A City of Sowmen

A Montgomery woman's cold collection continues

An area woman has collected snowmen and snowman-related memorabilia for more than 30 years. Of the many images and representations of Christmas and the holiday season, the snowman is still hugely popular. The iconic image is to be found on everything from coffee mugs, dish towels, dinnerware to knickknacks, ornaments, dolls and stuffed snowmen.

It’s unknown why the first snowman was built and why they are so beloved, but Karen Pauline, of Montgomery, said she started collecting snowmen when one Christmas she said to herself, “boy, I really like snowmen.” At that point everyone picked up on it. It wasn’t long before she started receiving snowmen as gifts from friends and family for Christmas and her birthday. She even got snowmen from customers of the M&T Bank in Montgomery where she retired in 2006 after nearly 45 years of employment with several employers in that building.

Pauline is not sure which snowman in the collection is her first. She tries to put the names of who gave them to her and the year, but when she first started she didn’t do that. As many collectors will attest, sometimes it takes you by surprise. “I didn’t know I was going to have a collection like this,” she said. Pauline displayed her collection at the Montgomery Historical Society in 2015.

Pauline has well over 1,000 items. It’s difficult to count, she said, because she has sheets and blankets, towels and wash clothes, and many other snowmen and related items that are packed away. She has snowmen from Alaska, Mexico, Hawaii, Asia, and a Hummel from Germany. Ironically, she even has one from Florida. “He died,” Pauline said with a laugh. “It’s also very hard to find a snowman in Bermuda.”

Her Philadelphia Phillies and Penn State Cheerleader snowman are among her favorite sports related snowmen, but she remarked that there are a few that have sentimental value because they were special gifts. She has a humorous snowman, a cowboy snowman, a patriotic snowman, an empty egg shell with a snowman beautifully painted on it, an Alaskan icicle snowman, a snowman board game, a tiny, one-inch snowman and a large pillow snowman. “You can use it.” Someone was going to throw it away and asked Pauline if she wanted it. “Sure, never throw a snowman away,” she said.

Some features in common with several of her snowmen are audio, animatronics (motio­n), a­nd lighting. “The cowboy snowman sings too,” Pauline said. When a finger is pushed one of a few Christmas carols plays in a music box chime. “That’s ‘Silent Night.’ “ Another snowman is animatronic. It gyrates while laughing hysterically. “That is my funniest one, and here’s one that changes color.”

With the collection came growing pains. “I had so many and had no place to put them,” Pauline said. Pauline’s family helped out. Her sister-in-law, Eleanor, also of Montgomery said, “It just became more and more, and then she started displaying them around the fireplace. And then around six years ago she started saying ‘let’s make this my snowman room.’ Her niece and husband painted it. We got it all fixed up.” Then they made or bought and installed shelving, hutches and displays to show her growing collection.

Pauline says “snowman” instead of saying smile or cheese when she is photographed. This gets a smile on her face. “I like them all,” she said. When asked which snowman was her favorite, it took her awhile to decide. “It’s these three little guys,” pointing to a trio of cute, Kewpie Doll-faced snowmen. She said the year on the bottom was 1987, and they were given to her by a dear friend. “I had them a good, long time; the boys really liked them,” she said.