Red Hatters, child - like

... back to the era of dolls

by Shirley Rabb

As Red Hat Ladies, we are entitled to do as we please. You see we are all women over the age of 50. Our uniforms are purple outfits and red hats and we feel we deserve to have fun.

Last month, at our breakfast meeting, our leader brought us back to our childhood days. We had our pancakes, bagels and coffee and then we cut out paper dolls. We had cowboys and Indians, brides,little boys and girls.  

One of my friends remembers her mother coming home with the groceries and my friend, wanting to help, dropped a can of peas on her foot. She developed a black toe and had to stay in bed for two or three days. Besides the benefit of no school the fun part was being in bed and having paper dolls to cut out and dress.

The books we got usually had figures of heavy paper. The assorted clothing was a lighter weight paper and they had little tabs to attach to the figures. We dressed the dolls and stood them on the table changing their paper clothing as we cut and folded every new outfit.

This day we did not display our accomplishments but many of the members did take the dolls home for their grandchildren. Grandchildren that probably have not had the thrill of playing paper dolls.

To continue on our childhood-like day, we made plans to visit the Doll Museum in Wenham, Massachusetts. We had a wonderful lunch at the Wenham Tea House and proceeded across the street to the Museum.

This experience also took us back to our youth but in a very expanded way. The doll collection here dates from a 1500 BC Egyptian figure to Native American Kachinas, European porcelain dolls, American cloth dolls, 20th century play dolls, and Miss Columbia, the doll that traveled around the world.

We were able to enjoy paper mache dolls from Germany and cloth dolls made by the Indestructible Doll Company in 1915. There are dolls from Africa and Japan and around the world. Nurses, dancers and skiers in miniature sizes amazed us with the handcrafted ability of those that came before us.

The Native American dolls in the museum date back to the 1890s when they were acquired from American Indian reservations. Corn was a staple in the Northeastern Indians culture, and dolls from this area are traditionally made of cornhusk, cloth and wood. The artifacts from the Western cultural areas include dolls from the Ute, Sioux, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Cree, and Arapaho tribes. Southwestern Indians of the Mohave people wore little clothing and their bodies were decorated with paint and tattoos.

The dollhouses were architectural masterpieces.  One of the homes made by George Katz and his wife Bea in the 1980s was donated by their son in 2003. Each roof tile was cut by hand; each flagstone on the patio was set in cement. Every light switch was wired to turn on each lamp individually, and at each holiday the appropriate decorations were applied to the home.

Another house on display was the Addams Family dollhouse. It took Mary Hinckley eight years to complete the house, which is based on the TV series, “The Addams Family”. All the characters in the house depict those members of the family that scared us and made us laugh, when we were younger.

Both experiences took us back to a quieter time. We had no I Pods, (whatever they are), no cell phones and no portable CD players. We remembered after school time when our friends came over and we compared our paper dolls as we cut and folded back the tabs. It was a wonderful time and as Red Hatters, we went back to that happy time for a few hours.

March 3,2006

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