Arms museum unwraps 5th annual Christmas Past exhibit



Are you in the mood to give yourself a three-part gift of seeing rare German Christmas cards, unusual decorative pieces and a colorful snapshot of Christmases of yesteryear?

“During the Victorian Era, there was a chandelier over the table with draped ribbons and greenery. This is our exaggerated version,” said Leann Rich, referring to one of the eye-catching features on display as part of the fifth annual Memories of Christmas Past exhibit at the Arms Family Museum, 648 Wick Ave., on the North Side.

The holiday extravaganza opens Saturday and continues through Jan. 6. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for people 60 and older and $4 for children age 3 to 18. Youngsters under 3 are admitted for free.

Museum hours are 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Admission is half-price for those who bring at least one canned good to the museum Saturday or Sunday and Dec. 8 and 9 as part of Project Feed Our Valley, Rich noted, adding that proceeds are to help fund the Mahoning Valley Historical Society’s educational and exhibit programs.

Adding to the Victorian-style table’s look and feel are low-hanging arches directly over it, as well as nearby hand-carved dolls, a fireplace emanating a blue glow and a variety of candy containers, including one that requires the removal of a reindeer’s head.

The table also is the centerpiece for the dining room, one of seven period rooms filled with rare, vintage decorations that include ornaments, board games, lights, toy trains and trees. Many pieces are from the collection of the MVHS, which runs the museum and archives; others are on loan from private collectors.

For those with a flair for the rare, the reception room contains a collection of flat Christmas cards made in a Dresden, Germany, factory from embossed paper that pop up and convert to numerous holiday-themed forms. One folds out into a Nativity set and can hold a candle, the heat from which spins a small nearby wheel, Rich explained.

“The angels on the tree were imported from Italy,” she said, referring to a series of hand-crafted and hand-sewn decorations on a Christmas tree in the museum’s Angel Room, which also contains hand-done angel figurines. “You can make them look like they’re flying.”

If you’re the nostalgic type who relishes artifacts from the mid-20th century, you may wish to thank Anthony Worrellia.

“There’s nothing like this for miles and miles away,” said Worrellia, the museum’s buildings and grounds supervisor, who was the major force behind the designs and decorations that make up the Retro Room.

There, attendees can go back in time and savor artifacts from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s that include a rotary phone, a Lionel train set, a gas-fired fireplace with surrounding garland made from foil, Kerplunk and other popular board games and gift-wrapped boxes from Strouss and Livingston’s, two longtime Youngstown department stores.

The majority of these items came from his collection, said Worrellia, who’s also a member of Golden Glow Christmas, an international Christmas-collection club.

Assisting Worrellia was Pam Querin of Boardman, an artist and illustrator who added her sense of style to the rooms and set up many displays.

“He usually has a grand vision for everything,” Querin said of Worrellia. “He thinks about this all year long.”

Sponsoring the holiday event are The Vindicator, the Anne Kilcawley Christman Foundation, the DeBartolo Corp., Farmers Trust Co., Stifel Nicolaus & Co. Inc. and Virginia Dineen.

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