Yesterday's Magazette

12 – Hair-Raising Fun

Hair-Raising Fun

By Madonna Dries Christensen


Give a child a doll and within minutes she’ll probably undress it. Then she’ll fuss with the hair. In my play days (1940s), trying to comb or style a doll’s hair led to bad results and frustration. Washing the hair led to disaster. What a mess.

By the time of my daughter’s childhood (late 60s, early 70s) a doll’s hair was more functional. Among the most popular dolls of that era was Ideal’s Crissy series, with hair that “grew.” The front and top of the rooted hair and around the back of the neck remained stationary, about ear length and with bangs, but a button on the doll’s tummy allowed the middle of the hair to be pulled into a ponytail of full length or somewhere in between. A knob on the doll’s back pulled the hair into the head.

The dolls were maYM:Madonna:Hair2de of good quality hard vinyl and had appealing faces. The first Crissy appeared on store shelves in 1970 and stood 18 inches tall. She had dark sleep eyes and her red mane fell to her ankles.

Her dress and shoes were orange. On the later models the hair stopped at the waist and became the standard length for all Crissys. The original Crissy was followed by Velvet, Crissy’s 10-year-old cousin.

At 16 inches, Velvet was a towhead and had periwinkle blue eyes. Velvet had a little sister, Cinnamon, and the Crissy family grew to include friends Dina, Brandi, Mia, Tara, Harmony, and others. Some of the extended family was African-American. The faces on all the models had a similar look, and the common factor (except for Harmony) was hair that grew.

Baby Crissy (Caucasian or African-American) was 24 inches and plump as a six month old baby. But was she bald like many babies that age? Indeed not. Her long red locks would have made Rapunzel envious. Sold barefoot, Baby Crissy came in a variety of outfits called diaper sets (a short dress with a matching diaper). But because of her size, she could be dressed in baby’s clothing so she probably had plenty of hand-me-downs. Baby Crissy remained popular for years.

Like all teenage dolls before and since, the Crissy girls were fashionable, wearing mod and hippie styles of that era, and always with matching color shoes (same style on all).Their popularity today as collectibles might be partly due to the clothing, a true depiction of what young, hip girls wore at the time.

American Character Doll actually created and used the hair-growing mechanism first, in 1963 with pre-teen Tressy, and later fashion model Tressy and a Cricket series. When Ideal later obtained the patent and displayed Beautiful Crissy at the 1969 New York Toy Fair, credit for the design was given to Francis Amici, Robert David, and  Richard Levine.

Subsequent models boasted improved hair quality, as well as agiltiy, making them more playful. Wearing an orange jersey mini dress and orange boots, “Movin’ Groovin” Crissy swiveled from the waist, doing the Chubby Checker Twist. She wore a rather drab brown dress but sported brown lace-up boots instead of the usual shoes. “Look Around Crissy’s” head and waist, on a string mechanism, turned as if you’d called her name and she looked around to acknowledge it.

Along came “Talky Crissy,” with the option of six or 12 recorded messages. The answers were random, so if a child asked the doll, “How are feeling today?” and then pulled the string, the doll might reply, “That sounds like fun.” Talky Velvet spoke only six phrases.

Regardless of what the dolls could do, the main attraction was, and still is, the hair. My granddaughters, a brunette and a blonde with waist-length hair, were delighted to meet Mom’s vintage Crissy dolls. They giggled as they pushed on the dolls’ stomach buttons and then on their own belly buttons, pretending to change their hair length. Seven-year-old Grace said she likes Velvet because Velvet’s eye color is like hers, and she likes the dolls’ hair because it can be short like Mommy’s or long like hers.

That’s the long and short of it; whatever the choice, it’s all about the hair.

*For more about this family go to Crissy Town; The UltraCrissy Web site: http://crissytown.8thman.com/index.html. You’ll find photos of the dolls and their accessories and factory boxes, even photos of the dolls sans clothing so you can see their front and back mechanisms (sounds racy, doesn’t it?). One photo places a doll alongside an Ideal Shirley Temple, showing the similarity between their body molds and revealing dimples on both sets of cheeks, front and back.

Vol. 37 No. 2 – Yesterday’s Magazette – Summer- 2010

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