Ann Estelle and Betsy Lee This was my first doll list swap. I made it for the SimpleDesign Mailing List's "School Is Out and It's Time to Play" Spring 2002 Swap.I

found a cute story in a 1936 Alice and Jerry book, Day In and Day Out. It had adorable pictures and I decided to try and replicate one of the dresses for Ann Estelle. A friend found the red checked fabric that I needed and sent me a 1/4 yard. I made the pattern for the dress and bonnet and knitted the socks from Karen Warnaka's free pattern.

I also made the cloth doll to match the Betsy Lee doll in the story. I used Edith Flack Ackley's doll house baby pattern from her 1938 book, Dolls to Make for Fun and Profit.

Betsy Lee's felt coat and beret are removable. She is wearing a white dress underneath.

When I was finished with the clothes and doll for the swap, I wrote a story about Ann Estelle and her friends Sophie and Georgia. This was a fun swap and I got three great outfits in return.

I also made myself a copy of the outfit, but I never did finish my Betsy Lee doll. I really should make myself one.

Here is the story I wrote.
School's Out and It's Time to Play
Right after Christmas vacation, Miss Maeve told the students that she had a big surprise for them. “I don’t know where they came up with the money,” she told them, “but the school board has purchased new readers for us.” Wonderful books they were, bright red with beautiful color illustrations on every page. Miss Maeve had two of the boys pass them out, warning the students that they had to be opened carefully so that the bindings would last. They were to hold them on edge closed, and carefully open first the back cover, then a few pages at a time, and finally the front cover. Miss Maeve made a big celebration out of it, pasting in the bookplates, and writing each student’s name in her beautiful penmanship along with the year, 1939, and new under “condition”.

Ann Estelle couldn’t wait to read the new book. She looked forward to reading circle every day. For one thing the book smelled so good. It was all about a sister and brother called Alice and Jerry. They had marvelous adventures and lived, it seemed, in a world totally untouched by the depression. Ann’s world, on the other hand, was marked everywhere by the awful old depression. As far back as Ann could remember she had heard things like money is tight, or if it weren’t for this depression…

The very first story was about a toy store. Ann and her friends had never seen such toys: boats, trains, dolls, balls, bears, a rocking horse, even a boy and girl mouse doll from Mr. Walt Disney’s cartoons that the students saw when they went to the movie theater in the city.

Not that Ann and her friends didn’t have toys. The boys all had marbles that they played with at recess, cat’s eyes and aggies that they kept in little bags or an old sock and won or lost as skill and luck would have it. The girls had jump ropes, and Ann Estelle had a set of jacks that her mother had played with when she was a girl. All of the girls were thrilled when she first brought them to school last year along with the new little rubber ball that Father bought to go with them. Mother had sewn a sweet little drawstring bag with Ann’s initials embroidered on it to put them in. She had sat right down on the floor to show Ann Estelle and her very best friend Sophie O’Brian how to play. Now the girls were all so skilled after many, many games at recess that some of them could go clear through their sevenses without missing. They not only played regular jacks, but In the Nest, In the Cave, and other games to make things more interesting.

Some of the boys had cars or boats made by their fathers or older brothers from scraps of wood, and most of the girls had at least one doll. Ann Estelle’s doll was a baby doll that her mother made from Ann’s father’s old socks. There was a darned spot on its bottom, right under the handkerchief diaper. It had a bit of hair on the top of its head that was yarn unraveled from an old brown sweater that got holes in it. As Ann’s mother was always saying, “Use it up, or wear it out, make it do, or do without.” Ann was proud of her mother and her ability to “make it do”.

Sophie had made her own doll since her mother was always so busy with all of the younger O’Brians. Ann was an only child, but Sophie was the next to oldest of six children. She had to help a lot at home, and her mother still always looked tired and busy. Sophie had taken a piece of unbleached muslin flour sack that her mother gave her and tied it around an old rubber ball of her brother Shaun’s. That made a wonderful head for a doll, and Sophie drew on a beautiful face with her school crayons. Sophie had a real talent for drawing. Even Miss Maeve said so, and she wasn’t lavish with praise. Not that she was stingy about saying nice things, but when Miss Maeve praised a student you knew it was from her heart and careful observation of their abilities. She had told Sophie that she had an observant eye and a skillful hand to go with it. Sophie had beamed for days.

All of the students loved Miss Maeve. She was young and pretty with wavy brown hair. She was always coming up with fun ways to learn things like “i” before “e” except after “c”, and George Elden’s old grandfather ran a pig home yesterday to spell geography. At the beginning of the year when they had a hard time saying her name, she told them to remember Ma as in mama and Eve as in Adam’s wife. None of them had any trouble with it after that.

Sophie’s doll didn’t have a body, just knots in the corners of the muslin for hands and feet. Sophie didn’t mind really. She loved it anyway. She and Ann had decided that it was love that made dolls real, just like in the book about a stuffed rabbit that Miss Maeve read to the class before Christmas.

Some of the girls even had store-bought dolls, but not shiny new ones like the ones in the toy store that Jerry in the book went to. These were dolls that had been purchased for older relatives, gently played with, and passed down to the younger girls.
Even Jerry didn’t get to have all of the toys, not at once anyway. His father told him, “One toy.” Jerry chose a big shiny airplane with a propeller that turned. After they read the story, many of the boys in Ann and Sophie’s class went home and made airplanes from packing crates, but none of them got one like Jerry’s. They all knew without their parents having to tell them that there was no money for frivolous things like toys.
The next story was about Alice. All the girls were excited to see what fun things Alice would do. Ann Estelle was particularly excited because when she looked in the mirror she could see that she looked a little like Alice. They both had the same straight, cropped, blond hair. Ann couldn’t tell about Alice’s eyes because they were just black dots in the book, but she thought they must be blue like hers. Alice’s name even started with “A” just like Ann Estelle’s, although like most of the girls and boys Ann knew, Alice only had one first name instead of two like Ann Estelle. Ann Estelle loved having two names, even though most of the time people only used one of them. Ann always wrote them both on all of her schoolwork. She especially loved the way the “elle” at the end of Estelle looped, first short, then tall, then short again when she wrote it in cursive which the class was just learning.

Ann Estelle knew that when her mother or father used both names in a serious tone, that she’d better listen. Grandma always used both since she was from the south and the reason that Ann Estelle had two names in the first place: Ann for her grandmother and Estelle for her grandmother’s mother who Ann had always heard was “such a lady”. This puzzled Ann as she thought all grown women were ladies, but evidently not. The only other person who always used both names was Mrs. Jones, the mother of Ann’s friend Georgia. Mrs. Jones was from the south too, and told Ann that “two names just sounds natural to my ears.”

Ann really had four names if you counted her last name, Smithtonner, which was sort of a double name. When Ann’s great-grandfather came from the old country, the man at the big desk when he got off the boat asked him his name. He told the man Tonnerskitski. When the man asked him how to spell it, he had to say that he didn’t know because he couldn’t read or write. The man shrugged and said, “I’ll just put down Smith. That I can spell.” So Ann’s great-grandfather became Smith. When her grandpa was old enough to make decisions, he changed it to Smithtonner, so his family would have, as he said, “at least a little of the old country.” They never did find out how the original name should have been spelled.

When Ann heard the story the first time she said, “How rude!” about the man at the desk, but her mother told her that he was probably just a busy, impatient man, and that one shouldn’t come to hasty conclusions. Ann wasn’t sure exactly what that meant, but she thought her mother was telling her not to say mean things when she didn’t have all the facts.

When the class had penmanship practice and wrote their full names ten times each, Miss Maeve always told Ann that it was a good thing she liked to write so well since it took one whole line on the paper just to write her name once.

On the first page of Alice’s story, Alice discovered that her coat was too small. All of the students knew just how she felt. They had all worn coats and other clothes past the time that they fit perfectly, trying to get a little more wear from them. Sometimes mothers would open the hems or even add a strip of a different fabric to the sleeves to get a few more months from a garment.

They were all a little surprised though when Alice’s mother took her to a store to buy a new coat. They always got a hand-me-down from an older brother or sister, or their mothers or grandmothers would re-make one that belonged to their parents or another adult. Occasionally one of them even got a coat made from new fabric. Very few of the students in Ann Estelle and Sophie’s class had ever seen a coat store with brand new coats of all colors and sizes though. The general store in town carried jackets to wear on the farm, and if you could come up with the money serviceable brown or gray wool to make coats with. Miss Maeve explained that such stores as Alice and her mother went to could be found in the city, but in these hard times, not many could shop in them. The whole class was thrilled when the man in the store found Alice the red coat she wanted and even a matching hat.

As the weeks and months went on Miss Maeve’s class read many different stories in their new readers. There were interesting stories about dogs and other animals, train trips, and once Alice and Jerry even rode a pony. No one in the class had ever ridden a pony. There were many horses on the farms surrounding their town and the men who brought logs to Ann Estelle’s father’s saw mill used mules to drag them out of the forest. Most of the children had ridden on a horse or a mule, but they thought that a pony, whose only purpose in life was to give rides to children, must be a wonderful extravagance.

Ann loved to share the stories from her reader with her mother when she came home from school. Mother was always properly amazed about Alice and Jerry’s latest adventures, and they discussed them while she fixed dinner. Even more fun than sharing with Mother though, was sharing with Ann Estelle and Sophie’s friend Georgia. Since Sophie lived right across the street from Ann, they always walked home from school together. On their way home they often stopped at Georgia’s house. Georgia didn’t go to the same school as Ann and Sophie, so this and weekends were the only times they could play together. Georgia loved to hear about their school and especially their wonderful new books. It seemed that her school was very different from theirs. All of the students, regardless of age, were taught in the same room. They not only didn’t have beautiful new books, they often had to share one book between the whole reading circle, reading aloud as they passed it from one student to another. Georgia’s reader was old and dirty, and had torn and missing pages. It didn’t have pretty pictures, and the stories were often hard for the students to understand.

One day, while the girls were sitting at the Jones’ table enjoying a slice of Mrs. Jones’ delicious spice cake and a big glass of their cow Bossy’s good milk, Ann and Sophie were telling Georgia about the latest story. It was all about how Alice was missing and their mother had sent Jerry to look for her. Suddenly Ann had a great idea. “Sophie,” she exclaimed, “let’s make the story for Georgia! I can write it down and you can draw the pictures.” This was no sooner said than the girls got started. Ann pulled her tablet out of her book bag and went right to work writing as much as she could remember. She was careful to leave room at the top of the page for Sophie to draw. By the time they had finished two pages, it was time to go home. Before they left, Georgia read the story back to them. She was so happy to have such a pretty story to read.

The next day the girls read and looked at the pictures even more carefully than usual. They made mental notes of all the details. When they got to Georgia’s house, Georgia was reading their story to Mrs. Jones. Mrs. Jones had tears in her eyes. “Girls,” she told them, “this is a good thing you are doing sharing your school book with my Georgia in this way. I know that your school is better than the one she goes to, but I am so thankful that she and her sisters have a school to attend. When Georgia’s daddy and I were young, there was no school for us. We didn’t learn to read and write, and cipher like they are doing.”

Sophie and Ann Estelle were very surprised. They hadn’t known that there were people who didn’t have a school to attend. It took a few moments to sink in. Finally, Sophie burst out, “But Mrs. Jones, you can read now can’t you?” “Yes, Sophie,” she replied, “I can read some. When Georgia’s oldest sister, Ardetta, started school, she taught her daddy and I what she was learning. Mr. Jones did really well, but I got busy with my other babies coming as quick as they did. I just didn’t have enough time to study.”
Ann and Sophie could understand that. In addition to cooking, baking, cleaning, gardening, and sewing for her family like their mothers did, Mrs. Jones took in laundry to bring in extra income. The many clotheslines in her yard were always filled with drying clothes, and she could usually be found starching and ironing shirts for bachelors who, as she said, “don’t have a woman to do for them.”

This exchange with Mrs. Jones made Sophie and Ann Estelle even more determined to share their reader with Georgia. They came as often as they could, and worked hard writing and drawing. They brought their school crayons with them to color the pages. Georgia especially enjoyed coloring Sophie’s drawings and the bottoms of every page. The girls had told her that there was a different colored border along the bottom of every story and sometimes along the top and sides as well. As they worked they talked and giggled, and there was always plenty of Mrs. Jones delicious spice cake or cookies for a snack.

When they had finished each day, Mrs. Jones would pause from her ironing and bring out the pages that they had already completed. She and Georgia would take turns reading them, and she always exclaimed over the new pages. “I declare,” she said one day, “You girls do a better job on every page.” It was true. They were working so hard that the pages were getting prettier and prettier as they went along. Mrs. Jones and Georgia were improving in their reading too.

One thing continued to puzzle Ann Estelle though. Why, when Georgia and her sisters lived closer to Ann’s school than she and Sophie did, didn’t’ they go there? Finally, she decided to ask her mother. Mother was washing dishes, and they were talking about Alice and Jerry’s latest antics when Ann posed the question. “Mother, why doesn’t Georgia go to school with Sophie and me?” Mother got very still with a sad, far away look on her face. “Ann dear,” she replied at last, “there are some things that we can never understand, but we can pray that God will change them.” This was kind of scary to Ann Estelle, to think that some things even adults don’t understand. After that she always remembered to ask God to let Georgia come to school with her when she said her nightly prayers.

A couple of weeks later Ann Estelle mentioned at the dinner table that she needed a new tablet. “Already,” her mother exclaimed irritatedly, “I just bought you one didn’t I?” “Money doesn’t grow on trees, Ann.” Her father added. Ann explained that she was using extra paper because she and Sophie were sharing their reader with Georgia. “We have to use my paper because Sophie’s father has so many mouths to feed, that she barely has enough paper for school,” she told them. Ann Estelle’s mother and father looked at each other for a long time. Then her father said, “Buy her as many tablets as she needs. George Jones is the best man I have working for me. I don’t care what anyone says!” He always said the last part any time any of the Jones’ names came up in a conversation. Ann couldn’t figure out why he said that, but she didn’t ask him. Her father wasn’t as easy to talk to as her mother. Ann knew that he loved her, but he was always busy. He worked all day at his sawmill and at night he sat up late figuring in his ledger books, trying as he said, “to make ends meet.” This wasn’t easy in these hard times when most people didn’t have the money to pay for the lumber they needed. Many times farmers and other people had to ask him to saw boards in exchange for other things. This meant that their family always had plenty of good milk, butter, meat and vegetables to eat, but there was never enough cash. Father always had a worried look as he felt responsible not only for their little family, but for the men who worked for him and their families too.

As the weeks went on the weather warmed up. Ann Estelle, Sophie and Georgia continued to work on their story pages, but they began to play outside too. They went everywhere together. Ann’s neighbor called them the Three Musketeers. The girls didn’t know what that meant, so Mrs. Smithtonner explained that it was a book they could check out from the library when they got older.

Suddenly it was May and flowers were everywhere just like in their reader. Sophie had been drawing them all winter, and now the friends could smell them, and touch them too. As Sophie’s mother said, “Thank goodness we don’t have to pay for the flowers.”
Miss Maeve loved flowers too. They were getting close to the end of all their schoolbooks, and that left more time for fun things like arts and crafts. They made May baskets to hang on doors and Mother’s Day presents with pressed flowers. Sophie, Georgia and Ann were nearly finished with Georgia’s copy of Day In and Day Out which was the title of their reader. The next to last story was about a boy named Jack who worked for a pet store to earn a dog. The girls began to act out the stories. Sophie’s dog Roddy was very obliging and they pretended he was many other animals in addition to the dog in the pet store. He drew the line, however, at being a pony. Sophie would try to climb on his back, but he always laid down and rolled over. Ann Estelle’s all time favorite stories were about Alice’s new doll Betsy Lee. The doll had arrived in a big box addressed to Alice White. It was a beautiful, big doll with yellow curls and pretty clothes including a blue coat and hat. The girls often remarked that she almost looked alive in the drawings as she peeked around a door, or looked at Mr. Carl’s birds. Sophie had worked hard to get just that look in her drawings. It didn’t hurt anything, as far as Ann was concerned, that the doll had two names just like she did either.

Another thing that the three had noticed as they worked on the pages was that Betsy Lee wasn’t the only one with nice clothes. Alice had a remarkable wardrobe too. Sophie and Ann had paid close attention to the drawings in the book so they could get all the details just right. They soon realized that Alice wore new clothes in every story. Sometimes she even had two outfits in a particular story. She didn’t wear plain plaid or print school dresses with the growth tucks let out like they did either. Her clothes were varied and included a sailor dress, dresses with smocking, rompers, and Ann Estelle’s particular favorite, a red checked sundress with a big double collar and a sunbonnet to match. As the weather warmed, Ann dreamed about how nice she would look in such an outfit.

Ann Estelle had other things to think about though. For one thing, the end of school was fast approaching. As Sophie was wont to repeat, “When school is out, it’s time to play.” The whole summer stretched before them, but first, the very Saturday after school was out was Ann’s birthday. She was to have her very first birthday party. With their pages done, the girls worked on invitations and decorations for the party as they chattered about all the plans. Mrs. Jones was going to make a special cake and they would crank ice cream from Bossy’s rich cream. As if that wasn’t enough to anticipate, Ann was sure Mother had a secret too. As she shared with Sophie and Georgia, every time Ann walked into the room, her mother whisked something out of sight. Also, once when some of Mother’s lady friends were over for tea, they all suddenly stopped talking when Ann came into the room, and they all had huge silly grins on their faces. It was almost more than a girl could take.

Finally it was the night before Ann’s party. School was out and Ann was trying hard to get to sleep so she could wake up and begin the last minute party preparations. She wasn’t having much luck though. For one thing it was hot in her room, so she went to open the window. As she tugged it open, Ann heard her mother, who was on the porch with her father, mention Georgia’s name. Then her father loudly repeated what he always said when a Jones was mentioned, “George Jones is the best man I have working for me. I don’t care what anyone says.” And then even more mysteriously, “They can just keep their daughters home if they don’t like it.” Ann lay back down and finally fell asleep, puzzled and worried that they might have been talking about her party.

At last party time arrived. Everything went like clockwork. The guests, wearing their nicest dresses, dropped clothespins into a bottle, and pinned the tail on a pony that Sophie drew. Mrs. Jones’ cake was a mile high, and they all helped turn the handle on the ice cream. Ann was a bit disappointed that all of her classmates didn’t come, but her best friends were there, and she soon was so busy that she forgot all about it.
Soon the festivities were nearly over, and it was time for Ann Estelle to open her presents. Sophie had drawn and colored one of the scenes from their reader, and her brother Shaun had framed it for Ann to hang on the wall of her bedroom. Georgia’s mother had taught her to crochet, and she made a bonnet for Ann’s baby doll. All of the other girls had made presents too.

After she had opened them all, Ann’s mother went into the kitchen and brought back a large box. “Ah!” Ann thought, “the secret!” She tore into the tissue paper wrapping, and pulled out the present. A loud gasp went through the room, and then stunned silence as every girl there realized what it was – a perfect, Ann Estelle sized copy of Alice’s red checked sundress. Under it, to everyone’s amazement, were the sunbonnet and even the socks with red stripes. Ann’s mother handed her another big box, as Ann stood there with her mouth open, speechless, possibly for the first time in her life. A buzz went around the room. All sat on the edge of their seats, waiting to see what could possibly come next. Inside the tissue paper of this box was another wrapping of brown paper addressed to Ann Estelle Smithtonner. Suddenly Ann knew what it must be. “My! Oh, my!” she murmured, “I am Ann Estelle Smithtonner. The big box is for me.” All of the girls recognized the lines from their reader. They leaned forward to get a better view. It couldn’t be…but it was! Ann reached into the box and pulled out Betsy Lee, perfect in her blue coat and hat with blond curls sticking out. Under the doll were a white nightie and a Betsy Lee sized version of the red checked sundress and bonnet. As one, the girls all realized that they had been holding their breath, and they broke out in applause. Sophie and Georgia ran to hug Ann. All three stood there with tears streaming down their cheeks, but Ann had eyes only for her mother. “How?” she whispered. “How did you?” But then she knew, as surely as she had ever known anything. After all, her mother was the queen of make-it-do!

Ann’s mother laughed as she hugged her, and the secret she had kept so well spilled out. “It all started when I saw a brand new book at the library called Dolls for Fun and Profit by Mrs. Edith Flack Ackley. I picked it up and leafed through it. ‘I could do that,’ I thought, so I checked it out. That very day Ann, you came home full to bursting with the story of Alice’s new doll. The idea was hatched, and I pumped you for details. I dropped by after school one day, and Miss Maeve showed me your reader. I worked every chance I got, and soon Betsy Lee began to take shape. Imagine my shock three weeks ago, when I walked into Mr. Haver’s store to see him putting flour sacks on the shelf made out of the very red checked material I had seen in your reading book – the red-checked sundress material that you had been going on about. There was no way I could buy enough flour to get the fabric I would need. I told my friends about it the day of our tea party, and they each promised to buy a sack and trade me the checked fabric for other flour sacks that I had clean and ready to sew. One more trip to school to sketch the details, and I was on my way. Grandmother knitted the socks. You almost caught us several times. Go try on your dress dear.”

After the other guests had gone home and the party mess was cleaned up, Ann Estelle, Sophie, and Georgia sat swinging on the porch swing. Ann was still wearing her sundress, and they had dressed Betsy Lee in the matching outfit. “Well,” Sophie said, “school is out,” and the other two chimed in, “and it’s time to play!”