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Toys of Olde Bring Fond Memories

Posted on June 04 2020

By Carleton Varney- Special to the Palm Beach Daily News

Whatever happened to Raggedy Ann and, of course, her brother, Raggedy Andy?

When I was a little boy in the 1940s — back in a world without credit cards, cell phones and drones — Raggedy Ann and Andy were stuffed dolls that were immortalized in a series of adventure stories. Their adventures had nothing to do with hyper-action or spy missions. No, the dolls’ adventures concerned painting country fences like Tom Sawyer — or perhaps they were catching a rabbit munching away on the carrots in the garden.

I love to visit flea markets and tag sales, where I’ve seen vintage Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls and books for sale. I also have owned copies of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale books and Grimm’s fairy tale books, as well as the mystery books featuring the Bobbsey twins and Nancy Drew.

Original editions of these sorts of children’s books are among today’s collectibles for members of a new generation who appreciate their lovely illustrations. And reading them still appeals to the young and the young at heart. If you look on eBay.com you’ll find books from yesterday going for large sums.

When I look back on my childhood, one of my favorite memories involves an edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales that I loved, especially when my mother would read stories from it to me and my sister. I do believe that reading to children is one of the best ways to stimulate their imaginations and help them develop a life-long interest in reading.

But back to Raggedy Ann. An internet search shows Raggedy Ann is still available at stores such as Walmart, manufactured by a company named Aurora World Inc. You also can find vintage examples of the doll on eBay and handcrafted versions on Etsy.com. But we certainly don’t see much of her these days in popular culture, do we?

A few years back, I admired an oil painting of Raggedy Ann in an antique shop on Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach. The painting — about 27 inches by 30 inches — had been hanging on the wall of the store for some time, and every time I visited, I asked the owner: “Why is that painting still here?” His reply? “Nobody wants Raggedy Ann any more. The children of today don’t even know who Raggedy Ann and Andy are.”

I suppose that the children of today tend to want more built-in action and adventure in their toys, so many of which are manufactured as companion merchandise for films and television shows. Raggedy Ann is no longer a star, I suppose. Ah, so it goes.

But Peter Rabbit was featured in a movie of the same name a couple of years, although the story was definitely updated from the original Beatrice Potter story.

When decorating a very young child’s room, I think the Beatrice Potter look is always appropriate. Soft-pink, lemon-yellow or sky-blue walls are charming, perhaps accented by character wallpapers with bunny rabbits and tea-party animals. And plenty of stuffed animals, too.

Young people love to hug and stuffed animals are suited to the occasion. That’s especially true today, when the social-distancing practices demanded by the coronavirus crisis may limit the hugs kids want to get from and give to extended relatives and friends. I know that many parents are aware of this, and I hope they’re making up for it with lots of hugs and kisses for the kids.

And by the way: Do you know where that painting of Raggedy Ann I mentioned is today? It’s hanging on the wall in my Palm Beach guest room. She came home with me, a gift from the antique shop owner.

And I smile back whenever I see her smile.

3 comments

  • Louise Sperling Ragone: June 12, 2020

    What warm wonderful words and memories in your writing. They bring back another time. I too have many of my old children’s books and those of my daughter in my library. It seems like we lived in another universe. Here, in beautiful Scottsdale, Arizona today, the elegant Fashion Square Mall has been looted and destroyed. Windows were broken and unimaginable damage and thievery took place on Sat. March 30. Protestors and marchers continue with their “cause” This does not justify their uncivilized behavior! Perhaps if the mothers of some of these destructive individuals had read to them and instilled some love and values, they might have turned out differently. But… that is wishful thinking. Hope you are well and safe in Palm Beach. Here we have the barricades around the Mall Shops and restaurants and extra guards around town. Life as we knew it seems gone but not forgotten. Let’s hope it returns someday soon.

  • Joan Diamond: June 08, 2020

    A wonderful column that brought back so many memories

  • Ann Fennell: June 08, 2020

    And i smile when i think of you Dear Mr.Varney and i have a green reading room and an (almost charcoa)l house with a white trim and red door and the people in Glin are in awe at the nerve of me but i give YOU all the credit. I even have some red geraniums !!!. So good to know you are so well during this mad time, hope to see you later this year, Regards to Brinsley too, Love Ann

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