Rock to the memories

December 21, 2008|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

View the "Rocking horses" slideshow.

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - As a child, Howard E. Butts of Martinsburg always wanted a horse.

"I never got one," he said.

Although he never received a real pony, Butts has made up for it with a collection of more than 150 rocking horses. The toys, which range in age, size and material, are on display at the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library until Monday, Jan. 5.

Using Butts' collection as inspiration, Sandra Riggleman, president of Berk-Mar Garden Club, suggested that rocking horses be the theme for the library's holiday decorations. In a long-standing tradition, Berk-Mar, along with Gateway, Norborne and Olde Berkeley garden clubs, decorated the library on all three floors.

"Every year we have a different theme," Riggleman said, noting that last year's was gingerbread.

Berk-Mar members were responsible for the outside of the library, decorating the building with garland and 27 bows, which were made by Sandra Hansel. Lynn Seibert designed and painted two rocking horses that are out front. She had help from Peter Palmer, who cut out the horses. In addition, Berk-Mar members assisted Butts in setting up his display.


Butts' collection welcomes library guests through the front doors to the main lobby. His collection spans the two large glass cases in front.

"Rocking horses are just reminiscent of Christmas," Butts said.

He started his collection in 1990 and includes Hallmark ornaments as well as handpainted ones from Germany and the Greek island of Crete. Butts said his wife, Judy, has put up with his many collections, including the rocking horse collection. Together, they've added to the collection, including finding handmade rocking horse figurines at craft shows. Some of his rocking horses are two dimensional, some are 3-D.

The main floor is decorated by Norborne Garden Club. Vickie Steadman, president of Norborne Garden Club, said one of this area's main features is a rocking horse dating from 1915 loaned by a garden club member. Her great-grandfather carved and painted the horse with brightly colored paints. Now, more than a 100 years later, Steadman said "the paint has been loved off" as generations of the member's family played on the horse. "They're timeless," Steadman said of the rocking horses. "They just bring back such nice memories."

Steadman said she enjoys having the garden clubs participate.

"It's an interesting way to show the community really what garden clubs do," she said.

Sidney Shingleton, president of Olde Berkeley, said the library's children's library Christmas tree is decorated in a rocking horse theme, complete with ornaments. Placed in the tree are stick hobby horses, which Shingleton said children pull out of the tree and play with. Older horses are placed on high bookshelves, out of the way of little fingers.

Underneath the Christmas tree there are six rocking horses, which are available for the children to play with. "The little ones love to rock on the rocking horses during reading time," she said.

Gateway Garden Club decorated the library's top floor. Diana Carpenter, president of Gateway, said her garden club decorated in harmony with Main Street Martinsburg's Snowflake Festival theme instead of rocking horses. Carpenter said snowflakes decorate the top floor, which includes a "melting" snowman on the library's piano.

Visitors inside and out can see Wayne Hilliard's painted window panels that face Queen Street. Keith Hammersla, director of information services for the library, said the scenes were painted onto Plexiglas and mounted to the windows so the panels could be used again.

Hilliard painted three scenes: one is of two young children looking out a window at falling snow; another shows snowmen playing in the snow; the third is a cityscape with people walking on the streets in the snow.

Carpenter said she hopes that decorating in a holiday theme might bring people into the library and they might want to grab a comfortable place to sit and read awhile.

"It reminds us that the printed page is still valuable," she said. "I think especially in the age of technology, we forget the library."

As for his rocking horse collection, Butts said it probably won't be seen again on display because of how time-consuming it can be to set up. So he wants people to be able to enjoy seeing the rocking horses while they can.

"I hope they have a feeling of nostalgia," he said.

If you go ...

WHAT: Rocking horse collection

WHERE: Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library, 101 W. King St., Martinsburg

WHEN: On display through Dec. 31. Library is open from 1 to 5 p.m. today and Sunday, Dec. 28; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays, Dec. 22 and 29, and Tuesdays, Dec. 23 and 30; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 26, and Saturday, Dec. 27; and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 31. Closed Wednesday, Dec. 24, and Thursdays, Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.

CONTACT: Call 304-267-8933.

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