I still remember her telling me how much her hand shook when she wrote a check for 1500 dollars for a doll. She wasn't just any doll. She was a very large 1159 lady and worth every penny and more, but how far we had come from that 50 dollar check to this. I was always so proud of how she loved and cared for all the wonderful things in her home and she was proud of how I loved and cared for the things in my home. In springtime when I would change things up in my large doll room, I would always call her to come spend a few moments with me and we would discover new things in my collection. It is amazing how just moving a doll from one spot to another, adding different accessories will sometimes make you feel as if you have a whole new doll:-)
We spent a lot of our free time in education and sharing of this thing we both loved. I still remember the first time Irene called and said that the St. Lawrence Historical Society would like for us to do a “talk” on dolls. We were both busy in our work lives but when an opportunity came to share our passion, we would jump at that chance.
I had done several “shows” for the children in my daughters and sons school over the years. One of them in particular was a huge hit. It consisted of old timey(sic) toys. I had a large collection and took in marbles that I had dug up from my garden, dominoes, checkers, a toy piano, Bugs Bunny Jack in the box, pinball games, a top that is no longer available for play as it has a nail on the end for spinning, a yo-yo, Hula Hoop, and many that I played with as a poor kid growing up in the South. One was to take a large button and put string through two of the holes in the center. You make the string long enough that you can turn it over and over in your hand, winding the string up. When the string is wound tight, you gently pull the string away from the center of your body and you have a twirling thingamagig(sic) that is good for hours of play. The other one that they were fascinated with, was a plain piece of string about 30 inches long and you tie the ends together to make a circle. You take that string and with a series of movements you can make a cup and saucer, a crows foot, and Jacobs Ladder if you are very good. Children of the video game age still loved the hands on toys of yesteryear, I discovered and I loved sharing what it was like to grow up as a child of the 50's . Many of them had never played hopscotch, or dodge ball, or tether ball and I was determined that the children of the 90's would recognize these games when they encountered them and that they would also carry the games on into other generations of their own children when they grew up:-)
We readied ourselves for our first sharing together.
We decided to take about 100 dolls and accessories of all kinds. I took Emily my 30 “ Jutta and Irene took her amazing parian and several cloth dolls of the 1900's such as Bruckners rag doll, some earlier photo faces, and we took our story dolls. I had my childhood Polly Ponds Beauty doll and told her story to misty eyes as I held her lovingly in my arms. I overheard someone say “look how gently she cradles her in her arms” And I do cradle her. She is the only doll I ever received and the memory of the day I opened her box is still fresh in my mind.
Irene told of the Papier Mache and how when I came to visit, she was on the floor and shared with them her lovely mommy made outfits which were impeccable because women and children of that day learned to sew. She told them of the day she found her in the drawer. Her Uncle that she loved had died and left her his home because they were so close and there were several pieces of furniture left in the home. She had spent time cleaning up and cleaning out the things that she wanted to keep and this dresser was one of the things to keep. Her family had moved the dresser to its place and Irene was tired after a long day of work and moving, but her curiosity got the better of her and she opened the drawers just to see if anything was inside. The top drawer was empty and the second drawer was empty, BUT the third drawer had this wonderful doll in it with clothing and she held her in her arms like the treasure that she is. I wish all of you could see this lovely dark haired 24 or 26 inch doll as I am seeing her now surrounded by her calico printed day dresses that were probably flour sacks:-) She is so beautiful and I believe was an Omen of the dolls that would one day make their way to Irene's home.
St .Lawrence Co. Historical Society Doll Sharing
St. Lawrence Co. Historical Society Sharing
The next display that I did alone was as a Resident of DePeyster. The present Historian Adelaide Steele called and said she had heard I had some dolls and would I come bring some of them to the round building in town to celebrate the 100th birthday of its being built, and of course I said Yes, I will come. I knew that I had Agnes' Doll in the box from the year 1896 which was the exact year that this unique round building had been built and along with her I brought at least 100 other dolls, clothing, toys, and things of that time period. As you will see from the pictures that I have shared. I never do anything half way and it was a huge amount of work with the labeling and carrying of things to share but it was a huge success. I stayed behind the fence I had erected to keep prying childrens hands away, and talked with everyone that came to visit. So that the young ones would have something to play with , I had brought some sturdy dolls and toys to share with them, so that they too could discover the thrill of holding something 40 or 50 years old. They loved the squeak dolls of Sun Rubber and Ruth Newton and I was glad that I remembered to bring something for them to play with. Little did I know that I would be asked to be Deputy Historian and then later when dear Adelaide passed to be the Historian but things happen for a reason, and I accepted and relished the opportunity to share my life, my collections, and my love of all things old with the generations that would visit my displays over the next few years.
DePeyster Sharing 1996
The highlight of my years and the doll gatherings was no doubt the Winter Tea Party. My birthday is in February and Irene would plan this amazing tea party and invite the entire neighborhood to visit with the only criteria being ,to bring a doll or bear to share. She wanted it to be a personal treasure from you so that we could all hear “your” story and so that these stories could be kept alive.
I have to say that Irene outdid herself in these meetings. She brought out her best dishes with Kewpies on them, hung paper dolls up and down the doll cases, made areas of interest for people to discuss, opened her entire home to multitudes of people with the only thing in common being that we loved dolls. We set up the dolls that we had brought on a beautifully covered antique pool table, and I had a little area set off to the side in which I brought a few doll books and would value or Identify your dolls for you.
There were many stories that touched my heart so much that sometimes I cried when I heard them. Such as the 94 year old lady that had brought her childhood doll, a large Simon Halbig that her Daddy had bought her. They did not have much money, but he sacrificed to make sure that his beloved daughter had the largest doll in the store window.
Dads and Moms of all time have sacrificed to make their young ones happy and her parents were no exception. She had arranged for “ Tilde” short for Matilda to be donated to a local Museum after her passing as she wanted everyone to see her beloved doll everyday and remember that she was so loved by her owner.
We talked dolls, we sipped tea, we ate tiny snacks laid out on beautiful dishes and we shared our hearts, our love of dolls, and how they had changed our lives. The one prevailing theme was that our dolls or bears had made our lives better. They had brought people into our lives that remained with us as they had done for me and Irene. We would also share our story and it always seemed like such fate that we met as we did and that we lived where we did. The Doll Lady from California met the Doll lady from NY and our intertwined lives began.
I hope that all of you know me and my friend Irene a little better now, and just how much dolls have brought people joy and happiness since time began. Parents have always made toys for their children and dolls have been a prevailing theme through the ages..
It does not matter if a stone doll was made for a child or if a famine was happening and a cloth doll was made, or if the stock market crashed, or if WWI and WWII happened; children of all ages have wanted something to hold in their arms at night and parents everywhere have obliged.
I am thankful to Irene for not only sharing her dolls with me, but for shaping the 17 years that I lived in the North Country. She gave her time, often times bought dolls from me to help me out, took me to her family outings on the lake, traveled with me to meet other doll enthusiasts and she loved me as I loved her.
Thank you all for reading and the many beautiful comments that have been sent my way. I love dolls but as a friend of mine says, “ Dolls are nice but the friendships that you make along the way are the real treasure of doll collecting” and I agree whole heartedly...
Til next time.
Love to all, Kimmee