Well, I was one of 8 females living in a tiny little home in Little Rock, Arkansas back in the 1950's. There were 4 children and 4 adults that lived in this little house. They were my dear grandmother, her three daughters (one of which was my mother), myself, my sister and two female cousins. My grandmother was the only one working in the house. She worked as a house maid for one of the wealthy families in Little Rock. Her salary was $5.00 per day, and she worked 5 days a week for $25.00. On this amount of money, grandmother paid her house note, utilities, and purchased groceries for the family, which wasn't very much. There was some help here and there from one of her adult sons, but not too much. Needless to say, there were many days I went to bed hungry. So, now you can imagine that if I didn't get enough to eat, there was certainly no money to purchase toys for 4 little girls living in the house.
Growing up poor had many disadvantages. The most difficult one for me was when Christmas time came. Some of my little friends would have their new Christmas dolls outside playing with them. The dolls were so pretty. I didn't want to go outside to play during the Holidays because I would envy my friends with their new dolls. I wanted a doll so badly. My sister and me would cut paper dolls out of old newspaper or any other scrap paper we could find around the house. My grandmother knew of my desire to have a doll. She showed us girls how to make a doll using an empty "pop bottle," a "pop bottle cap," and straw from an old straw rope or twine. Sometimes we would pull the straw from grandmothers broom if we couldn't find a straw rope. We would cut the straw to the length we wanted our dolls hair to be (which of course was always long), stick one part of the straw down into the glass bottle and place the "bottle cap" down tightly on the "pop bottle" and there, we would have our own "pop bottle doll." We would sit and play for hours with our dolls, combing and braiding their hair, putting clothes (old rags) on them. Sometimes grandmother would need extra pennies to buy something, and as you know, pop bottles could be redeemed for 1/2 cent or 1 cent back in those days. So our dolls would eventually be turned back into "pop bottles" and redeemed for money. My love for my very own doll grew more intense within me.
One year I overheard my grandmother and some other adults talking about how things were better "up north." They said you could find housing and jobs "up north." My mother by this time wanted to leave the South and go "up north" to find a better place for us to live. My grandmother had a sister who lived in Buffalo, N.Y., so she called her to see if mother could stay with her. Mother decided she wanted to leave and head for Buffalo to live with grandmothers sister until she could find work and her own place. Before she left, mother promised my sister and I that she would send for us as soon as she could. I was in 2nd grade by this time, and still didn't have a doll. I can still remember my thoughts about "up north" after mother decided to leave. I thought to myself that since things were better "up north," and mother was going there, I would be able to have my very own doll. Mother left for Buffalo, NY and I waited.
By the time I reached 3rd grade, we were "up north" with my mother, who was still living with grandmothers sister because she couldn't quite make enough money for us to have our own place. Oh, how disappointed I was. My hopes for my very own doll were dashed. But finally after what seemed like an eternity, mother was able to get us an apartment with the help of her new boyfriend. After being in the apartment for several years, I remember well one year mothers boyfriend asking her what I wanted for Christmas. She knew exactly without hesitation what to tell him. Finally, the time had come, the year was 1961 Christmas Day. I was 12 years old and I held in my arms for the very first time, my very own doll. She was so beautiful. It did not matter to me that she was a White doll, that she had rubber hair and pajama clothing that you couldn't take off, I loved her and she was mine. I hugged her so tightly. The years progressed and I became older and acquired other dolls. As an adult little did I know that my desire for a doll would carry over to my desire to have a baby. I was married for 10 years before I had my first child. There is seven years difference between my first child and my second child. I now have two lovely "real dolls", one 28 years old, and one 21 years old, and I love them dearly.
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Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you.
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