December 4, 2006

Things made by children for Christmas long ago.

Back in the 1950s, in the days before Barbie, my family lived in a little house in Brookside, in Newark, Delaware, and my sister and I played with "little dolls" -- Ginny Dolls. We had a dark green bookcase, and each shelf was considered a floor of the doll's house. It was elaborately furnished and decorated, and we were always making tiny things for them. I am surprised that some of the things still exist. Here are three Christmas stockings that we sewed by hand. They are only slightly larger than this picture shows them:

Hand-sewn Christmas stockings

Did your dolls celebrate Christmas? Did you play out stories of them anticipating the day? Did you have each doll give every other doll a present? Did you make the tiny presents yourself? We did. Here's a little teddy bear that my older sister made. It's actually smaller in real life:

Hand-sewn bear

It's hand-sewn and stuffed, with the details painted on. Why is the paint still so clear and bright, after nearly half a century? It's oil paint. Why did little kids have oil paint? Because we had paint-by-number sets, and we realized with could use the paint for our own purposes. I, for example, painted my nose blue, because I was inspired by a rustic character on the Walt Disney TV show -- "The Adventures of Spin and Marty" -- who used to say, "Well, I'll be a blue-nosed gopher." My sister painted the features on the exquisite little bear. Do you know what it's like to have an older sister?

22 comments:

howzerdo said...

How wonderful! I too save things (actually, I save too many things). My aunt calls her Christmas ornaments her "box of memories."

Yes, I do know what it is like to have an older sister. Mine is 7 years older than me. I know I was quite a pest to her and her friends when I was small and she was a teenager, and she could be rather mean to a little kid. But as adults we are extremely close, her (grown) sons seem like my own, and it is great. She has always been artistically talented, and she now makes more sophisticated versions (but still primitive) of the little bear you posted. Anyway, thanks for sharing this.

Goesh said...

" Do you know what it's like to have an older sister?"

Yes, she was quite bossy and still is.

Irene Done said...

That bear is quite sweet.

Howzerdo -- I know exactly what you mean! My sister is 4 years older and although we're close now, she never wanted me hanging around when we were growing up. But she would play with me when we got out paper dolls. I spent entire days making my own paper dresses for those dolls, tracing their outline and coloring in some crazy design I thought would be just beautiful.

David said...

Ann with a blue nose?

Funny stuff! No sisters in my family just us 5 boys!

Love Spin and Marty and the Hardy Boys! Any Nancy Drew afficionados out there?

LOL

Meade said...

" Do you know what it's like to have an older sister?"

I do -- two -- each a boon and benefit to a bother of a little brother.

Civilized me (such that I am).

Elizabeth said...

I had two older sisters; one passed away when I was twelve. The other one's funny and smart, but fundamentalist and well, fundamentally bossy. They're quite a bit older than me. Among my best memories of childhood with them is singing hymns together while washing dishes. There's no harmony like that among voices that share DNA.

S.T. Steiner said...

What I find interesting is the word, "older". As youngsters, this can mean: more educated; mommy's darling; the boss of me; and how over time, that attribute significantly changes, through different life experiences, irrespective of age.

AJ Lynch said...

So - you are the sibling who took all Mom & Dad's stuff for safekeeping.

Ron said...

I have a sister who's 10 years older than me, and a sister who's 18 years older than me.

And if they both blew up in a huge fireball, I'd say...yay, fireball! You Go!!!

bearbee said...

And then we have ornaments for the 'today with-it' household....... and gosh all sold out! Oh well, maybe the kiddies can make a replica.

Merry Christmas to all.....

AllenS said...

Is your full name Jo Ann Althouse?

A Menken Moment said...

Like the dolls, boys toys were much sturdier in the 1950s. Lincoln Logs, for instance, did not have plastic roofs, but real wooden slats. Before Leggos came along, there were American Bricks, which had a greater variety of pieces, including smooth-topped pieces to make a graceful cap to your structures. I could go on and on.

No older sister, but like every other boy on the block, I fell in love with Annette Funicello the moment she appeared on "Spin and Marty." (You might not think an eight-year-old could experience intense heart pangs, but it's true, it's true!) A plain and otherwise not particularly popular girl at school won fawning admiration by claiming that she was a close friend of Annette's. Of course, we all believed her!

MadisonMan said...

I have an older sister, and she is a great person. I'm sorry she lives thousands of miles away.

Pogo said...

Those Christmas stockings (and the bear) are the sweetest dang things I've seen in a year.

I have 5 sisters; they were sweet as molasses to me, rarely bossy. (...maybe just ignoring me, though, but same thing.) They fought with each other as kids, of course, but are close as adults. They're funny as hell, too. And tough.

They put on plays, with all the neighborhood kids as extras, and set to pop music. Christmastime once, we put on Little Red Riding Hood. To accomodate all the kids, there were extra wolves and such, and a dance to Mason Williams' "Classical Gas." The parents actually came and watched.

I was a very lucky brother.

Anonymous said...

I was (am) the big sister. My sister and I had the Ginny dolls too (still have mine), the paint by numbers and yes, our dolls celebrated Christmas! We usually got a clipping of the Christmas tree, when Dad trimmed the bottom branches off, put it into a mason jar full of marbles (so it would stand up) and decorated it for the dolls' Christmas. The bear your sister made makes me wobbly with nostalgia.

Strayhorn said...

Due to family circumstances I spent most of my youth with my grandparents. As a consequence I didn't know my older (by 4 years) sister very well. When she left for college she virtually disappeared from my life.

However, after our mother died we made the effort to get to know each other. We are now very close and I treasure her company. I am very glad to have an older sister!

Anonymous said...

First Althouse, may I call you Ann(?,) thanks for sharing such sweet keepsakes! Touching, and very Christmassy!

I have a younger sister, and we became close as my father died. Sadly there was too much of our mother playing us off each other to be close when we were young. But now she is a trusted ally, and the second call I make after my wife to share important news.

Trey

Anonymous said...

I think this post will appease Maxine's hunger for Christmasy things.

I have two older sisters, and they are my dearest friends. I also have four older brothers, and they are not far behind my sisters in my friendship list. It's rather a miracle after all we've been through as a family that we all still get along so well... mostly. There are differences but they have nothing to do with me, and until they do, I'll continue to ignore them.

I used to make little toys like that when I was a kid, but not for my dolls. I was never into dolls that much, although I did make some rag dolls patterned after those described by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I just used to like to make little animals, for myself or for gifts. I don't think any of them have survived that I know of.

Moxie said...

"Do you know what it's like to have an older sister?"

No, and I hated being an only child!

But I did have a christmas tree for my dollhouse and paint by numbers, probably was acrylic by the 70's tho.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Sooo...you decked the dolls with Dell's mentoring? [fa la la la la, la la la laaaaa.]

Goesh said...

That gunny sack cat looks to be more a Haitian Voo Doo doll

KLT said...

My older sisters and friends used to play with Barbies by the hour. Most of that time was spent assembling the houses and furniture for the day out of cardboard boxes, then changing their clothes a few times. According to my mother, who has made everything from tailored suits to wedding dresses, the ultimate sewing challenge was trousers for Ken).