27. Special Joys Doll & Toy Museum

Dolly IS A Cracker
Coventry
(Google Maps Location)
August 25, 2007

[Note: This post is only about the doll shop/museum and NOT the Bed and Breakfast.]

mq27q.jpg“You’re going to ‘The Pink Building’?”
“Yup.”
“Ah-hahahhaha… That’s hilarious. You losers!”

That was one of the final discussions SuperBlogger EdHill and I engaged in with Friend of CTMQ Liz while eating at CTMQ Curiosity, Shady Glen Dairy Stores, home of Esquire magazine’s best cheeseburger in the world. I was actually fearing “The pink building” for several months at that point because I had no idea what to expect. I had found it – “it” being officially the Special Joys Bed & Breakfast Toy and Doll Museum and Shop – online a year prior and had done a drive by in between my visits to Coventry’s Brick School House Museum and Strong-Porter House Museum.

mq27c.jpgI noted the frilly pink and purple decorative eaves at the museum and thought to myself, “How am I ever going to go there and file a CTMQ report?” I knew I could never do it alone. I also knew EdHill wouldn’t have wanted to go there at all – which is why I didn’t tell him it was part of our MegaQuest day. But the cat was out of the bag, thanks to Liz, and now Ed knew we were headed to “the pink building.” What neither of us knew – or could have known – was that we were about to experience our second CTMQ Twilight Zone moment together. (The first, long time readers will remember, was the singular Witch’s Dungeon Classic Movie Museum in Bristol.)

We pulled into the gravel lot and drew in deep breaths as we crossed the threshold of the Special Joys Doll Museum. Immediately, this place struck me as what hell would be decorated like; knick-knacks, doilies, Victorian lamps, pastels and pinks, floral wallpapers… on and on. Of course, millions of people find this endearing and cute. Just not me. (Ed loooooooves it.)

We roamed the foyer a bit and found a stash of vintage toys and record albums, circa 1960-1980. Ed is sort of a toy collector and was appreciative of this small collection. I found the very notion of a NASCAR Barbie a bit unsettling for some reason. Ed found the notion of purchasing an old Debbie Reynolds record enticing… Little did we know how much more there was inside to spend our money on…

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NASCAR Barbie: Somehow, still without a beergut

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Valium on wax

We left the hallway to enter the museum/shop. Wow. There were lots and lots of dolls. All sorts of dolls. Pretty dolls, ugly dolls, big dolls, small dolls. The proprietor was an older woman who didn’t seem to pay us any mind – as if guys in their mid-30′s made it a habit of shopping for antique dolls. Weird.

Weirder still was her little helper; a guy of about 40 who didn’t raise an eyebrow upon our entrance (the lady at least welcomed us before going about her business). Their business was that of finding a dress to put on some old doll. For the entire 30 minutes or so of our Special Joys experience, that guy was rummaging around boxes and bins for the perfect dress as though finding it would save the North Koreans from the next famine. Dude, it’s a dress. For a doll. In a pink building. Oi.

mq27e.jpgEd and I made our way quickly around the one room museum to get the lay of the land. There was a definite ordering to it and the collection was definitely impressive. We squirreled away to the back corner and I began firing off pictures – I figured they weren’t allowed here because all this stuff was on eBay and I could “scam” unaware customers somehow. Essentially, the entire museum is for sale. Almost… there is one cabinet labeled, “Special Joys” which I guess means they are the Most Special Joys of all the Special Joys standing and sitting around the room.

Standing… sitting… and staring. Staring, staring, staring… piercing my soul. *Shudder*

Anyway, back to the corner where there was a very impressive display of Pogo comic character dolls. Ed pointed out Porky Pine and some others and rattled on about their political import and how their creator, Walt Kelly was a political nemesis. I was clueless and left the case to look for something cool, like Stretch Armstrong. Alas, I never found him. What I did find was a display of every Raggedy family member ever created.

mq27k.jpgI used to have a Raggedy Andy – the only “doll” doll I think I ever owned. He was nice because you could tie his noodle arms and legs together to make sort of a ball to play rec-room knee football with my brother. From there, we moved on to another large display of dolls from, I’m guessing, the early 20th century. Why look, there seems to be a few offensive “mammy” type dolls in the mix. I guess that’s to be expected, so I didn’t really pay it much mind.

A large Barbie display included a Bob Mackie Barbie in original packaging. I have nothing to say about that, except I wrote it down for some reason so I guess I found it impressive at the time. There were some old Shirley Temple dolls as well, many of which were worth a lot of money. We spun around to see some more and…

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Ok. He’s pretty cool. This was my favorite doll in the shop. That’s only because they had no Star Wars stuff – the owner used to, but collectors snatched it up the day she decided to sell stuff. I’m not sure what a kid would do with a kindly butcher, a butcher’s knife, and some plastic pork chops, but I’m sure they could thing of something. Let’s poke around some more. Looking over here…

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Oooookay, what are you gonna do? African-American history in the US is a tragic reminder that we have a cruel and dark past. The dolls from that era are grotesque, exagerrated caricatures of the black stereotype and a doll museum would certainly not be complete without them. Right? Right. In fact, I maintain a CTMQ “Racist Mammy Doll” list here as I’ve found Mammy dolls all over the state. Maybe they get them from this museum?

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Zippity Doo Dah
Zippity Ay
My oh my
What a wonderful day.

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Plenty of sunshine
Comin’ my way.
Zippity Doo Dah
Zippity Ay

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Mr. Bluebird on my shoulder,
It’s the truth;
It’s actual;
Everything is satisfactual.

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Zippity Doo Dah
Zippity Ay
Wonderful feeling,
Wonderful day!

That last doll really, really freaked me out. Look at it. Stare at it (incidentally, doll people anthropomorphize all their dolls to a very weird extent. They are all “she” and “he” and they care about what they wear). It’s a photograph of a long-dead (probably) slave sort of silk-screened on the doll face. It just seemed so “Silence of the Lambs” to me. This had to be the end of this type of thing, right?

We chatted up the nice old lady for a spell, asking her what her favorite pieces were (I don’t remember) and asking about how the museum came into being. I did ask her if she has nightmares about the dolls killing her in her sleep and she didn’t really understand why I’d ask that. Um, gee, I don’t know… because they have FACES on them? And they HATE you?

But that’s probably just me. Apparently, despite my awkward conversation, she felt comfortable enough with us to show us “the good stuff.” To be fair, the woman did not call it “the good stuff” and in fact, described the racist memorabilia as “grotesque.” She then rummaged for a second (right in front of the butcher guy doll above) and whipped out this cuddly piece of Americana:

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Yes, friends, that is a black man enjoying chickens walking into his open mouth with the caption, “A Darky’s Dream of Paradise.” Holy Crap. Now, I’m most disturbed that this is at a pink Bed and Breakfast slash doll museum slash doll shop. There is no “slash stone artwork” in that description. But there you have it… Amazing. (Again, the woman did not in any way condone these things or this part of American history at all.)

Phew. Ed and I were reeling a bit when the heretofore silent guy obsessed with dressing his doll muttered something and the lady said, “Did you see the Brownies?” The guy’s face lit up and he replied, “No! Where?!”

They were right in front of me! Yesssss! The weird guy bent down, pressed his face against the glass, eyes widening and glassy; “Are those John Wrights?!” Wearing a proud grin the lady responded, “Yes!”

I waited a second and then sarcastically oozed, “THE John Wright?” In fact, they were real John Wrights! Not that I nor Ed had any idea who John Wright was, mind you, but that didn’t seem to matter to the two Specially Joyous ones. Ed and I didn’t really want to leave for some reason. It seemed like we’d only scratched the surface somehow, despite staring at the same dolls for a good long while. Just before leaving I noticed a tucked away box of old postcards and pictures – all of which were for sale.

mq27a.jpgSince you can’t read it, that postcard says across the top, “Who said watermelon?” Really. At this point, Ed and I were confused and a little freaked out. This quaint li’l cutesy doll museum had suddenly turned into a KKK meetinghouse. There were stacks of blatantly racist postcards for sale. I bought the one above for a buck or two – it was just too insane to pass up. The truly freaky part about it is that the sender’s note on the back was as matter-of-fact as you please… “Hey guys, it’s sunny and warm down here! Hope you don’t get too much snow! Betsy even got a sunburn, la-la-la.” They left out, “Don’t mind that this postcard is pathetically disgusting, yay white people!”

It was from an Albert Hicks to Gracie Hicks Smith who lived on Route 2 in Cedar Springs, Michigan back when postcards cost one cent to mail. So from CTMQ to the Hicks family of Michigan: Screw you.

Just in case the level of surreal wackiness hasn’t impressed you thus far, just before we left I noticed a big framed picture on the wall leading to the B&B portion of the old house. Here it is:

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I don’t even want to know what that guy did to deserve that fate. I can’t even make a joke about it here because the mere thought of getting married at The Special Joys Toy Shop and Doll Museum just freaks me out for about eight different reasons.

The proprietor was very nice, did not condone any of the crap she was selling, and the collection was very nice and well presented. Was this really a museum in the truest sense? No, of course not… but aren’t you glad we went?

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…………………………………………………….

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Cost: Free
Hours: n/a
Food & Drink? Perhaps a spot of tea over at the B&B portion
Children? Absolutely
You’ll like it if: You know who Daniel Carver is
You won’t like it if: You’re more of a Transformers type doll collector
Freebies: None

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For the Curious:

Museum website (Sort of)
Museum website 2
Barbie Collectors
Pogo
THE John Wright
I won’t even link all the racist crap I found

11 responses to “27. Special Joys Doll & Toy Museum”

  1. Ed says:

    Walt Kelly was a lefty liberal socialist who was the first to inject politics into his strips. He attacked McCarthy, Nixon, J. Edgar Hoover, etc. Nixon even had his phone tapped.

    He was the precursor to Doonesbury. I had a bunch of his collected works growing up and it rocked. Shaped me into the raving liberal I am today.

  2. Ed says:

    As for the museum you captured it pretty well. It’s more of a old ladies living room full of collectibles but she leaves the door open for people to come inside. She did make a good point about the racist Americana. Its part of our past and we can’t ignore it. We need to confront it. Spike Lee has a huge collection of this stuff. I was very upset at the lack of star wars stuff. She said she had a huge bunch of boxes and sold them all once to a group of collectors. I guarantee the women sold 5 grand worth of stuff for a hundred bucks.

    I imagine my wedding there one day. Nothing is more romantic than spending your wedding night being watched by a thousand lifeless dolls eyes.

    THE John Wright!

  3. Rob says:

    I think Oprah has a huge collection as well.

    No Star Wars stuff, I may need to bust out my twin pod cloud car when I’m home this weekend

    http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Storm_IV_Twin-Pod_cloud_car

    Ed’s jealous….

  4. Catherine says:

    I laughed my way through the majority of this piece on the doll museum-very entertaining. Actually my youngest sister had a collection of Raggedy Ann dolls which my brother picked the eyes out of-nice! What she didn’t have in there was a “golliwog” doll-these were huge when I was growing up and of course, totally inappropriate!

  5. honeybunny says:

    I actually own the NASCAR Barbie.
    I am waiting for Mattel to come out with the Mammy Barbie.

    hb

  6. Steve says:

    I had to look it up, but yeah… Golliwogs would fit right in at this museum.

  7. Bill Kelleher says:

    How do I get in touch with the person who wrote this article?
    Thanks
    Bill kelleher
    Special joys Antique Doll & toy Shop

  8. Nancy Howland says:

    I have two barbie houses that are made from the same company but are different. I have twin girls who are 21 now. I want to sell them. They are yellow and reddish-orange. I bought them in the 1980′s at a yard sale. Do you have any idea how much I could see them at a yard sale for?

    Nancy

  9. Tina says:

    I am a old lady doll collector (well I am only in my forties-but today I am feeling pretty old!)
    I loved your story!
    You are very secure in you manhood to venture into a pink house full of dolls. I have driven by the place with my husband and when I asked him to go inside, he thought I was insane for even asking!
    It was very funny having the artice written by a non doll collector. I agree that it is a shame they don’t have any Stars Wars dolls (maybe I’ll sell her mine ;)
    One interesting thing about the black dolls is that they are so scarce in good condition that they are usually worth 3 times more.

  10. Dolores Pagano says:

    I have a dion quintupele doll cica 1940 it is Cicilia whn she joined the convet and is in her habit any idea what is worth

  11. Steve says:

    I don’t know which is worse: Your typing skills or the fact that you didn’t read more than 3 words of this page to realize that the author of this website knows about as much about dolls from 1940 as you do about spelling.

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