A soldier is part of The Nutcracker scene within the new Rike's Wonderland Window. The character was part of the Rike's display in the 1960s and has been refurbished. LISA POWELL / STAFF
The new characters, part of the Rike’s displays in the 1960s, were donated by a Dayton family who used them in their home display at Christmas time. The family purchased them at an auction of Rike’s objects in the early 1990s.
For many Daytonians it’s just not Christmas without the animated characters whose antics once delighted shoppers at Rike’s department store.
The window displays go back to 1943 when the National Cash Register Co. (NCR) placed five scenes from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” in their New York City office windows, according to research done by Dayton historian Curt Dalton. The figures, dressed in period attire, were incorporated into elaborate backgrounds built by NCR carpenters.
In 1945 Frederik Rike, owner of the Rike-Kumler company, successfully campaigned to move the display into the windows of his department store at Second and Main streets in downtown Dayton.
After the store closed in 1991 the window displays were auctioned off splitting up the characters between other communities and private buyers. The Downtown Dayton Partnership was able to purchase a portion of them and raised money to restore them.
A ballerina ascends with a growing Christmas tree within a new display of the Rike's Wonderland Window boxes at the Schuster Center in downtown Dayton. LISA POWELL / STAFF
The display found a new home in 2003 in the Schuster Center. Cases built for each scene mimic the old Rike’s windows.
Janice Potter, assistant production manager for the Victoria Theatre Association and known as the “Keeper of the Elves,” said she began assembling the boxes in early November, unwrapping dozens of the mechanical characters, solving malfunctions and making motor repairs.
“The pressure of these challenges all disappear when I see children running from box to box with joyful laughs and wide-eyed amazement as they experience the magic of these boxes,” Potter said. “It warms my heart to know that I was part of creating a treasured memory that will last a lifetime.”
WANT TO GO?
WHAT: Rike's Wonderland Windows
WHERE: The Wintergarden Wonderland at the Schuster Center, 1 W. Second St., Dayton
WHEN: The Wonderland Windows are available to view Monday-Friday 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. and Sunday, noon- 6 p.m. They are closed during private events, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Call 228-7591 before you head to the Schuster Center as private events are not always publicized.
MORE INFO: https://victoriatheatre.com/shows/wintergarden-wonderland/