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Collector's treasures create peaceful scene

December 28, 1997

Collector's treasures create peaceful scene

By LAURA ERNDE

Staff Writer

This is the time of year that Bob Milanchus, 50, reverts to childhood.

He carefully unpacks his collection of miniature villages and sets them up, just so, on all three levels of his Hagerstown townhouse to create a scene of bucolic Americana.

"I guess in the fantasy aspects I sit back and imagine myself living in this quiet, peaceful town," he said.

The tiny villages Milanchus collects are made by Department 56. He has four different themes - Snow Village, Christmas in the City, New England and North Pole.

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The longer you look, the more the villages spring to life.

You begin to notice the details. A cherry on top of the tiny ice cream shop. Ice skaters gliding on a frozen pond. Children roasting marshmallows over a campfire.

There's even a Harley-Davidson motorcycle shop. Standing nearby, a bald man wearing sunglasses carries presents from the shop.

Milanchus' wife, Amy, also enjoys the 140-piece collection, but says her husband is the true collector.

"Let's just say one of us is obsessive-compulsive about it," she laughs.

Each piece tells a story in Milanchus' life.

He got a tiny weather station because his daughter, Meghan, 25, of Albany, N.Y., has a degree in atmospheric science.

A small boat house reminds him of the daily commute he used to make over Long Island Sound.

The family moved to Hagerstown about two years ago after tiring of the inconvenience of city life.

There's even a piece that represents Milanchus' current job as director of development at Washington County Hospital - a 1940s-style hospital.

Amy Milanchus also works for the hospital, as a receptionist at the John Marsh Cancer Center on Robinwood Drive.

The display gives them a lift from the sad situations they sometimes see at the hospital, they said.

Bob Milanchus started preparing for it at Halloween, building platforms to effectively bring together the individual buildings, people and trees like a train layout.

"Our neighbors thought we were a little nuts," he said.

Now, they get to enjoy the reaction of visitors.

Children delight in picking out which house they would want to live in.

Grown men get down on their knees to look at the individual pieces.

"If it can take you back to your childhood a little bit, it's good," he said.

They'll keep the display until about mid-January, when it will be cataloged and put back in boxes.

"It's time to take them down, move out of that fantasy world and move back into reality," he said.

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