- Written by Jamie Saloff Jamie Saloff
- Published: 06 December 2015 06 December 2015
- Hits: 2049 2049
Iaulanda Turner Downey (Pronounced Ya-lond-a)
Growing up, my mother, more often than not, would be found sitting at her work table hand sewing doll body parts, putting on their hair, adjusting their hands just so, or drawing and embroidering their faces. She had started her in-home business when I was three. She initially thought it would keep my father's hands busy while he recuperated from his illness, but it turned into a full-time business that kept her busy year after year.
My mother was the most creative, persistent, inventive (and sometimes stubborn) woman I know. She spent as many as sixteen hours a day working on the dolls, eventually employing as many as ten women. Some sewed pieces together in their homes. Some visited the house weekly to help stuff, dress, and put together the dolls. Mom built up stock from January to September, so she could sell November and December to her long-time mail order customers, nationwide specialty shops, and department stores such as Marshall Fields, Frederick Nelson, and Halles. For many years, the sign that hung on our bulletin board proclaimed "as soon as the rush is over. . ." and she would be heard to say, "after November. . . "
As I was preparing to graduate from high school in 1979, she asked me if I had any interest in taking over the business. It would be easy to say I did not have a desire to work as hard as she did, or that I didn't fully appreciate the dolls that were an everyday part of my life, but in truth, and what I told her, stemmed from a very valid fact. I did not have the talent she had for working of their hair, drawing and designing their clothes and faces, or making their hands bend just right so that they seemed to come alive. And while she tried to convince me otherwise, and while I have many other creative talents, even today I find that simple statement to still be true. Thus, with the help of my soon-to-be husband, we smashed the countless dies that had been carefully hand built by my father so that her dolls would never again be made. It truly was a sad day, one I sometimes regret, until I think again about just how talented she really was.
So after living a challenging life, after giving hours and hours of it to the making of these dolls, she retired, and spent her last few years in Florida golfing, and making crafts she enjoyed. And all too soon, her life was cut short by disease and she was gone at age 72.
On this site, I hope to share some of the wonderful stories about the dolls, the life we lived around the dolls, as well as insights into the incredible woman who was my mom. If you've collected her dolls, I'd love to hear from you, hear your stories, see photos (both from now and then), and learn how they came into your life. And if you should come upon the lost Storyteller, my mother's trademark doll, I'd love to know about that as well.
You can also follow us on Facebook here.