Growing up in the late 1960s and early 70s, dolls were one of my favorite things; they are probably the favorite toy of most girls all over the world. All I ever wanted to be was a wife and mother, so dolls were my childhood playmates, and a way to let my maternal side show.
Aunt Virginia Ann, my Momma’s sister, got me a baby doll in the mid-1960s and I cherished her for years. I honestly don’t remember what happened to my baby doll, but within a few years Barbie and Skipper had taken over my life. My babysitter’s daughter had a Barbie trunk with all types of Barbie and Skipper clothes and accessories. During the summers I could spend all day playing with these dolls and clothes, as well as my own. When school started again in the fall, I played with all my Barbies after school; that is until reading entered my life. I was so proud of my Barbie clothes because my Granny Devine had made many of the outfits. I only have one of the “polyester” dresses my Granny made for my Barbies and I still have my very first Barbie.
My most memorable Christmas centered around one toy, which I still treasure today. The entire Harrodsburg family was at my Granny Devine’s house and after a huge meal, my Aunt began to hand presents to me and my brother and sister. I was around eight or nine years old and I couldn’t wait to tear into my package, but as usual, we had to wait until everyone had a present before we could open anything. Ready, set, go…away we went, ripping the paper and ribbons. I loved all my presents, but this year held a delightful surprise. Granny had given me a china doll…my very first china doll. She was so beautiful with porcelain black hair on top of her creamy porcelain face, with blue eyes, just like mine, and pink rosy cheeks. Her dress was pink with tiny white polka dots and she had a matching bonnet on her head. She even had a crinoline skirt and petticoat underneath her dress. I was ecstatic! It was such a grown up present and I was so happy my Granny thought I was old enough to have my first china doll.
This was 1970 or 1971, but I can still remember the excitement of this particular Christmas Eve. When the present were all finally opened and the wrapping and ribbons cleaned up, the kids watched television while the adults talked. This particular year, I took a long hot bubble bath in Granny’s miniature bathroom and changed into the new pajamas my Aunt had given me; new pajamas were a must for Christmas. I was all ready to go home to bed so I could wait for Old Saint Nick. I couldn’t wait to rush my parents home so I could jump into bed, listening to every creak of the house, just knowing that Santa would arrive at any minute. As for my china doll, Miss Betsy, she is still one of most treasured possessions. She holds a place of honor in my glass cabinet where I can glance at her every day. All three of my daughters have several china dolls apiece, but they never cared for dolls as much as I do. My dolls are a significant part of my heritage and, although I have had many china dolls since Miss Betsy, none will ever remind me of Christmas, or my Granny Devine, like this one special doll.
Momma also loved dolls, although her obsession started when she was much older. Whenever she would go shopping or was on vacation, she would find another doll for her collection. At the time of her death, she had two china cabinets filled with porcelain dolls and stuffed Boyd’s bears. What I like about her dolls is the fact they all have real hair; I always wished Miss Betsy had real hair so I could brush it. Most of my girl’s china dolls also have hair, but as I said, they never seemed interested in the dolls. It took Momma about five years before she realized my girl’s had no desire to have a doll collection. Most of these dolls are put away, and when my grandchildren get older, I will give the back to their mothers. Some of my dolls are 40 years old, but the girl’s dolls are from 10 to 25 years old; what a collectable “hand-me-down” these dolls will be.
Aunt Joyce, my Daddy’s sister, also has a large doll collection. Here dolls are all over the house and in the bedrooms. Several of these dolls I recognize because Momma would have one just like it. As with Momma’s dolls, my aunt’s dolls mostly have hair, and they all are very beautiful.
Another person in my life who loves dolls is Mrs. Gertrude Reed of Harrodsburg. Gertrude’s daughter is in the process of having her mother’s old dolls restored. One that is my favorite, is a doll with a porcelain head and stuffed body and she rides in a little wicker stroller. Gertrude said her sister had a duplicate doll in a stroller, but she couldn’t remember if it is still around. Gertrude, or rather her daughter, also had several other of her old dolls refinished, and she is happy to show them off when she is feeling well enough.
I still love my dolls, even though I do not play with them anymore. I will occasionally take one out of the cabinet and just sit and hold her. Every doll I own brings back certain memories, most are good memories, but I do have one or two bad memories mainly because of the person who gave them to me. I can’t wait to see if my grandchildren are going to love dolls. The youngest is only six months old, so she is much too little to show an interest; the other will soon be three years old, but right now she loves all kinds of toys
What dolls or old toys do you have lurking in your attic or basement? You never know what item you will find from your past. These things would make wonderful keepsakes for your loved ones. Anything you hand down to another person will have its own heritage, but it will bring precious memories of loved ones you’ve lost.