Helena RodRiguez: Paper dolls: Temporary but priceless treasures from bygone days that resonate memories


By Helena Rodriguez

Guest Columnist

As a child, I remember walking with my sister, Becky, to the old North Main Grocery, a mom and pop store in north Portales, to buy candy. But what I really longed for was a book of cute paper doll cutouts.

My eyes were set on a book of cheerful characters with bright colored outfits. The outfits were designed to cling to these cutout dolls with pieces of paper flaps that folded back. I endured several more weeks of admiring those paper dolls. I was on a “paper chase.” Finally, I had enough cents to claim them for my own.

I haven’t thought about paper dolls in decades until one of my Facebook friends, Eloisa Gutierrez, a Portales native, reminded me recently of these simplistic and disposable and yet cherished childhood papermates from an era now past. In the 1970s, my sisters and I would play with paperdolls for hours; sometimes with paperdolls from cutout books we bought or other times with makeshift paperdolls made of people we cut out from catalogs or drew ourselves. Paperdolls date back decades, perhaps centuries, but we don’t see paperdolls anymore. Many children today don’t know what a paperdoll is.

I recently asked my Facebook friends to share their paperdoll memories with me and I got about a dozen responses. These paper toys resonated warm thoughts of simple and yet fun times

“We never got bored playing with paperdolls,” Gutierrez told me. “Those were the good ole days.”

My Portales friends, sisters Diane Archibeque-Lucero and Janice Sisneros, said they would spend countless hours as children playing paperdolls.

“We would play for hours and hours. We had furniture and cars that we cut from catalogs, like Montgomery Wards, JcPenney’s and others. Grandma Garcia from Vaughn use to save the catalogs for us,” Archibeque-Lucero said. “We need to teach our grandchildren how to have fun like this.”

One of my Hobbs friends, Alicia Rendon, said that she would make her own paper dolls out of cereal boxes and clothes out of writing paper.  My Portales friend, Olympia Chino, said that she would glue pieces of cardboard to the bottom of her paperdolls so that they would stand up.

Another of my friends, Dolores Maldonado Guzman, said that she used to cut out pictures of people from Sears and JcPenney catalogs as a young girl.

“We’d also cut out the furniture from the magazines for our paperdoll homes and we’d use shoe boxes for cars,” Guzman added.

While paperdolls were not permanent, they brought hours of creative funtime and dreamtime.

My aunt Maria Paris from Dallas told me that she still has some paperdolls that she and a friend played with as children. She said she will bring them to show me when she comes to Lubbock.

As for that set of paperdoll cutouts that I got as a little girl from North Main Grocery, they are long gone. Their lives were temporary. You couldn’t cuddle paperdolls like a plastic or porcelain doll, yet they took on a life of their own in other ways.

When I think of the short lived life of some of today’s toys, and many of which are overpriced technical gadgets, I’d say we got more than our money’s worth. Even in their simplest form, it shows what you can do with a few pieces of paper or cardboard, crayons and the imagination of a child.

Next week, I will share memories of the old North Main Grocery store.

Helena Rodriguez is a Portales native. Contact her at: Helena-Rodriguez@hotmail.com

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