My mom’s favorite story from my childhood is one about a rag doll. I had spotted it in a window of a shop in Atlantic city while strolling on the boardwalk. The shop was shut, and my grandmother told me we would go back another time. We never did, and I talked about the doll incessantly.
Later, I’m not sure how much time had elapsed since the window-shopping trip on the boardwalk, my mother fell ill. We lived in Atlanta; my grandmother lived in Philadelphia. When my mom went into the hospital, my grandmother flew down to take care of my two sisters and I. She showed up with the doll in hand. I called her Jeanie after her blue jeans. I still have her to this day. She reminds me of the special times that I shared with my beloved grandmother, who’s life ended tragically when I 22-years-old.
I was lucky enough to recently discover the Best Pals collection. These dolls remind me of the one that I loved as a child. They are traditional rag dolls, made of soft cloth and yarn. They have embroidered faces and yarn hair. They come in a variety of hair colors, blond or brown, and skin colors, white or black. Their dresses are old-time and they come with Mary Jane shoes, knit stockings and beaded baby bracelets. They are inspired by the original hand sewn rag dolls made for Kathy and Janet Lennon by their mom and nana when the sisters were 6 and 3-years old. Their line also includes mini dolls, a tea set, a doll trunk gift set, paper dolls and several CD sets. My 7-year-old daughter has fully embraced the collection. She also loves going to sleep to the soft melodies on the CD, “Best Pals Sing Together,” which has songs about friendship and best friends. I like the fact that the dolls are completely safe – there are no small pieces, nothing sharp. They are also a throw back to an earlier era.
The Lennon Sisters are part of this other era – they made their debut on “The Lawrence Welk Show” in 1955. They later performed in their own musical variety show on ABC which featured legends like Bob Hope, Jack Benny and Sammy Davis, Jr. They have since recorded 100 successful albums and continue to perform concerts nationally.
As the two youngest of the group, Kathy and Janet created the “Best Pals” collection to being the best of their childhood into today’s world. I recently asked Kathy a few questions about the brand:
The Culture Mom: How did you come up with the name “Best Pals” for your doll collection?
Kathy: We come from a family of twelve children and the two of us were especially close. So when we were growing up, we always called each other Best Pals, and still do.
The Culture Mom: What is the story behind the dolls? Who came up with the idea?
Kathy: When Janet was 3 years old and I was six years old, our mom and grandmother “Nana” handmade rag dolls for us. One Christmas morning, we ran into the living room, and hanging out of our stockings were these adorable soft rag dolls. We called them Best Pals and they were our favorite dolls. When we would travel with the Lawrence Welk Band on the road, we took them too. It was always like taking a little bit of home with us . So, we wanted other children to know what it was like to share the love of a rag doll, so we recreated them, right down to the vintage fabric on the dresses.
The Culture Mom: How have you integrated your amazing musical background into the Best Pal’s world?
Kathy: We decided to record our favorite children’s songs, sung to us by our parents and our older sisters Dee Dee and Peggy. We have always been around very large families, and singing was the most important ingredient in our childhood years. Everyone in the family sang and continues to sing. Generation to Generation.Our children CD’s are filled with so many favorites.
The Culture Mom: I had a rag doll that I loved as a little girl. My grandmother bought it for me, and it holds such special memories and I have given it to my young daughter. Is that your hope for these dolls, to be passed down through generations?
Kathy: Yes… we still have our precious original rag dolls, and they are still loved. Though these new replica’s are collectibles, they are not just meant to sit on a shelf , we want them to be loved and played with and carried around.
The Culture Mom: The dolls are a real throw back to the old days, which makes them very special. Was this your intention?
Kathy: We felt there was a hole in the Toy Industry for soft huggable dolls, that inspire imagination, pretend play, and sharing time. With the vintage fabric, yarn hair to braid, old fashioned little long stockings, dresses that have sashes, tiny satin ribbons in their hair, embroidered sweet faces, and no batteries.. they are definitely olden days goodies.
The Culture Mom: You’ve also created CD’s with classic songs from your childhood, tea sets and paper dolls…children’s favorite toys. Please explain how you have made your choices on what to produce and any future plans.
Kathy: We remember how we loved to have tea parties with our dolls, and our little tea set was metal, so we created a BEST PALS tin set. An added benefit is that mom’s don’t have to worry about broken china pieces. Our multi-cultural rag dolls are so very special to us. We come from a very American family of many races &cultures, and we felt it was important to produce dolls that could help children to relate to the different ethnic backgrounds, and identify with their individual family. We have our first boy doll, named after our first brother Danny Boy. We have retro dresses and nighties, and mini 5 inch rag dolls in tiny suitcases, tiny little plush pets in a tiny tote. We also have 18″ suitcases to carry our 16″ dollies and room for clothes and CD’s too. We have wonderful plans for future products… lots of surprises. We always let our grandchildren and nieces and nephews play with our samples, to have our own test market study groups.
To learn more about the brand and find out where to buy the collection, please visit BestPals.net.