By Robert Lucke
Enter the Havre home of Merlyn and Martin Schuster this time of year and it, well, to say the least, it is like entering Santa's workshop at the North Pole.
It isn't that almost every inch of space in the living room, kitchen and family room is decorated to the nines for Christmas -- not to mention an outside balcony. It isn't even that the welcome mat talks when trod upon, proclaiming Ho, Ho, Ho! It is most of all that it seems like hundreds of animated Christmas decorations are doing their thing. Their thing consists of anything from singing, dancing and putting a golf ball to Santa checking his computer to see all the good little girls and boys.
How did all this come to be in Merlyn Schuster's life?
"I must have been deprived as a child," Schuster said with a laugh. "I seem to have to have it all now."
Meanwhile, Martin Schuster moves carefully through all that beauty thinking he may be decorated, too. Right now, someone is looking for lighted antlers that would fit him.
And seeing all those decorations, Schuster made a confession.
"You know this isn't all of them, either," Schuster related. "I have lent some of them to Marguerite's. They did their Christmas window this year with some of my decorations."
Merlyn Schuster, a retired teacher, started collecting 10 years ago.
"My first was a Christmas angel. My sister and I were shopping and I bought that angel," Schuster said. "Then my brother-in-law came along and asked if my angel played music like his Santa did. That was when I learned that most play music. And I ended up with the Santa, too."
Most of the decorations are run by battery or electricity. Where she can, Schuster converts all of hers to electricity.
Not only is the house filled with these animated decorations but there are handmade wall hangings, lavishly decorated Christmas trees, one with Santas and snowmen below and, sure enough, a train on track running all around the tree. It's like toyland.
Merlyn Schuster gets all her Christmas decorations up around the first of December and keeps them up until the first of the year. Although storing all those decorations is a problem, she likes both putting them up and taking them down.
"Usually all of the decorations are up by the first part of December, but this year I started before Thanksgiving because I had to help get Marguerite's window up," Schuster acknowledged. "And I am not sad when I am ready to take them down. Suddenly, this place looks a lot bigger."
Schuster buys her animated decorations from most every large department store in this part of the state. When she started collecting, she would buy them after Christmas for 75 percent off. Now days there are none left after Christmas.
Favorites of Schuster's include an animated merry-go-round, reindeer pulling a lighted sleigh with Santa inside, elves going up and down a ladder decorating a Christmas tree, a golfing Santa putting a perfect hole-in-one every time, and a Pinocchio on a string singing a Christmas song wishing he were a real boy instead of a puppet on a string.
And still Schuster is thinking about next year already.
"I am getting a little more selective, but my decorations keep going up year after year," Schuster added with a smile.
Toyland. Santa's workshop. It's all there every Christmas at the Martin and Merlyn Schuster home in Havre.