Fixing Christmas, One Snow Globe At A Time

Snow globe repairman Dick Heibel
12/23/06 Evening News, Mason, snow globe repairman, dick heibel

Whether you like them plastic and touristy, or all glistening and nostalgic, snow globes do have one problem: they can shatter.

And, CBS News correspondent Anthony Mason reports that when they do break, many end up in Northfield, Minnesota, in Dick Heibel's basement workshop.

"I fix water globes and music boxes," Heibel says. "I can't wait to get down in the morning and open up those boxes."

Heibel is one of the last snow globe repairmen around. When a needy snow globe comes into his care, it is usually filled with moldy or yellowing water. But, when he sends them back out, they're as good as new.

"It's still kind of magical to tip 'em and watch that snow drift down and see that little serene scene inside," Heibel says. "They're still magical to me."

At 77 years young, Heibel's a retired upholsterer and woodworker. He charges anywhere from $15 to $45 to repair, repaint, reseal and restore globes.

Watch: Snow Globe Collector Mitch Gordon
Watch: Mason's Report
It's a break-even proposition at best – except for the letters that he gets from the owners. Every globe, it seems, has a story.

One woman wrote, "You've made it possible for me to go back in time and be a little girl again."

Another customer sent this one, "I lost my father in December of 1997. I miss him so much. I was devastated when I broke the globe."

And another wrote, "Bless you, dear Mr. Heibel. This will truly make my Christmas, knowing that he will be back in his element of snow and glitter with his black hat in place."

Heibel's wife, Irene, says, "Dick has been given a gift, and he gives that gift back every time he repairs a globe and they receive it. And they give him a gift by responding and telling him how much it meant."

In the age of iPods and X-boxes, it's hard to fathom how enchanting and entrancing something this simple used to be, but Dick Heibel remembers.

"If you picked one up that had a very lovely inside in it, and tipped it over and watched that snow drift down, it's either magical to you or it it's just something to look at," he says. "To me it's magical. I guess maybe I never grew out of that."

It's why, he says, every morning feels just like Christmas morning.