Last post I told you that I have returned to my writing. The last project I was working on before I went astray was a story about Chatty Cathy... by Cathy herself. At the moment I am not really sure where this story is going. I have some idea floating around my head for a chapter book, and then there is the idea for a picture book, and it seems somewhere along the way I have started writing a novel - so we'll just have to go with it and see where it takes me.
I have been taking some photos of scenes with my Chatty Cathy dolls, I have a lot more in mind and all that was in preparation for a picture book - well - maybe I'll do one of each kind of book!
By now you all know of my love, maybe even obsession with this doll, so who better to write about?
I thought I'd share a little bit of the beginning of my story with you.
This is early days in this story - but I thought it might be fun to see what you think because this is a totally different style of writing for me.
So here goes - hope you enjoy!
MERRY CHRISTMAS CATHY
It all started in 1963. There I was, in my box on the top shelf of the doll isle in The T Eaton & Co. store in downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Where is Winnipeg, you ask?
Well if you took a map of Canada and folded it in half matching the east coast to the west, then pressed a crease right down the middle – well you’d be close enough to Winnipeg to see the Golden Boy. But that’s another story; we were talking about the T Eaton store in downtown Winnipeg.
I wish you could have seen the store that year. It was ablaze with lights and decorations from the basement to the 9th floor. Christmas was everywhere. It was the main shopping destination for every man and woman and the toy section was every child’s dream come true.
The store windows on the street level were decked out with wonderful winter scenes. Each window was a different scene, filled with popular toys that were for sale in the store. Some windows were decorated with toys for boys to play with; others were only for the girls.
My favorite window was the one of a life –sized doll house complete with every piece of doll furniture available; the dolls even had a Christmas tree with presents beneath it. Oh it was grand! There were sleighs for the dolls to ride in, ponds for them to skate across, and piles of snow for them to toboggan down. A few of my friends got to spend the whole Christmas season, playing in the doll’s window scene.
The rest of us - me along with twenty-four other dolls just like me, stood in our boxes on shelves in the toy department on the fourth floor. Our days were spent watching moms and dads as they searched for the perfect Christmas present for their little girls.
We were the most sought-after doll that year. Chatty Cathy; the talking doll that said eleven different things.
“Just pull her ring; you never know what she’ll say next.” Every little girl knew the closing line in our TV Commercial. They had been watching that commercial for weeks now. What they didn’t know was how much we wanted to be taken home and played with by our own little girl.
I secretly wanted a girl of my own, but what I really wanted was the pretty red coat with the white collar that came as part of my wardrobe. If I could get a girl and a red coat, well I guess I would just about be the happiest doll ever!
One by one that Christmas season, the boxes of the other dolls started to leave the shelf. We had all been born in the same factory, so when a box left the shelf in the hands of a happy Mom or Dad we silently wished our sister farewell, along with a silent prayer that they would live in a happy home, with a nice girl to play with them.
As the days drew closer to Christmas I waited and waited. It seemed that every little girl this year wanted the yellow- haired doll with the blue dress and shoes. My hair was dark – they called me the brunette model, and my dress and shoes were red. I thought that went pretty well with the colors of Christmas, but I guess the little girls in 1963 didn’t care about that.
The doll in the box next to mine was getting sort of nervous that perhaps we would not be wanted at all. She too had darker hair – not as dark as mine, but not yellow either. Hers was more reddish, but she did have a blue dress and shoes, only her dress did not have a pinafore with it.
“Pssssssssst… Cathy, are you getting scared that we are going to be stuck in these boxes forever?” She whispered when the isle finally emptied of people.
“Not really, Chatty. Someone will want us, eventually.”
“But what if they don’t? Will that mean that we have to stay in these boxes forever?”
I didn’t get a chance to tell her that everything would be okay because a man and woman who had been walking up and down the isle for awhile had finally stopped right in front of our boxes and they were staring up at us.
“I don’t know, Walter; the girls really wanted blonde dolls. It doesn’t look like there are any left.” The lady said, her voice rising in frustration.
The man looked around him, “We could always go back and get the nurse kits or the baking sets.”
“No, they told Santa it had to be Chatty Cathy this year, we’ll just have to take what we can find.”
“I suppose I could ask a sales clerk, maybe they have more in the back somewhere.” The man pivoted on his heels and headed down the isle away from her.
The lady studied us and paced the floor while she waited. “I think you two are kind of cute,” she quietly told us. “If we don’t buy you, I’m afraid we won’t get a doll like you anywhere! Oh what to do, what to do?”
“The clerk said these are the last two, once they are gone they will be sold out.” The man was back. He reached forward and plucked my box off the shelf and threw it in the shopping cart. In went my friend’s box, smack dab on top of mine.
“He could have been more gentle,” Chatty hissed, as we whizzed down the isle towards the check out area.
“Hey, now is our chance to check out the Santa’s Village that all the kids talk about as they pass by us,” My vision was blocked by Chatty’s box. “Can you see anything, Chatty, your box is in my way!”
“Yeah, I see where it is, but there are so many kids in the isle I can’t see what they are looking at. Oh, but Cathy – I can see Santa sitting there. Oh I wish you could see his pretty red suit.”
“Yeah, me too.” I tried not to let my disappointment ruin the excitement of finally leaving the store shelf. “What’s taking so long?”
“Shhh…, we’re next. It’s a real long line to the cash register.” Chatty whispered, and then her box was lifted and for a moment I could see everything.
“There can’t be many of these dolls left,” the cashier chatted with the man and woman who were taking us home.
The woman smiled brightly and nodded her head. “These two were the last on the shelves. Our little girls made it perfectly clear that they only wanted Chatty Cathy for Christmas, so we are so happy we could still find a couple of them. Oh, I forgot to get some outfits for the dolls, can we leave these here and come back for them?”
“I thought we were done,” grumbled the man. “You go get the outfits; I’ll wait here for you.” He crossed his arms across his chest and prepared to wait for his wife.
“Do you hear that Cathy, she is getting us some outfits! Oh, I am so excited.” Chatty was so happy her box was almost rattling.
“Just so long as I get a red coat. Oh Chatty, I really want that red coat so much.”
“I heard they were sold out of the red coat two days ago.” Chatty said quietly.
“I didn’t hear that,” I pouted. “Maybe you didn’t hear right, Chatty; they just have to have some left.”
“Okay, I’m back. Here we go,” the woman piled some clothing packs on the table and waited for the cashier to ring them through.
“What did she get?” I was desperate to see a red coat in the pile of garments.
“I see pink pjamma’s,” Chatty whispered. “ I like those.”
“Do you see the red coat?” Oh please let there be a red coat, I prayed silently.
“Wow, the lady at the till is fast – everything is in the shopping bag already. Guess we’ll have to wait until we get to our new house.” Chatty tried to cheer me.
We were airborne for a second and then landed again in the shopping cart. This time only the floor tiles were visible to me.
“Can you see anything now, Chatty?
“No,” her voice was muffled. “I’m face down over the shopping bag of clothes.”
I giggled quietly, “All I see is shoes and floor tiles.”
And that was the last we saw of the T Eaton & Co, store in downtown Winnipeg.