Cleaning out the attic I ran across a couple of tattered boxes containing my old paper dolls. Inside I found my old friends – not as tattered as the boxes but definitely worn. When I was a little girl I spent endless hours playing with these paper friends.
In case you are unfamiliar with the term “paper dolls” they are figures cut out of paper or thin cardboard with separate clothes that are also made of paper, which are held onto the dolls by paper tabs that fold over and around the dolls.
I was probably 5 or 6 when I received my first paper doll, Sally, who had “magic” stay on clothes rather than the usual tabs. Of course, way back then they really did “magically” stay on. After years in the attic Sally is still smiling but her “magic” has gone so none of her cute outfits stay put any longer. Now she is clad only in the appropriate underwear for a young girl of the 1950’s – plain cotton panties and an undershirt with a tiny flower at the breast bone. Some of Sally’s clothes were plain white, asking for crayons, which I obliged with various clumsy colorings. Sally always reminded me of Dick and Jane’s little sister in the 1st grade reader. Of note: the original price sticker is still on Sally’s box. It seems she was purchased from J.C. Penney’s department store for 66 cents.
I liked Sally quite a lot until Rosemary Clooney came along. Rosemary was a real life singer and actress popular in the 1950’s. Most notably she appeared with Bing Crosby in the movie, “White Christmas”. Rosemary, the paper doll, like the real life Rosemary was sophisticated, stylish, and shapely. I thought Magic Sally could be Rosemary’s daughter in my pretend world but it was a difficult “pretend” since they were not the same scale. Poor sweet Sally became a bizarre, giant child beside the chic Ms. Clooney. Rosemary did not have a box because she came in a “book” like many paper dolls of that day. All her clothes were on sheets and had to be cut out. A few of the fashions remained in Rosemary’s book – not cut out with my trusty little scissors like the rest. For some reason, I did not prefer them. I look at them now and admire their style. My taste has changed a bit, I guess.
One of my favorite paper dolls was my namesake, Linda. She came in a book, too. Linda was a member of the Mickey Mouse Club Show which was a television show hosted by the Walt Disney character, Mickey Mouse. The members wore shirts with their names on them – Linda, Doreen, Annette, Cubby, Lonnie, Bobby, Tommy are the ones I remember. They also had hats with mouse ears on them, which I coveted. Once I had an opportunity to own one but I had to choose between the mouse ears and a baton. I chose the baton – Linda could twirl one quite deftly and I thought I would learn this skill. But I never gained proficiency and always regretted my choice. I would have loved wearing those trendy mouse ears and looking like an official Mouseketeer. Like most of the Mouseketeers, Linda was bright and talented. She was a dancer and I envied her pink toe shoes and imagined myself twirling and leaping as gracefully as she did.
And then there was my paper doll, Peggy – the one with “real” hair. Oh, what fun she was! She had bows to go with most of her outfits and they could be attached with a bobby pin. Back in the day I thought her hair was long and luscious. Now it just looks like a sad clump of matted fur. I suppose years in the attic didn’t bode well for Peggy’s lovely locks.
There were also miscellaneous paper dolls that I had cut from magazines at my Gramma’s house. She always lovingly saved the issues for me – knowing I would be delighted to have another paper friend. To be sure these paper dolls were smaller and more fragile than the others but they lent themselves nicely to my world of make believe. There were different models in each issue and they were all on the same scale so I could have sisters and cousins and friends sharing clothes and all sorts of adventures.
Paper dolls are still being made today but I suspect their popularity has waned significantly to those of my childhood days. I’ve heard there are Paper Doll Conventions held here and there these days but I doubt if my old friends would be invited. And, even if they were, I wouldn’t let them go. No one could ever see them through my eyes – not as they are now but as they once were. And wouldn’t that be a shame?