Dollhouse made a little girl’s Christmas
I don’t remember where we lived or how old I was when I received my metal dollhouse for Christmas, which is a little odd, for we were living on Third Street when Santa brought me a Shirley Temple doll, wearing a red-and- white polka-dot dress and bonnet, and as tall as was I (3 feet?). We were living on the hill when I received a wicker doll buggy, doll and blankets, hidden under a big pillow beside the fainting couch, and we were living next to the store on Fourth Street when I received doll clothes for my favorite doll, secretly handmade from my mother’s Singer pedal sewing machine.
So, why don’t I remember where we lived when the metal dollhouse and wooden furniture came to me?
The only thing that remains with me was watching my Dad put it together and then my playing with it and the furniture for so many wonderful years.
The memory returns because I was doing some research in the 1938 copy of the weekly Eastern Oregon Review newspaper in which an advertisement of the J. P. Penney Co. appeared telling about its Christmas toys for sale.
There was listed a five-piece bedroom set for 25 cents. For the price, you received a bed, a vanity with an unbreakable mirror, a chair, a boudoir table lamp, and a clock, all made of wood and painted.
I could well picture those pieces of furniture very clearly in my mind, for even as an adult I still had some of them, but they gradually disappeared from storage, one piece at a time.
The last piece of mine was a little yellow wooden bowl that I had in my present dollhouse filled with artificial pieces of candy, but it is gone, too, and I have no idea where it went even though I thought I was taking good care of it. I feel its loss.
Perhaps I should back up just a mite so that you can picture it better, for the dollhouse and furniture were nothing like you would find on the market now.
The dollhouse came in a flat box, made of sheets of painted metal, designed to be put together with three sides, a roof, and a shelf inside to represent the upstairs. The fourth side was open for the play side as opposite the painted supposed front door and window side.
Everything was painted on, from the siding to the door to windows, to flowers growing at its foundation. Inside, the walls were also finished in paint to represent pictures and other wall hangings along with the inside of the windows painted to look like lace curtains.
My dad struggled valiantly in getting the thin pieces of tin, aluminum, or whatever metal it was, to stay together at the corners and stand upright and strong enough to hold the furniture with a little girl at play.
I wish I had a picture of it so you could see just how it was and wonder what made me love it so as opposed to that which little girls of today may have with the advent of plastics.
Furniture for each room came to me in separate boxes and I wonder if the house came furnished or if the room furniture was purchasable as I found it in the 1938 advertisement.
The ad listed only the bedroom set, but my house came with sets for living room, kitchen with dining table and chairs, and ivory-colored bathroom fixtures.
All of the furniture was made of cut-wood pieces glued together and painted, basically of simple block design, the red and yellow davenos with molded or carved seats to suggest cushions.
The red standing grandfather clock’s face and chimes were gilded and then outlined in black paint whereas the little green shelf clock had a gilded face and black painted hands.
Both of them told time only in the mind of the player.
The living room contained a red daveno and a red easy chair, a yellow daveno and a yellow easy chair, along with the red grandfather clock, a standing floor lamp, maybe a little side table and a wooden chair or two to put on the painted metal floor rug.
The kitchen was grandly furnished with ivory fixtures of a wooden cut-out sink on spindle legs, a block refrigerator with outlined handle, a block electric stove with burners outlined in black paint, a green table with spindle legs, four green chairs, and the green shelf clock.
The bedroom sets came in light blue or green, but all made in single-bed style. The vanity had spindle legs and an aluminum sheet mirror in which you could almost see yourself.
The bathroom fixtures were ivory-colored with a carved opening for the tub and standing sink, but the toilet’s lid remained closed.
No doors, windows, or drawers opened, no running water, no heating elements, no baking oven, no electric lighting. Nothing rang, nothing ticked, nothing was soft or cozy except as you made it so, very unlike today’s reality world, but that dollhouse of furniture contained a world of discovery, with little ceramic standing dolls with wired-in arms as inhabitants, for anything within the imagination.
Perhaps it had nothing to charm the youngster of today, so why do I cherish the memory so?
Maybe it’s because it opened a world outside my own where daydreams could come true and those were the days when we had unscheduled time to develop our thoughts, ideas, and just dream a little on our own.
I still miss having at least one item of the furniture even without its sheet-metal house. But, I remember it as I did when I was just a child.
May your memories serve you well this Christmas.