Dolls by the Dozens

“We probably sold at least 3000 dolls, keeping our price at $10 until the last year, when we went up to $12. They were selling faster than ever when we quit the business. We sold some to people who owned gift shops and some people bought as many as ten or twelve for gifts. The dolls went to England, Canada, Germany and to many of the states of this country. I gave a lot of them away as teacher presents for Jeff [Cathy’s son], as graduation and birthday presents, and to friends. Often when a little girl would hang around my table and beg for one if her mother wouldn’t buy her one, I would end up giving her one, and I made lots of little friends that way. I knew what it was like to see a doll you wanted so bad it hurt.

“Russell and I both probably worked harder at this job than any we ever had. We would fill up the living room with dolls on tables for weeks before the shows, and then on Friday we would pack them in Coke boxes and fill the car with as many as would squeeze in (sometimes there was hardly room for us in the car). We would leave home as early as five in the morning to get to a show early enough to get a good spot and set up our display. We fought the heat, the wind, and the rain and cold and often had to drop cloths over them to keep them from being ruined by the elements.

“During one show in the little town of Hernando, we were showing our dolls on the Court House square. Shortly after noon I had sold only four dolls so was pretty discouraged and had wandered off to look at the other exhibits and talk to the exhibitors. Russell was tending the dolls when suddenly there was one clap of thunder and here came the rain and hail. The Shrine Band from Memphis had just started to play on the Court House steps when the bottom dropped out. Two kind ladies came to Russell’s assistance and helped him try to hold the drop cloth over the dolls with the wind blowing fiercely. By the time the storm ended we were drenched and cold. A few of the dolls were ruined. I thanked the ladies for helping to save the others and one of them said, ‘Well, we were just so sorry for your Daddy.’ Russell said that statement puffed me up so much that I didn’t care how many babies I had lost.

“He sent me across the street to Fred’s Dollar Store to buy him a dry tee shirt and bedroom shoes for both us since our shoes were soaked. The only ones I could find for myself were some slides in red, white and blue and covered with stars for the Bicentennial which was being celebrated the next years.We stopped in Sardis on our way home to get a cup of coffee and got some strange looks when we walked into the restaurant, still wet and in bedroom shoes. It was days like that when we had to reassure ourselves that this project was really worthwhile.”

It was worthwhile. Both financially and mentally, as Sara and Russell headed into their retirement years. I never knew where they were on any given weekend during those doll-making times, but I believe the effort kept them young. I do recall going out to the Mississippi College campus in the spring of 1978, where Sara was selling dolls as fast as she could put them out. Jimmy and I sat down with her and Russell, chatted awhile, and then I asked them if they were available the first weekend of May, 1979. Sara gave me a funny look and said, “I don’t know. That’s a busy time for crafts shows. Why do you ask?” I took a deep breath and said, “We were thinking of getting married that weekend.” Total silence. Sara hesitated a minute and then replied, “Well, if it doesn’t interfere with a show, that will be fine.” Never one to get her priorities out of order.

P.S. We got married May 5, 1979. Sara worked us into her schedule, but we had to work around the dolls to display our wedding presents.

About sec040121

Hello....I'm in possession of a priceless collection of memoirs and memorabilia left by my mother, Sara Evans Criss. She was a native and lifelong (88 years!) devotee of our small town, who covered this peculiar and volatile corner of the world for 30 years as the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Greenwood bureau chief, a job that started out with debutantes and high school football and wound up spang in the midst of one of the twentieth century's most enduring social upheavals. This blog is dedicated to her memory and the legacy she left behind, both for her family and her community.
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1 Response to Dolls by the Dozens

  1. Nancy Webb Phillips says:

    Your Anniversary is on my birthday!!!! Cindo de Mayo!!

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