You’ve come a long way baby………….well maybe not.
What was your first doll – perhaps a Raggedy Andy, Rainbow Brite, Cabbage Patch or Baby Alive? The marketing of dolls has come full gamut in my memory starting with the fragile, idealized version of little girls from the 1800’s. They were bisque, meticulously dressed with beautiful lace and silk gowns, leather shoes with beaded buttons, accessorized with fans and umbrellas – all were more inclined to be kept under glass domes than to be an actual play toy. Now today, the selection includes the inclusive line of Barbies designed for every little girl to see herself represented – Barbies of every stature and size, every color and even Barbies with prosthetics.
Born in the fifties, I was lucky to play with several of my mother’s dolls that survived a sheltered childhood with her nanny. At age 6, I was trusted with a beautiful set of twin Grace Putnam Bye-lo dolls which came packaged in a beautiful wicker basket. Hour after hour was spent changing them into their matching pink and blue outfits I graduated and from bisque to felt with a collection of perpetually pouting Lenci dolls. It was a mystery to me why the all had their eyes averted—almost as if they were about to be busted for some very bad behavior.
Next on the list were all of my contemporaries—playable, poseable, some with human capabilities, which would grate on any adults nerves after 5 minutes of audio endurance of crying, squeaking, or chatting. My Patti Play Pal was almost bigger than I was, but the sight of her under the Christmas tree brought such delight that I now had my own friend, instead of being perpetually bullied by my older brother. I think every Patti was destined to be a guinea pig for aspiring hair stylists—they were all cut, curled and usually buzzed into a rather forlorn state.
My maternal tendency kicked in for the next -Betsey Wetsey. I thought she was rather revolutionary and I was astounded that I could change a diaper 20 times a day. Having a new, living breathing baby brother in the house (and the associated prolific production of real diapers and their contents) did little to dispel the magic of my Betsey.
My choice of doll for my next birthday caused the most irritation of any adult within earshot—Chatty Cathy. I still remember some of her astounding and astute utterances—“oops, I hurt myself” screeching full volume each time I gleefully pulled the string from her back. Cathy turned out to be so off putting, that Steve Martin later invoked in an infamous impersonation of Chatty Cathy in the movie Planes, Trains & automobiles.
Well, I would be remiss if I didn’t admit to a rather vast assortment of Barbie’s, Skippers, and Kens, with their assortment of cleverly marketed, must-have array of cars, campers, kitchens, and the pinnacle—the Barbie Dream house. Barbies tended to be a target for older brothers (who promptly removed their heads), and my ardent hairstyling attempts, leaving them looking like they’d encountered a buzz-saw. Barbies lived hard and died young.
Fast forward to 2020, as I peruse toys for my granddaughters. I quick Facetime to ask what they’d like, and without hesitation, a request for Poopsie Surprise Dolls is quickly decided. A Poopsie Doll you ask? The main draw is the “surprise” of which type of doll you will get. These dolls are sealed in an opaque black plastic box, so the mystery can’t be solved in the store. This mystery also provides the possibility of a serious disappointment if you are unlucky enough to get the same doll twice. Now for the second surprise—will the doll you selected spit slime, poop slime, or (the best) fart glitter? As I watch my granddaughters open their Poopsies, I see that even though the dolls have changed (you can argue for better or worse), the thrill of a little girl opening her new doll has not.
As for this collector, I’ll stick to hunting for additions to my three Bye-lo and two Lenci babies that I have bought at toy auctions, instead of the thrill of finding out if my new dolls will poop glitter. Through decades and hundreds of new marketing schemes, the thrill of a girl (or a grown-up girl) and her new doll continues to be sacred. If you are one of these girls (or grown up girls) a Patti Play Pal will be up for sale in June 20th online only at Pook and Pook auction and that thrill could be all yours!
by Beth Pook