A Rescue

So, we’ve been making regular trips to my in-law’s home, sorting through an amazing amount of chattel, in preparation to sell the house. I will say straight off that much of this has been extremely challenging and difficult work. I can’t imagine they ever threw away much of anything, and when my mother-in-law’s mother died, they brought home half of her things to add to the already jam packed house. Since my husband is an only child, that makes for a whole lot of work for the two of us to do.

The last few weeks, we’ve been working in the upstairs. Although it was a finished room, it’s served as an attic for quite a long while. Once we thought we had sorted through pretty much everything, we discovered that there were four doors leading to large storage areas in the eaves. I wanted to cry when I saw them, heaped as they were with unidentifiable clutter. However, we’ve persevered, and so far, it’s turned out to be some of the best digging we’ve done. 🙂 A good 80% of what we are pulling out of those areas are just plain trash – old drop cloths, empty boxes, sacks and sacks of used Christmas ribbon and more. We really need a dumpster with as much as we’ve found.

However, the bit by bit sorting has paid off every so often. The last time we’d been up, I discovered a very old and worn handbag jammed full of doll clothes. My mother-in-law had given me her doll years ago, but looking at these items I started having some questions. There were several sizes of clothing, and none of it would fit Phyllis. Had there been another doll or two at some point? She’d acted as if Phyllis was her one and only, but… well… there was no one who would be able to give me any answers. How depressing!

Today my husband was pulling out one brittle paper shopping bag after another, and I was checking and chucking boxes by the dozen, bag after bag of Easter grass, and wads of yellowed, used tissue paper, stacking all sorts of very vintage Christmas lights and unused wedding gifts from the early 1950’s  in the sell pile, and pretending like my nose wasn’t clogging shut from who knows what I was breathing. Reaching into the next bag for the next wad of tissue, I felt something of substance. Pulling back the paper a bit, I had a bit of a start. There were two eyes peering back at me! I’m laughing now, but at the moment, I froze! Looking a second time, I finally decided it was safe, as it hadn’t moved, and much to my delight, this is what came out of the paper. 🙂

He’s Teddy Kuddles, a Knickerbocker toy. Based on where he was found and what was with him, he dates from the late 1920’s. He’s 13″ tall, plush, and has been well loved, but he’s still a sweetie. There’s a short zipper in his back which opens to a fully lined pocket. My guess is that he may have had a growler or music box, but that’s definitely just a guess. It’s much too little for him to have been a pajama bear. I’d love to hear from you if you know more about him. I enjoy teddy bears, but I’m not educated about them. Nor am I sure how to clean him or if I safely can. Seems he’s had some of the stuffing loved out of him, too. I’m really hoping that when I look throw the mounds of family photos we’ve salvaged, I can find a picture of my mother-in-law cuddling him when she was little. That would just make my day!

So, there was another bundle of disintegrating tissue paper under Teddy Kuddles, and now I was excited to see what else I might find. Sure enough, the next bundle felt like it also held a body, and I didn’t hesitate this time. Out of the shreds came a chubby dolly, painted cloth face, 14″ tall. Ah HAH! Certainly the owner of some of the clothes in the handbag!

I wish I knew more about comic strips of the 1920’s and 1930’s. She almost has to be a comic strip character with that face and the starfish style, four finger hands. Does anyone recognize her?

So then I noticed that the bag still has some weight to it, and there’s still more tissue paper. I’d gone from “happy surprise” state to making wishes, which I suppose is always a bad idea. I didn’t get my wish (want to guess what it was?), but on the other hand, I didn’t do too badly, either. 🙂 As found, here is the last treasure in the bag…

She’s unmarked, 15″ tall, and she is in simply amazing condition, particularly when you consider that she’s been wrapped in tissue paper and stored in a non-climate-controlled eaves storage area for decades. Based on my mother-in-law having been born in 1926, I’m going to say this little gal is from the mid 1930’s, which meshes well with her style. I’m very glad she has the painted tin eyes, as they hold up better than the plastic ones. I’m equally pleased that they are brown with her blonde hair – a combination one doesn’t see so often on dolls.

She has what looks to be an original hair ribbon, though her mohair wig was flattened by spending many years under a baby doll bonnet. The wig is also shedding, so it’s questionable how much styling I could actually do safely. She’s wearing her original socks and oilcloth shoes. And she obviously needs a bath and restringing.

I knew without a doubt that some of the clothes in the bag were hers, and she was happy to be reunited with them!This is just part of the clothing stash I found – mostly her things, with the other sizes stacked in the front.This is the biggest trial to me, though.

Quite a few of the clothes I found have this green gunk on them. It’s hard, and it’s tightly adhered to the fabric, some places looking almost melted into it. Several of the pieces are stuck together. I wish I could figure out what it is and how to safely remove it. I’m sort of nervous about messing with it, but I’d love to be able to put her back into her own clothes. If I wash this little dress and the green doesn’t come out, I’ll have no way to iron it. Looking for suggestions from people with more experience with this sort of thing!

And there was one knitted wool outfit for her, plus a pair of baby booties also of wool. Some little critters found these garments at some point in the last 60 years and reduced them to swiss cheese. I’m thinking that perhaps when things slow down a bit for me, there might be enough of the fabric left for me to copy the outfit for her. For now, I’m thinking it might be best to stick it in a bag in the freezer, though, just to be on the safe side…

So, that was my big excitement of the day. Not one of these fits into the category of my normal collections, but I’ve always fantasized about being one of those people who finds a doll in the attic of an old house. Now, I suppose I’ve actually done that, even if it wasn’t a doll of my dreams sort of find. Besides, it’s pretty cool that these aren’t just anybody’s childhood friends; they were part of the family many years before I joined it, so they have history. I’m just the caretaker, and I’m honored to have that privilege!


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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. These finds are just so cool!!!! I love the last doll. I don’t know how to clean the clothes, but hope you can discover how.

  2. De-De, is the green gunge some sort of wax or candle wax do you think? It looks from your picture that it has certainly (at one time)had some oily substance in it which has seeped into the fabric. It might be worth getting some brown paper and/or white blotting paper and a hot iron and ‘ironing’ the grease marks. The heat of the iron will lift the grease from the fabric into the paper. You would need to be very careful and just touch the grease marks not the green gunge until you are sure what the substance is.

    As for the dolly, I’m sure you probably have ‘dolls hospitals in the US like we do here in UK. They would restring for you and probably be able to give you info on what sort of dolly and value. I think I’d also try the internet for into too.

    The first dolly has sort of ‘Betty Boo’ eyes, don’t you think?

    Hope this may be of some use! Kind regards, Wendy S

  3. Ohh what a really fun find…. I love them all! The green stuff was probably some sort of rubber bit. It could have been a rubber band, a piece of an eraser or even a certain kind of plastic button. I’ve seen that sort of thing on stuff that’s been stored in a hot place without good air circulation. As for getting it off, that’s another story. You can work your way through various solvents but will always be risking more damage. You’ll still have a stain most likely no matter what you use to soften the residue but you might make it less obtrusive.

  4. Oh, how fascinating! It’s like a little time capsule. I’m so glad you rescued these dear family treasures from their hiding place. I love the dollies and that teddy bear is just too precious! Good luck with the restoration and please share pics of how things look after you’ve worked your magic!

  5. I forgot to mention…that last little compo beauty looks a lot like my Madame Alexander Princess Elizabeth doll from 1937 (same mold as the vintage MA Shirley Temple dolls)….except yours is in fabulous condition!

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