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My Name is Paulette.

Paulette is about 72 years old. Looks pretty good for her age, don’t you think?  Actually, this is a new organdy dress and a new wig, with a warm sweater over it.

I got Paulette as a Christmas gift from my Uncle Paul in 1944, when he was in the Army stationed in Monterey, California.  Originally, Paulette wore a gauzy white dress with small blue flowers on it; she had a mohair wig with long braids.  Sorry, no picture is available of Paulette’s original form.   Her companion was a small bear in a purple felt vest. Both had heads made of composition–a kind of pressed wood product often found in dolls of the early 20th century, and cloth bodies.

 

 

 

This is me with my Uncle Paul about the time he gave Paulette and Bear to me.  Bear has kept his original clothes all this time, but Paulette has been redressed several times, as the original gauzy white dress with little blue flowers is very fragile now.  Here are two  pictures of Paulette in different clothes.  The first one was taken in the 1980s with a cotton dress and matching cape.  After that, it seems Paulette was packed away until 2013. The cotton dress and cape were gone, and Paulette was in a vintage white baby dress, but it didn’t fit very well and when the green organdy dress was found, it was put on Paulette.  I like the organdy dress a lot better!

 

 

Dolls of Early Childhood: 1940s

"Baby"TwoColorOval2 copy

Baby. My mother told me that this was my first doll, given to me Christmas, 1941, when I was 6 months old. I think now that must have been a memorable time for the grown-ups in the family, as Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941. I was too little to know anything about that, or to remember it. “Baby” is a Mama doll with composition head, arms, and legs on a stuffed cloth body–a typical play doll of the time, and so named because it said “Mama” when turned over. I guess this doll did that at one time, but I don’t think the crier mechanism still works in the 21st century. Mother said I carried this doll with me all the time, so that the face paint wore off. She repainted the eyebrows and lips. I have no idea what the original clothes were. Mother left a suitcase full of doll clothes from the 1940s and the original dress may be in there. There is a hand-smocked baby dress, very fine, that I would like to put on the doll. I would suspect that my mother made that dress for me.

 

NancyNameTwoColor copy

Nancy. Nancy was my second doll, after Baby. Nancy is a little smaller than Baby, but like Baby has a composition head, arms, and legs on a stuffed cloth body. Also like Baby, the original face paint was worn off, and again Mother repainted eyebrows and lips. I don’t remember what Nancy’s original dress was, either. I found some old doll clothes Mother had stored in a trunk, and there were two or three pastel silky baby dresses. I would guess that Nancy’s original dress was one of those. I do know that this dress and bonnet with the autumn leaf print was one that Mother made for Nancy very soon after I got the doll. When I unwrapped Nancy in the 21st century, after her years in a storage box, it seemed very little and frail. Nancy is, after all, nearly 70 years old and almost an antique (75 years is the usual defining point). The hands are very worn, and Mother had left the doll stored with soft mittens over the hands.

VirginiaTwoColorName copy

Virginia. Mother’s notes say I got this doll in 1943. That would make this doll the third I got as a child. When I showed this page to my older brother John, he remarked that he was with Mother when she bought this doll for me at the Montgomery Ward store in Burlingame. Virginia, like Baby and Nancy, is a Mama-type doll, with composition head, arms and legs and a cloth body with a crier mechanism inside. I always loved Virginia; I thought she had such an understanding face. Maybe it was those big brown eyes. Virginia is wearing her original blue dress, pink sheer pinafore and blue & pink ruffled bonnet. The lace tights and white shoes are not original. As with Baby and Nancy, Virginia’s original face paint got loved away, and the eyebrows and lips were carefully re-painted by Mother

AliceBlueGownTwoColor-3 copy

Alice Blue Gown. This may have been my fourth doll, after Baby, Nancy, and Virginia. So this doll dates from about 1944 or 1945, and is wearing all original clothes: white organdy dress with blue coat and matching bonnet. I believe the white shoes and socks are original. I named all my early dolls (except Baby), and this one was named for a song. My mother had a lovely voice, and often sang around the house, especially during the day. One song she sang was about “sweet little Alice blue gown.” Now I know that this song referred to the color, reportedly a favorite of a President’s daughter, Alice Roosevelt. But as a child, I didn’t know that, so this doll simply became Alice Blue Gown. I guess that by the time I got Alice I wasn’t carrying my dolls around constantly, so the face paint didn’t get worn off and re-painted. The wig did get trimmed in front. Originally there was a roll at the forehead, but it didn’t stay curled very well. She has sleep eyes, and I notice the left one is a little droopy, so it looks a little weary. Well, this doll is at least 70 years old so it is probably entitled to a little weariness. But I think it has held up pretty well, and is still very pretty. Dolls in the 1940’s WERE pretty–it wasn’t until the 1950’s that dolls with more “character” appeared.

Paulette&Bear2014-4 copy

Paulette and Bear. My Uncle Paul gave me this doll and companion bear, which mother’s notes say he bought in Monterey while he was in the Army, stationed there early in World War II.

The doll was named “Paulette” in honor of my Uncle Paul. The bear never got a name—it was just Bear. Paulette originally had a mohair wig with long brown braids. The original dress was a gauzy white sheer material with blue dots. I still have the dress, but it is too fragile to use any more; the mohair wig failed over time. Bear is wearing his original felt vest.