Pauline Jones: A House Full of Dolls

Written by David Green. Posted in Feature Stories

By JEFF PICKELL

Fayette resident Pauline Jones has always had a tender affection for dolls, it just took her a while to get her hands on some.

She didn’t enjoy many luxuries during her childhood. For a family of ten trying to subsist in a struggling economy, there wasn’t a lot of spare money to spend on gadgets and toys for the youngsters, so for entertainment she and her siblings had to rely largely on themselves or on their imaginations.

pauline It was Pauline’s imagination that kept her smiling as she flipped through each new Sears & Roebuck catalogue when one arrived.

“My joy came from leafing through the pages and looking at the beautiful dolls and dreaming,” she says.

When the catalogues went out of season, she’d cut the dolls out and spend hours devoted to the imaginary world she’d created around them—until a stiff breeze or a hard stomp from one of her brothers scattered her kingdom to bits.

Today, Pauline’s doll collection is not so vulnerable to the elements.

“I have about 130 antiques and 40 or 50 made by modern day artists,” she says.

So many dolls are arranged throughout the Jones residence that it’s like a life-sized dollhouse.

She keeps her favorite dolls in the dining room. Her largest, a pale-faced girl with gorgeous German-blond locks sits in a rocking chair, staring across the room at two school boys, also German, standing erect. Beside the German girl, a toddler clutching a violin stands perched atop a chest; it’s Pauline’s favorite.

A lot of people think of china porcelain when antique dolls come to mind, but Pauline says dolls made of bisque porcelain are much more valuable and accomplished.

Unlike china porcelain, bisque porcelain is unglazed. This gives the doll an appearance and texture which much more closely resembles human skin, and which attracted wealthy buyers who would have only the best for their children.

The true master doll makers, the artists, were 19th century German designers. Pauline and her husband, Babe, have been pursuing pieces by these artisans for the last 40 years or so.

It all began when Babe—who, according to Pauline, is a collector of guns, duck decoys, art and junk—asked her what she would collect if she could collect anything. Her immediate answer was dolls. Babe searched area antique shops and shows, and for her birthday presented Ruth, a small, scarlet-clad Armand Marsaille brand doll.

“The moment I unwrapped that box and peered inside, I was hooked,” Pauline says.

In the years since then, Babe has typically given Pauline a doll for every birthday, anniversary and Christmas, which, over the course of four decades, has brought the collection to a size so big the Jones’ have run out of places to display it.

Pauline devotes a good deal of time to making sure the displays themselves are as thought-provoking and detailed as her intricately featured dolls. For instance, two baby dolls in her upstairs display room are arranged side by side in a wicker carriage constructed for twins in the early part of the century. The carriage is so old that the twins who sat in it have both died of old age, but the Joneses have taken so much care in preserving it that it seems almost new.

Now, why would anyone want to collect so many dolls, if they are only to be kept on display? Just as it did for her as a child, Pauline’s joy comes from her imagination.

“I try to envision the little girls in their calico dresses and bonnets who once played with them and must have taken excellent care of them,” says Pauline. “I try to envision what kind of home they came from—was it a log home? Was it a castle in England or France or Germany, or just an ordinary home like where we grew up?”

And though the answer to that question may never be uncovered, the care and love with which Pauline treats her dolls ensures that there will be many years more for people to ponder it.

 - Oct. 26, 2005

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