A lifetime of collecting memories

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:55

    HARRIMAN-At first glance, this old stone schoolhouse and shop owned by Blane and Paula Hill on Rake Street seems ordinary enough. However, what treasures it keeps safely inside are anything but ordinary. This antique collection includes various Christmas items, exquisite dolls, postcards, books, famous photographs and assorted historic gadgets such as a stereoscopic viewer that the Hills have accumulated all over the world. It is a collection that started more than 44 years ago when the Hills first wed on Christmas Eve. Each piece has a history. Some are as old as the late 1800s and early 1900s. From Russia to Belgium across Scandinavia and through the United States, the Hills have built this enormous collection with the help of their friends who share and understand their infatuation for memorabilia. And Paula Hill, 67, will be delighted to share the story of each piece in the collection and its journey into her home. The Hills' passion for their collectibles inspire them to invite friends and family over every year for an afternoon of good food, good laughs and awakening memories from the past. Such was the case last Saturday. The Hills are retired social workers and their son Sandor helps them find just the right place for each piece. Walking into their home, the perfect combining aroma of museum and "grandma's house" fill the air. The sounds of laughter, astonishment and masterful story-telling welcomes you. The Hills believe that their collection should be shared with the public. They are active members of the Woodbury Historical Society as well as several antique doll and postcard organizations. They attend the antique paper shows in Bear Mountain and they also travel around the area to showcase hundreds of their unbelievable doll collection. Gail Zimmer, a longtime friend, was among the people who stopped by Saturday. She recently returned from a month-long excursion in India. "What people don't realize is how these dolls were made," Zimmer said. "You can't find them just anywhere. The time spent in meticulously producing these by hand says it all." Michael Langenstin and Rochelle Cavalli met the Hills through the postcard club, but during their visit Saturday they became quickly fascinated with the old fashioned children's books containing unlikely pop-ups and characters you wouldn't expect. That is what makes the Hill collection so special, they said. "Preserving the past" as Paula Hill puts it, is essential. She would hate to see an item such as a worn-down marionette or a doll with a broken finger be passed over or go to waste when it brings back countless memories from her generation. In that respect, the Hills would like to welcome and invite the public to experience the emotion of their own childhood. For more information, stop by the store during the week at 2 Rake St. in Harriman.