From Childhood To Sasha Profile Number 1

Hi Everyone i hope you all had a lovely Christmas and New Year.As you all know last year was the year of the Calender Challenge.

This year i have decided to do something completely different.

There have been quite few new people come into the world of Sasha recently and i myself only started my journey with Sasha dolls a couple of years ago and am still learning.
There are others who have been in the Sasha world for quite a while and indeed we can all learn a lot from these wonderful people.I though it would be a nice idea to get to know some of our Sasha folk a little better, especially as some of come from all different parts of the world and may never get to meet these wonderful people in person or learn what they have bought to the world of Sasha.

This year on my blog will be be profiles From Childhood to Sasha

So without further ado my first From Childhood To Sasha Profile is from the one and only Brenda Walton.

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(The photo above is one of Brenda at the 2012 Sasha Festival)

Brenda Walton’s Story

I entered the world at Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport, in June 1938, to loving parents Lily and Harry Williams, who thought that I would never arrive after trying since 1928 to have a child. On September 3, 1939 – Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand declared war on Germany. On September 4, 1939 – British Royal Air Force attacked the German Navy. Then on September 5, 1939 – the United States proclaimed its neutrality; German troops cross the Vistula River in Poland. At this poignant time, my father became seriously ill and went into hospital – first one, then another, then another, but he was never to return to our home and died in hospital when I was four years old. I cannot really remember him, which is sad, as I understand that he was a wonderful “Daddy” to me during the first 14 months of my life, when he was at home.

Home was a small 3 bedroom terraced house in Liverpool Street, which runs adjacent to Houldsworth Street, where the Frido / Trendon / Sasha dolls were manufactured 1965-1986. In the 1800’s Reddish was a sleepy little village, but with the burgeoning cotton industry, the area became a satellite of Cottonopolis (Manchester) with cotton mills sprouting up everywhere. The Greg family opened the Albert Mill in Reddish in 1845 and built some facilities for the workers and by 1851 the Reddish population had risen to 1,218. I mention the Greg family as a TV series “The Mill” was made about their Quarry Bank Mill, which I am sure many of you will have seen.

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(Houldsworth Mill)

The Houldsworth Mill which was built in 1865, and the (Sasha Mill) Reddish Spinning Company in 1870, were to herald a further growth spurt in Reddish, so that the population gradually rose to 5,557. Sir William Henry Houldsworth (Baronet) was very conscious of his duties to his workers from these two mills, and a great upholder of the principle that those who had created wealth had a responsibility for those who had not, especially a responsibility towards their spiritual welfare.

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(Houses on Houldsworth Street)

Around his mills Sir William built a community of houses, two rows opposite the Houldsworth Mill, and one row in Liverpool Street (where I was to live at number 18). He also built two parks, on Houldsworth Street and Liverpool Street; the Houldsworth Working Men’s Club opened in 1874 – a social club which sold alcoholic drink, but which also had a games room, library, newsroom and lecture room; Houldsworthgirls School, opened in 1876, (where I was later a pupil age 4 – 9); and St Elisabeth’s Church, consecrated in 1883 (where I was married to Frederick Walton in March 1957), so my life has revolved around an area where I was to work for 35 years. Additionally, he built a detached house for the headmaster and a beautiful Rectory to house the Vicar. Incidentally, all of the buildings built by Sir William are in good order and in full use today – the Church is Grade 1 protected and all the other buildings are Grade 2 protected, so they are well protected against change.

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(St Elizabeth’s Church where Brenda and Fred were married)

Life was hard in the Williams household, and it was only with the help of my mother’s brothers and sisters that we managed to survive at all, although I did get several pairs of shoes over the years from Pendlebury Orphanage in Stockport, so I wasn’t barefoot. There were no government “hand-outs” at that time, and many families had men serving in the armed forces, so lots of people were in the same boat. My mother was fortunate that we lived close by to Kay Brothers Limited, and was able to get a part-time job there – checking knitted containers for anti-tank “Sticky Bombs” as the chief chemist at Kays developed the special adhesive required for the bombs to stick on the tanks. I had several “knitted rejects” to keep my marbles in!

Although everything was rationed Skipping ropes were from the greengrocers, where they had been tied round crates, hop-scotch was very popular because you only needed a smooth stone, or better still – an old shoe polish tin, to aim along the pavement to the required number, and of course whip and top was always popular, so long as you could get hold of a decent piece of string!!

When I was seven and a half years old, my Christmas gift was a beautiful celluloid baby doll, I thought she was absolutely wonderful and I named her Marlene. Marlene was dressed, by my clever Auntie Nellie, in beautifully crocheted pink underwear, dress, coat, hat and shoes – I really thought she was from heaven. I did not realise of course that she was “second-hand” and had belonged to a very lucky little girl, who now grown, did not want her any more. Marlene was my playmate, best friend and confidante for many years. It is only recently I have had to dispose of her, as the celluloid became too brittle and tended to break easily. I have always loved dolls, but apart from Marlene the only other dolls I had were a cut out paper set with a huge variety of paper clothes – these were donated to British children by American servicemen, providing you had sent in your details to the nearest base – ours being Burtonwood USAF near Warrington. These became a good help in passing away the time in an enjoyable manner, as there was of course no television and we did not own a radio.

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( A doll similar to the one Brenda owned as a child)

In my early years at school I did well, though I was always a chatterbox and often had to stand in the corridor for talking during class, and often had the cane when I was naughty – however, I enjoyed my time at Houldsworth School and was quite sad to leave to attend the new Junior School in North Reddish. I had only been there a matter of 10 months or so, when one Saturday morning, having done my usual list of shopping for my mother, Auntie Nellie and Mrs Halliwell,
(I shopped every Saturday morning, grocers, greengrocers, butchers and dairy for which I got 6p spending money) I was on my way home and was hit by a speeding car – ending up in hospital for almost 12 months, but I recovered to full health in the end. During my time in hospital, I missed the National Exams for High School, so went on to Reddish Vale Secondary School where I excelled. I became deputy head of House in year 2, and Head Girl at the start of Year 4.

My mother Lily had been a very bright pupil when she was at Houldsworth School, and the headmaster secured a place for her at J. Halden & Co. Ltd in the drawing office, but my grandmother said she had “to go in the mill like all the others” so my mother actually started work in the Reddish Spinning Company on Houldsworth Street, where I was later to work for Sasha Dolls. Not wanting my fate to be the same as hers, my mother (who became a qualified tailoress) scrimped and saved enough to send me to a private Business College for a years training – Shorthand, Typing, Book-keeping, Commercial English and Maths. At the end of one year, I left Bradburn College taking shorthand at 140 wmp and typing at 80 wpm – my first position was as Secretary to the Managing Director of Lincoln Bennett – a bespoke hat manufacturer in Stockport. I was almost 16.

Lincoln Bennett were bought out some 2 years later and the factory moved from the centre of Stockport to the outskirts of town, so I changed job to work as Secretary to the Personnel Manager at a Dye company, again in the centre of Stockport. When I got married to Frederick (Fred) in 1957, we bought a house in Liverpool Street the same row as my mother (number 18) Auntie Nellie at 16, and Fred and I moved in to 14 – very handy if you ran out of something when the shops were shut !!! Six years later I spotted an advert in the local weekly paper, Secretary Required for the Managing Director of Frido Limited and two associated companies.
I applied and went for interview with Mr Siegmund Friedland (brother of Sara Doggart) and after a full hour of tests etc. he offered me the job on the spot. Wow – only a five minute walk to work, that would be great. I started work on 1st July 1963 and two months later Frido Limited, Sima Plastics Limited, V & E Friedland Limited – became a public company (whereby people can invest in shares in the company, quoted on the London Stock Exchange) and Mr Friedland became Chairman of the company.

Mr Friedland was a handsome man, and in his earlier years had been quite the “man about town” in Paris before the outbreak of war. I very much enjoyed working for him, but was told very early on that he had a heart problem. He was a real character, enjoyed life and joined lots of local activities in nearby Macclesfield with his wife Tezi (Theresa). I can remember that he once went on a cruise and on Fancy Dress night, he went as The Absent Minded Professor – dress shirt, dinner jacket – but no trousers, he thoroughly enjoyed life. In November 1964 he was driven to work by his chauffeur on a very foggy day, and then insisted on driving himself somewhere. I got a call to say Mr Friedland had been taken ill, and could I send a car for him, which I did immediately. When he got back to the factory he would not let us call for a doctor or send him home, he insisted he was feeling better. A short time afterwards he agreed to go home, took a couple of steps and collapsed in front of me at the office. He had had a massive heart attack and just dropped dead. Nothing could be done – he was 54.

John Doggart, as Deputy Chairman of the Company took charge the following day, after the funeral. He asked if I would continue to work for him, and I agreed. At that time Frido Limited was the UK’s biggest play-ball manufacturer, but as the sales, for beach balls in particular, were mainly in the summer time, we manufactured a range of Frida dolls – the usual pink vinyl doll that every UK manufacturer seemed to make – the major sale time for these being Autumn up to Christmas. This meant that instead of “laying off” the majority of employees, we were able to keep continuity of staff. After we had exhibited at the Harrogate Toy Fair in January 1965 and the British Toy Fair at the end of that month, John Doggart and his wife Sara decided they would discontinue the current range of dolls and look around for something better to make, that they could be proud of.

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(The Sasha Factory In Reddish)

Most of you will know the story from then on, but briefly a designer we used regularly came across the Swiss Magazine “Graphis”, which featured Sasha Morgenthaler and her dolls. He passed over the magazine to the Doggarts who were enthused with what they saw, immediately made arrangements to see Sasha in Switzerland. Initially, Sasha was a little hesitant with her visitors, but within a very short time they had forged a friendship that would grow in strength over the years. A strong bond developed between John, Sara and Sasha and that only ended when Sasha died.

Sara Doggart was born in Minsk. At the time of the Revolution, her family had fled to Berlin – I believe that Sasha had some Russian heritage as well, and this is what possibly helped these two women understand each other – although it was more than just empathy. Because of her linguistic skills, Sara Doggart was able to speak to Sasha without interpreters – Russian, German, French, English, Hebrew, Italian, plus a little Greek were Sara’s gifts.

John Doggart promised Sasha. That if she gave him license to manufacture the Sasha Doll in England that he would ensure it was well engineered. Aesthetically, Frido would make the doll to meet Sasha’s dream. John gave his word that there would be no compromise; it would be made in the finest way possible, or not at all.

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(Sara and John Doggart)

Sasha agreed to give the Doggarts the license to manufacture Sasha for sale in the areas of the United Kingdom, all the British Commonwealth and Scandinavia. In Stockport, machines were purchased, and some very clever engineers were given the task of how to manufacture Sasha. In this respect the Frido company was extremely fortunate, because John Doggart employed excellent engineers and model makers in the Friedland chime company, and so they were “seconded” to work on Sasha.

There was a lot of hard work though – Sasha had not designed the doll with mass production in mind, and it was quite difficult to overcome some of the moulding problems, particularly how to remove the legs and arms from the moulds because of Sasha’s asymmetrical shape. Sasha M did not like the line which joined both halves of the body, and so Frido made a bikini line join, which did not show under panties. All such problems were overcome and with the Frido expertise in rotational moulding, which was the same process used for plastic play balls, and so we began the Stockport manufacture of Sasha dolls.

Brenda and Doreen Bell eye painter 1980s

 

(Brenda with Doreen Bell who was the eye painter in the 1980’s at the Sasha Factory)

In the early months of production, Sasha M would visit us quite often and was always happy to help solve problems and on looking back, I guess we were lucky that she really enjoyed herself when she was at the factory. Later she would make just 2 or 3 visits a year, but the girls on the doll floor enjoyed having her around, as much as she enjoyed sitting with them and hearing their various stories – where they were off dancing at the weekend – Belle Vue or Levenshulme Pallais, who they were going with, what they would be wearing. The girls on the doll floor lived very locally, so many would go home during the one hour lunch break and often bring back things to show Sasha M, photographs, material they had bought etc.

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( This photo of Sasha Morgenthaler taken on her 80th Birthday, has never been used before and it not to be copied)

Many of the girls had attended Houldsworth School and knew each other well,
so they could tell funny stories about one another to her, and Sasha loved this.
Sasha M also liked to listen to their jokes – sometimes she had to have them explained to her – but in the main she understood what the punch line was and really had a good laugh. When she was not on the doll floor, Sasha had an office adjacent to mine, so we saw quite a lot of each other and she often asked for my opinion on something – I always tried to say exactly what I thought, and I believe that she appreciated my honesty. I had lovely dolls on my shelves which Sasha had painted, and it was amazing to watch her deftly change a blank face into a raving beauty. I am so lucky to have 9 of these “extra special” no- philtrum prototype dolls which received the same hair/dress/painting progression as did the studio Sasha dolls. Because I had looked after them in my office so very well, Sara told me I should take them home – how lucky can you get!!

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(This photo of Sasha Morgenthaler has not been used before and is not to be copied)

Because the girls on the doll floor had been friends for many years, the working atmosphere was more like a harmonious family, rather than having to be there to “earn a crust”. In the early days, I guess we had 15 girls and a male supervisor working on Sasha, so the group were very close knit. Towards the end of production in 1985, we had two moulding men on the floor, and say 30 girls on assembly / packing, plus 30 or so outworkers responsible for the sewing of the outfits, plus a female supervisor. These girls were paid a very good rate, because of the standard expected – as many of you will know, the making up of dolls clothes does tend to be fiddly. Everything was sent out to them in boxes of 100, including cotton, elastics, Velcro, trimming etc. cut and prepared to be sewn. We all knew each other by our forenames, and I was always going upstairs to see if things were on schedule to meet orders due for shipment.

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(Brenda and Sara Doggart at the Toy Festival)

One of the things I enjoyed very much, was to attend the Toy Fair and meet up with the people you usually only speak to on the telephone. Initially, we would start with the Harrogate Toy Fair at the beginning of January, then the British Toy Fair in the middle of January, followed in sequence by the Paris, Nuremberg and New York Toy Fairs – it was always exciting to dress the stand – I usually had around 150 dolls at the fair – all needing their hair brushed, clothes attended to and then put on display. Hard work, but I loved it.

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(The Sasha stand at the Toy Festival)

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( A photo shoot for a Sasha advertisement)

So it was a very sad day in January 1986 when we finally closed Sasha production.Everyone was given the opportunity to transfer to the Friedland chime company, but only about 50% of people did this.I did transfer, doing the same job in Friedland as I had at Sasha, but instead of lovely dolls – it was door chimes, bells and pushes, and instead of going to the Toy Fairs – it was the Spring show in Birmingham, The Hannover Fair and the American Hardware Show in Chicago – just a little bit different.

The only significant time I had off work was at the beginning of 1970 – I attended the Harrogate Toy Fair, and then worked at home until Friday, 30th January. Our daughter Michelle was born on Wednesday, 4th February 1970. It had been my intention to stop work completely, but within a month I had been asked to go back – even if it was only part time, so I started back in April working 8am to 2pm without a break, which was only a couple of hours shorter than my usual hours, the only difference being that we had moved to Marple which was 7 miles from the factory, a lovely village with the Peak Forest Canal running through it and a flight of 16 locks for the holiday barges to negotiate. We get a lot of people from overseas on the holiday barges, I think they like the idea of tying up near pubs along the way and getting to know local people, as well as negotiating the Marple Aqueduct some 100 ft. above ground.

However, living 7 miles away didn’t prove a difficulty, good old Mum and Auntie Nellie came to the rescue, they almost grabbed the pram off me in the morning when I was dropping Michelle off and were very reluctant to hand her back!!! Of course they would take her on long walks and to the shops in the morning, and then in the afternoon I would push her around Marple and meet up with friends, so the little one had plenty of fresh air and loving company. When she was just over two, I enrolled her at a private kindergarten – she loved playing with the other children – all was well, until I got home to Marple one day and realised I had forgotten to pick her up – was my face red !!!! From the age of 7, Michelle would travel down to London with her dad when we were exhibiting at the British Toy Fair – of course everyone made a fuss of her and she loved looking at all the new toys that would be coming out for the following Christmas – what a sneak preview.

Theresa asked me if I had a favourite doll, and it must be my Algerian Girl which Sasha M hand painted – her deep purple eyes are wonderful. My second favourite is Alice, again a Sasha M hand paint with beautiful big eyes – she is from the very first mould that we made.

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Alice the Algerian girl
(Yasmine the Algerian Girl)
Now that I am nearer 80 than 70, I keep thinking that the pace will slow down, but it never seems to happen. There are always lots of things to do and lots of things to be done. Michelle has lived in Dubai since 2001 and latterly in South Africa, so we are often on an Emirates flight to see the grandchildren Megan 8 and Matthew 17, not to mention to enjoy the sunshine.

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(Brenda and Fred at the Chat’n’Snap 2014)

Brenda and Fred in Dubai

(Brenda and Fred recently in Dubai)

At this time, the most important factor in life is Health and with good health you can enjoy Happiness and Prosperity, which I wish you all for 2015, and do hope that I have not bored the pants off you all !!!!

Footnote:
I would just like to say a very big thank you to Brenda for taking the time to take part in the from Childhood to Sasha Profile. I hope those of you who did not know her, can now feel that you do, and that those who do know her, now know her even better.
Brenda has asked that the two photo’s of Sasha Morgenthaler are not copied as they are her copyright. The photo’s have never been used before and it was wonderful for Brenda to allow me to use them.
( I forgot to mention that Brenda re-strings Sasha dolls and also can give them a spa, should they need it)

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