Hi Everyone the next profile in the series from Childhood to Sasha, comes from Jackie Kraemer.So without further ado here is Jackies’ story.
I was born in Cleveland, Ohio on August 25, 1948. I had an older sister and brother, and then a younger brother and sister, so I am the middle child. I had a normal, happy childhood, living in the inner city of Cleveland, Ohio. I walked to school, the grocery store, church, and library and during the summer, spent most of my childhood roller skating, reading, and playing with my friends and my cousins. We loved playing with our dolls and dressing up. We had an old “Brownie” camera on a tripod, and one of us was the photographer and the all of us others were the models. We made a makeshift runway in the garage and dressed up in mom’s and my aunt’s hand me downs! The winter was long in Cleveland and most times, too cold to stay outside to play. We spent many of our playtime hours in the basement. My dad had turned one side of the basement into a recreation room, and it had a bar in the corner, some old couches, and lots of book cases. We had lots of old books, so playing library was a main attraction. Mom had an old, large gray baby buggy in the basement, and our dolls spent lots of time in that buggy going round and round that basement. I always had a doll to play with and loved playing dolls, mostly with my younger sister and my cousins. My older sister thought dolls were creepy and had nothing to do with them. We recently were going through old pictures with my mom, and almost every picture of me with my siblings, shows me holding a doll. Mostly baby dolls, I loved being the mommy! My paternal grandma also collected dolls! I remember going to her house as a child, and at the end of the hall was the “parlour”, and of the parlour was a small room that had my granny’s doll case, sewing machine, and stacks of old dolls, fabric, and knitting yarns. Grandma would scour the thrift stores for old dolls, mostly hard plastic from the 50’s, and fix them up and make them new clothes. She either sewed them wardrobes, or knitted or crocheted them something new. Often times, she would give them back to the charities at Christmas time so they could be given to children that didn’t get new toys for Christmas. I was allowed to play with most anything in that room, the only thing I was not to touch were her antique and special dolls that were in the curved glass doll cabinet. One time, Grandma dressed over 40 different dolls in costumes of different countries and these were displayed in the window of a Travel Agency in the neighborhood. Grandma did lots of research to make sure each doll was dressed in authentic clothing. My heritage is Slovenien and Croatian from Yugoslavia. Both sets of grandparents came over on boats to America in the early 1900’s, and went through Ellis Island. They were so happy to be Americans! Lots of my dolls came from my grandma as she knew that I loved dolls.
( I am on the left, of course, holding my baby doll.)
I went to an all-girls Catholic high school during the 60’s and graduated in 1966. Our high school closed in our junior year but us seniors were allowed to stay and finish out our education as the last graduating class of St. Francis High School. We did not have to wear uniforms to school, but we did have to wear skirts or dresses. I remember wearing patterened stockings, most had a lacy design or polka dots and my friends and I would roll up our skirt bands to have mini skirts while walking to school. As soon as we would turn the corner and see the school, we would have to roll those waistbands down because mini skirts were not allowed by the nuns! My high school was mostly a business major and we learned typing and shorthand, and book keeping skills. I wanted a car and nice designer clothes, so I immediately found a job after high school to attain these things. My parents had enrolled me in an airline training school and I took the classes through the mail and when I was 18, went off to Kansas City, Missouri for 8 weeks to complete the course. I decided to become a reservation agent, since I was not coordinated enough to become a stewardess. We would have to practice carrying trays of drinks in a make shift airplane, and I was always spilling and came away with lots of bruises all over my arms and legs. I graduated from the school with honors, but alas, could not work for the airlines, as they had a strict policy of only hiring people over the age of 20. While in Kansas City I lived in a huge old mansion on the top floor with 12 other girls. We frequently snuck out of the house on the weekends and took a taxi to Kansas where you could go to clubs and drink as the legal limit was 18 in that state. I met another good friend from Chicago when going to this school, and after we both went home, we continued to stay in touch and I frequently would hop a flight to Chicago for the weekend, or she would come to Cleveland, and we would have a fun time, mostly dancing and going to the beaches off Lake Erie or Lake Michigan. I found a great job in downtown Cleveland in an office, and on lunch hours, would walk to Halle Brothers or Higbee’s department store, or one of the ladies boutiques, and find a new dress or outfit to wear on the weekends. I got my drivers’ license and with my dad’s help, bought my first car, a 69 Oldsmobile, F85! I called him Ollie, the Olds. Every weekend, my girlfriends and I would head out to the many dance clubs and follow our favorite band. We would dance until the clubs closed at 2, and then go downtown to one of the diners for coffee and then go to 5 a.m. mass at the cathedral downtown. Then we would go home and sleep all day on Sunday and get ready to do it all again the next weekend.
I met my husband in 1966 at my girlfriend’s wedding. Many of my girl friends graduated from high school and then immediately got married. Not me though, I wanted to party for awhile! We married in March of 1971. Later that year, my daughter Kim was born. In late 1973 I became pregnant with my son and after he was born, became a stay at home mom. My husband was working full time, and then going to school in the evenings, so I was home a lot with the kids by myself. I spent lots of times with my neighbors who were also in the same situation as I was. One of my neighbors had lots of dolls for her daughter’s. When Kim was still a baby, I wanted her to have dolls like I did when I was young, so my girlfriend Bernie opened my eyes to Madame Alexander dolls. We would frequently walk to the grocery store, and next door to that was a small doll hospital. Bernie would have an antique doll in layaway most every time, and we would stop in on the way home so she could make her payment, and I would love going in that shop, looking at all those dolls. We would frequently go to the Mall to May’s or Higbees, and go to the doll department and put our name on a list to be called when the new Madame Alexander dolls would come in. That Christmas, my husband asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I told him that I wanted any one of those Madame Alexander baby dolls. So, not only did Kim get her first Madame Alexander doll, but I did too! I kept her in her box in my bedroom and most every day take her out to touch her. We were on a very limited budget during those years, and dolls were expensive to buy, so I would save up my Eagle green stamps and save money from the grocery budget and bought Kim a Madame Alexander doll every year for her birthday and Christmas. In 1977, we took a car trip and drove to Phoenix, AZ to check out the city. My son was diagnosed with severe asthma and we needed to find a warmer, dryer climate for him to live in to stay well. So, we moved to Phoenix in November of 1977 and bought a brand new house and moved into it in April of 1978. When Kim was about 7, she came to me and told me that she really didn’t like those dolls I was buying her, and she only liked Barbie! So, I told her well, guess what, Mommy really loves those dolls and she can have her Barbie’s and I would keep the Madame Alexanders. I had placed the kids in a Catholic grade school and one day, a flyer came home listing all the different activities you could join. And there was a doll club listed! So, I called the number and joined my first doll club. Through the doll club, I went to the doll shows that they had in Phoenix and met many wonderful women that loved dolls as much as I did.
I was introduced to Sasha dolls sometime in 1978 or 1979. I had seen them in the doll and toy shops and at the doll shows, although I had never touched one in person. I thought they were strange looking, as they had dark skin and wore standard clothing, nothing like my fancy little Madame Alexander dolls! One day, I went into my favorite toy and doll shop at the mall, and there were 3 Sasha dolls out of the case and on the doll counter. Gregor was standing on his head, and the other two were posed looking at him. They looked so much like real children! I finally was able to hold one in my hands, and was impressed by the weight of it, the quality and of course, the wonderful hair Sasha had. My daughter always had fine, fly away hair that would never grow long. She loved playing with Barbie because Barbie always had long hair, and she loved styling the hair on her. After holding that Sasha, I realized that this would make a wonderful doll for Kim as she had great hair! Money was very tight at that time, I was not working full time as my son was still getting sick, so buying a Sasha was not in my budget. That year my husband again asked what I wanted for my birthday, and I told him I wanted a Sasha doll. I wanted white dress red head Sasha! On my birthday, I found a present wrapped like a Sasha doll box and instead of getting my red head, he had gotten me Marina, a brunette. I was a little disappointed, but loved her just the same. I was fortunate enough that year to get money from my sisters and mom for my birthday and with that money, I went back to the toy store and bought my red head. I did try to give her to Kim to play with, but she just never bonded with any of my dolls and still, to this doll, cannot understand her mom’s passion for dolls. She is just not a doll person, nor is my son or unfortunately, anyone else in my family, grandkids included! I was also fortunate that most of these doll stores had layaway, so every couple of months, I would go into the store and buy a Sasha and put it on layaway!
In 1990, I went to my first Sasha festival! It was held in Mesa, Arizona. At that time it was only on a Friday and a Saturday. I could not go on Friday, but spent that Saturday in Sasha heaven! I remember seeing a display of Sasha dolls through the years, and that was the first time I had seen a Gotz Sasha in person, and many early Sasha dolls. I learned so much about Sasha M, and her dolls and was so impressed with everything Sasha. At the luncheon that day, I won the centerpiece which was a very cute dungarees outfit for either a boy or girl, plus received a T-shirt, a pair of cowboy boots, and a lasso and some other small things as the souvenir. I went to my first sales room and met Mary Glenn and saw her wonderful smocked creations. Everyone was so friendly and outgoing, and I really was impressed with the entire Sasha community. That was it! I made up my mind that no longer would I buy Madame Alexander or other dolls, I would only buy Sasha dolls! I started doing the doll shows, and over the years sold all of my Madame Alexander dolls, and all the others that I had, and only bought Sasha dolls and certain modern artist dolls. I subscribed to a national doll magazine called Collectors United, and bought many Sasha dolls through that magazine. In fact, I bought a brunette Sasha NP from a Collectors United subscriber in upstate NY and got her for $125! I remember calling the lady to ask if the dolls hair was falling and what color elastic the doll had, and the lady said, I’m an old lady, and can’t hardly see, so I don’t know. She had bought the doll which was in a red dress at a flea market. So, I sent her a check and when I opened the box and saw this Sasha, I was completely shocked! I wasn’t even sure it was a no philtrum as I had really never seen one in person. At the next doll show, I took her to the doll show, and Laura Lindberg was there and I showed her the doll and she said, it’s a NP! Buying Sasha dolls through these publications was an adventure, unless the doll was a later one with its box, you just never knew what you were going to get. I think my favorite Sasha is #107 blonde gingham. At every doll show, with every ad I read posting one for sale, I would buy it. At that time, I was back at work and had extra income to buy and with selling all my other dolls, I had a doll account to buy the dolls that I really wanted. With these wonderful dolls, I learned more and more about side parts, full center parts, deep bangs, fringe girls, color of elastics, and met more and more people in Arizona that loved Sasha as much as I did.
I went back to work when the children were a little older, finding work in a school that hosted the Harley Davidson motorcycles, and then going to a field office as an administrative assistant. I had always wanted to work with children, so in the early 90’s, changed careers and became a teacher’s aide working with disabled, autistic children. An opportunity arose in the Vision department, so I switched and became a Braille Technician. I am certified in literary Braille and even though I am rusty, could still read it. I retired about 5 years ago, and have spent more time selling my vast collection of dolls and doll related things. After 43 years of collecting, it is time to downsize! However, that doesn’t seem to stop me from acquiring a new Sasha, one just speaks to me and says she wants to come and live with me! I am fortunate that my children and grandchildren live close, and I really enjoy spending time with my family.
(Above some of Jackies’ Sasha doll collection)
(Above The following pictures are of my studio dolls and a table in my hall with some of my Sasha’s redressed in some of their special clothes!)
Mary Glenn and I had decided to host a Sasha festival here in Phoenix in 1999. So in 1997, we went to Iowa to the Sasha festival with was a Country Fair theme! What fun we had! The following year, Mary and I went to Cincinnati and again had a wonderful time with all of the Sasha community. I have hosted two more festivals, again in 2006 and is 2014 with Marti Murphy. This is what I love the most about collecting and loving Sasha dolls. I have made so many friends through this doll and our love for it, that it just makes me feel blessed to be in it all and part of it. Plus, I absolutely still love the doll! Finding a new one and opening the box when she comes in, whether mint in box, or a waif, taking her out, giving her a spa treatment, redressing her in something special, it just gives me a thrill every time! I usually take a few Sasha dolls with me to sell at the festivals. Most of the money that I make from the sales, pays for a new Sasha doll. I never thought I would be able to buy a studio doll, but after meeting Marie Morgan after she came to our festival in 1999, and then helping her host the 2000 festival in Huddersfield, I realized that I could have a studio doll. If I sold some of the dolls that I already had, I could trade-up! Most of my Sasha’s are in a glass enclosed doll case, and on a few tables in my living room. I have Sashas’ wardrobes separated by seasons in bins, and every season, almost all the dolls get something new to wear or a changed outfit. I am so lucky to know all these creative sewers out there, my Sasha’s have the best possible fashions available! There is a special shelf in the doll case where I keep my most special Sasha dolls. If there is a new special Sasha coming, I pull a doll out of that special shelf and trade her for the new one. I love finding special accessories for Sasha. I always check the key chains displayed in stores, and especially Christmas ornaments. Seems there is always something that is just the perfect size, the perfect toy just for our Sasha’s. I really don’t think I could own just one Sasha doll, plus I don’t think that I have an extra special favorite! They are all pretty special and unique and that is another reason to love Sasha!
A big thank you to Jackie for taking part and sharing her story. I first met Jackie at the 2012 Festival when i was an extreme newby and she took me under her wing and made me feel very welcome. Please do not copy any of Jackies’ photos without her permission.