When Evelyn Yalch's daughter moved away from home, she left a broken doll at the bottom of a cedar chest. Instead of tossing the tattered toy, Yalch took it in for repairs, not realizing that she was about to relive her youth. When she arrived at the shop, located in a woman's house, she was delighted by the collection of lifelike toys on display. Yalch was then invited to her first doll-club meeting, and soon enough she was hooked.
"It's really about fashion and history," says Yalch, who attended that first meeting in Pennsylvania and is now a member of the Pompano Beach Doll Club. At each monthly meeting, a club member lectures on a particular doll. Yalch, a Lighthouse Point resident, once talked about a '30s-era doll modeled after the character Meg from the book Little Women, proving that merchandising has been around quite some time. In fact quite a few dolls from the early part of the century were used to promote adult products; in the late '40s, for instance, Toni dolls came complete with hairstyle kits -- a push for Toni Home Permanent Wave.
Dolls may have been designed for children, but collecting is hardly child's play, unless we're talking about kids with huge allowances. One of Yalch's prized dolls, a bisque porcelain from 1900, is worth $1000. And Yalch has more than 100 other dolls in her collection.
But you don't have to be a collector or dealer to attend the club's tenth annual show, which takes place Saturday in Lighthouse Point. Formed 15 years ago, the club has only 16 members, but more than 350 enthusiasts showed up at last year's show. In addition to cloth, plastic, vinyl, china, and bisque dolls, books, clothing, and accessories will be available at the show. So if your Skipper (Barbie's younger sister) is missing part of her "Silk and Fancy" ensemble, this would be just the place to shop for a replacement.
Club member Betty Hargrave may end up dropping a chunk of change on outfits for her collection. More than 200 dolls fill shelves, cabinets, and just about any free space in her Fort Lauderdale home. Excessive, you say? Perhaps, but Hargrave does have her reasons. "It takes me back to childhood," she explains. "I didn't have too many dolls then."
-- Eileen Jager
The tenth Annual Pompano Beach Doll Club Show takes place Saturday, February 27, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Paul the Apostle Church (2700 NE Sample Rd., Lighthouse Point). A $2 donation is suggested. Call 954-781-5451.