(To listen to the audio of this blog post, use the purple play button.)
· The Doll Lady: Cyndy Enders Landon ·
I’ve never owned or collected dolls, but as a child I did enjoy playing with toy soldiers. My, the memories I have of the battles I fought and won—without ever leaving home.
Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Cyndy Enders Landon and learning about her passion for collecting dolls, including the art of repairing them.
I also learned a new word: plangonologist. That’s a person who collects dolls.
As with my obsession for collecting postcards (I’m a deltiologist), I learned that the doll world has specialized clubs around the world, including in Kansas, and locally in Hutchinson. Landon belongs to the United Federation of Doll Clubs http://www.ufdc.org/ and several groups on Facebook that share tutorials, especially about repairing dolls. The federation’s website address also links to their quarterly magazine, Doll News, an excellent publication.
Cyndy told me that she started collecting in 1973, but after we talked for a while, it was pretty clear that her love of dolls started during her childhood. There are photographs to prove it.
In 1973, when Landon worked in Wichita, she was offered some little porcelain dolls for free. The price was right even though Cyndy didn’t know what to do with them. When she told her mother, Dorothy Janssen Enders, “I’m going to collect dolls,” her mother was excited to help out and became one of her biggest contributors. In fact, it was mom who had found the way, despite the economic hardship of being a divorced mother raising three children, (working 9-5 and hiring a babysitter) to afford to purchase her oldest daughter a doll every Christmas until about 1963 when Cyndy became more interested in The Beatles and boys than in dolls.
One reason, besides love, that could have been a motivating force for Dorothy to find dolls for Cyndy, was the fact that Dorothy’s mother, Esther Eileen Whitehead, had a lot of dolls but only until she was six years-old. When Esther turned six, her mother made her give all her dolls away to the hospital, telling her, “You’re too old for dolls.”
As with many new collectors, Landon hit auctions and garage sales and wanted to get everything.
Landon had a mentor friend named Arlene Hoy. The two of them would ride together to meetings and attended a regional convention in Topeka. They never tired of talking about dolls.
But over time, Landon’s developed an interest in antique dolls from before 1965, especially the 19-teens and 1920s. She states, “Sawdust and glue combinations are my first love.” Cyndy continues, “Most of my dolls are well-loved, not perfect. If it speaks to me, it’s fine.”
Landon seems to have a healthy attitude about the dolls that got away. “I wish I had a couple of dolls I had as a kid but those cloth dolls don’t last forever.”
It’s evident, dolls make Cyndy happy, so why wouldn’t she collect them? When she cleans them up, dresses them up, and moves them around, the experience relates back to her happy childhood.
Cyndy’s learning all the time. She likes to discover the age of the dolls, and as an aside, informs me that dolls go back to ancient Egyptian times or earlier. I believe it. Her oldest doll, one of hundreds, is a “brown haired china” from the 1850s.
Landon is known to many local people as “the doll lady” because of her extensive knowledge of dolls and for her ability to repair them. In fact, this skill allows her to purchase dolls that are basket cases, in pieces, for very reasonable prices. Then the real fun begins, putting the dolls together, attempting to restore them to their former selves.
The Doll Lady showed me two Princess Beatrice (of the Netherlands) dolls, one a 14” and the other 20”. The taller doll was on Cyndy’s bucket list of dolls although she didn’t know she would be purchasing one with a violent past. As a result, the taller princess needs some surgery.
When Cyndy bought this Princess Beatrix (also spelled Beatrice), there was a note pinned on the doll’s clothing. This is what it said:
“Princess Beatrix, a Christmas present from ‘Santa’ when I was in the 4th grade. I had first seen her at the World’s Fair in New York in 1939.
“Her hand was chewed up by Bud, an old hound dog who lived next to us the summer we spent on Lake Saratoga. (1940)”
Of course, the Doll Lady has more doll stories; here’s another pleasant memory from her childhood. In Lyons, Kansas, where she grew up, there was a toy store called Dayton’s that specialized in dolls and trains. Cyndy recalls, “I’d go in the store and drool over the dolls.” Cyndy told her mother which one she wanted but the response, based on financial reality, was, “there’s no way I can afford that doll for you.”
While the brand name doll was too expensive for Dorothy to purchase, unbeknownst to Cyndy, her mother bought a cheaper knockoff doll at Duckwall’s, a dime-store, plus a bassinet, and pink blanket! The generic, no-name, unknown manufactured doll was her best gift.
Wouldn’t you know it? One of Landon’s favorite dolls is a Bye-Lo Baby that looks like the one her mother, age two, is holding in an old photograph. The doll’s head is bisque, a porcelain but not shiny, and celluloid hands that are very fragile. The body is original, the dress is not, and the crier doesn’t work. But it doesn’t matter. You see, dolls, like people, don’t need to be perfect.
Another favorite doll of Cyndy’s also has a connection with her past. This one was an Ideal, a generic baby doll line. She referred to the doll, not by a name but as the “white-haired floppy baby.” It was the last doll she received as a child.
When Cyndy agreed to my interview I knew I would be asking some standard questions and some impossible questions, but without hesitation, she answered them all.
“Why does you collect dolls?” I asked.
“It makes me happy. It’s not the buying thing. It’s the doll.”
Until next time, happy writing and reading!
The Kansas Authors Club http://www.kansasauthors.org is a statewide organization that encourages and supports great writing. It’s divided into seven districts. In Hutchinson, Reno County, (part of District 6) we have monthly meetings at Hutchinson Community College. http://www.hutchcc.edu You’re invited. Questions? Contact Jim Potter, email@example.com
This takes me back. My mother was a doll collector. The doll in your top image and the Beatrix doll, I am pretty sure, were both in my mom’s collections. Our version of the top doll had gotten a “hair cut” by some Sunday school kids when she played Baby Jesus in a manger scene. Not that I know anything about what happened!
Jim Potter says
Taking the statute of limitations into account, I believe there will be no criminal charges.