By Leilani Roberts Ott
Some kids never grow up. That’s Michael and Ellen Mayer. Most days you can find him out playing in his rows of pecan trees and her playing with her three-story doll house.
This couple, who is celebrating their 48th wedding anniversary today, is happy to be helping children when they open their home for the 38th annual Muskogee Christmas Home Tour. The tour benefits the Kelly B. Todd Cerebral Palsy and Neuro-Muscular Center in Muskogee. The Mayer home is one of five homes on the tour from 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 1 and 2. Tickets are $10 and available at the door of any of the homes.
When guests walk into the Mayer home, Ellen wants them to feel it’s “a happy home.” That happy feeling begins with the short drive from Harris Road to Mayer Lane — named for the Mayer family that owned land from the Arkansas River to Harris Road.
“My grandfather built the first farmhouse in 1909,” Michael said. “They came here from Wainright with 11 children. The creek was pristine.”
They have a painting of the creek called “Johnston Creek” named for his mother’s family. Michael was raised on the land. They moved back from Oklahoma City in 1995 after he retired as a planning engineer from AT&T Lucent Technologies. After receiving a master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma, Ellen worked as a clinical social worker. They built their home in 1997 in the pecan orchard.
He started the south pecan orchard in 1986 and the north orchard in 1992. It started with a few trees and grew row by row. Guests drive by the orchard to get to the brick house with its 2,760 square feet, four bedrooms and three baths.
The house has oak wood floors except the bedrooms. The decorating and floor plan are all her ideas, Michael said.
“I just wanted a roof over my head,” he said.
That’s the big house. It’s the little house that will have people talking. The idea to have her own doll house was inspired by their granddaughter, Amanda Mayer, 9. After buying her one, Ellen wanted her own.
The white frame doll house has a prominent place in the living room. The light from the window illuminates the tiny things inside. It started with a kit four years ago with Ellen adding her own touches. The house is a 1920s farm house. Ellen has made many of the furnishings and items in the doll house. Some were ordered online and others were things that had other uses first like charms on a charm bracelet.
“The oven has a turkey in it and the refrigerator has milk,” she said. “All the drawers open and close.”
There are itty-bitty checkers, cards and the family Bible she made herself. Photo albums have real family photos that she has shrunk with the computer. Other family portraits have been shrunk and hang in frames on the walls. The miniature people have the option of reading National Geographic or The Saturday Evening Post dated May 27, 1920, Ellen’s birthday.
“A lady in Wisconsin did the handmade quilt,” she said.
There’s a room decorated for Christmas complete with a tree. There’s a nativity scene in the front yard and a pumpkin patch on one side of the house.
“The swans are from Germany when we lived there and the shoes are from Holland when we visited,” she said. “It’s a big accomplishment. I will donate it to Three Rivers Museum some day.”
Michael said he’s ready to move into it.
“I love playing with it,” she said. “I decorate for every season.”
Big house or doll house, “she’s never done decorating,” he said.
The two seem to complement each other. She was born in a little three-room house on Main Street and went to Jobe School, before it merged with Harris School, now Harris-Jobe Elementary School. He went to St. Joseph’s Prep School, which is now St. Joseph Catholilc School. They were married at the old home place near their current home.
Their home has the family history woven into every room. Several rooms have trunks Ellen has redone like the one in the antique bedroom as she calls it. It has her dolls she’s had since she was 5 and the last one she got at age 12. It has red hair. A white corcheted bedspread is on an antique white iron bed.
The hall bath is all white with a white claw-foot tub from 1910, white pedestal sink and white tile floor.
The master bedroom has silouettes of “Aunt Elizabeth” and a friend from 1916. An old altar cover from the Catholic church is framed in the center of black and white photos.
Antique family furniture pieces are throughout the home like a 1930’s buffet with inlay wood that was Ellen’s mother’s and a trunk from an elderly cousin. A trunk in the breakfast room belonged to Michael’s father.
The family Bible is on top of an old treadle sewing machine. The sewing machine looked identical to the one Michael’s mother had and his grandmother used. He bought it for Ellen as an anniversary gift.
In the mix of antiques and collectibles, the home will be decorated for Christmas for the tour and their family — son Michael Vincent Mayer and wife Sharla Jean Mayer, and daughter Shawn Margarette Mayer, and granddaughter, Amanda Calista Mayer.