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.
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?
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.
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.
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.