I got my first Barbie® for Christmas in 1959. I remember that Christmas to this day. Joyce Crocker, my best friend and also my age, was a brunette and she got the black-headed Barbie® for Christmas. We had both been bugging our parents for a Barbie® since Mattel introduced the doll at the American Toy Fair in New York City on March 9 of that year.
After seeing the first Barbie® commercial air during a Mickey Mouse Club episode, Joyce and I were hooked. Barbie® looked so mature, so in charge of herself! We couldn’t stop talking about her and all the things we would do when we got our own. After we had ours, it didn’t take us long to start talking about wanting a boyfriend for Barbie. When Mattel introduced her boyfriend Ken at the American International Toy Fair on March 11, 1961, we were elated and were quick to let our parents know we had to have one for Christmas.
By the time I was 12, I was designing, sewing, and crocheting clothes for Barbie® and her boyfriend Ken. Midge, Barbie’s best friend, and Skipper, Barbie’s little sister, were also introduced in 1963 but I had to wait until Christmas 1964 to get them. Fortunately, Midge was the same size as Barbie so she could wear all of Barbie’s clothes.
It was in the Fall of 1963 that my eighth-grade teacher Mrs. Audrey Allmon saw my drawings and called my parents in to tell them to encourage me to follow my artistic talents. I cried profusely when my family moved from Ambrosia Lake to Milan in the middle of my eighth grade because I didn’t want to leave Mrs. Allmon’s tutelage behind. She didn’t let me leave her behind. She came to visit me in Milan many times to get a progress report and I quickly set goals to become a fashion designer when I grew up. As life turned out, I won a state wool competition the next year, tailoring suits for my dad and myself. I would go on to teach sewing for the Sew-Knit-N-Stretch Corporation and design the first men’s boxer shorts for Olga® Manufacturing before I turned away from clothing design until 2009 when I took up designing clothes and costumes worn by avatars in the computer-gaming world. I even designed my avatars who modeled the clothing. When I was diagnosed with “terminal” cancer in 2011 (my 10th cancer-free anniversary coming up on April 29), the “thing” that kept me centered and determined to stick around was my faith and the signs of success from my avatar selling my designs 24 hours a day while I was rebuilding my body to get back into the game of life. I credit Mrs. Allmon and my parents for getting me my first Barbie as well as inspiring me to pursue my creative talents. The best teachers are far more than educators. Let us never forget that. Dolls can be a lot more than just dolls for children.