Polly Dolly (Or, Of Boys & Dolls)

I don’t write about dolls here much because I write about them for Diane’s Doll Hospital. In January, I wrote this piece for their newsletter; but since it was such a personal story, they graciously gave me permission to publish it here.

In 1972, the Ms. Foundation for Women produced Free to Be… You and Me, an illustrated book and record album set. Initiated by Marlo Thomas, the mission of the Free to Be… You and Me project was to provide healthy messages refuting and rejecting gender stereotypes while encouraging the positive and empowering post-1960s ideas of gender equality, individuality, comfort with one’s identity, and tolerance. Using her celebrity clout, Marlo Thomas got a number of her celebrity friends to create, write, and perform the modern day lessons to children in song and story form. No doubt the hope was that the parents and other adults in children’s lives were listening — and learning — too.

Just two years later, in March of 1974, ABC aired the Free to Be… You and Me television special. The TV special also had the celebrity cast of singers, performers, and narrators, known as Marlo Thomas and Friends. For the special, the LP tracks were often produced with animated cartoon visuals, designed to capture the attention of children who were used to being fed a steady diet of Saturday morning cartoons. (By this time, Schoolhouse Rock! was already seeing great success with its educational animation work.) A number of the segments from this TV special were also reformatted for educational use in schools, including audio-visual materials such as filmstrips. As a result of this heavy media saturation, many adults today readily remember Free to Be… You and Me. In fact, the principles behind Free to Be… You and Me combined with the nostalgia continue to drive the foundation and push sales; the record has remained in print all this time (as well as put onto CD) and a newly remastered version of the television special was released on DVD in 2010.

Among the most memorable and iconic Free to Be… You and Me stories was William Wants A Doll, based upon Charlotte Zolotow’s children’s picture book William’s Doll (1972). The animated TV version of William Wants A Doll, performed by Alan Alda and Marlo Thomas, was about a little boy who really, really wanted a doll. But William’s desire for a baby doll wasn’t encouraged.

william wants a doll

His friends told him not to be a “sissy”. His brother said not to be a “jerk”. His father tried to distract William with more manly toys, giving his son a basketball, a baseball glove, and other sports items as gifts. But none of this deterred William. In spite of all the mocking and manipulation, he still wanted a doll.

Eventually, William’s understanding grandmother gets William a doll! The boy is elated!

william and his doll

But William’s father is concerned by the gift, and it’s up to the grandmother to explain that it’s OK. After all, William just wants to love and care for a doll — and that’s how he will learn care for his own baby “as every good father should do”.

William’s lesson of boys and dolls was given over three decades ago. Since then, many studies have been done and many articles have been written. Over and over again they indicate that dolls are perfectly fine toys for boys. But still, the social pressure of “the boy code” persists so strongly that many people today remain shocked that little boys would like to play with dolls. Or that grown men would collect dolls. Thanks heavens for all the boys and men who ignored those people and just continued to love dolls!

[Break]

I was just 10 years old when William Wants A Doll hit television and I still remember it vividly. Not just for the whiny and grating (yet somehow infections) chorus of “A doll, a doll, William wants a doll”. (It is quite catchy!) Nor for the hoards of kids who sang it, matching the whiny and grating sound with mocking and contemptuous sneers. What made William Wants A Doll so memorable then was the shock I received seeing and hearing it — I was flabbergasted that it even existed.

How could the idea of a boy loving a doll even be “a thing” — let alone a thing so big that there had to be a counter-movement against it?

Now, you might say that I was a wise and accepting kid. Or that all kids are wise and accepting, at least until someone teaches them not to be. Or maybe you think I was just naive. …It is true that I didn’t have any brothers, so what did I know of male gender roles and doll troubles? But the truth is, I knew a little boy who had a doll — or, I should say, I knew of a little boy who’d had a doll growing up. That boy was now a man. And that man was my father.

This is my father, Dean, with his doll, Polly. Actually, to the family she is known as Polly Dolly.

deanwithpollydolly

Though Polly Dolly bears no marks for maker or origin, she is likely a German-made, soft-bodied, composition doll.

We aren’t sure exactly when Polly Dolly was made; but we do know that she was really born the day she was given to my dad and he christened her “Polly Dolly”. Not that my dad remembers that day. As far back as his memory goes, there’s always been a Polly Dolly. The best he can guess is that he was given the doll when he was about three years old. Since my father was born in 1942, that would be about 1945.

It was during those years that America, like most of the world, was involved in WWII. Even if you had a lot of money (and his family didn’t), toys were quite rare due to wartime rations. Now, as an adult, my father believes that Polly Dolly was a secondhand doll, likely given to his mother by a neighbor or family friend. Not that it mattered to the three year old boy. It was a toy — and it was his, all his!

At least for the next few years.

You see, my dad has a younger sister. Being three years his junior, her arrival was around the same time as Polly Dolly’s. That’s probably not a coincidence. More than likely, news that a baby was on the way was what motivated someone to give the doll away. Here was a little boy who needed to learn how to be gentle with a real baby coming into the house; some wise and generous person know a doll was in order!

Baby sister grew. And young Dean learned to share. First, he had to learn to share the bedroom he already shared with his grandmother. And then, he had to learn to share Polly Dolly too.

One day, when my dad was about seven or eight, his mother took his little sister on a walk down the block to the park — and his sister insisted upon taking Polly Dolly along. But when mother and daughter came back from the park, little Dean discovered that his sister had left Polly Dolly there!

Being that she was so little, it was up to Dean to go back to the park and get the doll. He was furious! This was more than just some annoying thing a big brother had to do to help his little sister; this was her mistake, and she should fix it. This was inexcusable! It was one thing to walk down the block to the park and let his pals see him running errands for his sister — but it was something else to be seen carrying a doll! Remember, this was 1949-1950, or so. Boys didn’t play with dolls. Teddy bears? Sure. But a doll for a guy was different. Heck, G.I. Joe hadn’t even been invented yet! (Not to mention, as my husband and all the other men in my life remind me all the time, G.I. Joe is an “action figure”, not a “doll”). Little seven or eight year old Dean did not want to be seen carrying a doll!

But — it was his beloved Polly Dolly; he had to go get her!

No one else was going to do it; it was up to him.

So young Dean waited as long as he possibly could before he went to rescue Polly Dolly. He figured the later it was, the less of his friends there would be at the park to see him fetch the doll. I obviously wasn’t there that night, but, as a parent myself now, I know the boyhood version of my father had to have a knot in his stomach waiting as he did, worrying with every passing minute whether Polly Dolly would be there… The longer he waited, the greater the risk that someone else could take her or break her… Was the potential embarrassment worth such a risk? What a gamble it all was!

I envision my father as a boy venturing out on Operation Rescue Polly Dolly… I picture him sticking to the lengthening shadows as much as possible to hide his face — his flushing, sweating, anxious face. I imagine his joy when he spots his doll, safe and sound, at the park… Perhaps some tears spring to his eyes; one part relief, another part shame at having risked, for the sake of his boyish pride, never seeing his friend again. I see him scooping Polly Dolly up and turning quickly to make that uncomfortable run home, still trying not to be spotted by any of his friends, as his emotions twist and turn into anger at his sister once again.  And how he ends up at home, winded and spent, just glad to be able to return Polly Dolly to her proper place in his bedroom.

So you see, even at 10 years old, I didn’t need William Wants A Doll to tell me that boys can love dolls. Nor today do I need a bunch of studies or articles to tell me how boys who play with dolls grow-up to become nurturing parents and caregivers. I’ve always had my dad to show me those things.

dean with polly dolly

[Break]

As you can see, Polly Dolly has seen better days. Or, as we learned in The Velveteen Rabbit, Polly Dolly has been made Real by someone who REALLY loves her. Like the Skin Horse in the book explained, “These things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” And we all understand.

Along with the damages to her pretty face and head, Polly Dolly also has some issues with her fingers and is completely missing her toes.

polly dolly vintage composition doll

back of polly dolly's head

composition doll's hand

momma crier doll hole

And there’s a hole punched through the fabric on her soft body, exposing that she once was a mama crier doll (though my father never recalls her having made any noise; the crier was likely damaged before he ever got her).

…OK, Polly Dolly may be a bit too Real. While I completely believe in what the Skin Horse says, that “Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always,” dear old Polly Dolly is in need of some serious repairs — if only to make sure she will be able to survive to supervise the stories about her as they are told to future generations.

polly dolly face

 I’d like to thank Diane’s Doll Hospital, again, for allowing me to post this article here. February is the month of sweethearts for me; not only for Valentine’s Day, but my daddy was born in February. So I am happy to celebrate him — and Polly Dolly — this month!

PS If you collect dolls, or just love them, you really should subscribe to the free Dolls By Diane newsletter. *smile*

Remember These Children’s Books?

Anyone else remember these vintage fairy tale books with the fancy “winky” cover inserts? If you are of a certain age, they are iconic as well as nostalgic.

RARE 1st Cover Snow Queen Child IZAWA SHIBA PRO GOLDEN Book 1968 PUPPET 1 ED 3D

Often called 3-D books, the iconic images on the front cover are actually lenticular designs created in Japan. Most of these books date to the 1960s. By the 1970s, the books were republished without the plastic inserts on the covers; instead, they were replaced with standard photographs of the posed puppets Those images themselves are rather iconic — to those of us who are of a certain age. This one is The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson illustrated by Shiba Productions and published by Golden Books. Via Little Slice of Heaven.

vintage Snow Queen Book 1968 PUPPET lenticular 3D

Positive Things You May Have Missed At EBay

I know that many of us who regularly hunt for collectibles at eBay are likely to start with our “My EBay Page” or a bookmarked link to one of our favorite category pages, and as a result we often never visit the main page of the site. As a result, even if it’s nearly a year old already, you may have missed eBay’s new blog called eBay Stories.

Unlike most things eBay, this part of eBay proper actually manages to focus on antiques, vintage items, and history. One of their latest posts was about how a lost WWI medal was found again. What collector doesn’t like to hear about a story like that? We love happy endings like that! To keep up with other similar stories, you can bookmark the “Remarkable Listings” category of the blog. Or make just one visit and subscribe to the newsletter.

PS If you’ve heard about eBay Collections, but aren’t sure what they are or how to use them, here’s a nice tutorial.

ebay stories wwi medal

A Very Tiny Dollhouse with Very Big Treasures

I hate dolls. They just creep me out. But, as I’ve mentioned before on the _floss, I have a bizarre fascination with dollhouses.

I’m in good company, though. Included amongst the millions of people interested in miniatures was Colleen Moore, a silent film star whose career fizzled a bit when the talkies came out. But movies weren’t her only passion: a love of miniatures was passed down to her from her father, and in 1928, she enlisted the help of a set designer friend to make a remarkably detailed eight-foot miniature “fairy castle.”

Deanna Dahlsad‘s insight:

Absolutely stunning!

See on mentalfloss.com

Over 55 thousand vintage dress privately collected — and offered to you

55thousanddresses – Over 55 thousand dress privately collected and offered to you.

Deanna Dahlsad‘s insight:

For 50 years, a man purchased vintage ball gowns, prom dresses, and other dresses for his wife to wear when they went dancing.  The collection totals 55 thousand gowns — and now is available for sale (one by one, of course!)

See on 55thousanddresses.com

Displaying Vintage Cookie Cutters

Some collections are easy to display for the holidays — and don’t require any additional trimmings either. In our space at Exit 55 Antiques, I’ve put the vintage cookie cutters in the ceramic basin of an antique washstand. It would be an awesome way to greet guests at the door, especially if you added some old wooden baby blocks spelling out “Welcome” or “Merry XMas” along the back shelf!

antique washstand with cookie cutters

Besides cookie cutters, what would you display this way?

Vintage German Christmas Tree Candle Clips

Before electricity made its way into most homes, Christmas trees had the warm glow of candlelight. The candles were attached to the tree branches via little metal clips. Most often they were decorative clips made in Germany, like these shown here.  Since using candles to light your tree is neither practical, nor safe, we don’t recommend bringing back that tradition lightly. (No pun intended!) But that doesn’t mean you can’t safely use these charming bits of Christmas past this holiday. They make wonderful placeholders, with or without candles, at your holiday table.

antique german tree clips as placecard holders

More than that, these vintage and antique Christmas tree clips can be used to display your holiday greeting cards (collectible ephemera and the new ones you receive from family & friends this year), photographs, etc. (As always, I would recommend sliding old or collectible paper in clear sleeves to protect them from the elements.)

christmas tree candle clips display cards

This sort of display would work well on holiday trim around doorways, etc.,; not just on trees.

display vintage ephemera with vintage christmas tree candle clips

In fact, since the designs on these old tree clips vary widely, including non-holiday motifs, like pine-cones, you could use them year round. For example, instead of clothespins on those framed bits of chicken-wire and other rustic ways to show-off photographs.

While I obviously prefer “old” pieces, if you prefer something more industrial (or at least not so shabby chic), there are contemporary clips as well. Whether you opt for old or new, whether you want to light the candles or not, the fact that they still make these tree candle clips means they still make the right size candles too.

Christmas Decorating For Collectors Who Want To Show Off Their Collections

The holidays, with all their visitors, are the perfect time for showing off our collections. And what collector doesn’t want to show off their collection?! Instead of replacing your antique and vintage treasures with holiday pieces, why not deck your collections along with decking the halls? It can be as simple as mixing in some simple holiday trims.

Here’s a collection of vintage soda pop bottles topped with simple gold and silver ball ornaments. It would make a unique centerpiece on any holiday table.

festive vintage soda pop bottle collection display

Collect breweriana, not pop? Gold balls really make vintage beer glasses come alive!

festive holiday poker display

Here I used some sparking Christmas tree balls and strings of garland to decorate some vintage pottery pieces.

vintage collectibles dressed for the holidays

Even more rustic country displays can be given some holiday glitz this way. I added some silver balls and garland to this set of vintage blue Ball canning jars.

festive primitives glass canning jars

And here, that rustic autumn centerpiece gets a bit more glamorous for the holidays. Along with the ball ornaments, I added some glittery golden picks.

rustic holiday centerpiece

Antique and vintage ornaments are nice to use, of course. And the old glass ornaments are actually much cheaper than you think right now. The kitschy vintage pipecleaner and flocked plastic ornaments, like the shelf-elves, are becoming more popular now and well out-price the vintage glass pieces. In fact, the vintage glass balls and ornaments — even those painted, frosted or otherwise decorated — can be found in antique shops in my area for as little as one dollar! (Contact me at my store page if you want me to be your personal shopper and get some for you!)

However, if you don’t have any vintage ornaments left over once you’ve decorated the Christmas tree, or if you cannot find enough old ornaments to get a color theme for your grouping, you can get extra trimmings inexpensively at the dollar store. That’s where all of these balls, picks, and garland came from.

Use Vintage Sleds To Carry The Holiday Gifts

I just love the look of old wooden sleds holding the Christmas presents. Sometimes you have more presents than the sled can carry — but a few on the sled looks lovely next to the tree! This is a photo of our display at Exit 55 Antiques.

antique vintage sled holding holiday gifts

Load Up Your Vintage Sleighs

We’ve all seen those cute vintage Santa and reindeer sleigh sets…

vintage santa reindeer and sleigh

And we’ve all seen enough of the old sleighs at thrift shops to know that eventually, like Santa’s sleigh Christmas morning, whatever goodies were originally in the sleigh have left — even Santa and his reindeer have departed leaving an empty and forlorn sleigh, just shadow of its former useful and joyful self.

But Wanda’s archive of Christmas decorating inspires me to rescue and adopt these old empty sleighs and fill them with other collectibles. (I do have quite a number of those just sitting around!) Here she shows some vintage plastic dolls of other nations taking a ride around the world in Santa’s sleigh.

vintage dolls in sleigh

And here, retro kitschy poodles pile on in! I just love that!

poodles in sleigh

One Of A Kind 18 Page Vintage Science Chart Set by AJ Nystrom Flip Chart HUGE Like Pull Down School Map Illustrated Machines Biology Botony

A vintage set of Science Charts by A. J. Nystrom & Company of Chicago. The 18 pages are bound in a metal mounting — like those pull-down wall

Deanna Dahlsad‘s insight:

Click for the fabuluos pics!

See on www.etsy.com

Casual Vintage Holiday Table Centerpiece Using An Old Wooden Drawer

As I’ve said before, I like useful collectibles — and, because I don’t like anything to go to waste, I like to find new ways to make use of old things. Just because something is “old and just laying around,” doesn’t mean it can’t be salvaged or re-purposed. Like the vintage refrigerator crisper drawers, I knew these old wooden desk drawers I’d found could do something new and fabulous… Worn, paint-chippy wood is so charming!

Immediately, I thought of the holidays and the need for low centerpieces which wouldn’t get in the way of seeing family and friends.

vintage fall thanksgiving table

I lined the drawer with this seasons’ hottest decorating fabric is burlap (probably because it is both rustic and natural looking for Fall), but you can use any fabric that goes best with your table settings. Inside, I placed some nested vintage brown glazed stoneware bowls, a vintage brown milk bottle, some little glass bottles with colorful rocks and shells, and then, for some extra seasonal flair, I tucked in some pheasant feathers. Pretty enough for a Thanksgiving table, don’t you think?

old wooden drawer used as table centerpiece

You can certainly fill the bowls with pine cones or something else decorative, or use the bowls to help with serving at  the holiday table. And you sure can go crazy with red and green for Christmas; or change the colors and decorative combinations to match your china, your every day decor, whatever you’d like!

I may just keep this vintage wood drawer on the table top all the time. It can be awfully practical, serving to store the family’s usual table needs, such as napkins, salt and pepper shakers, the morning’s cereal bowls — whatever you find you need to leave on the table. And since it’s all in one drawer, you can pick it up as easily as any tray (maybe even more so, as the deeper sides mean less things will topple out and over!) to wipe the table clean, change the tablecloth, etc.

(See also Sit Down to Handmade Table Settings.)

Photos Reveal Harsh Detail Of Brazil’s History With Slavery – NPR (blog)

NPR (blog)
Photos Reveal Harsh Detail Of Brazil’s History With Slavery
NPR (blog)
Brazil was the last place in the Americas to abolish slavery — it didn’t happen until 1888 — and that meant that the final years of the practice were photographed.

Deanna Dahlsad‘s insight:

Have you ever looked at your collection of photographs and noted what stories they tell and preserve?

See on www.npr.org

Lessons From The Maltese Falcon

You may have read the news about the titular movie prop from film noir classic The Maltese Falcon (1941) going up for auction — expected to fetch $1.5 million. The 50 pound falcon statue is valuable not only to those who love film or who are fans of Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor, but to art lovers as well, for the prop was created by Fred Sexton.

The Maltese Falcon statuette

Guernsey’s, the auction house behind the auction at New York City’s Arader Galleries, provides quite a lengthy piece on authentication of the film prop, which begins with this basic story:

The story of the Maltese Falcon statuette begins the same year the movie was filmed – 1941 – when Huston hired Los Angeles-based artist Fred Sexton to sculpt the prop for his directorial debut. Huston and Sexton were high school classmates and close friends, and the film director collected many of Sexton’s paintings.

In an on-camera interview with Vivian Sobchack in August 2013, Sexton’s daughter, Michele Fortier, discussed her father’s distinctive and familiar signature, and described her childhood experiences amongst Hollywood’s early elite and on movie sets.

Hank Risan owns two authenticated Maltese Falcon statuettes from the 1941 film production that bear Fred Sexton’s distinctive “F.S.” markings and they are widely regarded as two of the most valuable film props in the history of cinema. In 2004, UCLA Professor Richard Walter, a court-approved expert appraiser, supported the high valuations in an eloquent comparison to another highly-prized film prop: one of four pairs of ruby red slippers worn by Judy Garland in the iconic Wizard of Oz, which sold for $666,000 in 2001. “But whatever the slippers’ value,” Professor Walter wrote, “it has to be less than that of the falcons because the slippers are merely one prop, albeit an important one in the movie. The falcons on the other hand are the namesake props that define the picture itself. It is significant in the extreme that in addition to being important props they are also the title of the film.”

“Life imitates art,” stated Mr. Risan. “What’s amazing is that in the film Spade and Gutman discuss the value of the falcon in similar terms. The rara avis has a unique backstory as compelling off-screen as in the film. The black birds are truly objects d’art.”

However, in the auction held today, The Maltese Falcon did not fetch the predicted million dollars or more — in fact, it didn’t sell at all.

The official language for that is “passed” and it happens when the reserve price is not met. While the reserve may have been set too high, this can happen simply because everyone thought everyone else would be bidding and so they assumed they wouldn’t get it. Auctions are rather like elections that way; people stay home thinking everyone else is going to take care of business. But, be it auction or election, those who care ought to show up.

It remains to be seen how long it will take for this Maltese Falcon to show up at auction again.

View-Master Viewers

The following is a list of viewers produced from 1938 to 1996 and the “known” variations. Since many items are continually being “discovered” for the first time, any updates by our readers would be greatly appreciated. We are only listing production viewers.

Deanna Dahlsad‘s insight:

A great timeline of View-Master viewers

See on www.cinti.net

Scotty The Pup Desk Accessory

You may have seen these vintage wire desk sets, but chances are you didn’t know they had a name — or at least you probably didn’t know their name. Like many vintage items are found without the boxes, it can be hard to find out the actual name of an item. Thankfully, I found this one boxed so I know this little guy is Scotty The Pup, aka Mac’s Dog.

vintage scotty dog desk secretary

His metal coil body holds letters, his coiled tail holds a pen (or pencil), and you can hang paperclips off his chin. These vintage doggy desk sets came in silver chrome, gold, and matte black finishes. I’ve got one silver, and one black one. The silver desk secretary doggie was an early one; the box is marked that the patent was applied for.

vintage scotty the pup box