In this instalment of From Childhood to Sasha I would like to introduce you to the lovely Shelly Baxter
My name is Michelle Baxter but I’m known mainly as Shelly. I run the website Sasha Doll UK and have done to since 2004 .
I was born in 1967 and was the second child to June and John . We lived with my Maternal Grandfather Arthur in a house he purchased in 1926 for just £426 from the ideal home exhibition , My Grandfather was a driver for the British Gas company and was a gunner during WWII. My Nan passed away when my Mum was just sixteen so I never had the pleasure of meeting her but I am told she was a lovely, kind lady and was a lady’s maid in her younger years. They married in 1926 in Hammersmith , London then moved to Feltham, Middlesex to the house where not only my Mother but myself and my two brothers were born and raised .
(Above a photo from left to right of Shelly’s , Nanny Flo, Shelly’s Dad and Mum and Grandad Arthur)
(Above a photo of Shelly as a young girl)
The early years of my life were filled with insecurity and drama due my father’s addiction to alcohol but my Mother was resolute, no matter how hard things were she was a true constant in our young lives. In 1972 just after the birth of my youngest brother, my father moved back to his home town in Newcastle-upon-Tyne when their divorce proceedings began . Money was tight but that was normal, having not known any different we took for granted the many accomplishments of our Mum who would knit and sew for us. Our other clothing came mostly from jumble sales and hand me downs and lots of our gifts were handmade.
(Above a photo of Shelly with her brother’s)
(Above a photo of Shelly with her big brother)
My mother started child minding which allowed her to earn a living whilst being at home for us. This made things easier money wise and we learnt to share not just toys, but our Mum also . I remember that she would make fancy dress clothing from old materials which were kept in an old large ottoman alongside some old ball gowns given to the cause by generous neighbours. We grew up in a house where the front door was always open and children were always playing, Mum would care for several of the elderly residences including my Grandfather who spent most of the time in his room . He had Tuberculosis for ten years after the war and this left him quite fragile.
During these years our house became such a happy home. I was seven when I last saw my Dad alive and sadly the next time was in the chapel of rest when I was nineteen .
(Above a photo of Shelly with her Grandad Arthur)
From the age six I remember having a passion for dolls even the ones with plucked out eyelashes or missing fingers and oh, not forgetting the one with just one eye. Often these would have been victims of my older brother or they were given to me in the way of hand-me-downs but I loved them all the same. I gave each one a name and would make them beds in an old display cabinet that had been abandoned on the landing.
For my seventh birthday we travelled to Newcastle to see my paternal Grandmother Florence, she was a petite little lady who had a massive box of shoes in her wardrobe though all mixed up I might add. Her feet were only a size three and I recall being told off, on several occasions, for going in her wardrobe and trying on all of those lovely shoes ;o) Nanny Flo worked at the River Tyne fisheries where all the fishing boats came in so we ate plenty of fresh fish whilst there and plenty of tea cakes which I loved toasted and topped with real butter .
(Above Shelly with her pram)
On my actual birthday we went to the biggest toy department I had ever seen in my life where I was allowed to purchase a doll I had wanted for so long. She was a Pedigree Baby First Love, the one with the twisty waist and sleepy eyes. I could hardly believe that this was the day that she would be mine. My head was not turned by any other doll I had no time to check out anyone else. I finally had the box in my hand and she was mine. My excitement grew further as I was told I had enough birthday money left for an outfit too. She was already wearing a little cotton dress and nappy so I chose a pair of tights, a blue Babygro with striped sleeves plus the sweetest little pair of white ankle strap shoes .
On the bus journey back to Nanny Flo’s house my Mother told me she has an extra surprise waiting for me . The present was neatly wrapped in white tissue paper and inside was a knitted white with pink contrast cardigan, bonnet, booties and knickers all hand knitted by my Mum. I spent the rest of the day playing with my new doll who remained my favourite till Sindy arrived on the scene . I still love the First Love dolls though and have been known to search for them on eBay… and buy them!
(Above a photo of a First Baby Love doll similar to the one that Shelly owned)
The first time I ever saw a Sasha doll was after a school visit to Windsor Castle. Across the road from the Castle was a little shop with a white bow fronted window. There in the window stood an advertising board with a picture of a beautiful Blonde Gingham doll. She was so different to any doll I had ever seen before, I immediately wanted to know who she was and could I have one . My mother told me she was a Sasha Doll and that she was handmade and so was very expensive. She also told me they made babies too. I readily accepted that she was not meant to be mine but none the less never forgot that image.
Two years later hunting for hidden Christmas presents in my Mum’s room I discovered a little Sasha baby. I could see this little face with dark brown eyes, surrounded with a shock of blonde hair peering out through the box’s cellophane window but the rest was all wrapped up in a shawl . I quickly put it back thinking it looked a little like a monkey… but kept going back again and again to peer back through the cellophane at that little face.
One day Mum was having a cup of tea with one of the neighbours so I stole the opportunity to creep upstairs back to the drawer under the bed. I knew I shouldn’t but I needed to see what was attached to that little monkey face. I very carefully opened the box and slid the straw basket out just far enough so that I could take a peek and discovered it’s little brown arms and legs with not much detail to the hands and feet. So different to all of my previous dolls,
The clothing was just a plain white cotton nightdress but when I moved the nappy to one side I discovered that he was a little boy! I had another doll called Michael who was a boy so this did not phase me but this baby was just SO different, I could barely wait for Christmas to arrive to I could take him out for real . Of course when Christmas Day arrived I had to act surprised but I think my Mum knew we had already met, He is now called George ( named by my granddaughter Chloe) and is still with me though he did have an adventure of his own. I later found out my Mother had purchased him on a payment plan. I loved and looked after him well but never really forgot the Sasha girl I had seen in that shop’s bow front window.
(Above Shelly’s, Granddaughter Chloe, with Shelly’s baby Sasha doll ,George )
As I grew older my new passion was Ballet dancing which I did till I was fifteen. My lessons were every Thursday for one hour in a function room above the local public house. On the way home I would share a quarter of warm cashews nuts with my Mum who was still sewing and making all of my costumes. The years past and my dolls were put away in the loft.
The next time I saw them I was nineteen and married with two children, Ashley and Candy, raising little ones is expensive so in order to find some extra funds all my dolls and anything else of any value came down from the loft and was sold at a car boot sale… all except my little Sasha baby George, he was kept as I knew that my Mum paid a lot of money for him . My Father died that year, followed by my grandfather the following year. My husband and I divorced. I was now twenty-two with three children Ashley, Candy and Aaron and needed to focus on them and try to put from my mind the loved ones lost.
I secured myself a job as a pharmacy assistant, I loved this job and even came third place in the assistant of the year competition, Eventually I had to leave here due to childcare issues as my Mum by then was working as a Doctor’s receptionist so it made sense for me to work in the evening when she could help out with my children. My next job worked out better for us as a family as this time I worked a supermarket checkout girl.
I started to study Child Psychology and also book keeping and accounts plus car maintenance which was fun. During the day I was an Avon Lady which I did for ten years .
I played pool on a Monday evening and captained my own team and was eventually offered the job of league secretary which I enjoyed. I can remember typing up the league tables on an ancient type writer with a child on one hip. I met my second partner during this time and though we never married, we had two children Connor and Jodey. I was twenty-eight when my youngest, Jodey, was born. Their dad suffered from depression, so life was not as wonderful as it could have been. Unfortunately he took his own life at the age of just thirty-five, leaving his two little boys behind, Telling them this was by far the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life.
Today, I am married to my best friend Fred, whom I have known since I was six years old . We lived down the same road and knew all of the same people and were good friends through lots of good and hard times. We had both been married before and had remained good friends. It’s funny how sometimes you just have to grow up enough to be right for each other. We got together in 2002 and married in 2003.
(Above shelly and Fred
In our first year we purchased a PC and discovered eBay. Amongst the first items I typed in the search bar was Sasha Doll and found the blonde doll in the blue Gingham dress. I naturally purchased her and since then I have never looked back. I came to love all things ‘Sasha’ but found buying on eBay could be a ‘hit and miss’ and sometimes ended up quite disappointed, so I decided to set up my own website so that I could sell a few of the dolls I had purchased (which would allow me to tweak my own collection from time to time) and also offer to sell my friends and other collector’s dolls with a down to earth description.
Fred raised his brows and said there is no way anyone is ever going to send you their dolls to sell. My very first customer was the one and only Kendal Hackney who purchased one of my dolls, a 1969 Redhead Dungarees, for her birthday the next day and also asked me if I could sell on a few of her dolls too. I was delighted to do this and am very proud to say I still am.
(Above the logo for Sasha Doll UK)
My Mum loved Sasha dolls too and started making clothing for them. The last thing she made was a fantastic nativity set for Christmas 2004 before she sadly passed away in March 2005. The next two years were hard but Sasha has been with me keeping me busy all of this time. My Sasha friends have kept me going and I know that I am not alone in that fact. I have made so many wonderful friends through Sasha and still do, I cherish each and every one.
(Above the Nativity scene created and made by Shelly’s mum)
2007 and my 40th year brought me my first grandchildren. Oh, wow! I was not prepared for that, but oh my, the love you have for these little beings is amazing. You get all of their love and you get to give them back too, what’s not to like ;o) I am now aged fifty and with seven grandchildren at the last count and loving my life.
(Above a photo of Shelly’s adorable Grandchildren)
Like others, I have developed a few health issues over time, I was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis in 2008 brought on by a bout of viral Labyrinthitis, some days it’s like swimming in custard whilst other days I just need to rest. I have also suffered with Migraines for a long time (to which many of you will bear witness,) I am grateful for all your patience over the years…who else would put up with me! I love running Sasha Doll UK and hope to be doing what I do for a very long time yet…but am training up my daughter Candy, and her daughter, just to be sure. ;o)
Foot note: please do not download or copy any of Shelly’s photos without her permission. If you wold like to see her wonderful sire Sasha doll UK here is the link ,http://http://www.sashadolluk.co.uk/
Thanks to Shelly for sharing her story with us and thanks to you for looking…………….