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Monday, 24 December 2007

The Red Plush Coat

By 87-year-old Georgie Bright Kunkel, freelance writer and standup comic

More than seventy years ago, I got a surprise left on the front porch by Santa Claus. At least my older sisters said Santa was the one who left presents on our front porch on Christmas Eve.

Our whole family would sit around the real fir tree with the candles burning brightly on the fragrant limbs and wait for the knock on the front door. The knock was Santa letting all us kids know that there were presents on the front porch. Yes, there was the knock. My older sister said, “Georgie, go to the door and see what Santa has brought you.”

I hurried to the front door and opened it to find my old Mama Doll dressed in all new clothes topped by a wonderful red plush coat with a little fur collar. She had on real silk hose and a new underskirt and a velvet hat to match her new coat. It wasn’t until many years later that I learned about the red plush coat.

My mother told me about the time when our family lived up in the hills of Lewis County. Times were hard, but neighbors shared. One year, a new neighbor who relocated there after they were burned out in the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906, told my mother about the wonderful red plush coat that their little daughter wore.

It seems that when they were fleeing from San Francisco that the merchants whose stores had been ruined were passing out any merchandise that was still intact to those who needed clothing. This red plush coat was a splendid reminder of the sumptuous living that those in San Francisco had lived prior to the catastrophe that left so many homes in ruins.

One day my mother went to the door and the neighbor handed my mother the little red plush coat. “It is too small for my daughter and I thought your Gracie could wear it.”

Well, she certainly could and I envied her this wonderful coat until finally it was my turn to wear it when she outgrew it. When I had outgrown it, it was put into the old bag of clothes in the attic. That special Christmas my mother had cut it up to make the red plush coat for my doll.

It wasn’t until I was ten years old that I got another special surprise on Christmas Eve. My sisters were very secretive all the month of December that year. I couldn’t figure out why they were whispering all the time and I felt left out. It wasn’t until Christmas Eve when the fir tree was once more decked out with tinsel and real candles glistening on the branches that I found out the secret that they all seemed to be keeping from me.

Under the tree was a large, oblong box. When it came time to open the presents, after we had sung the carols and recited the poetry that we always shared, my oldest sister reached under the tree and pulled out this mysterious box and handed it to me. I pulled off the wrapping carefully so we could save it for next year and opened the box to find the Patsy doll that I had wished for.

Over the years I treasured my Patsy doll. When my Mama Doll wore out, Patsy inherited the red plush coat. Just recently I realized that she was getting a little limp as her elastic became old. It was time to renew Patsy and so I took her to a doll expert who restrung her lovingly so that I could once more put her on the stand and admire her in her red plush coat.

The expert on dolls told me all about my precious doll. She was really an Effanbee Patsy doll look-alike by Eegee. Patsy was so famous that every company wanted to copy her. The original was created in 1927, when I was seven years old. She looked like a real girl and was the first doll to have a wardrobe of dresses. She was made of composition material and her eyes opened and shut. Can you imagine that she sold for less than three dollars?

Now my refurbished Patsy look-alike can stand in her glorious red plush coat under the tree to remind me of Christmases past.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


You still have the doll after all this time! Wow!

Happy Christmas to you, Ronni and all the bloggers and readers.

Your doll story reminds me of my best/worst Christmas. I was ten years old and wanted two presents desperately. I no longer believed in Santa Claus and dared to hope that I would get at least one of them. One was an Effanbee Dydie Doll that wet her diaper and the other was a stuffed Scotty dog that had hair that looked real. Several nights before Christmas I was awake when I should have been sleeping and overheard my mother telling my step-father what she had bought. I was to get both of my much desired items.

While I was thrilled with the news, my emotions were mixed with sadness because there was no longer the excitement of Christmas morning to look forward to.

Foolishly, when my Dydie doll's body rotted I threw her head away never realizing that I could have had a new body put on her. I regret that to this day.


I loved your story. You told it so well you really had my attention.

I had a Betsy Wetsy doll that I loved. Santa brought it to me when I was 5 or 6.My Mother was a great knitter and crocheter so she made me many outfits for my doll. I wish to this day I had saved some of them. Especially the ones she made with white angora wool that made me sneeze......

Happy holidays to all....

Godh how wonderful that you still have the doll and the coat.

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