Clean Up of Chatty Cathy

Yesterday I wanted to wash Chatty Cathy’s hair and see if I could stuff her head to push her eye sockets a bit forward to help the crossed eye look.

I did not have a hair dryer, so I used the bed-buddy which is warmed in the microware and wrapped that around her neck to soften the vinyl.  I then eased her head off.

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The face is indeed soft, too soft for a doll in my opinion.  I was surprised to see a paper towel inside her head.  Just a single paper towel.  Have no idea why.  Assuming maybe her hair was washed at some point and this was to help dry? 

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Inside her body is the black phonograph.  There was no string inside that might have fallen into the body.  I see no attempts to repair the unit, the side seams are completely intact.

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I noticed that it was difficult to move her one leg, and then discovered why.  It is a small piece of rubber, I believe it is a bit of the O ring that was on the phonograph.  From what I read, that is what eventually crumbles and prevents her from talking, the phonograph itself is still operable.

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I washed her hair (smells so good) and used a pick to comb out the curls and re-wrapped them in finger curls.  The photo doesn’t show it but there is a nice luster to her hair, the condition is

excellent.  After she was dry, I balled up small pieces of plastic bubble wrap and carefully stuffed her head.  I noticed when I washed her hair that crown was soft enough to have caved in too, so the bubble wrap gave her head stability and firmness that she lacked.  The vinyl itself is in excellent condition, nice and velvety matte, no marks or stains or discolouration.  I made sure her eyes close (not pushed too far into the socket) before putting the head back on) and then made sure the bubble wrap did not interfere with the head turning.  I have yet to clean the rest of her body or take her shoes off yet.  I looked up her markings on her back and she is a first issue.  1960 was the year she was made with the black phonograph and her mark has the verbage in the box with the circle Mattel stamp underneath.  In a twist of logic, the first editions are the most common found and not of value so far.  The black Chatty is the most valuable and the ones with brown hair and eyes plus a few more that were unusual hair and eye combinations.

All of these things are not important to me.  What is more important is simply having this chance to reach back into my past and be able to touch it and re-live it in a sentimental way.  Last night I put Rosey in her bed and placed Chatty Cathy standing next to her bed and as I laid in my own bed I could not help but watch her.  She didn’t seem so alien, so jarring anymore.  Her face was softer and she had a presence.  A definite presence.  I like that in a doll.  The knock knees are so charming and the finger pointing is full of personality.  The eyes take time to get use to.  In my searches I noticed that the majority of the Chatty’s have the same right eye turning in, that the eye socket seems larger than the eye.  The nose is too upturned, giving her a piggy look but somehow it all falls together to give her an iconic classic doll persona.

I always find that active handling of a new doll is part of the bonding process.  Washing them, dressing and undressing, hair combing are all a way of getting to know the doll, it’s movements, it’s quirks in standing and sitting.  Chatty Cathy is well balanced, her arms hold a pose, her legs are heavy and sturdy, but her movements are very limited.  All she can do is stand and sit and hold an arm up or down and turn her head.  As I thought about this severe limitation on play, I also noted that her presence is more vital than her movements.  Just standing, she has her own way of being very much there, vibrant and alive.  It forces me to rethink what I think is important in a doll companion.

The few times in the past when I considered getting one for “old times sake” the ones I felt were affordable were in not very good condition.  I really feel blessed to have gotten this one in a country that never sold them in this excellent state.  No scratches or ink marks.  No cut hair, no white vinyl.  I just took her shoes and socks off for the first time and can see her feet never have been marred in play.  I don’t believe she was a play doll, perhaps she simply stood on the shelf or got put away when the string broke.

Who knows these things about an old doll, all I can do is muse.  I was put off at her arrival but now, she is  growing on me, slowly letting me get re-acquainted with all that I thought was the ultimate love of my tender 7 year old mind.  I can see why, although through the years I have refined the ideal doll through the needs I have now in posing, photography and play.  Yet, I am very glad I got her, glad to have her be back in my life.

Chatty Cathy Arrives

Chatty Cathy arrived yesterday and I was appalled.  Although the seller had the word dolls in her user name, she apparently didn’t think to use a box to send a vintage doll in.

She arrived like this:

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I am sure I am being over sensitive, but this mummification of a beloved childhood doll disturbed me.  My thoughts about her instantly were negative.  Not only were there issues of possible damage, the very sight of her like this made me think she was dead.

I couldn’t open the package for about an hour.  I felt that if she was damaged, it would be another Chatty Cathy trauma.  Way too much emotion wrapped up like a mummy.

Finally, I took a deep breath and approached the brown thing.  A pupa?  A mummy?  I felt like I was about to dissect something gory.  No doll could have survived this treatment.

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This was this was the only outward damage I found, a rip and black scuff make on her white shoe.  I still wasn’t sure about the inward damage.  She has a hard plastic body, which is known to crack and split.  Tossed about in postal handling, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

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It was a challenge to find a cutting place and I worried about cutting into hair or clothing.  But I managed to free her.

SAM_4246 Her first photo….I think I was stunned.  There she was, this icon of my childhood, this first love of mine.  Memories came rushing back in full force and my heart did do a couple of flip flops.  My curiosity kept needling me, just what was it about her?  Was it the looks?  The size? The demise that kept this doll so embedded in my psyche?  As an adult, I look at her and this she is not particularly attractive.  She’s cute in a vintage doll sort of way.  I always liked her knobby knees and sweet hands, even as a child.  She was the first doll I received that was not a baby with bent arms and legs, and I remember how thrilled I was about her being able to stand like a real person.  I remember her talking, but I don’t remember that being anything important at the time.  I seem to remember that her being more like a little girl than a baby and therefor a companion to me as an only child was probably the depth of it.  I was about 6-7 years old I think when I got her, so my reasoning at the time was not analysed.  lol.

My initial expectations were none.  Really.  I thought, I would buy her and get it out of my system.  Put it to rest, so to speak.  I stood her next to my computer and periodically looked at her.  Sometimes I reached out and grabbed her very solid leg or squished her soft face, as the bridge of the nose was a bit pushed in.  I honestly didn’t know what to think at first, something was so odd about having her here, present in front of me and something sort of kept pulling at me.  It was like I could not leave her alone but I didn’t want to touch her either.

I kept asking myself, what am I going to do with her?  This started all the fault finding I could.  Well, I had to admit she survived the mummification and she was in remarkable condition for being nearly as old as I am.  I checked her hair, she had no odours at all.  As I checked, I pulled out some of the flattened curls thinking, wow, these curls look original.  No cut marks, no empty plugs.

SAM_4252 I think it was this moment that I first warmed to her.  It was the look of a small child and the hair being more rounded suddenly tugged at me.

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She looked so expectant, so hopeful that I would like her.  I melted a bit.  Then I heard a small voice say “don’t you recognise me?”  Did I?  I wasn’t sure.  Was I blocking it?  I kept telling myself I could not step back into the past, but I think the past was stepping up to me.

Each glance at her now was becoming more affectionate.  I admired her sweetness, her proportions, her overall child like qualities.   I kept seeing a smile, a coaxing on her part, like a small child who can make the grumpiest man smile.  I caught myself smiling.  I think this might be something here I thought.  She hasn’t the face of a magnificent Zwergnase, she is not at all pose-able like a Schoenhut, she is not in the slightest my ideal of a doll, but here she was smiling at me and needing me.  That’s it!  I was struck by the doll’s need of me rather my selfish needs of it. 

This morning, I introduced Rosey to her.  I have nagging experiences of my old Evie hating every doll I brought into the house.  Rosey didn’t mind at all.  She didn’t feel the slightest hesitation to make friends even though Chatty Cathy towered over her.

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How remarkable….blue eyes, teeth…..I see a trend here.  lol.  All in all, I think I like this new situation and I am curious as to how it will all be.  I am already thinking of stuffing her head to push her eyes into alignment and a nice hair wash and conditioning might be in order.  Oh, I forgot to mention that her ring and talking string is missing, which is odd, because I don’t think she was played with much.  Perhaps it snapped off and the child who had her wanted another one or grew bored of her.  It’s not of any consequence to me, I hear her just fine without it.

And just for fun…a couple of photo’s my mother sent me of an early doll…..about 1958 I think:

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My mother, me and the doll I played a lot with but I do not remember her name.  I kept her and another similar one, my daughter played with them too.  But they were eventually tossed in a clear out for a move.  How sad is that now?  Sigh.

Memory Lane

After a year and a half without buying a doll, I have pushed the button so to speak.  This purchase was not about a desire to have a new doll, nor because I needed a change or even because I could buy one.  It was because of the circumstance, an American doll that happened to be in the UK, happened to be very reasonable in cost, and it just happened to be the kind that was my most cherished doll as a child.

I remember the day.  It was my birthday and I came home from school, finding her standing on the credenza in the entryway.  She was the most magnificent creature I had ever seen.  I had only had baby types dolls before, and this seemed to be like having a real friend, someone my own age.  She was so much fun and so dear to me.   I cannot remember how long I had her, but I was passionate about her, so much so, that to this day I remember her destruction by my callous cousins as a painful childhood event.

As an adult doll nut, I have toyed many times with the idea of getting some of my childhood dolls, although none of them are a particular interest to me today.  I prefer mulitjointed dolls, unusual dolls and not the mass produced staring eyed dolls of my childhood.  And I have always been against having dolls for the sake of having them, they are active companions or they move on.  Yet, it appealed to me to consider replacing the one special doll, seeing how it would be to hold her once again.  I have only seen her once in person since mine was destroyed…that was a few years ago at a antique market place.  She was in bad condition, with faded yellow limbs and tatty hair and a cracked side.  Her one eye was pushed in.  And still, the seller wanted £100 for her!  I didn’t get a chance to hold her, so this dolly coming to me is going to be about a bit of reliving something dear to me in my past.

I am not expecting anything to come of it.  What we think is fabulous in childhood does often seem completely odd as an adult.  It’s a memory trip, but whether I keep her or not is on the table.  I don’t have any of the usual excited doll-anticipation feelings of an incoming doll, it’s mostly just a feeling of a reunion of sorts.  So I am feeling open and amused…wondering if this will finally put to rest that terrible tragedy.  Who knows?

Here are the seller photo’s:

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She said there wasn’t any damage or discolouration’s, and as is most common she cannot speak.  Her hair appears to be uncut and still holding it’s original set.  The dress is a replacement, but from the original sewing pattern.

Mine was dark haired and here is a photo that I felt most resembled what I remember of her:

1960_brown_eyed_talking_chatty_cathy_2  I cannot be sure of the colour of eyes, but I do remember the pink dress and white apron.  I think she had brown eyes, but I maybe overly influenced by my daughter’s and granddaughters dark hair and brown eyes. But this photo gleaned off the net shows that cheerful face I remember so well.

I have an email off to my father to see if he knows of any photo’s of me with my old Chatty Cathy.  I do not recall any, but who knows.