Attic Treasures: “Patsy Ann” and “Cissy”

Patsy Ann

Patsy Ann

I was in the garage Sunday afternoon, staring at the shelves and stacks of boxes I want/need to purge, when a small box labeled “Susan’s dolls” caught my eye. Susan’s dolls? Seriously? This box probably hadn’t been opened in 30-40 years, traveling from house to house, from attic to attic, for several decades. I opened it and there were two dolls:

Effanbee 2First an Effanbee “Patsy Ann” baby doll that I believe belonged to my mother (from the 1930s) and then to me. I think it’s funny that the brand is “Effanbee” and my mother’s name was “Effie.” I found the brand and name across the doll’s upper back. I don’t know if she’s wearing a dress that was hers originally, or one of my grandmother’s creations. I do remember Mamaw (my mother’s mother) teaching me to sew dresses for this doll when I visited her in Meridian, Mississippi, in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Her eyes have faded to a creepy color, and her arms and legs are barely attached to her body. It’s kind of amazing to think that this doll is almost 100 years old!

Christmas 1957, when I got "Cissy," my Madam Alexander doll.

Christmas 1957, when I got “Cissy,” my Madam Alexander doll.

Then there’s a Madam Alexander doll I got for Christmas in 1957, when I was 6 years old. I did a bit of research and determined that this is a “Cissy” doll, wearing a lavender taffeta dress and short jacket, carrying a glass purse and wearing strappy lavender heels. Her hair is intact, and her bright blue eyes are still beautiful. Here’s a description I found online:

Cissy is still beautiful, 59 years after I got her.

Cissy is still beautiful, 59 years after I got her.

Cissy, released in 1955, was the first of the modern fashion dolls. What set Cissy apart as something new and different was her mature figure with high-heeled feet. She was an expensive doll at the time, and today a dressed doll in mint condition commands a very high price.

Patsy Ann 2Cissy was the most prominent doll in Alexander’s catalog from 1955 through 1959. In 1960, however, she took a back seat to the new “Playpal” type dolls, and was missing from the catalog altogether, although she was still available and was also being advertised under other names.

Cissy has been reissued in recent years in many glamorous outfits.

So, I can see this isn’t going to be a quick fix—purging these boxes. I just spent an hour on this one box that only had two dolls inside! There are about 40 large plastic bins and probably that many or more cardboard boxes in the garage and also in an upstairs storage room inside our house. My goal is to go through all of these (and get rid of about 90% of the contents) before we retire to Denver—possibly in five years. I haven’t found the box(es) with photographs yet—the pictures that aren’t in photo albums. Going through old photos and deciding which ones to digitalize, keep, or toss won’t be a quick process.

But at least I’ve made a start. One down. 99-ish to go!

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