As we learned during the May Third Tuesday, people’s collections can open a window into popular culture and history. What a person chooses to collect is often connected to their youth, what was happening at the time in the country, and the interests they carried into adulthood. Tuesday, July 17, Carolyn Caldwell Mayer will share her collection of vintage paper dolls and the story behind them.
Carolyn was born in Manhattan, Kansas, alongside (actually ahead of) her twin sister, Marolyn on April 21, 1934. Their dad was a chemistry teacher and researcher at the Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences, known now as Kansas State University.
It was during the Great Depression, with the prospect of World War II looming over the world. Times were tough, but everyone was pretty much in the same boat, so life was okay for little girls. They had two best friends in the neighborhood, and one of the favorite things to do was to play paper dolls. At the time, stacks of paper doll books in a bin at the dime store cost 10 cents – just the amount of their weekly allowance.
Marolyn and Carolyn would buy one paper doll book with one dime and split it, and then spend the other dime on two ice cream cones. They also loved to draw their own paper dolls and clothes, spending many happy hours cutting and coloring.
A few years later, another set of twins joined the family and through a series of moves the girls’ dolls and paper dolls disappeared. But gifts and paper dolls in the newspapers kept the interest in them alive.
Long after she married, and after her children (who had never liked paper dolls no matter how hard she tried to interest them) were pretty well grown up, Carolyn started to build a new collection, mostly the new ritzy books that cost a lot more than a dime. Then people, including her children, started to give them to her and the whole thing snowballed.
“I still love to cut out paper dolls,” says Carolyn, “and now I’m trying to find ways to display them so that everyone can see them for the delightful pop art that they actually were.” In addition to collecting paper dolls, Carolyn had a career in chemistry and has taught piano lessons for nearly 50 years.
July’s Third Tuesday will begin at 7 p.m., in the Little White Church in Union, across South Main Street from the Union County Museum. The monthly event is hosted by the Union County Museum Society. For more information, call 541.562.6003, Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m., or go to the website, www.ucmuseumoregon.com.