If Stan Hywet's '40s-era Deck the Hall! tour takes the average visitor back in time, imagine what it does for Sally Cochran, who once frolicked in the mansion's gracious halls and celebrated the Christmases of her youth there.
Cochran's grandparents built the grand home that is now an Akron landmark and museum. Her mother was Gertrude and F.A. Seiberling's oldest daughter, Irene. Visitors in 2000 can see the house decked out as it was during the family's holiday gathering in 1940.
It was an unusually large one that year, with 85 or so relatives in attendance. There wasn't room enough in the dining room for the children, so they were set up in the hallway at a long, makeshift table. A shorter version is on display today, along with a picture of the celebrating youngsters -- one of whom, Cochran recalls, delighted in shoving fistfuls of creamed spinach in his girl-cousins' faces.
The kids could have their fun, but they were also expected to entertain the rest of the family. That year, they performed A Christmas Carol. "Grandmother painted all the scenery. She did a marvelous job," says the 75-year-old Cochran, who apparently inherited her grandmother's artistic skills: She's an art teacher at a Catholic school in Akron.
Mrs. Seiberling's graciousness and attention to detail (she was famous for painting miniature watercolors to use as place cards for the dining table) seem to have been passed down to the Stan Hywet of today. The outdoor light displays, for instance, though lit with modern technology, nevertheless have a subtle charm that speaks of a more refined time.
But it wasn't stuffy; it was more of a playground for kids. "Nobody said you mustn't touch this or that," Cochran says. "We drove the help crazy. We loved going up and down the elevator, calling on the telephone, and running up and down the halls.
"We had more fun in that house."