Detailed Early History & Creation of Kinderklaus Markt
as told by Nancy Groves VanBuskirk
When Kindervelt was started in the early 70’s it was primarily composed of “stay-at-home” moms in their 20s and 30s. Many of us were college educated or had additional education after high school but no matter what our educational background, we all had kids. Some of us joined Kindervelt because of direct experience with CHMC and others because we cared about the health and wellbeing of all children. Kindervelt made it easy to join because as a city wide organization it was composed of neighborhood groups. Thus this friendly, social aspect of Kindervelt really did put the FUN into raising funds. For me personally, Kindervelt quickly became an exciting creative outlet – which was perfect for a former art teacher.
Home made crafts were a big deal in the 1970s. Making things for the home and family helped with the family budget. Sewing machines were in as well as gourmet cooking and any creative project that was also kid friendly. Other things that were big were babysitting co-ops, since daycare centers were extremely few and pre school was a couple of hours two or three days a week. In the 70s computers were room sized, electric typewriters were in, cordless phones were new, and printers were huge machines found in offices not at home. Sesame Street was new and the Uncle Al Show was a local favorite for kids. The only mini van was the VW Bus so station wagons were popular family vehicles. And soccer was just getting started in the States primarily as a kids sport.
I joined the Forest Park #6 Kindervelt Group in December of 1973. When the BOT was looking for people to be on the first KKM board, I jumped at the chance and was given the position of Decorations Chair. On my first visit to the Ohio National Guard Armory and seeing that vast cavern of a space, I knew hanging wreaths and garlands wasn’t going to cut it.
Kings Island had opened a few years earlier and was locally owned by the Taft Broadcasting Co. It’s German Main Street was open in December offering Cincinnatians a magical holiday shopping experience. The large fountain area was turned into a giant ice skating rink, street venders sold roasted chestnuts. Gingerbread cookies and hot chocolate were also available along with the sounds of sleigh bells and carolers. It was open in the evenings so the lighting made it special. This was my inspiration for the German Village I created for the KinderKlaus Markt – a magical shopping experience. I drew up the plans for life sized, old world, German looking store fronts to showcase all our crafts. My vision was to create a quaint, Christmasy village complete with a town square that had trees, benches, a fountain, and a sidewalk cafe, surrounded by shops that you entered to find your holiday treasures. That is exactly what happened.
For the years the Markt was held in the Armory, the shopping experience was so special we had people waiting in long lines outside for it to open. They came for the experience AND the high quality of craft items we offered. All items had to be reviewed before they were accepted for sale. They had to be unique and well crafted and only one group could make any particular item. It was so special that when Redbook Magazine chose Cincinnati to feature in their 1978 December edition, they came to the 1977 KKM and found 3 of the 6 unique holiday craft projects to showcase. There was 100% participation of the KV groups but not all groups did crafts. Some groups focused on baking and KV #8 Wyoming, was really into cooking at the time. They ran the cafe at the Markt. The soups they offered were all home made and definitely a highlight of the shoppers day. In the beginning the Markt was always held on the first Thursday in November after election day.
The primary source of promoting the KKM was through wide spread display of the beautifully designed posters created by first and second year KKM Art/Publicity Chair and graphic artist Marcia Falk. These attention getting posters where displayed everywhere our targeted customers shopped as well as schools and churches. KV members even posted them on their car or station wagon windows.
How the Store Fronts were made:
The first step after getting the go ahead from the KKM Board was to contact the set designer at The Playhouse In The Park to see if my plan would work and what construction elements I needed to be aware of. Each store front was 20 feet long and 16 feet high and was broken down into manageable sections that could be easily assembled and taken down for storage.
The next step was to get the lumber and hardware donated. So I approached the 3 largest lumber yards that supplied builders – Huber Lumber, Doppes Lumber, and Hyde Park Lumber.
Then I asked the KKM Board members if they knew of any high schools with a carpentry class that could build the store front sections. Western Hills High School agreed to the project which they undertook in the first four weeks of school. The Ohio National Guard provided the trucks and man power to transport the lumber from the lumber yards to the high school and then from the high school to my home.
We had 7 weeks to paint all 11 store fronts plus side walls. The store front sections were stored in my 2 car garage and my husband and a few other KV husbands would transport two entire store fronts at a time to my unfinished basement and lay them out on the floor where I sketched out the designs and KV members from all over the city came to my house to help paint them.
On the Sunday before the Markt seven 2-1/5 ton Army trucks were parked outside my house to transport the store fronts to the Armory. They drove the trucks into the building where KV members and their husbands were waiting to unload and set up.
It was all very exciting and kind of mind blowing to see such an amazing transformation of that vast cavernous space. The Guardsmen were wonderful helpers and really enjoyed having us there. We could have not done this without their generous help.
When the Markt was over the store fronts were taken down and loaded into the Army trucks to be taken to a donated heated warehouse space. The National Guard transported the store fronts for the first 6 years the Markt was held at the Armory then allowed us to park a semi trailer donated by Kroger to hold all the Markt equipment until Markt moved to a new home in 1990.
I was also the 1977 KKM Chair. It was my Markt that Rebook Magazine came to for unique craft ideas to photograph and print instructions for. They also chose my daughter and the son of another KV member to model a holiday outfit for McCalls patterns.
Every year the KinderKlaus Markt has had a unique theme which has kept the experience fresh and special. So much has changed over the past 40 years about the way we live our lives. I am so thrilled that Markt/Market has changed to meet the new needs of the people it was meant to serve.