‘Hello Dolly: The dolls and teddies from my childhood are as vintage as I am’

May 25, 2021
A young girl having a tea party with her doll in the 1950s. Source: Getty Images

Were you a child of the 1950, like I was? My sisters and I each received dolls as gifts, some of which I have kept all these years. Our dolls came from England. They were made of a form of hard plastic, with eyes that could close, limbs you could move, and a wig of hair of some simple synthetic.

I still have a walking doll, which is nearly as old as I am. Her hair is in the original plaits, and her frock is the same as when my parents gave her to me, now a bit faded. Aren’t we all? But our childhood is full of happy memories of tea parties with my sisters and our dolls.

dolls from our youth
Julie’s walking doll is almost as old as she is. Source: Julie Grenness

I have included some photos of genuine souvenirs of our ’50s fun. One famous doll company in England at that time was the Pedigree Doll Company. My walking doll with the pretty pink dress said one word, “Mummy”. Her voice-box is now dysfunctional. I do not know which doll company made my dolls.

I was also the proud owner of a smaller doll, Tinkerbelle. She was so loved. Once, she needed a little sojourn in the Doll Hospital for some repairs. The Doll Hospital, I discovered, is still in operation, and continues to lovingly restore vintage dolls, and repair children’s treasures of dolls and teddy bears.

When Tinkerbelle returned to me from the Doll Hospital, my mother stitched her a brand new frock, a lovely blue gown. She also sported a new wig, to adorn her beautiful face. Her legs these days have grown a trifle wonky, but so have mine!

Another of Julie’s vintage dolls. Source: Julie Grenness

For my fifth birthday, my parents gave me a softer baby doll. Once again, my late mother made her clothes, a pleated tartan skirt, and a lovely tiny handmade sweater. This doll was named Andy, and was heaps of cuddles and love.

Julie’s doll, Andy, that she received for her fifth birthday. Source: Julie Grenness

Growing up, we received Sindy dolls, also made in England, by the Pedigree Doll Company. The Sindy doll was a British form of a mannequin doll, who came supplied with a range of costumes, much like the American Barbie doll, made by Mattel.

Mannequin dolls were great, we could change their clothes, dressing them and making up them either glamorous or clad in denim jeans, from riding clothes to a wedding frock, to beach wear. My mum encouraged us to stitch these mannequin dolls our form of a doll’s clothes. Simple fun, a really creative pastime. I guess that is why we all became crafters in our family.

Did you keep your old toys too? I have even kept my original toy, a teddy bear that was my the gift I received when I was born. He, too, has lost his growling voice-box, but is a fond souvenir from all our days of the tea parties, as children of the ’50s.

Julie’s birth bear, the teddy she received the day she was born. Source: Julie Grenness

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