Hi Everyone now we are into the month of February, it is time for my next Childhood to Sasha story.
This story comes from none other that the wonderful Ann Chandler.For those of you that do not know Ann is the person who started the the Sasha Festivals that are now run yearly, Ann was also joint owner of the Marcy Street Doll co.,along with being a co-author for the trilogy of Sasha books. We have so much to thank Ann for.
So here is Ann’s story in her own words.
It’s not something that I make evident to people right away. It’s not that I’m ashamed that I am as involved with dolls as I am, but I wait until I see how they feel about dolls before revealing that I am a collector. Many people think I’m nuttier than a fruitcake! And I may be. Dolls bring me more pleasure than high fashion, jewellery, or anything else I can think of, with the possible exception of family pictures.
I had my picture taken When I was about a year old, perhaps for my birthday. It is a studio portrait, in black and white, of course, and in it I am holding a bead doll. I don’t know if the toy was a photographer’s prop or one of my own toys. Whatever the case, it was a good choice for the occasion.
(The photo above is of an about 1 year old holding a bead doll)
( I have added a couple of photos that I took this year at the Sasha Festival, showing the very dress in detail that Ann is wearing in this photo)
I also hold dolls in pictures taken when I was two and three and four and five and eight and nine. There is a picture of my unmade bed, when I was about 14, with dolls on the shelf next to it. There are pictures of me as a middle-aged woman, giving Sasha programs. We have written several books about Sasha, which has been a joy. I was giving a Sasha talk with Anne Votaw in Williamsburg VA in 1991 for a UFDC regional conference, when my dad died. The day I heard that Trendon was going out of business and Sasha dolls would not be made by them any longer, was the same day in 1986 as the Space Shuttle Challenger crash that killed seven astronauts. I still think of them together, though the shuttle loss can hardly be compared to anything happening in the doll world.
(The photo above is of Ann as a toddler holding a doll)
(When I was in high school, my dad built me a bookshelf near my bed. On it I put my doll collection of ethnic dolls he brought to me during WWII. Notice the Japanese flag over my bed? He picked that up in Japan at the end of the war when he visited Nagasaki, where the second atom bomb was dropped. I wonder if the flag was radio-active? I’m still here, so I guess not.)
I remember, when I was in grade-school, if a new family moved into the neighbourhood, my first question in getting to know the girls in the family was, “Do you like to play with dolls and paperdolls” If they looked at me askance, I knew we’d never be really close friends. If their faces lit up with delight, I knew they were kindred spirits. And in my day kids were children a lot longer than most are today. You can see evidence of this in old pictures and stories from Victorian times, though I’m not quite THAT old.
(the photo above is Ann with her Shirley Temple doll)
I was a depression baby, born on Valentine’s Day, 1932. President F.D. Roosevelt had just been elected for the first time, and my parents were poor. Not poor like people from the dust bowl, or Appalachia. We were never without a home or food. My parents loved antiques and bought everything for their home from antique and used furniture stores. It was like a game, to find a “perfectly good” used sofa for $5.00 somewhere. We had no compunctions about moving used upholstered furniture into our home, and I don’t remember ever being infested with unwanted insects. Our home was nice. My mother was an excellent housekeeper, and had innate good taste in decorating. They were fortunate to come from a modest amount of money, and the furniture they inherited was fine antiques from the late 1700s. We just had very little cash to spend, like everyone else back in the Depression years. Mother made clothes for herself and me on a Singer treadle sewing machine, from her mother-in-law. I learned to sew on it, too. We finally bought an electric portable Singer Featherweight when I was sixteen. When I was married, at 21, a similar machine was our first purchase. We paid $12 a month for 14 months to pay for it, and it is still with me. I think we got our money’s worth.
(My dad was a Boy Scout executive. The first year he was directing camp, at Camp Manning in Raymond, ME, Mother and I went with him and lived in the director’s cottage for a month. This is a news photo that appeared in the local paper. Notice the doll, all covered for HER nap, at the other end of the blanket. I can’t see it well enough to identify it, but my dolls were never far away, no matter where I went.)
In the 1930s, those years just prior to World War II, people behaved well, and dressed for the occasion. My father would not think of going into the bank without a shirt and tie, suit-coat and Fedora hat. My mother would not go downtown, which was the centre of our small city where everyone shopped, without gloves and a hat. I tell you this because unless you can remember those years, you might not understand why wardrobe dolls and paperdolls had so many hats to go with certain dresses, or panties to match dresses, or girls wearing dresses at all. Sasha collectors have revived some of that, but then, Sasha Morgenthaler was from an even earlier time than I.
( This is my dad and me at Kittery Point, Maine, sitting on rocks at the harbours edge. The doll I am holding in my left hand was a small rubber doll, and the composition doll with cloth body in my right hand has a broken head. I seem to have loved my broken baby anyhow.)
Often, on a Sunday afternoon, we would go for rides in our car to find antique shops. By the time I was seven or eight, I was already looking for dolls in those shops, while Dad looked at the tools, and Mother at the dishes. One shop we frequented had a dollar table. Everything on that table cost a dollar or less. I had a hard time coming up with a whole dollar, all at once, before I was six years old, but as I grew older, it became a very realistic price for me. One could find all-bisque, German, miniature dolls on that table, and other treasures that a child would love. (It’s nothing to do with our subject here, but interesting to note that my only sibling was my brother, Nick, who began collecting toy guns from the dollar table. He grew up to collect rare antique Underhammer guns, made in New England in the early 1800s. He is as well-known in his gun world as I am in Sasha circles. He, too, wrote a book. We have fun comparing notes.)
(I love this picture! Our family was going on a picnic, something we did often. My mother told me to wear knee socks, but I wanted to wear ankle socks, so I wore both. I thought they looked great!The suitcase holds all the doll’s clothes for all the dolls I had, even though I am taking only “Lovie Lee” on the picnic.)
If I wanted a doll for a nickel, I could buy a three-inch Japanese bisque doll with a crape paper skirt, painted features and hair, and movable arms attached by a wire, for only five cents at the drug store. These dolls are still a bargain, and I have several. Mostly I am just nostalgic about them, because I remember the hours of pleasure I had making clothes for them, and playing with them. They were the first doll-clothes I made, when I was about eight. Recently, I bought three celluloid dolls of larger size, but similar style, with metallic-gold hair, dressed in feathers dyed gaudy colours. I know why I bought them. I could hear my mother saying to me, “No, you may not have one of those dolls. They are in poor taste!” Thank you, Mother, for teaching me good quality from poor!
(Here I am in July 1940, off to summer camp with my doll. My brother Nick was born while I was at camp. I’m glad to have him. We have lots of interests in common, and it’s fun to live so close to him now.The doll, according to Coleman’s, is Lovely Lee, but I always called her Lovie Lee. She went everywhere with me for a while.)
When I hit my teen years, most of my friends packed away their dolls, or gave them to younger friends or relatives. Sometimes my friend?s mothers would wait until we all went to summer camp, and gave away all their dolls without permission. I’m glad my mother didn’t do that. I couldn’t seem to put my dolls away. They were my friends and my children. The dolls I played with were child or baby dolls, not dolls representing adults.
Each of my dolls had a bed. I had a wooden cradle with a hood and a really nice crib that could hold dolls about 18 inches tall. I had doll blankets and quilts and pillows. And my dolls had dolls. If I didn’t have a manufactured bed for a doll, I made her one from a round oatmeal box or gave her a shoe-box crib. In high school I still had them lined up in their beds, about 15 of them, along one wall in my bedroom. I didn’t care what anyone thought about the dolls, or me. I couldn’t discard them. I made the sweater-shelves in my clothes closet into a house for my eight-inch Vogue dolls, which were pre-historic Ginny dolls. Ginny dolls were introduced about 1951, and I spent my bus money back to school in Portland, Maine, when I was at Westbrook Jr. College, to buy my first one. Thy were exhibited as the Kindergarten Crowd, and some were sold in underpants for 50 cents less than dressed dolls. That was the one I bought. I still have her. She has that caracal curly wig that I love. My Ginny doll has a fairly large wardrobe of hand-made clothes. The clothes I made cost me nothing but time. At first I was far from skilled, but I improved over the years. The doll and her clothes live in a box in my doll-room.
(Above is a photo of a range of Sasha doll clothes,called faded glory, produced by Ann using reclaimed fabric. Ann tells me that she sews all clothes by hand only using a sewing machine when I incorporate a machine-sewn seam from the original piece, as on the sailor jacket.Ann has also informed me that, That her travel doll, Rachel,is on the left in the sailor jacket. In the center is her early red-headed Gregor Shorts, named Michael, and on the right is her Sasha Sweater, named Jane. Jane’s hat was made by Susanna Lewis, but Ann made the dress. All the shoes are by Jean Jensen.)
Sasha dolls first came to my attention in 1967, when my only daughter, Dorothy, was six. She liked dolls well enough, but she liked stuffed animals better, and cooking, and building stuff. But when I bought my first Sasha doll, an early Gotz with dark hair and a brown cord dress, she wanted it. I told her she could play with it, but when she grew up and moved away, Sasha was staying with me. She was my doll. Later, several other Sasha dolls joined our family with a similar understanding. Dorothy still isn’t what I call a doll-lover, but she has grown to appreciate the artistry in dolls. She treasures the antique baby doll I gave her two years ago. She even has begun to attend Sasha Festival with me, much to my delight. She is amazed by what she sees there, and has formed her own opinions about certain Sasha dolls, such as repaints.
(the photo above is one that i took of Ann and her daughter Dorothy at the 2012 Sasha Festival in England)
When I married at 21, my 22-year-old husband and I were barely out of childhood ourselves. We wanted to have children right away, and set to work to make that happen. We proceeded to have five children, including a set of twins, in five-and-a-half years. We loved them all, though we might have chosen to put more years between them, had we been older and wiser. I can’t believe my twins will turn 60 this year, and Dorothy already has three grandsons. I had looked forward to making doll-clothes for my daughters, but the first four of my children were boys, who had only a passing interest in dolls. I had some antique dolls displayed in my living room right from the first, and the boys knew they were not toys to be played with. They appreciated my three dollhouses, in various scales, more. There seems to be an attraction for many people, regardless of sex, to a miniature world. Boys still play war with GI Joe or smaller soldiers, and the miniature world of electric trains has held many a man captive his entire adult life. There is a fine line between these forms of play, and in many families, the lines are blurred. Today, girls join the army and boys learn to cook and sew.
I have lived longer than most people I know, so I have collected dolls, and Sasha dolls longer than most people. I had nine Sasha dolls for several years, three brunettes, three blonds, and three Black dolls, a boy, girl and baby in each variation. My cousin Debby and I started the Marcy Street Doll Company in 1977 when we were both divorced. We hoped it would grow into a business that would help to support us. We broke our partnership in two years, and really weren’t making money yet, but we began to make lots of friends, and grew to appreciate Sasha dolls for the wonderful dolls they were. They were the dolls I longed for as a child. They were beautifully designed and nearly indestructible, a nice size, could stand alone, or on their heads .Perhaps the best thing about them is they were not all alike. In fact, in the early days of collecting, it was hard to find two Sasha dolls that were identical. That was when Sasha came with hair styled in side parts and centre parts, and later, no part at all. They had Gotz faces and Trendon faces, and their eyes were painted by hand. We also designed patterns to fit Sasha, and these are still being used today. A few years ago I had most of them reprinted into books. Debby did the knitting patterns and I the sewing ones. We paid our kids one cent each to fold them into thirds to sell, and sold the patterns for fifty cents each at the Marcy Street Doll Company.
When Cousin Debby and I broke our partnership, she continued to own Marcy Street Doll Company for several years. It was at this time that I decided to try to bring Sasha collectors together, first with a newsletter, and soon with an annual Festival. I never dreamed where Sasha would take me! We have now, since 1983, held a Sasha Festival each year, with various people brave enough to host the monster I created, with grace and humour, in their own home towns. We have been all over the United States, and to England twice. I truly wish we could hold one Festival in Switzerland, before I leave this planet. New Collectors need to know about Sasha’s roots, and there is no place better to see them than where Sasha Morgenthaler first made her amazing dolls by hand. We have held marvellous special exhibits at several Sasha Festivals, featuring Sasha’s original studio dolls. That’s the best we Americans can do. Now England has started having Sasha Fun Days, which are simpler than Sasha Festivals. Fun Days are usually one-day events for 30 or fewer people. While Sasha Festivals are now three days and have around 100-110 people at them. It’s getting expensive, and it is overwhelming for the hostess to try to include so much. Many of us long for the early, simpler days. That is why Fun Days began, and they are really great. I am amazed that Sasha Festivals have survived and are still planned years in advance by brave people. I have managed, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, to be at every Sasha Festival. I have hosted five festivals, and assisted as several others. I will not host another. It’s too much work.
Gay men have found acceptance in the doll-collecting world. Some straight men, who began collecting boy and man dolls when their wives started collecting dolls, were drawn to Sasha dolls because they included boys, as well as sexed baby boys, in the beginning. I find friendships built on common interests much more fulfilling than those made on the basis of age or sex. If you love dolls, what difference does it make? You are my kind of person! Or art, or music, or antiques and old houses, or any other common interest. It’s a cruel world out there, and I try to value people as they are, for the most part. I admire people who are creative and have a good sense of humour. I pity people who judge people before they even meet them because they are different, or belong to a certain ethnic group. How dull life would be if we were all the same. Different isn’t necessary bad, it’s only different. Sometimes different from an old way of seeing things is interesting, or better. So, go out there and love a Vegetarian today. Some of my best friends are Vegetarians, or even Glutton-Free, especially if they like dolls. Some Vegetarians even share my love for Sasha.
I would just like to say a great big thank you for Ann for telling us her story. The last few months have not been easy for her first of all recovering from her fall at last years Sasha Festival and more recently being involved in a car crash and also heavy snow fall. I also would like to wish Ann a very very Happy Birthday for this Saturday St Valentines day, Ann will be 83 years young. Have a Sashatastic day and here’s to many more!!!
Here are a couple of photos I have added to show the wonderful outfit hand stitched by Ann.
Below is a photo of a younger Ann with a pal wearing a lovely gown.Ann is on the right.
Below Ann as she is today.
Thanks for looking………..