Children of Japan

Children of Japan
Courtesy, R. John Wright

The Jumeau 201

The Jumeau 201
Courtesy Theriault's and Antique Doll Collector Magazine

Hinges and Hearts

Hinges and Hearts
An Exhibit of our Metal Dolls

Google+ Followers

Tuxedo and Bangles

Tuxedo and Bangles

A History of Metal Dolls

A History of Metal Dolls
Now on Alibris.com and In Print! The First Book of its Kind

Alice, Commemorative Edition

Alice, Commemorative Edition
Courtesy, R. John Wright

Translate

Emma, aka, La Contessa Bathory

Emma, aka, La Contessa Bathory
Her Grace wishes us all a Merry Christmas!

Annabelle

Annabelle

Emma Emmeline

Emma Emmeline
Our New Addition/fond of stuffed toys

Cloth Clown

Cloth Clown

Native American Art

Native American Art

the triplets

the triplets

c. 1969 Greek Plastic Mini Baby

c. 1969 Greek Plastic Mini Baby
Bought Athens on the street

Iron Maiden; Middle Ages

Iron Maiden; Middle Ages

Sand Baby Swirls!

Sand Baby Swirls!
By Glenda Rolle, courtesy, the Artist

Glenda's Logo

Glenda's Logo
Also, a link to her site

Sand Baby Castaway

Sand Baby Castaway
By Glenda Rolle, Courtesy the Artist

A French Friend

A French Friend

Mickey

Mickey
From our friends at The Fennimore Museum

2000+ year old Roman Rag Doll

2000+ year old Roman Rag Doll
British Museum, Child's Tomb

Ancient Egypt Paddle Doll

Ancient Egypt Paddle Doll
Among first "Toys?"

ushabti

ushabti
Egyptian Tomb Doll 18th Dynasty

Ann Parker Doll of Anne Boleyn

Ann Parker Doll of Anne Boleyn

Popular Posts

Tin Head Brother and Sister, a Recent Purchase

Tin Head Brother and Sister, a Recent Purchase
Courtesy, Antique Daughter

Judge Peep

Judge Peep

Hakata Doll Artist at Work

Hakata Doll Artist at Work
From the Museum Collection

Follow by Email

Japanese Costume Barbies

Japanese Costume Barbies
Samurai Ken

Etienne

Etienne
A Little Girl

Happy Heart Day

Happy Heart Day

From "Dolls"

From "Dolls"
A Favorite Doll Book

Popular Posts

Jenny Wren

Jenny Wren
Ultimate Doll Restorer

Our Friends at The Fennimore Doll and Toy Museum

Our Friends at The Fennimore Doll and Toy Museum

Baby Boo 1960s

Baby Boo 1960s
Reclaimed and Restored as a childhood Sabrina the Witch with Meow Meow

Dr. E's on Display with sign

Dr. E's on Display with sign

Dolls Restored ad New to the Museum

Dolls Restored ad New to the Museum
L to R: K*R /celluloid head, all bisque Artist Googly, 14 in. vinyl inuit sixties, early celluloid Skookum type.

Two More Rescued Dolls

Two More Rescued Dolls
Late Sixties Vinyl: L to R: Probably Horseman, all vinyl, jointed. New wig. R: Effanbee, probably Muffy, mid sixties. New wig and new clothing on both. About 12 inches high.

Restored Italian Baby Doll

Restored Italian Baby Doll
One of Dr. E's Rescued Residents

Dolls on Display

Dolls on Display
L to R: Nutcrackers, Danish Troll, HItty and her book, Patent Washable, Mechanical Minstrel, Creche figure, M. Alexander Swiss. Center is a German mechanical bear on the piano. Background is a bisque German costume doll.

A Few Friends

A Few Friends
These dolls are Old German and Nutcrackers from Dr. E's Museum. They are on loan to another local museum for the holidays.

Vintage Collage

Vintage Collage
Public Domain Art

The Merry Wanderer

The Merry Wanderer
Courtesy R. John Wright, The Hummel Collection

The Fennimore Doll Museum

The Fennimore Doll Museum

Robert

Robert
A Haunted Doll with a Story

Halloween Dolls Displayed in a Local Library

Halloween Dolls Displayed in a Local Library

The Cody Jumeau

The Cody Jumeau
Long-faced or Jumeau Triste

German Princesses

German Princesses
GAHC 2005

A Little PowerRanger

A Little PowerRanger
Halloween 2004

The Island of the Dolls

The Island of the Dolls
Shrine to Dolls in Mexico

Based on the Nutshell Series of Death

Based on the Nutshell Series of Death
Doll House murder

Popular Posts

Total Pageviews

A lovely dress

A lovely dress

Raggedy Ann

Raggedy Ann
A few friends in cloth!

Fennimore Doll and Toy Museum, WI

Fennimore Doll and Toy Museum, WI
Pixar Animator's Collection

Little PM sisters

Little PM sisters
Recent eBay finds

Dressed Mexican Fleas

Dressed Mexican Fleas

Really old Dolls!

Really old Dolls!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Doll Stories

Today was a beautiful, clear day. I sat in my newly-washed and dried lawn chair and looked at everything around me turning green. The violets are blooming; I love the white ones more than any other flowers, I think. I held a half full bottle of water in my hand, and even though it was plastic, the wind sang through it as it blew. It was a magical day. Below are a couple of excerpts from a book I'm writing that contains doll stories. I hope everyone enjoys them. I learned some more about museums and antiques and nonprofit organizations today from a gentleman who is a real expert in the field, and very generous person as well. Thank you, if you are reading this blog, or even if you are not! Enjoy:

From: Dolls who Tell Stories:
The Earthquake Doll: One of my claims to fame is that I lived through the 1989 Loma Prieta Quake. I was living in San Jose, California at the time, and working as a research attorney for Santa Clara County Superior Court. I’ll never be able to forget some of the images of the quake. At first, I though I’d blown all my tires at once on I-280; the car was veering wildly right to left, and I couldn’t control it for several seconds. Seconds that seemed to me like an eternity, until I managed to pull off to the side. The huge metal signs and trees that lined 280 were dipping to the ground. It was dark, though it was not barely 5 pm and Daylight savings time had not occurred. I thought of Revelations and Judgment Day, and of movies I’d seen depicting the Crucifixion, where everything suddenly went black, and thunder boomed from the sky. When I realized it was a quake and turned on the radio, the DJ’s were playing “Shake, Rattle, and Roll.” No one knew there had been casualties.

That night, the Chronicle made its deadline through operating by candlelight. Street people up and down the Monterey peninsula were directing traffic because all of the traffic lights were out. California drivers, known for being daring and reckless, even for playing “chicken” with out of state drivers, were subdued, even polite at every intersection. When I finally made it home, my Uncle Jim, [I lived with my Aunt and Uncle], said it had been like Poltergeist in the dining room. The china cabinets had flown open; dishes and knick-knacks flew everywhere. He couldn’t get his balance long enough to shut the doors. He could only duck. Our little Lhasa Apso, Tiger, was the only one not affected. He spent the quake lying on the patio, his head resting on the stoop. This was how Tiger spent most days. He didn’t get upset unless the cats tried to eat his food. My friends at the courthouse, where we worked in the basement, gave similar accounts, only heavy law books were flying from the shelves and people were ducking for cover. The whole situation gave a new meaning to the term to throw the book at someone.

Places in Los Gatos, where I had been the week before, were leveled. The store where I had bought a four room, small, unfinished doll house was gone, as was the antique store where I had coveted a miniature iron maiden. It was perfect for the haunted doll house I was making. I didn’t buy it for the expense, and now it was part of rubble. Lily Wong’s in Santa Cruz would operate out of a tent before it finally went out of business. The World Series came to a stand still, and Joe DiMaggio stood in line at the Red Cross to find out if his elderly neighbor was safe.

We had aftershocks for days after, and six months to the day of the October quake, on the anniversary and exact time of the 1906 quake, we had another good shaking. Friends and family called from everywhere; we all knew someone affected, and some had their homes condemned. For a few days, people could call us, but no one in Northern California, it seemed, could call out. Anywhere.

At home, my porcelain dolls had somehow survived. One was a veteran of the 1906 Quake, a china head that still bore the burns and scars of her ordeal. She stands about three feet tall, and has been cleaned-up and restored. I first saw her at the San Jose Doll Show, several months before the 1989 Quake. I tracked her down to her store, Indiana Antiques, once an institution that advertised in another institution, Hobbies Magazine.

Before life and expenses got hold of me, I wanted to buy as many good antiques as I could. My mother had taken me to Indiana Antiques several times, and I managed to find a small doll or two. The were expensive, terribly so, and the elderly couple seemed amused by the little girl with the braids who only wanted antique dolls. The place was a veritable museum, with French fashion dolls, German characters, china heads of all types, Frozen Charlottes, and other rarities. So expensive were the dolls, that my Uncle Jim was on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding one small bisque French baby that went home with me one Christmas when I was thirteen.

Now, I was much older, and earning my own money. The Earthquake Doll was still at the shop. I knew I had to have her, though at the time, before the Quake, I didn’t know why. The sales woman was not the owner. She was herself elderly, though stylish, chatty, friendly, but had to breathe through a tracheotomy. She told me the story of the doll, and of the former owner of the shop. The later owner died tragically at age 46. Her parents were the elderly couple I used to see. Apparently, by now, only her father was left. There daughter’s early death had devastated them, but in her memory, they kept the shop going. The dolls had once been her private collection. She grew up, and decided to have a dolls store to finance her growing and ever more expensive hobby. The Earthquake Doll had a china head, hands, and high-heeled feet. Her hair was once black, and molded in the common “low-brow” curly style of the most common heads. She was burned to a coppery, iridescent shade, and had cracks from the fire. She wore a brown calico dress, and stood on a home-made, but clever stand made of copper tubing. She has traveled extensively since I bought her in 1988, and she survived several more earthquakes. She had her own book telling the story of the 1906 quake. I often wonder if the little girl who originally owned her nearly 100 years ago survived. Like so many of my old dolls, I wish she could talk. Did her owner hold her in her arms while she ran for safety? Was she burned in the rubble of some house destroyed in the fire that followed the quake? I’ll probably never know, but to me, she stands a silent memorial to everyone who died and suffered in both quakes.

More Disaster Dolls – The Chicago Fire Doll: Perhaps because they are made in our image, there is something poignant about dolls that have been involved in disasters. By now, many have seen the doll head that rests on the floor of the Titanic wreck; it was even portrayed in the movie. In fact, the entire doll has been reproduced, and I have examples of the Titanic dolls as they were portrayed by actors in the hit film. Footage of Chernobyl after the nuclear disaster shows a row of abandoned dolls, still sitting in a house vacated because of radioactive contamination. Even the hit show Law and Order SVU includes a burned doll in its credits to emphasize the piquant sadness of its theme.

The Chicago Fire of 1871, supposedly started, at least in song, by Mrs. O’Leary’s hapless cow, lives in infamy as one of the worst urban disasters to befall the United States. One small wooden doll in my collection is supposed to have been a survivor of the fire. The doll is all wood, and was jointed. Her face and hair are carved, and she is charred, as though burned. Her lower limbs and clothes are missing. My mother bought her more than 16 years ago from now defunct Antique America, one of the largest antique malls in the Midwest. The dealer attached a tag to the doll, which she still wears, stating she was refugee from the 1871 fire, She is about ten inches high, or would be, had she her legs. She has no clothing, and is jointed with metal springs, similar to the famed Joel Ellis dolls of Springfield, Vermont. I call her Ms. O’Leary for obvious reasons. She is one of several dolls I have that have been burned, or otherwise buried and abused, only to be dug up later, restored to a point, and given a place in my collection. One day, I may dress her, but she has a quiet dignity, even in her present state. When I take her to lecture, the audience reveres her in awe, amazed that something so tiny and flammable could survive such a terrible disaster.

The Doll in the Coffin: Dolls and Halloween go hand in hand. Dolls in preserved in glass cases have decorated children’s graves all over the United States. Some of my antique dolls have the names, birth, and death dates of the little girls who once owned them written on their backs. Early memento mori photos show dolls lying in the arms of dead children, and graves in many cemeteries are decorated with toys, dolls, and angel statutes. In fact, when Prince Albert died in England, the doll wore black. Morbid as it seems, I love Halloween and all its accoutrements, almost as much as I love dolls. In fact, my dolls often dressed and went trick-or-treating with me. When my mother made me a gypsy outfit, based on a painting by my Uncle Tom, her brother, who attended the School of the Art Institute, my Effanbee Suzie Sunshine went with me dressed as a gypsy. I was five. The next year, my mother sewed an amazing Raggedy Ann outfit. She made striped leggings from an old top of mine because we couldn’t find the right tights. My Raggedy Ann doll went with me that year to the parade at school. I still have the plastic mask. The photos we have show a very realistic looking costume. Both the gypsy and raggedy outfits are now on large dolls. The gypsy outfit adorns a life-sized Betsey McCall rag doll I made in 8th grade Home Economics class with Ms. Schultz. I got an A+ for her. My little dog killer did not like her; indeed, he would often try to bite her foot.

The Raggedy Ann dress is on a life sized vinyl walking doll my Uncle Tom brought for me. She wears my baby shoes. More about her later.

Soon, I was collecting witch dolls, Halloween die cuts, paper dolls, masks, costumes, figural candles, plastic and papier mache jack-o-lanterns, anything that had a face or body connected with Halloween. I make my own Halloween cut-outs, and in sixth grade, made my own of Anne Boleyn, headless and walking in despair. I have dozens of models of the Universal Studios monsters, mechanical figures of the Bride of Frankenstein, the Monster himself, Dracula, the Wolfman, the Cryptkeeper, you name it. I’ve looked for Asian demon figures, devils, Dia de Muertos skeletons and sugar skulls, and I even have a three foot mechanical skeleton bride named Ophelia. She sings Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” and has her own accessories, including some of my jewelry. I have several versions of the Munsters and the Addams family, doll guillotines, a doll electric chair, even one version of Wednesday Addam’s headless doll, Marie Antoinette. One of my most treasured possessions is the severed head of one of Dracula’s vampire brides. There are light-up Grim Reaper dolls in my house, as well as Elvira Mistress of the Dark Dolls, and life-sized monster cut outs that advertise beer. I have Elizabeth Bathory in her bathtub of blood, Jack the Ripper, Dr. Frankenstein in his Lab, Living Dead Dolls, Crypt Kiddies, Maurice Sendak monsters, skulls, skeletons, even Halloween Barbie dolls. I have at least one full-sized haunted doll house, and all kinds of figures from The Nightmare Before Christmas. I covet my friends Dept. 56 light-up haunted houses, and I have some that “scream” and thunder, as well as one labeled “Vampire Attorney” office. There are even several voodoo dolls in my collection, but their story comes later. There is a life-sized paper cut out named Fredericka that I painted in lavender lingerie, and skeleton figures I raku’ed to make them more spooky. I have mummies, and small sarcophagi even some real Ushabti, charms and talisman dolls of all types, ancestor figures, fertility dolls, cornhusk dolls, anything connected with the occult and spirit world. I wanted a six foot cardboard skeleton in its own coffin to put in my garage window to face my Holier than Thou neighbors, but my Dad drew the line. In short, I love Halloween, all year long.

The strangest “memento mori” doll I have is the dried apple doll lying in her own coffin. The doll represents an elderly woman, and she is dressed in white. She lies on white coverings, and has a pillow. Her “coffin” is a leather box with a hinged lid. It is also lined in white material, perhaps muslin. Her eyes are tiny black glass beads, her hair gray. It could be real. The dealer I bought her from told me she had been made many years ago to explain a grandmother’s death to the mourning grandchildren. She is about eleven inches long, coffin and all. She goes well with some shroud scraps I have that came from an Illinois woman’s last fitting, as it were, dated 1898.

Smokey’s Dinosaur: Unlike Killer, my first dog, Smokey, our Benji mix, was indifferent. There were a few he was fond of; he liked dragging around some of the antique dolls but didn’t hurt them, and he liked to chew the shield of one of my nutcrackers when he was teething. Smokey was very fond of two large white Teddy Bears, and I had to move them. He liked to drag them around the house. I finally bought him his own small one. He liked chewing on its nose. I always said, “Smokey, where’s your baby? Don’t chew his nose; you aren’t a good Daddy!” There was one doll Smokey was very fond of. I had a silk-screened T-Rex pillow Smokey liked to sleep on. It was the right height for his little head. Smokey would often be asleep, but when he sensed me coming, he would lift his head, eyes still closed, so I could slip the T-Rex under him. When he died of a stroke at 14, we buried T-Rex with him. It seemed like the right thing to do.

Killer’s Dolls: My first dog, Lord Byron, aka, Killer, was a miniature poodle/Scotty mix. He was very small, with black, curly fur. He hated all dolls and was very jealous. He is the culprit who gnawed Betsey McCall’s foot, and one day, he had my 2 foot Raggedy Ann doll caught in a death grip. He was shaking her by the throat, oblivious to all else going on around him. I often had to rescue tiny dolls from him, and even stuffed dogs, like my giant boxer, were not safe. He had his own squeaky monkey, and slept with some of my stuffed animals when I was very little. I still have him. If FDR could keep Fala’s toys, I can keep Killer’s. One day, my mother and I had come from a doll show. We had done particularly well, and had spread the dolls out on my bed to get a better look. We heard the door creak open; there was Killer. We expected him to jump in the middle of the dolls as he usually did, asserting himself as Alpha dog. Instead, he ran out again, returning with the monkey. This time, he did jump in the middle of the dolls, squeaking the monkey gleefully, as if to say, “see, I have one, too!!”

Violet’s Doll Head: There are some people we meet in life who transcend labels like family, friendship, even soul mate. For me, that person was Violet Ellen Page. Violet was nearly 70 when I met her in 1974, and I was 14. I was at the Aledo, Illinois doll show, a show no longer held. Violet made dolls, and had her own collection of antiques. She liked setting up at the shows, especially with her porcelain dolls and the cloth dolls she adored making. She was super reasonable in her pricing, and very popular with everyone. My special trips when I was a teenager were to her house in Galesburg on Sanborn street. Every nook and cranny held wonderful doll secrets; I spent my allowance on antique dolls, doll parts, clothing, dishes, anything she was willing to sell. She used her earnings to buy ceramics equipment, even a little kiln. Violet even poured her own molds and created her own greenware. She could do everything. She became one of our closest friends, and my dad called her “Yia Yia,” or grandmother, in Greek. She always kept something aside for me of the things she made, always with the story “this mold didn’t pour right, I made too many arms, this dress is a little torn.” “ Would you like this to experiment on?” she would ask. We all knew she wanted to give me something, and I liked giving her small presents, too. Sometimes, when her eyes began to fail, I would embroider doll faces for her and send them to her.

Even when her health failed, we kept visiting her and sending her things. My mother and I would go to Galesburg wherever she had moved, from assisted living to nursing home, and my Dad would often drive us, too. I loved the doll heads and porcelain dolls she made; they all looked like her somehow, with her rosy complexion and flawless skin. Violet used to show me photos of herself when she was very young, and she was beautiful and blonde, with a sweet smile. We were destined to be friends, since her middle name was “Ellen.” She had four boys, so there was really no one to love her dolls. Just me, really. Her other grandchildren, nieces, and daughters in law weren’t that interested in her dolls or antiques.

Violet taught me everything she knew. I learned to put dolls together, to restring them, sew, paint them. She sold and gave me books, scrapbooks, magazines. My best dolls were once hers. I wouldn’t trade anything of hers for the world, and all of them are precious to me, especially the ones she made with her own hands.

She died at nearly 96 in August 2001. It was one of the saddest times in my life. It’s hard to believe even now she is dead. To the end, her mind was sharp and clear. She told poignant stories of life in the nursing home, especially of one old lady with Alzheimer’s who wanted to call her mother to come and get her out of the home. Violet used to say, “you know, one day I’m going to give her a quarter. It might make her feel better.” I used to say Violet was 96 going on 18. Three days after 9/11, about one month after her death, I was at the Stark County Scenic Drive. Visiting the fall scenic drives was a tradition in my family. This year was almost unbearably sad because of Violet’s death and because of 9/11. I was wandering in a park flea market at one of the stops. I walked to the furthest dealer, not really knowing why. He didn’t seem to have any dolls. I’d bought things from him before, but I wasn’t really looking. I saw a faded doll head in his case. He said it was $2.00, so I bought it. The doll head was of a Victorian lady, with molded curls and ornaments in her hair. She had a molded collar, and was very elegant. She was a very good price, but there was something vaguely familiar about her. On the way home, I rode in the backseat of the car. My parents were in front. I took out the head, unwrapped it, and turned in over. Incised on the back, in Violet’s writing, was her last name, “Page.” I had a smaller version of the doll finished at home. Violet had done that one in 1966. I don’t believe in ghosts or portents of any kind, but I still think this was a sign from Violet, a message that she was alright, and that she hadn’t forgotten me, either. I take it as a sign that we really are soul mates, and that no one really dies. Rest in peace. Violet, I will always love you, and your touch will be part of every doll I make.

Mamie Bolin’s Doll Collection: My grade school was Eugene Field School. This was an appropriate name for the school I would eventually attend, because Eugene Field was himself a doll collector. His collection still exists at his home, now a Museum, in St. Louis. Perhaps because of our namesake, my principal at the school, grades K-5, Mamie Bolin, collected dolls. Miss Bolin’s collection was displayed in a special showcase at the front lobby of the school. Even driving by at night, one could see the collection against the shadows in the empty building. Miss Bolin was a sorority sister of my mother’s, and her sister, Mrs. Erma Moser, was my kindergarten teacher. My special treat was to sit in front of the glass cases and look at the fantastic dolls, many from all over the world. There must have been about 500 dolls of all shapes and sizes, many from Holland, Mexico, Spain, the Orient, and other parts of Europe. There was an antique doll in a pink dress with a composition head I was especially fond of; the doll had molded blonde hair, and may have belonged to Miss Bolin’s mother, or grandmother. My piano teacher, Miss Gladys Meurling, also had dolls, but she didn’t give them to me! Instead, she added to Miss Bolin’s collection from time to time.

Dolls were a big part of Eugene Field as it turned out. Ms. Moser had several in the kindergarten room, along with a playhouse complete with tiny pots and pans. I used to play with the larger version of Mary Hartline during recess. One day, Mrs. Moser made me throw away a doll made of crepe paper with a silk painted face. It nearly killed me! But, she was very stern about housecleaning, and I had no choice. Now, I have about 50 of this type of doll in my collection.

My third grade teacher was an awful crank, but she did like dolls, and I often got to take them to show and tell. She took us all on a tour of Miss Bolin’s dolls one day, and promised her a doll from Iran. It was the late sixties, and during the Shah’s era, so Americans could still travel freely.. .

No comments:

Post a Comment