Fremont County, Iowa

Shoe Box Dolls
by Sherry Perkins

View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
January 6, 2014

Barbie---Barbie----Barbie! Today so many kinds, colors and outfits to tempt young girls and deplete the pocketbooks of their parents. So many dollars spent to entertain the young ones.

The "Barbie" of my day some sixty years ago, were really paper dolls. They cost ten to twenty-five cents and came with many outfits from bathing suits to ball gowns, to wedding dresses. All came with the needed accessories such as large hats, purses and gloves. The dolls I speak of were made of heavy paper which we purchased in book form. I bought mine with my allowance money from the five and dime store. Returning home to Randolph from a shopping trip to Shenandoah with a book of new dolls filled me with anticipation.

I had fun dressing movie star figures, such as Shirley Temple, in frilly lace dresses or Betty Grable in stunning swimsuits before she put her evening gown on to become the belle of the ball. Dolls that graced our home were Elizabeth Taylor, June Allyson, Doris Day, Dorothy Lamour, and Rita Hayworth. But my all-time favorites were Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. They turned my day into a lovely, romantic western movie set. I had lots of dolls, spent very little money and had hours of enjoyment from playing with them.

When I got my dolls home, I gathered together the scissors and the shoe box that would be their home and closet for their wardrobes. One could sometimes punch out the dolls. There was always more than one doll in a book, on dotted lines or cut them out with scissors. Each doll was properly clothed in a full piece bathing suit. No naked dolls were ever printed! The clothing had tabs that fit over the dolls to make the clothing stay on.

Each change of spring and winter season's, everyone anxiously awaited the mailman's bringing the new Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Ward catalogs. I could always talk Mom out of the old catalog. Many winter days I spent at the dining room table next to the oil burner, cutting out ladies from the catalog, pasting them onto cardboard and searching the pages for clothes that might fit. I did their talking and improvised furniture for the dolls. The dolls and clothes gradually became bent, worn and beyond repair. Then it was back to Woolworths for a big decision on which book of dolls to buy. Then it was back home to use my imagination to take me wherever I wanted to go.

Eventually, I outgrew the paper doll phase of my childhood, just as today's girls get beyond Barbies. I suppose my box of dolls was thrown out one spring cleaning day. How I wish I had saved them to show my granddaughters. Just as some day my granddaughters will wish they had saved the Barbie dolls they have. But memories are easy to call forth and I can picture my paper dolls, the houses we lived in, the special family I grew up in and almost hear Roy and Dale singing “Happy Trails” while wearing the fringed shirts I placed on their cardboard figures.

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