Marjorie ORear and family open Dilley holiday tradition again this year

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Sue Marshall paints the cheshire cat with glow in the dark paint for the Alice in Wonderland display in time for their opening Dec. 14. For 10 days before Christmas, local families can put down their smartphones, tablets, video games and

iPods and head to Bantam Avenue in Dilley, where the special effects depend on a whole lot of old washing machine motors and some string.

Storybook Lane, a tradition well-known among locals, is back this year. Storybook and movie characters — both old and new — come to life every other year at a private residence where generations of the same family are dedicated to a single holiday tradition.

Marjorie O’Rear has been a part of Storybook Lane since she worked as a bookkeeper for Bill McCready, who got the attraction going more than 80 years ago.

McCready, who owned a lumber yard in Forest Grove, started small in the 1930s, building a few storybook characters for his children, according to O’Rear. by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Four generations have added new exhibits and maintained old ones over the years, keeping the exhibit full of classics and up to date at the same time.

As the collection of moving wooden characters grew, O’Rear was working as an artist during the holiday prep season as much as she was a bookkeeper.

“When Bill called me into his office I never knew if I had done something wrong in the books, or if it was about another design,” McCready said.

O’Rear said McCready enlisted his lumber yard employees to help build the characters, which range from Humpty Dumpty, to Shrek, to an old classic carousel.

The city of Forest Grove kept the characters safely tucked away beginning in the 1960s, when McCready died, until O’Rear bought a place in Dilley in the 1970s with her husband, Norris. It was the perfect place to set up Storybook Lane and invite the public to tramp through their neck of the woods during the holiday season.

“It’s all pretty simple,” said Mike O’Rear, Marjorie’s son, pointing to an old motor on the back of the “Three Men in a Tub” display. “It’s amazing what people can do with nothing.”Mike O’Rear walked the grounds with displays partially set up, while his sister, Sue Marshall, painted figures in a shed warmed by a small electric heater as outside temperatures dipped into the teens during their last full weekend getting ready.

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Marjorie O'Rear's favorite task used to be painting, now its welcoming kindergarten classes.Four generations huddled around the heat source last weekend to help prepare for the lane’s opening Saturday, Dec. 14.

“Whenever we would go to a garage sale or anything like that, Norris would always pick up any extra small motors,” mostly from washing machines, said Marjorie O’Rear. “’We can always use ‘em,’ he’d say.”

So they stored all the small motors in the barn and waited for one to break down. But a lot of the motors are original from the 1930s, Mike O’Rear said.

For most of the characters, a small motor, is hidden in the back of each display, hooked up to strings, pulleys, levers and fan belts to move arms and appendages, horse and reindeer legs — even a stomach — in and out.

The Cinnamon Bear talks, Cinderella’s carriage horses run, Humpty Dumpty almost falls off the wall and a gopher may surprise passersby as it pops out of a hole.

In perhaps the most elaborate display, Santa’s workshop, a washing-machine motor connected to strings and levers makes elves’ arms pound toys that move along a conveyor belt, where they appear to be dumped into a pile waiting to be picked up by Harry Potter, who is inexplicably piloting a helicopter instead of a broomstick.

There’s even a permanent building on site that serves as a church during Storybook Lane hours, where visitors can step inside and sign the guest book while enjoying the children’s choir scene and music.

“I don’t think people even think about how it works,” said Marshall. “They just remember the characters.”

Even in a cold snap, the family looks forward to fulfilling the expectations of the regulars and drawing a few newbies.

“People expect us to do it so we do it,” Marjorie O’Rear said.

Check it out every evening through Christmas on Bantam Avenue in Dilley. And don’t forget to find all 101 Dalmatians hidden throughout the route.

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