The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Paper Dolls

By Lois S. Poff © 1985

Issue: August, 1985

Margaret and I learned how to play with paper dolls by standing around watching our older sisters Zelle and Loma play with them when they were little.

Then, by the summer of 1923 when we were nine and ten, we began playing with them. We cut them out of mail-order catalogs. We made chairs for them by folding cardboard, cutting each end of the fold about an inch and folding the ends for legs and arms. We rounded off the legs of the chairs to make rockers. The beds were easy to make by just folding cardboard on each side.

We played in an upstairs attic room. One day Mamma told us we were going to have to get that mess out of the house, to take them to the wood shed. That just suited us fine and we began moving.

There was something like a balcony in the wood shed that was an ideal place to play. We had to climb up on a two-by-four to get up there, but we didn't mind that. There was nothing up there but a few mud-daubers flying in and out with balls of mud to build their nests and some planks. I took four or five of the planks and laid them across the guard rail to a two-by-four on the opposite side and then I had enough floor space for a living room and several bedrooms. I decorated the "rooms" with rugs cut out of the catalogs. Margaret made her house on the opposite side.

Although I had little children in the paper doll family, the grown girl was about all I played with. I named her "Angel", for that was the name Zelle gave her grown daughter when she was playing. I would cut out the most beautiful dresses in the catalog for her wardrobe and when I changed dresses, I just changed dolls. I aimed for "Angel" to be as beautiful and good as her name. I think Margaret was almost envious of her, but she would have her grown son doll call her up on the telephone and take her "car riding" in his shoe box car.

Strick, our youngest brother, wouldn't play dolls with us. He would help us pull the funeral procession up the hill to their cemetery when one died. He also seemed to like to help us pull the bread-pan "boats" on the water, when we took them boat riding, but that was all.

Every evening when we stopped playing we would put all the dolls to bed. On days when we went places such as the Fourth of July Celebration, we would forget all about our dolls until we went to bed. Then we would remember that we forgot to put them to bed and knew they would just have to sit out there all night in their chairs.

One day when Mr. Brethard Epperly, a neighbor, was going to town, he brought us what looked like a wagon load of catalogs. He would hand one to Margaret and one to me until he handed them all out. That really made us happy.

I don't think we would have minded hoeing the acres of corn so much if we hadn't been wanting to play with our dolls. We three would work real fast and keep up with the plow so when Dad unhitched the horse, we could drop our hoes and run to the house. At noon we would eat in a hurry and run to the wood shed and play until we heard Dad say as he crossed the bridge, "Well, children, it's time to go."

The next summer Margaret wouldn't play dolls for she wanted to read. I started playing with Strick more. We would run, roll hoops, jump, build ponds, play ball, mumbley peg and shoot marbles in holes and rings. Those games were more skill developing but not as much fun as the paper dolls.