Serendipity Photo Prompt #6 – Childhood Dolls


This post is in response to Marilyn’s “Serendipity Photo Prompt” for this week.

Marilyn shared a photo of her childhood Toni doll who has a lovely face.  I still have some of my childhood dolls too although they are not in great condition.

Theresa with her Raggedy Ann doll made by my mum.
Theresa with her Raggedy Ann doll made by my mum.

My mother loved dolls and I think that when she had little girls she was delighted not only to have two real life dolls to dress in matching outfits but also to have an excuse to buy dolls again. We probably disappointed her a lot by not providing her with grandchildren to buy them for too.

Amongst the many stories mum told me were the ones about the dolls that she used to own. The china headed doll given to her by her grandmother which she promptly dropped when a spider popped out of its mouth is one of the stories I remember. Now I  come to think of it a few of mum’s dolls seemed to have met with misadventures. She spent her early years abroad as my grandfather was in the British Army, from 1925 to 1933 they lived in Malta, Egypt and India. It’s probably not surprising that one doll with a wax head melted! Sadder was the fate of Valerie, mum’s last doll given to her when she was about fourteen and back in England. I’m not sure what Valerie was made from but she was a double jointed doll mum said and she was made of something breakable. If I have the story right my aunt left Valerie sitting at an open window. You can probably guess the rest. I think a cat may have been involved. Mum was especially disappointed about that as she had hoped to save the doll for her own daughters when she had them.

Mum used to love to make dolls and dolls clothes too. She made them for nieces and nephews, children that stayed when the family owned a guest house and eventually for my sister and me. Some were sewn from whatever materials she had on hand, real rag dolls, others were knitted. She made me a doll out of a pink dust cloth and a toy dog from a yellow one.

In later life she tended to knit more and made a great many toys from patterns in her favourite magazine, “The English Women’s Weekly”.  A lot were given away or occasionally sold to friends for their grandchildren but my sister still has quite a few of them at home.

Mum was pretty good at mending things too. She sewed and glued things back together if they were damaged in play. We used to have some small dolls, about four inches high which were strung with rubber bands. I’m sure nobody would give them to six and eight year olds now. If a limb came off mum always had a hair pin to coax the rubber band back on to the hook. If the hook broke she glued their heads or arms on and we just played that the doll had an accident that left it unable to move. On our voyage to Australia she had no glue when one doll suffered a breakage so she borrowed our cabin mates nail varnish and that did the trick.

I think that my sister and I played with our dolls in a much more involved way because when we were little mum would encourage us not just to dress and undress the doll but to make a story. I remember that we had a lot of dolls of similar size that we played schools with but later our dolls had fantastic made up adventures. In fact almost every toy we had assumed a personality whether it was a doll, Matchbox car or even a marble. I’m sure mum was responsible for that on some level.

Although I collect modern fashion dolls and dolls from other eras my favourites are still the ones from the early sixties when we spent so much time playing with them.

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7 comments

  1. Your mother sounds like an amazing woman! It was delightful reading this entry and the stories from your childhood and those she told you. I know I am sentimental about things my mother has made and continues to make. Some things just mean more because they have that connection to someone we love.

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  2. You really would enjoy my girls. They are the dolls we played with, that I played with. When dolls were meant to be played with by little girls, not displayed as perfect collectibles 🙂 It’s good to see I am not the only one with SO many dolls!!

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    • I think there are quite a lot of us actually although not all are as lucky as we are to still have our childhood dolls. The other thing that I think has changed a lot is that play dolls are such poor quality now. Of course there have always been knock offs of the popular dolls but I was in a toy store the other day and the Barbies on sale were no better than the cheap Hong Kong made clone dolls of my childhood. In fact they were worse because at least you could dress those. These had all plastic clothing molded on to them. Where’s the fun in that?

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