DOLLS

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The world has changed in myriad ways — huge and subtle — since I grew up. When I was a kid, none of us, regardless of how much money our parents had or didn’t have, got everything. You wanted everything, sure, because kids always want everything … but you got something. In my house, since we didn’t celebrate Christmas, birthdays were the big gift-giving day.

Annabelle - 1952, Mme. Alexander

Annabelle – 1952, Mme. Alexander

Each year on my birthday from when I was three until I was eight, I got one really nice doll. When I was five, I got “Annabelle,” the 1952 special doll from Madame Alexander. She would be my favorite for the rest of my life. Over her long life (she was born in 1952) she has been rewigged, restrung, repainted, and redressed half a dozen times.

I really played with my dolls. They were my friends. I talked to them. I told them everything and I took them everywhere. Everything I did, felt, hoped for, and feared, my dolls knew.

My dolls understood. Always.

Toni (22") Revlon, 1953

Toni (22″) Revlon, 1953

When I was six, I got Toni. She was Revlon’s “flagship” girl doll with hair that could be “permanent waved” using a doll version of the Toni Permanent Wave kit. The set was just tiny plastic rollers and sugar-water and they didn’t really curl hair. They just made it sticky … which attracted ants. So then you had to wash it and you were lucky if the wig didn’t come right off her head.

Madame Alexander as herself - 1985

Madame Alexander as herself – 1985

There was Betsy Wetsy — also from Revlon, I believe (Tiny Tears was made by American Character). Those were the memorable dolls. Lots of little 8″ Ginnie dolls too and too many outfits to recall. Ginnie was in my day what Barbie was to the next generations of girls. It is perhaps a reflection of how the concept of girlhood changed during those years. By the time I turned 9, it was all about books.

From then on, I got books for my birthdays, though usually one other “special” thing too. One year, my beloved bicycle arrived. It was much too big for me to ride. I was a tiny wisp of a thing, but also, the only 9-year-old with a titanium frame Dutch racing bike. I had blocks on the pedals and I had to ride standing up because no way could I reach the seat or use the coaster brakes sitting down. But I grew a few inches. So, by the time I was an adolescent, I could reach the pedals without help. And, I knew I had the greatest bike ever. Tiger Racer and me … we flew!

When I was 11 I got a little transistor radio. It was a big deal, the ultra high-tech of the late 1950s. I was the only kid who had my very own portable radio. After that memory fades …

I slept with my dolls.

As I headed into my 50s, I began searching for the dolls with which I had grown up. Collecting is insidious and doll collecting even more so. I developed a bizarre lust for dolls. I didn’t know I had become a collector until I began to buy reference books so I could identify dolls by model, year, manufacturer, etc. Reference book are the significator of any kind of collector. When your reference collection is far more complete than the local library, you are a collector. Accept it. Deal with it.

These pictures are a sampling of the dolls. I tried to capture something of that ephemeral sweetness the dolls of my generation had. Perhaps show a hint of why they still give me a warm glow when I look at them. They never argue, always forgive. And they never complain and don’t mind if you drag them around by one leg with their foreheads scraping the sidewalk.

I participate in WordPress' Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

28 thoughts on “DOLLS

  1. And another thing, those dolls could keep a secret.
    What a lovely collection, Marilyn. I remember seeing some of those doll being advertised in the magazines. I never had one – boo hoo. I’m not sure if they had such lovely dolls in Canada at the time.
    Leslie

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    • I was lucky because my mother loved dolls. Her family was much too poor, so she only had one doll of her own for a little while. It was a china-headed doll and it broke. She never got another one. She made up for it by buying dolls for me. Only one per year, but it was always the best doll she could find. I’m pretty sure these dolls were sold all over the world. I know they were widely sold in England, so I figure also Canada, though Canada was a lot less metropolitan when we were kids.

      The best place to buy anything back then was Manhattan. F.A.O. Schwartz was heaven for kids. My mother took me there once a year, right before Christmas when they had all the trains running and all the greatest dolls on display. That was where they had the Queen Elizabeth II coronation dolls, too. We never bought anything there — too expensive, but looking was free.

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    • I was the only one with a Betsy. Everyone else had a Tiny Tears, but I liked Betsy and so did my granddaughter, who instantly adopted her. Ginny’s were the only doll that all the little girls had and they were cheap. You could save up and get a new one for a few dollars at a toy store — back when there WERE toy stores. And outfits for sometimes less than a dollar. So we all had lots of Ginny dolls and lots of outfits. Lots of swapping, too.

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  2. For me it was a new doll each Christmas until I was twelve. By that time, I started designing wardrobes for many of them. Ginny was and still is a favorite. When we moved from our Victorian home (where I had plenty of rooms to display them) in 1997, I passed most of my dolls along to my daughters. I still love dolls!

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  3. Pingback: Nostalgia: Train Platform | What's (in) the picture?

  4. Very nice post. My sisters and I were gifted with dolls into our teen years. My Mom loved dolls and started her own collection in her sixties. I too confided in my dolls and treated them as if they were alive. My own daughters followed in my footsteps and names all their dolls.

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