My Doll Survived Because of the Catskills Attic

19 Dec
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In the Catskills Betsy, my doll, with my cousin who has finally made friends with her.

I only have one toy left from my childhood. It is not that I purposely saved it because I loved it the best. I actually had other toys that I loved more. But this toy survived because of her journey to the Catskills.

When my sister was born, I was gifted a large standing doll. The doll is over two and half feet tall. I did love her. And I believe I named her Betty or Betsy or perhaps Becky, which was what my Dad called my Mom, even though that was not her name. I kept her in my bedroom and I loved her!

I remember when the doll arrived. She had a pink dress, light brown hair, pink shoes and socks. My Grandma Esther knitted her another beautiful pink dress. I enjoyed playing with her, but there was a problem. She was so big , I really could not cuddle with her. She was best for tea parties, playing school and perhaps discussing an issue. She seemed so real. And that was her biggest problem.

Betsy was so real looking. During the day she was not a problem, but if you woke up in the middle of the night, she would be standing there staring at you with her big eyes open! My sister and I were used to her, but one of my cousins lived in fear of her. She was afraid to sleep when the doll was in the room.

She really was too big for the apartment we lived in during the winters in New Jersey. So Betsy the doll moved up to our Catskill’s bungalow in Kauneonga Lake to be used only in the summer time. In the Catskills we had much more room to play. And she loved being up there.

Eventually I outgrew playing with the doll. But my sister grew to love her. She says, “I loved to play with her and thought of her as mine, since you had outgrown her.”

In time, Betsy moved from our bungalow to my maternal grandparent’s house, until one summer when she was gone. That is what happened with toys. They just disappeared when you outgrew them. I assumed she was given away.

To be honest I don’t think I even looked for her. There is so much to do in the summer time. And Betsy was no longer an important part of my life. She lived in my memories.

But my sister still had a relationship with Betsy. The doll was moved to the attic bedrooms of my grandparent’s Catskills winter home. My sister would play with her and see her when she went to visit in the winters. I was four years older, so while I was away at college, my sister was still spending time in the Catskills in the fall and winter. “Remember,” she told me, ”we did not go into the attic that much in the summer. ” Of course not…it was HOT up therein the summer, but wonderful in the winter.

After my sister went away to college, the doll was put into a closet and eventually forgotten. At some point my grandparents moved her from a closet to one of the hidden nooks.

But Betsy was not totally forgotten. We often talked about my big doll and how scary she was at night, or when you weren’t expecting to see her. We would remember the people who came in and were frightened the first time they saw her thinking she was a real toddler.

Years later, when I was in my early 30s, after both my grandparents had passed away,  my parents inherited the house in the Catskills. They started the process of cleaning it out. We all helped. I was assigned the two bedrooms in the attic, cleaning out the nooks that were hidden in the crawlspace walls of the bedrooms.

Usually the doors into these spaces were covered by the beds. But we moved the beds away and went in to clean them out.   I was surprised to find one perfectly clean except there, lying on the floor, was Betsy! She was a little ragged. Her clothes were gone. Her hair was a little messy. But she had survived, alone in that hidden space for years!

I was excited. I now had a toddler daughter, and I thought she would love Betsy.

I brought the doll downstairs. My mom, sister and I washed and cleaned her up.   She needed clothing!   My daughter wanted to give her some of her clothes, but we decided to buy her something just for her.

The women (Mom, my sister, my daughter and I) went to the Apollo Mall in Monticello and we purchased a 2 Toddler dress. I also found her a beautiful pink straw hat. She looked refreshed and wonderful.  Eventually the granddaughters gave her some lovely bracelets as well!

It took us a while to decide where she would stay. No one wanted her in a bedroom. TOO scary. My parents decided to put her in the stone room, where new generation of girls began to play with her…the granddaughters. But she would not disturb anyone’s sleep.

To this day, 25 years later, Betsy still stands in the stone room by the back door, which is the door that welcomes our guests. She has a purse; she has the same dress; she does not always wear her hat. She guards the door! Some people are startled when they first walk in. But she does not look so real anymore.

However, my cousin, who was afraid of her as a child, still had a little fright when she entered the stone room and saw her for the first time as an adult. She had to share her scary Betsy stories. I think after the sharing, she was able to become friends with Betsy.

My parents have both passed away. My siblings and I own the Catskills house. Betsy stands guard. She is a wonderful reminder of my childhood.

 
It seems Betsy is a Patty Play Pal doll. Thanks to Maxene for the information. 

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9 Responses to “My Doll Survived Because of the Catskills Attic”

  1. Amy December 19, 2015 at 9:46 pm #

    Great story. I thought when I saw the photo that she was a Patty Playpal. I always wanted one!

    • zicharon December 19, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

      I did not know she was so special! Several people have shared their memories of Patty Play Pals!!

  2. Luanne @ TFK December 20, 2015 at 4:13 pm #

    I still have mine, too!!!! Mine is named Bonnie, and she is the same doll! She came with a pink dress that had a little lace around the neck, I believe. And my grandmother made her clothes. She used to freak out my kids when they were little because they swore her eyes moved when I was out of the room.

    • zicharon December 20, 2015 at 4:15 pm #

      How wonderful. We thought Betsy lived as well. In fact my sister remembers her being in a closet but I found her somewhere else. So I said that she must have decided to move. 🙂 But my daughter loved her.

      • Luanne @ TFK December 20, 2015 at 4:17 pm #

        Hah, some of us love dolls and the rest of us are afraid of dolls!!! The only thing I’ve lost of her clothes is the velvet beret that matched her velvet coat that Grandma made.

      • Luanne @ TFK December 20, 2015 at 4:20 pm #

        On another note, does your doll say Ideal or Uneeda on her? I think, but am not sure, that the original Patty PlayPals were Ideal and that Uneeda made one that was almost identical. I think mine is Uneeda. Most people call them both Patty Play Pal.

      • zicharon December 20, 2015 at 4:21 pm #

        I am not sure. I will have to check.

  3. Sherry October 30, 2016 at 1:14 pm #

    Hi. I love Dolls!! I love Bears!! Little Tikes–car, light purple!! Exciting!! (Children’s librarian-me. Retired.) Thank you.

    • zicharon October 30, 2016 at 1:59 pm #

      I am glad you enjoyed it!

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