Sunday, July 13, 2008

I am Such a Sap!

Some people cry at old movies (dumb!). Some people cry when their children graduate (I'm happy for them!). Now, show me an Avon bottle from my childhood, and pass the Kleenex. A little Saturday junking (I know, I'm seeing a pattern, too), and now my nose is all red. It only took two dollars and twenty-five cents to turn on my faucet, and that wasn't even because the price was right! It's just so fun when you see things you've completely forgotten and/or things you think you'll never see again. So, I guess it was happy tears. No worries, we're not talking sobbing or anything, I was just a little (okay, a lot) misty-eyed over this stuff from my little foray today.
As you can see from the top photo- a bad scan of a bad Polaroid (you know, the rip, shake, wait & peel. Oh dear, I'm feeling weepy!)- I learned my pack rat skills early. This is not just a girl with her perfume bottles. No, this is a 10-year-old with her Avon collectibles in the heyday of about 1970. See that glass key in the foreground? A perfume/cologne bottle shaped like a key with a screw-on gold plastic lid? I traded that one little thing for a child's roll top desk shortly after this picture was taken. Oh yeah. I could wheel and deal with the best of them. Maybe the dealers thought a 10-year-old collector/brat was cute-who knows.
My parents were older- I was the late-baby-boom surprise I alluded to in my Fiestaware article (sniff) below- so when I came along they were already collecting and appreciating the value of the stuff from their childhoods in the 1920s and 1930s. They passed this "gene" also to my three brothers who collected everything from model cars, Hollywood memorabilia, whiskey decanters and so much more. All three of them had displays wherever they lived, and one brother opened an antiques shop in about 1971. But I digress; this is about me.
So, it was only natural when tagging along to flea markets and antiques shops that I'd find something to latch onto as well. Avon was just one of my many collections. This was not new Avon from the Avon Lady. This was Avon from the 1950s-1960s that was already being bought and sold on the secondary market. I have no real idea why it was so popular in the early 1970s or why it brought the exorbitant prices that it did. No doubt it was just the post-war age of consumption. Don't we all remember eagerly buying those Apollo 13 glasses at the Shell station? Remember getting a better price on your tumblers with a fill-up? Never mind the price for a gallon in 1970; I can't even bear to type it.
I looked for Avon back then at garage sales. I probably made some trades with my little friends who just thought they had an empty bubble bath container. I also collected porcelain bisque animals, beaded purses (a la Gibson girls-what 10-year-old knows what a Gibson Girl was?), Coca Cola memorabilia, old dolls; I think I went through a salt-and-pepper-set phase. I can't even remember what all I fancied because my interests would change from month to month. I'm pretty sure I also went through a turquoise/Indian jewelry phase and a vintage clothing phase. I know I talked my way into getting a fabulous movie costume dress with tons of black and gold bugle beads and ostrich feathers that allegedly had belonged to Sonia Henie. I don't even think anyone my age remembers she was a famous ice skater and actress. Not only am I a sap; I am a weirdo. I have just discovered that.
Back to Avon. Front and center in the Polaroid is a pink doll head with a white "straw" (plastic) hat with a vinyl ribbon and choker. That's Miss Lollypop: a glass perfume bottle covered with a vinyl or rubber overlay. You can see her better in the vintage Avon ad below me. I had all of the items pictured in the ad. I had forgotten about all these, because I remember "growing up," moving off to college and taking a HUGE load of my Avon to drop at Goodwill because the bottom had fallen out of that fad. That was about 1978-1980, and I remember distinctly thinking that Avon was not only un-cool but that anyone who collected it was a hillbilly, geek or sap. I can say that, because I was once the geek and am now the sap.
So what do I spy today in a little antiques shop that I almost didn't go into because it had had a "going out of business" sign in the window for months? Yes, on last-day-minus-two, I found not only Miss Lollypop for $2.00 but in a box of 25-cent misc with a sign also offering up the contents at "six-for-a-dollar," I found in its original package an Avon "It's A Small World" figurine that is just minty. What a great quarter spent that was! Not only is it mint ("mint" being a relative term because no one still cares about Avon anymore), but it is the "Miss France" one from the set of eight or so of the also rubber-covered glass bottles that were made to represent Disney's new It's a Small World Ride from Epcot circa 1972. Tres chic! I don't know whom I love more, Miss Lollypop or Miss France! I am just so sappily-excited.
There were a few other treasures, all in the $1 range today, including a 1955 copy of Ideals magazine-the children issue. Gorgeous full-color photos of babies and puppies (sniff) abound, sweet little poems about childhood, even the subscription card is still bound in. I remember my grandmother (who was born in 1899) occasionally having a copy of Ideals. There were holiday issues and I'm not sure what else. They even seemed vintage-y at the time they were produced. They were magazines that were perfect-bound, so that would translate to today's mooks and zines. There was also Ideals-related merchandise back then because I distinctly remember round tin cans with Ideals pictures reproduced on them. I imagine they contained candy or nuts.
Besides the Mattel Baby Beans paper dolls (also $1) in the photo above, you can see some spools I found, one wound with some great lace. I also got a $1 doll dress of unknown but mass-produced origin and a small (about 5") porcelain bisque doll for $2.50. I promptly cut her apart, because her head was dangling anyway. Her limbs will make one project and the head likely another.
The final tear-jerker, and this was a big one, was a single box of dollhouse furniture marked "Petite Princess by Ideal." It first caught my eye with the grandfather clock on the box as I thought I could use it in some Marie Antoinette altered art vignette or possibly even in my Blythe doll settings, although those are pretty contemporary-contemporary being the greatest generation heyday of the totally funky 1960s and 1970s, never mind what year Tom Brokaw thinks is the GG.
When I opened the box, which still had the $1.39 price tag on it, out came not only the clock, but a Chinese folding room screen and more importantly, a little color catalog of all the Petite Princess furniture. My sappy little walk down memory lane started on page one with a jolt, as I realized this was exactly the dollhouse furniture I had had as a child. I never knew the name of it, or I probably did, but still don't remember knowing that. I had been thinking of this furniture just this year in conjunction with my Blythe interest, but without knowing the name, I had never been able to search for it.
This was not just any dollhouse furniture. It was exquisite, French Provincial furniture made with the finest satins, velvets, brocades and more with attention to tiny detail. There were chandeliers, gilt-framed art, a grand piano, a fainting couch, a bed worthy of Miss Marie with a satin neck roll. I could go on, but anyone who wants to weep along can just Google it. It was considered expensive in its time of about 1964-1968, so the $1.39 on the box made me wonder if that was really what my parents considered expensive back then. I would have thought that was maybe just "my childhood," but after Googling and Ebaying and learning all I could tonight, I found other collectors who remember it as expensive, detailed, well-made, etc., also.
I shed a tear or two remembering the fun of going to the big city of Indianapolis on the weekends with my parents and our poodle Pepe in tow, to shop at one of the first malls in the state. That particular mall, which was two floors and open-air then, had a most wonderful department store with a huge toy department. I believe it was Weiler's, but it could have been Wasson's or William H. Block's. They were all there. One also had in the center of the store a diner-in-the-round or short-order grill with turquoise leather-covered round barstools.
If my sappiness isn't affecting my memory, I believe the store had an attached but separate cottage-like building that opened every fall as Santa's workshop. It was here that I got my Petite Princess dollhouse furniture for my metal dollhouse. In fact, I don't remember it ever being bought anywhere else. I had the most exquisite dollhouse, and I could lie on my stomach on my white shag rug and just fiddle with it for hours. I do not remember what I did for play. I don't think I re-arranged the furniture much; I was a sort of OCD little brat who kept it all "just so." I distinctly remember having a tantrum at the very advanced age of 10 or 11 because one of my six-year-old nephews had trashed my dollhouse. "Trashed" meant "re-arranging-in-a-messy-way" to me, not actually destroying.
So what would someone so enamored of these treasures do at the hip old age of 19? Well, besides finding my antiques-loving family quite weird by then, I also apparently felt I would never have need or desire for such a thing as a dollhouse again. I very unceremoniously flung it, with some animosity I think, into a Goodwill dumpster. I remember hearing the crash. I have no idea what I was feeling at the time. I do remember thinking at the sound that it might not be resale-able at Goodwill. If this does not explain fully why I got all blubbery in the antiques mall today, I don't know what will. This should also tell you I was oh, so happy with my treasures today. Thank goodness some things do come around again. Hopefully, I will have the good sense to pass my edited collections down to my children, who will quite possibly then fling them into a dumpster or donation box. But, that's okay. I understand.


Tizzalicious said...

I love that head!

I have thrown out so many things I wish I kept!

Lilli said...

Thanks for reminding me of those old Avon treasures! I remember when I was younger, absolutely adoring those catalogs, dreaming about what I would ask my Gramma to order for me :)

Anonymous said...

OMG (Oh, My, Gina)! I had TONS of Petite Princess furniture, but I never knew what it was called! I believe I still have the grand piano with the red velvet seat! But my favorite was a sapphire blue lame round sided salon chair! Unfortunately, my mom didn't save a thing, so it's all pretty much gone, with the exception of that white piano. I'm off to the attic right now!

Thought you'd understand this: When asked to chair a costume ball at the history museum recently I told them, "Only if I can be Marie Antoinette"!

Rebecca Ramsey said...

I love this post!
And did you ever have any of those Avon perfume pins? I had a couple, and I want to cry to think back when I was in college and threw them out!!! Ack! I'd love to have them back now. There was a little girl one, and you open up her head for the oily perfume. I can still smell it!

Thanks for the memories!
And you're not a weirdo or a sap!
Or if you are, so am I!

Mrs.Kwitty said...

Well honey, if you are a sap--there are an awful lot of us saps out there! lol I love that you not only found those lovely old Avon collectibles, but you also found your old pic of yourself with the original ones! Wonderful. A tried and true wheeler/dealer! Love it (what a fun post!)
Smiles, Karen

Marie Antionette said...

I don't think you are a sap at all LOL...I think this site a wonderful place to visit.your ideas are great and I just love it. Marie Antionette

Whim & Fancy Designs said...

You have to send that to Avon, they would love it! You could start a whole new ad campagin for them! LOL
I love it!
~Hugs, Ann-Denise

My Crafty Little Page said...

What a sap! I love it. I had those Avon bottles until we started moving and off to Goodwill they went! I had a metal dollhouse but not the fancy furniture you had - I was a child furniture designer! Boxes and little flowers and my paper dolls lived in it! Your fellow sap, Nancy

Anonymous said...

OMG! Beautiful Treasures!
Thank You Denise Nantasket Beach,Mass.

Dorette said...

Hi! I LOVE your post about Petite Princess!! I am in the process of writing a book, and would love permission to include your comment. The emotions that are attached to the toys of our childhood are ones that NEVER leave us (in my opinion) Maybe that is why eBay is such a successful company!!! All us "baby-boomers" trying to recapture that childhood innocence.

Dorette said...

Hi! I LOVE your post about Petite Princess!! I am in the process of writing a book, and would love permission to include your comment. The emotions that are attached to the toys of our childhood are ones that NEVER leave us (in my opinion) Maybe that is why eBay is such a successful company!!! All us "baby-boomers" trying to recapture that childhood innocence.