House Dreams
September 12, 2005

As a kid, I was far more interested in mom and dad's old toys than a lot of the new, hip stuff. I've already talked about dad's old parcheesi game and a little about a game called Park N Shop, but those weren't the only things I found.

Dad had a "stash" of bookcase games that he kept out in the garage when I was little. We'd converted our garage into a playroom within a few months of moving into that house in Austin. And even though we were "outside," I loved it. I could set up all those Fisher Price Little People sets and play for days without having ot pick everything up.

Dad had weird games like some stocks & bonds game and other business type games. I never saw him play them; I never actually played them, either. But I would occassionally slip the box down out of its spot and open it up. The rules were recorded in some long and involved booklet that I scanned from time to time. There was no board to play on -- instead, just cards and pieces and colorful play money. And this wonderful old graphics that didn't look anything like our board games of the 70s.

But the real treasure trove for me was my grandparents' garage. Canes made from bamboo, ancient radios wrapped in leather or made from a strange swirly, opaque plastic (bakelike). I would go through the garage and pull out five, ten of these radios and set them all up on top of each other and revel in the command center of my spaceship, imagining and anticipating the computerized era fast approaching.

That was where I found my aunt's MouseTrap! game, with its many, many pieces. In fact, at first, I didn't even realize it was a game. I just dumped all the pieces out and starting building mouse traps -- and that kept me busy for hours.

The real find, though, was a green and white and black cardboard box.

Now, you have to understand one thing before I get into this. I was never much for dolls. I like some of them. They're okay. I liked ones that were really unique or different like the soft sculpture doll that my grandma won as a prize -- it was a native american doll with a real leather outfit and nice beadwork (I've forgotten what tribe it was from, though). And I never showed a lot of interest in Barbies. Changing a doll's clothes didn't seem as fascinating to me as it did a lot of other kids.

But then I found the green, white and black box.

This was the 1962 Barbie's dreamhouse. It had a nice handle on the top and latches to keep it all closed up when transporting or storing it. But inside was a treasure trove of cardboard furniture -- thick cardboard even thicker than the back of a legal pad. There were little cardboard records to play on the cardboard tv/stereo console. There was a built-in bookshelf, vanity and closet. And hangers to hang up Barbie's clothes. Chairs, a couch, a coffee table.

And I also discovered a slew of Barbies. There were two Barbies (one was probably Midge or one of the other girls) and an Allen doll. I already had Skipper (she of the fly-away long-ass hair). More clothes than I had ever imagined existed for Barbies. There was an airline outfit complete with American Airlines bag. A doctor's outfit, bag and stethoscope! A clown outfit for Allen. Suits, tennis shoes, dress shoes, roller skates, ice skates! A sailor hat. There were green flippers to wear while snorkeling. There were even some wigs.

I could open up that old piece of cardboard and be lost for days.

I guess, for me, there's just something about the smell of vintage cardboard and the look of vintage graphics that just transports me to a whole nother plane.

I only have a few pieces left of that vintage Barbie treasure trove. I gave to of the dolls to my now ex-mother-in-law. Had my ex and I stayed together forever as I'd certainly planned, I'd never have regretted it. Now, though ... I gotta admit I wish I had them back. They're worth about $200 apiece even in all their blue eye-shadowed semi-glory. But I still have Allen -- he was easily my favorite. And I still have my Skipper doll with her hideous haircut that I gave her in lieu of cutting my own hair.

And I still have roller skates, ice skates, the doctor's outfit ... sadly, the stethoscope is missing the little end that you put on someone's chest. And the second stethoscope is just the silver yoke to put in your ears. I still have the happy little clown outfit and at least one of the suits.

But I'd only ever seen that cardboard dollhouse once in the intervening years since mom's purging of my toys and my grandparents' down-sizing and down-sizing and down-sizing (with each move, it seemed like more of my childhood just drifted away). I was in an antique store in Niles, Michigan ... and there it was, up on top of a shelf. I reached for the price tag and then refused to touch the house itself. $120 for that house, devoid of any accessories. I didn't enjoy Barbies or the house enough to pay that kind of money for it.

Yesterday, though, we were cruising around the LaPorte Antique Fair which was sadly devoid of any Commodore 64s and any Fisher Price Little People. But when we walked into the far commercial building, I about fell over.

Alone at the end of a table, the dreamhouse was opened up for all to see its cardboard glory and stellar early 60s interior design. And the price was nothing near what I'd seen at the antique mall. Decent shape, all the furniture there and all the legs pretty much intact -- not too common for cardboard furniture. All the little albums, even the beloved Kingston Trio one.

Yeah, it's at the house now. Like I could resist a piece of my childhood history like that!

I went down to the basement and pulled out the little stash of Mego superheroes, Sunshine Family dolls and the tiny stash of the Barbie collection and brought it all upstairs. Opened up the dreamhouse and started putting some of Allen's clothes on the hangers, arranging the furniture.

Holy crap, I did a HORRIBLE job of cutting Skipper's hair. I may actually get out the scissors again just to even it up. I should probably let it alone, but man!

I must have sat on the floor amidst our two miniature dachshunds in all their rapt puzzlement at my activity and messed with that Barbie stuff for an hour or more. I got all of Allen's shoes lined up in the base of the closet, moved the picture of Ken around a few times, let Skipper watch tv (when I wasn't trying to smooth her hair out and try to figure out WHAT I thought I was doing to her hair).

It's amazing that a little bit of cardboard can be that fascinating and make me that happy.

Oh, and I think I found the Parcheesi board on eBay. It should arrive this week, too.

Maybe I'm just addicted to cardboard ....

Posted by Red Monkey at September 12, 2005 10:17 AM | Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


Kirkkitsch said:

I loved this post! Bravo! :)

September 12, 2005 5:15 PM
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