McBride house displays sweet nutcracker collection

HUBBARD – A collection of nutcrackers kept members of the Hubbard Historical Society company during a quiet day at the McBride House on Hager Street Saturday.

“They were all gifts. People just started sending them to me,” said Lucie Wilson.

While she isn’t sure of the exact number of nutcrackers in her collection, she speculated that there are probably around 50 or 60. She’s been collecting the wooden soldiers, guards and knights for the past 40 years.

Her collection ranges from tiny men only a few inches tall to her favorite five-foot-tall monarch.

Why nutcrackers? “I don’t know. I just think they are unique. There’s no beauty to them. They all have funny noses,” she said.

Ralph Cooper, member of the historical society, said nutcrackers became especially popular in the 1940s and 50s at the end of World War II.

“They were unique gifts. The soldiers brought them back to their families,” he said.

Most years his wife, Cecilia Cooper, said they decorate the historic home for the holidays, but this year they scaled back to just one tree and the nutcrackers. She said as they gather more and more artifacts, they are running out of room for the decorations.

A particularly interesting recent donation to the society was on display near the Christmas tree – a set of wooden paddles that had belonged to former Hubbard High School Assistant Principal William Tucciarone.

“It doesn’t look like it was ever used,” said Cecilia.

Tucciarone worked at the school from 1939 to 1974, spending the last 24 years as assistant principal. Cecilia said she never remembered anyone at the high school being paddled when she went there in the ’40s. She did, however, remember the fear the nuns at the local parochial school struck in the grade-school children.

“They looked at you and, hey, you knew,” she said.

The teachers at Wilson’s school weren’t as gentle.

“We got paddled. They’d take you into the closet. It was never that bad though,” she said.

The paddles will be added to the McBride House’s school-themed room, while the nutcrackers will only remain on display for the winter season. The home will be open for visitors from 2 to 5 p.m. today.