Readers share memories of favorite toys

Lauren Thomas’ stuffed animal, Randy Dog, has been to 14 states, including Hawaii, and six countries, including a 15-month deployment to Iraq.

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Published: Sunday, June 8, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 6, 2014 at 1:47 p.m.

"At age 7 ... I lost my brother, Phillip, to cystic fibrosis, July 6, 1990. Not long after his passing, his girlfriend, Angela, showed up at our house. She brought with her a brown stuffed dog that Phillip had once given to her. She wanted me to have it so that I could have something of Phillip's with me all of the time. It was love at first sight.

“Randy Dog has been a constant in my life for the past 24 years. The longest that I was without Randy Dog was when I joined the U.S. Army in 2003. I couldn't have him during basic training and my job training.

“Randy Dog has traveled everywhere with me — 14 states, including Hawaii; six countries, including a 15-month deployment to Iraq. He currently rests his tail in Augusta, Georgia. His traveling days aren't as frequent as they once were.

“He's been washed, patched up, and even has had to have his tail re-attached, but he's still my Randy Dog. One day, when I have children of my own, I hope to pass down Randy Dog so a new adventure can begin!”

— Lauren Thomas, a Gainesville native, now living in Augusta, Ga.

“Pup-pup was given to me as a baby, technically before I was even born. Well, it's just the head now — the rest of the toy was so worn away because I used to carry it everywhere! My mom replaced the body twice! It's my toy, always was.

“Once, when I was 6 or 7, I lost Pup-pup right before bed, and I wouldn't go to sleep without him. I made up missing posters and put them up around the house. Pup-pup was found under the dining-room table.”

— Jesse Mixson, Gainesville

“In 1954, when I was 7 years old and my sister was 5 years old, a teenage neighbor who was smitten with my 12-year-old brother gave me her “Ginny” doll, including some homemade outfits. (My name is Virginia, Ginny for short.)

“She was adorable; I loved her immediately. Her eyes open and close, and her head, arms and legs are movable. She had beautiful red hair later changed to brown. We liked her so much, my mother bought my sister another “Ginny” doll; she named her Sandy.

“Every Christmas for at least four years, we received new outfits and accessories such as beds and trunks (with hangars and drawers to put their clothes in). We had so many happy hours playing with those dolls, even though we were tomboys.

“We both have kept our dolls: mine displayed on a shelf in my bedroom; my sister's in a glass case with some of her other treasures.

“For me, every time I look at Ginny, she brings back beautiful memories of those happy days of childhood with my much-loved sister. We were close then, and still are; we live 20 minutes apart and see each other several times a week.”

— Ginny Rose, Gainesville

“I have several toys I keep, but one is very special. It is a white lamb. I got it as a Christmas gift several years ago. My sister and brother-in-law were making one in the summer when we visited them. They knew I loved it.

“When I was very young, my grandpa would give me the baby lambs that the mothers, for whatever reason, would not take care of.

“At Christmas, they gave me this great big box; I expected something different since my brother-in-law was great at doing fun things. When I opened it, I could not believe it was my lamb they had made for me. I am sure I cried.”

— Wilma Smith, Newberry

“My daddy and mommy gave me a teddy bear when I was 1 year old. My identical twin sister also received one. I have my teddy bear up in my bedroom closet.

“I turn 53 years old this August; therefore, Teddy is nearly 52 years old.

“I remember when Teddy started falling apart. Mommy said he needed an operation, and I watched as she threaded the needle and stitched him up. I remember being so sad Teddy had to have surgery.

“What I truly cherish is the comfort I still have after all these years.”

— Audrey Stump, Gainesville

“My parents gave me several Madame Alexander dolls for Christmas back in the '50s. They were well-loved and played with.

“My parents are gone now, but I still have the dolls. They have fallen apart, but I still cannot part with them.”

— Karen Rachal, Hawthorne

“In 1953, we did not call ourselves 'poor.' But the best gift of my life was the doll my big sister bought for me when she got her first job as a secretary in the big city of Akron, Ohio.

“I still have Bonnie, and she comes out every Christmas to remind me of my wonderful sister.”

— Claire LaMar, Gainesville

“This is Piglet. My Piglet, not Disney's. Last Christmas, he turned 35 years old. I didn't celebrate it as I used to when I was little.

“He was made for me by my mother the Christmas of my fifth year, a year when money was tight and the Christmas tree was, literally, some pine boughs in a bucket.

“He stayed a faithful companion long past the time that it was 'cool,' and he has been through many surgeries.”

— Salina Briseno, Gainesville

“The toy that I have held onto for more than 30 years is a doll named Suzy. Suzy was a doll my mother bought for me at a yard sale for 50 cents.

“Suzy's clothes were not in the best of shape when she was purchased; her cloth body was torn, and her hair had been cut, but I knew my mom could fix her up. My mom took the time to sew her body back together and even replaced her hair with new golden locks.

“My mom knew how much the doll meant to me; she always included her. During Christmas, my mother made me a quilt and made Suzy a smaller one to match.

“After all these years, I still cherish my little doll Suzy and all the memories we made together.”

— Tracy Mathis, Chiefland

“I've had Peter Pan doll since approximately 1956. It's my favorite fairy tale. I have 45s, six-record set, also! Over the years, I've replaced both feet, one hand and his pixie outfit! I love him, but my kids recall him being kinda scary to them! In my collection are many Peter Pan audio-visuals and related figurines.”

— Bonnie Carlin, Gainesville

“I believe that Teddy was born somewhere in France in the late 1930s and arrived in our family home around 1944 as a gift from my favorite uncle who was stationed overseas during World War II.

“Teddy quickly became my 24-7, connected-at-the-hip companion. After graduation, I went to Germany with the Department of Defense and for the next 10 or so years.

“In the early 1970s, my cousin, whose father gave me Teddy, began her family of two twin girls and a boy. Soon after the first birth, my mother had Teddy cleaned, restored the sight to his lost eye and gave him a beautiful blue ribbon so that, once again, he was ready to serve as a constant companion to three rambunctious children!

“When I returned from Germany in 1998, I volunteered at the Matheson Museum taking a cadre of stuffed animals and artifacts to the elementary schools teaching Alachua County history. Teddy was once again pressed into service, this time as the History Bear where he donned many hats and costumes to depict various people and professions in our community.

“After several years, a broken arm and a severe stuffing problem, he, once again, retired with even greater distinction than before.

“Due to his advanced age (about 70), the grandchildren of my cousin are only allowed to gently hold him.”

— Sharon Faris, Gainesville

"One of my favorite toys stands about 3 inches tall, and 50 years later she finds her home on my office desk in the University Center at the College of Central Florida. She is a small doll with a button on her belly. Her name is Heidi, and when you push the button her arm quickly raises in a greeting 'hi' motion.

"Anytime we pressed her button as children we would say, 'Hi, Heidi!' She's a comfort of the past from my childhood; it was a happy and creative and fun childhood."

— Debbie Bowe, Ocala

"When I was about 2, my favorite aunt gave me twin dolls, a boy and a girl. I would cuddle with the girl, dress her, and play nicely with her. The boy twin, I would strip and toss around until his stuffing was exposed. I really destroyed him. I had two older brothers, but I don't know if that had anything to do with it.

"I cried, and my aunt said she would buy me another boy doll if I promised to take better care of him. I named him Jimmy; 64 years later, I still have Jimmy. He's a little worn, but in pretty good shape. I don't remember the girl doll's name."

— Chris Perrelli, Ocala

"In '65, I was hooked on 'Lost in Space.' Robot was the No. 1 item on my Christmas list. I loved the way [on the show] that the robot was able to do the things and say what it did. Such a helper. So when I got the robot for Christmas, my brother helped me get him going. The robot would wave or dangle his arms around, saying 'danger, danger,' spin around, lights flashing. One arm did not retract back all the way.

"I lost robot in 1990. My ex-husband took off with robot, 1959 Barbie and Carebears; my great loss and his fortune now. I wish I had it to show off. I wanted to keep it forever."

— Lyd Donovan, Ocala

"My older brother, 12 years my senior, gave me Sleepy Puppy for my second birthday in December 1957. Little did we know that we would lose our father less than three weeks later, just before Christmas.

"Being so young, I really don't remember our father, so my brother Bob was not only a big brother, but the most constant male role model in my early life — and I couldn't have picked a better one! He took me places like the library, the museum, riverfront parks and the beach to get me out of Mother's hair — and Sleepy Puppy was there through it all, as well as hugged tightly while I slept each night.

"The bells that were once in each ear are long gone, the ear velvet is worn, the stuffing is almost gone, and he is missing his sewn-on nose and one set of eyelashes, but he's still here. He is a cherished symbol of the happy memories and the strong bond my brother and I have, some 56 years later. I can't imagine ever getting rid of Sleepy Puppy!"

— Elizabeth Long, Anthony

"?Old Yeller was given to me the Christmas of 1956 by my sister and two brothers. He has heard all my secrets and sorrows and has traveled with me all these years. He is getting very fragile now, his underside of plaid fabric is coming apart when handled.

"He wears my freshman beanie from high school in 1961, and a heart from a wedding gift in 1992.

"We traveled the USA for 20 years in a motorhome, and he was right there on the bed. He's my oldest friend."

— Linda Stockbridge, Ocala

"My 90-year-old Aunt Audrey (she'll be 91 next month) has the teddy bear her father gave her when she was born June 15, 1923, in Liverpool, England. It has its place of honor in the middle of her bed.

"Her fondest memory is of her father and brother playing catch football with Teddy when she was quite young."

— Les Muncaster, Ocala

"My favorite toy from my childhood was my teddy bear. However, the term 'Teddy Bear' took on a new meaning when I was going through my fathers' attic and found his old teddy bear, [which] he was given in 1907.

"This bear was well-preserved, but apparently some rats had chewed off part of his left leg. The rest of the body looked good considering that the bear is over 100 years old.

"My father was especially attached to his teddy bear, since his father was attending Albright College in Pennsylvania to become a minister. Money was tight and toys were few and far between."

— George J. Albright, Jr., Ocala

"Within the last year or so I finally parted with my last doll. She was a Tony Doll, and my father won her on some kind of game. At the time, there were Tony Perms and Tonette perms for little girls and this doll actually came with a perm, if I recall correctly.

"The doll was made of some kind of hard substance and her legs, knees and arms bent so you could sit her. She came with a comb and brush and curlers.

"My mother was a very good seamstress and she would make her clothes to match what she had made me. I gave her to my granddaughter, and, at that time, all she had left was a velvet coat and hat with ribbon and a crinoline under the coat — all made by my mother. "

— Patricia K. Del Vacchio, Ocala

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