhile it was tying flies, then it was pen & ink drawing, and finally it was making doll house furniture. He began with the kits sold by Xacto. He seemed to have a preference for the Chippendale, Queen Anne, and colonial styles. As his expertise at making furniture increased he was able to reproduce furniture from his own home in miniature scale, one foot to one inch.
All this was almost twenty years ago when I was a pre-adolescent. As his collection grew he displayed it on a hutch in his living room, little groupings representing rooms. My grandmother contributed by adding items to his tiny household which were often ingeniously created from items around her house; i. e. lipstick lids for umbrella stands and earrings for plants. He made furniture for several years and even created some room boxes. He made one that was a general store and one that was a Victorian drawing room. Then he decided to build a house for his furniture.
Building the house presented a problem. Every project he had ever done, be it tying flies or miniature furniture, had always been done in the den. That way he could enjoy the company of my grandmother and watch television too. The house was a project too large and messy to do in the house and he was thusly exiled to the garage. Apparently that was enough to cause him to lose interest. The house was barely begun before it was abandoned in the garage, left to collect dust for fifteen years.
A few years after I was married I suggested to my husband that we should offer to finish the house for my grandfather so he would have a place to display his furniture. Pop thought it was a good idea and the house came to us around 1996. At that point the house was a shell with window frames. We began the project and soon abandoned it. We worked on the house in small fits and starts for two years, not really accomplishing much. It was hard to begin such a huge undertaking.
In January of 1998 we learned that Pop's cancer, which had been in remission for many years, had come back with a vengeance. He probably wouldn't live through the year. That lit a fire under my husband and me. We turned our whole house over to the project and believe me, it spread out that far. For seven solid weeks, evenings and weekends, we worked on that house. It was much like building a real house. Things had to be done in order and done well, down to the last detail. We will always associate the house with the Nagano Olympics, which played in the background as we worked.
We finished the house at the end of February, and planned an open house on March 3, 1998 so that our local friends could see the house before we carried back to Pop's home. The open house was fun and exciting for us and we were very proud. Unfortunately Pop's declining health prevented him from coming.
The following weekend we carefully packed up the house and contents and carried them over the mountains to my grandfather's house. I will always remember setting up the house. Pop asked, "How much longer will it take?" I told him about forty-five minutes or so. Before anyone could catch up to him he was on his way out the door, cane in hand, "I'm going to tell the neighbors to come see it."
He enjoyed the house, filled with all the furniture he had lovingly made, throughout the spring and summer. He had a lot of visitors as his health steadily declined and he proudly showed off his house. On August 12, 1998, my grandfather, Pop, passed away. The house which we finished as a loving tribute to him stayed with my grandmother for a year or so until she set her sights toward moving. Today the house resides with my husband and I, treasured for all it meant to Pop.