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MINSTER woman amasses huge collection of Mouse memorabilia

The Daily Standard

    MINSTER - Kathy Borges crawls into bed each night as hundreds of beady eyes stare in her direction. The long-tailed creatures are like dedicated sentinels who never leave their duly appointed posts.
    If she feels the need for a comforting lullaby, the lyrics are familiar and simple: "M-i-c-k-e-y M-o-u-s-e. Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck. Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck.  Forever let us hold our banners high, high high."
    "I grew up with Mickey Mouse and the Mickey Mouse Club," she says. "Everybody needs some kind of collection. I started mine back in the sixth or seventh grade and never stopped."
    Borges, who works at Crown Equipment Corp. in New Bremen, enjoys watching the expression of first-timers who climb the stairs and pause to admire posters and other memorabilia. The short hallway is an appetizer designed to pique the interest; the main course awaits behind a closed door bearing a colorful Mickey Mouse Club banner.
    The whimsical mouse, his girlfriend Minnie and a few of their Disney buddies fill most of the room, leaving just enough space for Borges to walk around her waterbed.
    "My mom (Jeanette Borges) is afraid the floor will give way some night and she will awake to a Mickey Mouse shower," Borges says with a smile. "You see, her bedroom is located right under mine."
    Visitors often comment they don't know where to look first. Two large display cases hold everything from assorted statues and snowglobes to cookie jars and commemorative plates. Metal lunch boxes stand in a neat row above the window, while seven Mickey Mouse telephones occupy places of prominence throughout the room. Each plays music, talks or emits infectious laughter. Posters decorate the walls and long shelves afford more display space.
    Even the shelved headboard on the waterbed is covered from top to bottom. A clothesline holds hats and the trademark black felt ears still encased in plastic bags. Dozens of stuffed figures, that used to fill a hammock suspended from the ceiling, now make themselves at home on the floor. It seems the hammock gave way one day under their combined weight.
    "I started with these guys," Borges says plucking several brightly colored plastic figures from a display case. "Years ago you could put a quarter into a machine at the mall and out came Mickey, Minnie or Donald Duck. The Timex watch came in seventh  grade. I saved dimes and nickels to buy it, and the thing just keeps on ticking."
    Of the thousands of items in the collection, she considers a pewter statue bearing the likeness of Walt Disney and the beloved mouse that debuted in the 1928 film "Steamboat Willy" the most special. It was commissioned last year to commemorate a century of "Disney Magic."
    Borges thinks she is probably the only person in Minster with Mickey Mouse soap and toilet tissue. They certainly fit in well with the curtains, bedspread, pillows, tissue holder, wind socks and alarm clock. She is still looking for waterbed sheets with the distinctive mouse theme. She may find some on a Disney cruise next month.
    Many of the items in the collection are gifts from relatives and friends. However, she has earned "outstanding customer" status, given the volume of her Disney purchases. She also frequents flea markets, and friends have her in mind as they hit the garage sale circuit.
     "Flea market vendors charge whatever price they feel," Borges contends. "You have to know what you're willing to pay and then stick to your guns."
    Borges made her first pilgrimage to Walt Disney World in 1972, following graduation from Minster High School. She has been back to the Florida location nearly a dozen times, taking an extra suitcase to hold new purchases. She considers a pair of Mickey Mouse figures carved from coconuts her best bargain. She spotted them in a shop window and the proprieter eagerly parted with them for a mere $5.
    The 6-foot-tall Mickey Mouse doll is a souvenir of her one and only visit to Disneyland in California. She financed the purchase by saving more than $250 worth of aluminum cans. Traveling companions Jim and Barb Purdy contacted an aquaintance who works at the amusement park. The resulting ceremony is one Borges will never forget.
    "Mickey Mouse made the official presentation in front of Cinderella's castle," she says. "It was worth every cent I spent."
    The collection is gradually expanding into a second upstairs bedroom. A few trappings, like a mouse and a telephone, have escaped to the downstairs living room. Even the cement goose on the front porch sports ears. Her mother doesn't mind as long as they don't have to expand the Cleveland Street home in order to hold everything.
    Borges does more than simply admire her cartoon hero from afar. She portrays him, wearing a costume her mother sewed and a head fashioned from a hard hat, some chicken wire and lots of papier mache. She and a cast of Disney characters, comprised of friends and relatives, appeared in the first 25 Minster Oktoberfest parades, much to the delight of old and young alike.
    Borges and the others used to build an accompanying float each year. One design included a huge mural painted by local artist Pam Sommer. The thought of storing the 8-foot tall canvas in a dusty barn was more than Borges could bear. She and her father, Leo, dragged the thing up the stairs and mounted it in the hallway.
    "We stopped appearing in the parade two years ago because it got to be too much," she admits with a sigh. "Now we just do birthday parties and nursing home visits. Mickey is always a hit."
    Borges looks around her bedroom proudly. She likes what she sees, beady eyes and all.
    "People always ask whether I'll sell all of this one day," she says. "My answer is always the same - Ono way.' The value is purely sentimental as far as I'm concerned. Everything will go to my nieces and nephews one day. I may be Mickey's number one fan, but they aren't far behind."


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