Monday, July 6, 2015

Childhood Dolls

I know basements, or cellars, aren't common in many areas of the world, but here in Northeast Ohio, they are extremely common. They usually have the washing machine and dryer, and the utility tubs, large tubs for cleaning things that would be impractical in the other sinks in the house. Before showers were common, utility tubs were apparently even used for washing hair, which is what my mother taught my sisters and I to do when we were old enough to reach over to the faucet. It wasn't until we got a little older that we realized that we *did* have a shower, and we could use that to wash our hair, like our friends did!

Moving on from that bit of history and nostalgia, basements are also used to store things that are wanted, but aren't used often enough to have them take up space in the living areas of the house. Holiday decorations or camping supplies are a common example. However, my mom's basement needs some serious waterproofing, and it was largely for that reason that my sisters and I needed to clean out what was unnecessary in the basement, either throwing things away, donating things to charity, or taking what was precious up to the first floor now that my mom has the whole house to herself to store things.

We found some interesting things down there. A few newspapers headlining the end of WWII in Europe, or the first moon landing. My mother's high school diploma, tassel, and class picture. But my mother had also stashed lots of old toys belonging to my sisters and I down there, and I want to show two of my old dolls today.

The first one is probably my very first doll. I received her from my grandparents for my first Christmas when I was six months old. She's dirty, her rooted hair is matted and dried out, and her dress is dirty. Her hollow torso is of a cheaper plastic than the limbs. Her only marking is U11 on the back of her head at the hairline. Here she is after years of play, and a few extra decades spent in a basement.
Here I am as a baby, sitting on my grandmother's lap, with the doll on my lap. My mother's hands are also in the picture. Please excuse the poor quality photo; this is a screen shot from an old Super 8 home movie, converted to DVD.
The other doll I discovered who was worth taking away, was my Rub-a-Dub Dolly, made by Ideal. Her main characteristic was that she was supposedly waterproof, so she could be played with in the bathtub. Her initial release date was 1973, so if I got her that year, I would have been five. I don't think I have any old photos of her, but I found a website where a girl put up a picture of herself having just received her Rub-a-Dub Dolly. Click here to check that out.

As you can see, she came with a hooded towel, and underpants which probably should have been a diaper except that would be impractical for water play. My mother sewed a bathrobe for my dolly as well. Based on some other items found down the basement, it looks like my mother used one of our old baby receiving blankets to make the bathrobe. Here is Rub-a-Dub Dolly showing every bit of her forty-two years, poor thing.
I think my mother would have preferred us to play with dolls like this for our entire childhood, although I'm not sure of her exact reasoning. One Christmas, though, my aunt gave my sisters and I Malibu Barbie and Skipper, with the really cool tan lines, and the damage was done. In my case, it launched me to a lifetime of both doll collecting and sewing, for dolls and otherwise. (I enjoyed hand sewing clothes for my Barbie dolls.)

The question is now, what do I do with these dolls? If they were to be given away, they'd have to be cleaned, rerooted, and get new clothes. I don't do rerooting, and I'm not inspired to sew for dolls this old. Would it be terrible just to throw them out? I have a bad habit of anthropomorphizing things like old dolls and stuffed animals, when sometimes they are just too worn out, or there isn't a need for them anymore. Once they were given away, I wouldn't know what eventually became of them, and that might even bother me, silly though I am. Know if any old dolls like this have been successfully given new lives?

18 comments:

  1. What fun dolls to find! I love seeing toys like this turn up!

    I don't think it would be horrible to throw them out but (at least with that first doll) it might be fun to clean her up and then store her until any potential grandchildren came along - and then try to replicate that photo of you with the same doll. But then I'm love that kind of through-the-generations photo - I know some people aren't such fans of that, so fair enough if not. :)

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    1. I like the photo idea. My mother took a picture of my youngest daughter wearing a baby dress that my mother had worn as a baby. :)

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  2. I can't be a good judge of "to throw or not to throw", since I'm probably the worst person in the world with, as you put it, "anthropomorphizing" things. (I have every one of my old toys that my mom didn't manage to throw away.) But you are a doll collector. Even if you don't have warm feelings for these dolls, you might still enjoy them as part of your collection. I think once you clean them up,(A nice warm bath and shampoo and maybe a gentle scrub with a toothbrush is probably all they need, right?), and put them in some clean clothes, and maybe a bonnet for that top one, you might feel they display nicely. I think you might be glad you've kept them, and the robe sewn by your mother from your own baby blanket. It's especially nice that you have that picture, which you could display next to your doll.

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    1. I don't know, Tam; the hair on both of these dolls is pretty dried out. I think reroots would be in order, although I might be wrong. I'm definitely keeping the dolly bathrobe, in any case.

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    2. I also forgot to add that the first doll is missing a row of hair plugs at the front, which is another reason why rerooting might work out best for her.

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  3. I have some childhood dolls too. We live in a big city so there are no cellars but there is a closet in my old room that's blocked by some big boxes and carpets and that's where most of my old stuff is. I have no interest in child dolls now, but I found a lady here who loves them. Once the closet door is clear, I'll bag all but one and give them to her. Try to get in touch with collectors close to you, perhaps you could find one who is interested in "vintage" dolls like these (or put them online and charge just the shipping costs). If you're interested, I can link you to a Russian lady who pulls dolls out of garbage bins that are in seemingly hopeless condition, restores them beautifully and sells them to other collectors who go nuts over this kind of thing. Just to give you an idea of what people are willing to do for old dolls. But of course you can throw them out, they are your dolls after all.

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    1. I typed a reply to this, and I don't know where it went! Anyway, I wouldn't think anyone would be interested in the first dolly because she was just a very inexpensively made no-name doll, even if she is vintage. There seems to be some people out there who were very attached to their old Rub-a-Dub Dollies, so someone might one mine. I'm definitely not going to throw them away just yet. No need to hurry anything.

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  4. I would keep both! Don't forget about my Rose. If she can get a nice make over any doll can!

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    1. I was thinking of your Rose as I wrote this post, actually!

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  5. It's so nice to come across some of your old dolls! I am mixed as well...to be honest, if it were me, and they really appeared to be in poor condition, I'd probably just throw them out. I get overwhelmed with too much clutter, though so that is just me! I'd enjoy having found them again, but probably wouldn't have the energy to try to restore them. It might be really cool to try though, if you have the time as previous people have mentioned there may be some collectors that would love to have them!

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    1. I'm not capable of doing a good restoration myself, but I have some place out of the way to keep them for a while. I do dislike the idea of throwing out a doll that someone else might like to have.

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  6. I think the Rub-a-Dub doll could be interesting for a collector of child dolls indeed, if you should decide not to keep your dolls. The first doll has a nice dress, it might look better if washed? We have a lot of cellars here too, in my mother's cellar there's still a bag with some of my old, worn plush toys in it :-). Maybe you can decide if they are around for a while whether you want to keep them or throw them out.

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    1. Yep, the clothes should definitely be washed. I wanted to show them "as-is," but I'll spruce them up a bit.

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  7. We've got cellars here in Philly. Usually call them basements. I'll check on difference, the semantics Hmmm ... .

    I've been wondering about some of my older dolls, too. Chrissy, Kerry, the 2 Mias, Aimee, Harmony, and my big babies, Pumpkin and Lotus. Oddly, I sold some of the Sunshine Family dolls. Have no keen interest in them now. No kids to pass them on to. Keep or sell/give away? Interesting to ponder.

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    1. I personally think of a cellar as something underneath a much older house, probably used just to store food, like a root cellar. But I think basement is an American word.

      You have a lot of older dolls. I thought Chrissy was so cool when I was a girl. And I had some Sunshine Family stuff too.

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  8. Oh - meant to comment - aw, you were a cute kid.

    And jSarie's suggestion of having a grandchild hold the doll(s) sounds adorable to me, too.

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    1. Thank you, Dana!

      I have to admit I like the grandchild suggestion also. Although my daughters currently don't think much about giving me grandchildren, since they are teenagers.

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  9. Do not throw them - especially not Rub A Dub. She is now a collector item. If they need attention let an avid doll restorer have them. Thrown out stuff goes into landfill. Not good imo

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