It all started innocently enough.
Georgia Mason was keeping her dying sister-in-law company and passing the time by crocheting. At first she made afghans, but then she discovered a doll pattern. Her husband bought a doll head and doll hands, and Georgia crocheted the body in between.
Turns out there was a lot of time at the sister-in-law’s bedside, and by the time Georgia returned home, she had crocheted maybe 100 dolls — at least.
“I brought them back from Portland mostly to show (my daughter) the different designs and stuff. And we never got rid of them,” said Georgia.
One thing led to another, you might say, and now, between the two of them, they have more than 5,000 dolls.
Bigger-than-life dolls, little bitty ones, dolls of every size in between. Porcelain, rubber, vinyl, cloth, celluloid, plastic and crocheted. Historical, brand-new, handmade. Only a few Barbies and only the five original Cabbage Patch kids). Not too many Storybook dolls (except for the case that’s full). There’s always an exception.
“If we don’t have them, we buy them,” said Connie Fuller, Georgia’s middle daughter.
They come from garage sales, secondhand stores, estate sales, friends-of-friends, gifts.
There might be some who would wonder: Why?
“We’re all retired,” said Georgia, 90. “What else is there for us to do?”
“It’s a pastime,” said Connie, 68. “It keeps us occupied. We don’t smoke, we don’t drink. We buy dolls.
“I think it’s a challenge to see how may different ones we can get.”
Connie’s husband, Frank, is a co-conspirator in all this.
“I’m the chauffeur,” he said, although he does have a working knowledge of what dolls the women have, and he’s built the shelves and doll chairs. “I shop, but I don’t have to. I could stay in the car and read a book.”
“Yeah, but how often do you do that?” asked his mother-in-law.
“I don’t,” he grinned. “I go in to make sure you don’t buy out the place.”
Georgia names each of her “babies” and strings alphabet beads on ribbons that go around the doll’s wrist or waist. They carefully photograph each doll and compile albums, a record of their collection. Georgia has 16 books, sorted by doll type, cross-referenced by name and including information about the doll.
“And this is who gets it when I die,” she said, pointing to a column on the page.
The women don’t really know the value of their collection because they’re not planning on selling their babies.
“I think we have an assortment of all the different (dolls),” said Connie. “But we don’t have all the dolls that are out there. Compared to the Guinness Book of Records, we’ve got a long ways to go. I’m not going to worry about that.”