Harold Johanson stays active by building fancy dollhouses

At 92, Brady’s Harold Johanson doesn’t have any intention of slowing down. Spending most of his days in his workshop, he transforms plywood, 2x4s and a little paint into obvious works of art. Harold has found a way to bring a little creativity into his life using his lifelong skill of working with wood. Rather than spend his afternoons “staring at four walls and a ceiling,” Johanson would prefer to stay busy’and that’s exactly what he does. Anything from television entertainment centers to gun cabinets and even dollhouses have been crafted from his two hands. In fact, over the past 27 years Johanson has built a total of 72 doll-houses for family members, friends and for people who just really wanted to capture a memory in a dollhouse. Instead of being just another average dollhouse, for family members, his pieces of art carry a truly significant meaning’one that family members hold near and dear to their hearts. With each driven nail and stroke of the paint brush comes a collaboration of memories for Johanson. Many of his dollhouses are exact replicas of houses he and his family members grew up in as children. Either through his remarkable memory or by a stolen glimpse at a picture, Harold’s dollhouses bring back a part of history that many hope to preserve. All of his dollhouses are complete with anywhere from two to nine rooms and many resemble homes built in the early 1900s. One house in particular is a carbon copy of the house built by his father, Conrad Johanson, in 1908. Harold was later born in the same house just a year later in 1909. The replica dollhouse is exact in its resemblance, even down to the front porch and the outhouse. Another dollhouse he has crafted is a replica of a home purchased by his father in 1920. Nestled in the quiet community of Fairview, the house caught fire in 1936. The dollhouse is the only remaining piece of evidence that the house even existed. Much to the disbelief of many of his clients, Johanson didn’t work in construction prior to his retirement at the age of 65. Instead, he worked on the other end of the construction line as a bookkeeper for several lumber companies. “Everyone seemed to think I worked as a carpenter in my earlier years,” he said. It wasn’t until after his retirement that his friend, Harvey Parker of Brownwood, introduced him to building picture frames. “After I started building frames I then went to wood working and welding, and I’ve been at it ever since. “People just stop at my shop out back and tell me what they want. One man even punched me once to get my attention when I was sawing. I jumped so high I almost cut my hand off.” When he recently celebrated his 92nd birthday, his family members, all of which are quite fond of his handiwork through their own dollhouse experience, surprised him by bringing a collection of the dollhouses to reminisce in the memories he’s captured. Today, Harold can still be found hours on end working in his shop or tending to his cattle just seven miles north of town. However, I’ll give an advanced warning’If he happens to be working in his shop with power tools, don’t sneak up on him and give him a good punch, he probably wouldn’t appreciate it the second time around either.

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