The Sepia Saturday prompt photo is some children playing what looks like a game of Ring Around the Rosie. And this looks like the ring of dolls, shown on the inside, depicted on a card from my Aunt Sadie’s Shirley Temple Scrapbook.
On this card, the young blonde girl on the front plays with three newly-gifted dolls, one of which is a little sailor boy doll. The little sailor, however, has apparently not been invited to the birthday party as he’s not seated at the table shown on the inside. Instead, five dolls and the young girl are shown enjoying a beautiful pink birthday cake. It’s implied that she’s a very loved little girl in that she’s got five, count them five, dolls to play with and share birthday cake.
This card was sent to Sadie from her Aunt Helen and Uncle Bill Struss. Beside the saying which reads, “May you and your dollies celebrate in such a happy way that you’ll be wishing that you could have a birthday every day!” there is also a hand-written note from the Struss family. “The apron is for Mercedes + the socks for Billy + the salt & pepper shakers for Mom and the other apron for you and tell Bill to let me know what size film he uses + I’ll send him some film.” Based on that, Helen (Toots) is the one who wrote the note and it is addressed to her sister Beatrice, Sadie’s mother.
After the Great Depression and in times of war (World War II), Sadie was fortunate enough to own a very nice doll. Beatrice (my grandmother) always referred to it as the “bride doll.” It was special enough that they actually took photos of it when they lived at 46 Pine Street, Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey. Remember, back then (1940s and 1950s), they had to actually own a camera, buy film, and then pay to have that film developed. Unlike today’s digital age, you didn’t run around just snapping photos of things for the heck of it. This doll was decked out in a full wedding dress with a long ruffled skirt and had a lovely, long white veil. The hair on the doll was real hair (not plastic like today’s Barbie’s) and she had a smooth face with blushing cheeks. She was quite tall (around 18″) as you can tell by the chair for reference in the background. Since my grandmother was a seamstress who started her profession by making wedding dresses for a local dress shop called Liz Clinton’s (still operating in Andover, New Jersey), I’m not sure if the outfit came with the doll or was made by Beatrice.
I don’t think Sadie actually got to play with this doll very much. When I was growing up in the 1970s, this doll sat on Gram Strait’s bookcase. By that time, the doll was dressed in a green outfit and was protectively encased in a thick plastic covering. She was held upright by a doll stand and was a definite “look but don’t touch” item in Gram’s house. And that said something because Gram’s house was a very interactive environment for me and my sisters! There were very few things that were actually off-limits to us. This doll was one of them. Gram had other dolls in the house but this was the only one that got encased and saved from all the dust and elements.
The doll sat on Gram’s bookshelf for years and years. Eventually, it went to stay with Aunt Sadie but it’s unclear where the doll is now. Translation: interesting family dynamics that might have led to the doll being sold, given to a non-family member, or perhaps just pitched into a dumpster. I like to think it’s still sitting on someone’s bookshelf, encased in plastic, waiting for the next person to admire it.