Historical gala a novel event


By Regina Villiers.  Originally published June 28, 2000 in The Suburban Life, added June 13, 2016.

The Rogue's Consort provided music for the Historical Society's lawn party. Members of the trio are Michael Thompson (left) and Sara and Maynard Johnson.

The Rogue’s Consort provided music for the Historical Society’s lawn party. Members of the trio are Michael Thompson (left) and Sara and Maynard Johnson.

If you closed your eyes on this soft June evening, you could almost see the brooding figure of tragic Jay Gatsby, standing there on the lawn, gazing through the trees and looking across the bay toward the estate of his beloved Daisy.  It was easy to imagine that this was one of Gatsby’s parties from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel,  “The Great Gatsby.”

Soft live music tinkled through the summer night.  Through the gardens and around the grounds, men and women “came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.”  The nearby house twinkled in lights from top to bottom as people snaked their way through its rooms to look at its history.

On the back lawn, buffet tables groaned with delicious hors d’oeuvres and drinks.  In the center, a huge tent held round tables set with real linens, silver, china and crystal waiting for a sit-down, gourmet dinner.

The occasion was a large party and gala by the Madeira Historical Society to introduce the people of Madeira to the Miller Historical Home and Gardens, the future home of the Miller Historical Museum.

It was the hope of society members and its president Les Lefevre to bring together the people and the leaders of Madeira to see and experience what the future museum will offer.  It’s their hope that it will be a facility to be used by students, schools and all the people of Madeira.

On this evening, a large crowd came to enjoy the music and dining and to learn about the future museum from the after-dinner speaker Bea Lask of the Cincinnati Historical Society.  Lask is an expert on Sears houses and she gave a slide show with commentary about Sears houses in the Cincinnati area.

The Miller home is a well-preserved Sears house.  It’s the “Crescent” model and was built in 1923 by Howard DeMar, a Madeira builder who later became known as Madeira’s last postmaster.  The house is featured and pictured in the 1932 edition of the Sears house catalog, “Homes of Today.”

Bruce and Elizabeth Miller bought the house in 1948 and raised their four children there.  Mrs. Miller still lives in the house and will continue to do so.  But she did not want the house to be torn down and the land subdivided, so she donated it to the Historical Society to be used for a museum after she’s finished with it.

The house still has all its original features in immaculate condition. The hardwood floors and original woodwork shine.

The house sits on a 1.5-acre lot and the grounds are a naturalist’s dream.  The grounds and the gardens sparkled that evening due to the work of Mrs. Miller, Doug Oppenheimer and their corps of workers.  Though in her 90’s now, Mrs. Miller still insists on caring for her green house and her flowers herself.  She’s especially possessive of her “ Crocodile Pond,” a large sunken garden that once was a pond and is said to have housed a real crocodile.

Mrs. Miller attended and enjoyed the party in fine fettle that night, along with several members of her family.

The party was a throwback to Madeira’s heritage and history.  In the early part of the last century, lawn festivals were a popular summer occurrence in Madeira. They were called “lawn fetes.”  People made their entertainment then.

The late Naomi Henn, Drucilla Bain’s sister, once told me about lawn fetes which she remembered fondly from her childhood.  Lawn fetes were a mainstay of summer in Madeira.  The started on the last day of school and continued all summer long.  The yards would be decorated, Naomi said, and handmade Japanese paper lanterns were strung everywhere.  She remembered the fun, games and food, especially the cake and ice cream, all homemade.  Madeira women prided themselves on their cake making, and this was before boxes and Betty Crocker.

There was also live music, much of it furnished no doubt by Madeira’s Cornet Band, made up mostly of DeMars – Clint, Clason, Clyde, George and Zachary Taylor DeMar.

The DeMar family was a part of this most recent party too.  Russell and Mary Lou DeMar attended and both worked tirelessly to pull it off.

The music for this party was provided by the “Rogue’s Consort,” a trio dressed in period clothing.   Its members- Michael Thompson, Maynard and Sara Jonson- who play as many as 20 instruments each, are professional musicians.  “But we are also professional fun-havers,” Sara said.

So many people worked and donated to make this party a success that it would be a name-calling exercise to list them.  But two people stood out and deserve to be mentioned because no one there will ever forget the gourmet, candlelit dinner.

Jack and Janice Johnston donated all the food.  They planned, cooked and catered the entire meal for the entire crowd, a feat that induces awe in those of us who cook little.  Even their sons John and Jay helped.  John was a server as were Brian and Robin Lefevre, Les and Kathy’s son and daughter.  The service was impeccable and the food was a palate-tempting, fine-dining experience.  Everything was perfect, the main course delicious, and the spinach would have turned Popeye green with envy.

The ambiance of the evening made you feel that you had attended a memorable event, and you were glad that you hadn’t missed it.  It was a party that would have made Jay Gatsby proud.