A Merry Dickens Christmas in Kamloops
The house on the corner is, by comparison, unassuming.
Two storeys, topped by a gabled roof, with a bay window in the front.
A small placard hangs by the front door, announcing it as the home of “Tutbury Printer.”
None of the pieces move and none of the household activity is visible through the handpainted windows.
But, in Karen Chayeski’s village, Tutbury Printer holds a place of honour as the house that started it all.
Without the house, there would be no harbour scene in the fireplace, no Christmas-Carol tableau in the den, no guest book by the front door.
And, certainly not the largest display of all, which occupies the Chayeskis’ own bay window from mid-November until the end of the Christmas season.
Circled by a model train, the bay-window village is the grandest display of all, home to ceramic replicas of Big Ben, a horse-drawn carriage, a daily newspaper, all manner of townsfolk — and one humble printing shop.
Each model is part of the Dickens’ Village Series, a line of handpainted houses and shops with a cult following of collectors across North America.
The houses are famous for their detail. Peer through the windows of more recent acquisitions and you’ll see Christmas banquets laid with delicately painted china, fancy ladies and gentlemen hobnobbing in front parlours — even the Ghost of Christmas Past lurking in an upstairs bedroom.
Karen’s introduction into Dickens’ Village life arrived 18 years ago this Christmas, as a present from her daughter, Kimberley, then a “starving student” at Cariboo College.
“Number one, plain Jane,” Karen says with a smile at the printing shop, during a tour of the village late one afternoon. “That’s number one in my heart still. This wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t gotten that.”
From there, though, the collection spread.
Another daughter, Leah, in Calgary, is lucky enough to live near a shop whose Dickens’ Village displays are the stuff of legend, Karen says. And, Kimberley has pitched in several more pieces since her student days ended.
Karen’s husband, Ted, also gets in on the action.
Each house is illuminated from within and wiring the village and its multiple suburbs falls to him, as does setting up “the Christmas board,” which houses the main display.
Working together — Ted wiring, Karen unpacking and arranging — the Chayeskis can have the village up in three days, if all goes well.
There’s only one thing keeping the village from growing even larger — a limited land base.
“We have run out of room,” Karen admits.
But, she thinks there may be an opportunity for history to repeat itself.
Her helpful daughters have children of their own now and, when they get older, she hopes to allow them to take home one house per year — “kind of like a lending library” — freeing up a lot in the den, fireplace, basement, dining room or even the front window.