A Doll’s House


First off, let me just say that some dolls creep me right out. I’m not one for porcelain dolls or life-like baby dolls. Maybe it was a movie I saw or a museum exhibit, I’m not sure, but most dolls give me the willies.

However, as a very little girl, I used to like to drag around a baby doll (the infamous over-scrubbed one from this tale). I graduated to Mattel’s “Chatty Cathy” when I was around 5 or 6 years old. In Grade One, my teacher, Miss Garnett (Hey, Miss “G”!) nicknamed me “Chatty Cathy” because I basically never shut up. My school reports always read: “Excellent progress, but talks too much.” By the way, Miss G and I got on famously – she even wrote me a letter from Europe when she went on her summer holidays. At the time, I thought she was so old, but now I know she was probably only about 22. Isn’t it funny how we perceive the age of adults when we are children? Of course, as we ourselves get older, what WE think of as old gets higher and higher in number, does it not? At 47, I think 90 is pretty old, but 20 years ago, I thought 50 was ancient!

From “ChattyCathy”, I moved up to Ideal’s sister doll to Tammy–“Pepper” . She was a spunky little, curly-mopped doll with dresses and ensembles not unlike my own. In fact, WE could have been sisters. She was fun to play with and like me, she was an only child – well, an orphan, really, since no one ever thought to provide her with parent-dolls. She had the company of my three favourite stuffed toys: Teddy, the orange and white bear, sent to me at age 6 months by my dad’s sister, Josie – all the way from the UK. Then there was Doggie, a little velveteen Boston Terrier. When you curled back his lips, a gorgeous red velvet was revealed. Who ever would have thought to put in that detail, I wonder? There was also a very large pink poodle with a huge head. He had a zipper running the length of his under-carriage, wherein a little girl might stuff a pair of pajamas, or secret away anything private. Pinky – (You saw that one coming, didn’t you?) was kept around for a long time since he was quite useful in that way as I came to acquire (or create) more “private” stuff.

Around about the late 60s, I was inducted into the Mattel cult of Barbie. My parents weren’t up on the whole Barbie world, however, and instead of the typical, blonde, busty bimbo, I got straight-legged “Francie”. She was probably my dad’s choice as he was known to favour the brunettes on film. He liked Hedy Lamarr, (He always said, “She can put her shoes under my bed, anytime!”), Sylvia Sidney, Audrey Hepburn and Cyd Charisse who, according to Daddy, had the best legs on film.
Francie was cute, and I wasn’t disappointed. After all, I’m not a blonde either, so it was kind of like dressing myself (if I had been older and self-sufficient or independently wealthy). She did have limitations with those legs, though – she couldn’t ride a horse (Doggie), or pedal a bike, or even sit in a chair, so she had as much fun as she could standing ramrod straight, or lying down in her case, looking gorgeous.
Her case was white plastic with a silver metal clasp on the side and a carrying handle at the top. Lord knows, that case got carted around from house to house when I visited friends and relatives. It unsnapped and opened up to reveal a semi-closet with tiny metal rod and little plastic hangers (remember those?) for her ever-burgeoning wardrobe and accessories (which had their own pull out drawer).

Later on, I would get another Barbie – replete with large breasts, bendable legs and bikini, but no Ken doll, or any “Action Jackson” or “G.I. Joe” ever entered the Davison house. Why? I think it was to avoid the possibility of an unseemly encounter while either one of them was being undressed. We were a good Catholic family after all; we couldn’t have anyone’s lumps or bumps accidentally grazing each other, could we?

A bit of an odd entry also appeared on the doll front in the late 60s. They were a kind of blend of the “Gumby and Pokey” concept with cute, long-haired, little girl figures. They were charming and bendy and fun and came in cool picture-frame packages with neat accessories like rocking horses and sailboats, but they were also the source of humiliation at my and the other not endowed girls’ expense. When grade school boys cottoned on to the name of “Flatsy” they decided to use it to tease and taunt any girls who had yet to “blossom” into early womanhood. They would chant, “Flatsy, Flatsy, they’re flat and that’s that!” (thanks, marketing manager!) as they pointed and giggled and then ran away. The “Flatsy” girls were never to be seen in the high branches of the big oak tree out back of the school, being explored by the big boys in Grade Six. Too bad they didn’t make a rubber doll called, “Busty” – we could have got our own back with that one!

My favourite doll of all-time had to be the Topper “Dawn Doll”. She was a miniature version of the Barbie doll – standing at only 4 3/4 “, but she had gorgeous, long, straight hair. Her tiny face was made up to perfection and her wardrobe was a knockout blend of groovy casuals and haute couture pieces! I can only vaguely remember a few outfits that any of my dolls owned – My Barbies shared a beautiful, tiered and scalloped, white organza, mid-calf dress and Dawn had a funky red raincoat with a black belt.

Jane K (of the Burnt Offerings and Roller-Derby posts) had an Angie doll from the same line and the two of us played with them for hours on end. We even took them swimming in our 3 foot deep, above-ground pool in the backyard. For some reason we found it highly entertaining to watch their long locks get sucked up into the pump of the pool. We were easily amused back then, weren’t we? Now we have to have reality shows and action movies and celebrity magazines and shopping sprees to keep ourselves entertained. Whatever happened to the fantasy-world we lived in with dolls?

One Christmas, Santa brought me this fantastic, plastic box that opened up into 3 distinct, funky, pre-decorated rooms, complete with molded plastic furniture in primary colours. It was sort of disco meets mid-century modern crossed with 1950’s stay-at-home mom. What a trippy little palace the “Barbie Family House” was. Fortunately, there was room for everybody – Francie, Barbie, the Flatsies, Dawn and Angie and all the visitors that stopped in from time to time.
The “Family House” had a carrying -handle in the top of the box and I used to heft it next door to Jane’s house, where unbeknownst to my parents, she had a “Ken Carson” doll and a bendable “Brad” who were very lucky men-about-town, because they got to share a bed with not one, but two or three bosomed and negligeed girls. It was a kind of “Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice” sort of family.

Perhaps the doll culture is why we women become rather controlling in our relationships with men/spouses. I mean, after all, we spend years as kids, putting words into the mouths of all our plastic figures – we make them say what we want them to say. It’s only when we come together in real life, that we realize that doesn’t work. “Ken” has a mind of his own…and says what HE wants to say. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just put your man in his case every once in a while and snap it shut? Or select a new beach cover up for him and pop on a new hair-piece? Then you’d take him out later and everything would be just fine. Just fine.

Kathleen Mortensen©2009

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38 thoughts on “A Doll’s House

  1. Interesting blog and post. Love my old 60s toys. Relevantly, as many nationally influential voices have repeatedly noted, Obama is part of Generation Jones, born 1954-1965, between the Boomers and Generation X. Google Generation Jones, and you'll see it’s gotten a lot of media attention, and many top commentators from many top publications and networks (New York Times, Time magazine, NBC, Newsweek, ABC, etc.) are specifically referring to Obama, born in 1961, as part of Generation Jones.

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  2. Some of these dolls (Chatty C and Barbie) I know about but never had (just enough older) and the rest you mentioned I've never heard of. I wonder if that's because they were Canadian made?? I had Madame Alexander dolls, and a Revlon doll – an 18″ precurser of Barbie (and also “semi-anatomical” if you get my drift). Nothing seems to have the staying power of Barbie, though.

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  3. I liked that post Kat! I did not have very many toys or dolls, but would have a collection as an adult if money were no object. A few like you said do give you the creeps, but I love Barbie and all of the miniature things like her sunglasses, etc. I have a couple of dollhouses put back for grand daughters. I am not familiar with stumble upon and those things, but I did click on it, and then could not decide which category to put it in. I will check it out a little more and see if I can figure it out.

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  4. Mary Lou – What did you play with as a kid?Connecting – I had no idea a) I was a Generation Joneser b) Barack Obama is the same age as I am. I Googled as you suggested and am very interested in this niche group. I've changed my blog description in accordance with the information. Thanks! I hope you'll be back.Deb – All of the dolls were American. Revlon had a doll? That's interesting. 18″ is pretty big – was she an Amazon Queen?Brenda – I know the categories are confusing. I'd try “toys” or pop culture if there's something like that. Thanks.Kat

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  5. Goodness me – this is amazing! I'll have to show Nexi too, she'll be fascinated!I've not got my neck round the 'stumble upon' things yet – I must look into it over the next few days. I usually need someone to explain tekky things to me, or I get confused!Great post, Poetikat!

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  6. This is the second time this week I've left a note on a blog about Topper Dawn Dolls. I LOVED THEM. As an adult, I bought up a bunch on ebay b/c as a kid I didn't have any. So, very soon, I'm planning a GenX virtual party with my Dawn Dolls. Seriously. I needed a psychiatric evaluation over my spending spree. I masked the purchase as gifts for my daughter, but she never played with them, which really made me loopy. How could she not LOVE Dawn Dolls? I still want the vintage majorette. I agree with you about dolls giving the willies. The only thing weirder than porcelain dolls and over-the-top baby dolls are, well, the peeps who collect them. Also, I think I had that Barbie house. I think we never lose our affection for childhood toys.

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  7. Wow… this was like peeking into someone else's world. Literally. I never did play with dolls; I was a tomboy, and I “hated” girly stuff. The funny thing is, my daughter is the same; I hear the same things coming out of her mouth, and I swear I didn't steer her at all, I swear!! She, like me, prefers stuffies to plastics. Especially ones that eat one another. Or ones that are easy to tie up and gag. But I suppose that's a whole other story… she really is a gentle child. Her stuffies are just a bit… fixated with organized crime.Actually, I did have a plastic doll, once; a chubby, brown-skinned baby. The only reason I asked my mum to buy it for me is because it wasn't white, or pink, or whatchamacallit. So I decided it was much more special, being non-Caucasian. But I never did play with that doll; I just kept it the way a collector would.I see no problem with playing with dolls, putting words in their mouths, that kind of thing. I just never did it.The funny thing is, though I was a tomboy, and I was raised to be skeptical of the bizarre anatomy of Barbie, aware of how women are shaped and marketed by pop culture as slender, muscle-free waifs, I don't think I turned out any better than anyone else. I was very self-conscious of my body as a teenager, and anorexic at age 18. I sure hope my daughter will have an easier ride.

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  8. For my 5th birthday, I got the Donnie and Marie Doll. Donnie even came with purple socks. I also got the stage that folded out and there was even backstage dressing rooms. I never got any Barbies after that, I guess my father stepped on one too many pointy shoes in the dark. However, my neighbor had them all and I would go over and play there. Thanks for the post, that was fun!

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  9. Raph – Oh, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Send Nexi over for a gander.JenX67 – I can't wait to see your post with Dawn Dolls party! I wish I still had mine, but I think they got donated to charity somewhere along the line.Rachel – to tell the truth, I'd say I was more of a “stuffies” gal, myself. Just a few years ago, I had over 100 of them (picked up in thrift stores, or carry-overs from my childhood/youth). I finally had to cull them as they were taking over our quite small house. I couldn't look – had to bag them up with my head turned. They all had names and personalities of their own (see this is what happens when you have no kids).So, I'm down to a handful now, but I still have the original “Teddy” bear in this post. I crocheted him a new body suit and he lives in the spare room.WOR – stepping on pointy shoes –that's funny!Kat

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  10. What a GREAT post and so funny too! This should be a magazine article so more can enjoy it.You named dolls I've never heard of. I had one doll as a child, Tiny Tears. That's it! I was more into trucks and trains. although I did love paper dolls.This was a great post Kat.

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  11. Oh my Gosh, Sandy! Tiny Tears is the FIRST doll I had – we just couldn't remember her name. She's the one in the post about hair and the Barbie Beauty Centre. There's even a Christmas picture with her in it.The problem with posting to the blog, is that it's highly unlikely that any magazine will touch it, BUT I have other plans for it.KatJanuary 26, 2009 1:23 PM

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  12. I love this post! Did you ever see the one that you could make the hair long and short with a knob on the back? There was another that had both blonde and brunette hair. I think you could rotate her scalp… ewww.I came over for a quick sleuthing mission. Just because you're not hiding it here, doesn't mean you're free from guilt.Ewwww! the word verification is scrotiz

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  13. Well, for us boys we too had a “Barbie type fold out house” of sorts. It was the amazing Bridge of the Starship Enterprise from Star Trek! http://www.monstersinmotion.com/catalog/images/startrek/DMC11009.jpgThe coolest thing in the whole world was the “Transporter Room” Insert one 12″ Action Figure, spin the blue dial, push the red button to make the figure “disappear”, spin the blue wheel again and push the green button to make them “reappear”. Too cool!As far as your whole “Ken Doll” wish. Whenever I do something for Becky and anyone comments on how nice I am, Becky's favorite thing to say is, “You don't think he came out of the box like that, do you?” According to her, It took years of “programing” to get me that way. LOL!

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  14. Hi British Gal – Thanks for stopping in. I was raised in Mississauga and had friends and relatives in Brampton. We don't live out in the country, unfortunately, although we did live in Fergus and Elora for a number of years before coming here. It's nice to be close to the rural farmland though.kat

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  15. Oh man, I had the blonde bimbo version Barbie, complete with blue eye shadow! She came in a blue case, the handle of which broke on Day 2. It's all upstairs, masking tape still holding that handle together. She's probably worth something, but I'm such a sentimental sucker. Sis had Barbie's friend “Madge/Marge?”, who was a brunette. I always thought that weird since little sis was blonde and I had brown hair. I had a blond Ken….with a plastic crewcut! Sis had his buddy, “Alan” maybe? Eventually I had a flexible “little sister” doll call Skipper, with dark red hair. Sadly, the wires in her legs were great for poking fingers. The most memorable part was being jealous of Barbie's wardrobe! I had a great aunt who made clothes for Barbie instead of us. :)Thanks for making me smile.

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  16. Hope – I think it was “Midge”. I didn't have her, but I believe a friend did. I remember “Skipper” too, but didn't have her either.I also remember those wires in the legs – remember how the legs could then be bent in the opposite way? Twisted, I was.I was jealous of my girlfriend's Barbie's wardrobe because her grandmother knit all her clothes. I wrote about that in my Easybake Oven post, I think (or was it the Barbie Beauty Centre?)Kat

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  17. What a lovely post. Totally agree about some dolls giving you the creeps. I've always hated pot dolls from being little.I can only recognise Chatty Cathy from my daughter's childhood. My Dad bought it for her when she was 4 months old! She had a Tiny Tears and then a Teeent Tiy Tears appeared.We never liked booby Barbie, Claire did like Sindy, she wasn't as skinny and busty as bimbo Barbie. There wasn't a Ken equivalent either. Claire used to borrow Action Men from her brother. Sindy was maybe a bit more like Francie, she was very pretty though and brunette I think. She had a house too like the one you described. Now whatever happened to Sindy?

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  18. Thank you for stopping by my blog this past week. It is great meeting you and having you following along from Canada…=) Loved your post here. My sister had many of those dolls and I played with them as well growing up. There was a large age gap between my sister and I…anyway, I have most of dolls in storage. Will be back to read more….=)Happy Friday.

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  19. Hi Kat, I just came over and thoroughly enjoyed your doll memories and the ones it evoked in me. I was the doll lover in my family, and was devastated when my brother and sister did surgery on my 2 foot tall, red-haired, freckled Colleen. They used “indelible” ink (how I learned the meaning of the word at age 5) to draw her stitches and shaved her head for the bandage. I still have her in a closet. My youngest daughter was afraid of her — she said she looked like Chuckie (of Chainsaw Massacre fame). We love our baby dolls, huh?Great post. Thanks for letting me nose in.

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  20. Wow, Desert Hen – you still have your dolls? I don't have any left. (I wish I did.)I will be back to read your blog soon – I'm following yours and would be pleased if you'd think about following along here.Karen – You had me laughing really hard about your poor doll's surgery! I read your comment to my husband and we both laughed. Siblings can be so mean. Thankfully, no one messed with my dolls – I was the older sister.Hope you'll consider “following” along. I've signed on to follow you. Kat

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  21. Oops, Winifred, how did I miss you there? Whatever happened to Sindy? Sounds like a mystery title, doesn't it? It's amazing how many girls had the “doll experience”. Tiny Tears was my first doll.Kat

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  22. This may sound sad, but I don't mean it that way at all — I've told my family that when I'm an old, old lady, just give me a doll baby and a rocking chair, and I'll be fine.

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  23. Hey Kat – I'm finally making my rounds around the ol' blogosphere after my little exile from the internet.I hated dolls as a kid. I used to do terrible things with them: dismember them, cut off all their hair. Then when I got older I used to make Barbie run off with GI Joe because I thought Ken was gay. Warped little mind I had.

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  24. I like your blog! So pleased I bumped into it on this blog hopping morning.Great to see “Flatsy”. I didn't know that she was an international success! Well I won't ramble……..flooded with memory now :-)Must hop along.Best wishes from another “Ox”

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  25. Karen – That doesn't sound sad at all – I'll probably be asking for a stuffed cat to remind me of my former felines.Shazza – I'm with you…I think Ken WAS gay! He has a following in that community, I believe.Ribbon – Nice to see you! Welcome! Sorry, but I'm confused about the Ox reference. Diane – I'll have to look for your “Pearl” post…sounds interesting.Don't forget to “follow” this blog if you're enjoying it and I will (if I'm not already) follow you.Kat

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  26. Oh, great post. I had a Dawn doll and loved her hair so much. My mother would not buy me that “tart” Barbie doll. I got Cindy instead. Years later she caved in and bought me second hand Barbie dolls. One year I got GI Joe and him and Barbie pashed whilst sittin up in the leaves of a rose bush.

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  27. Coming here today has been like a trip down memory lane, in so many ways. I think I had that plastic fantastic room/house too! Looking at it caused a primitive spark of recognition of some kind. How I loved my dolls!! SHould post on some of the more memorable doll stories, funny how that comes back to you….

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