Beverley Beese found the unexpected in Eugene, Ore.
When she was 11, the Shirley Temple fan wanted a 1957 Shirley Temple doll so badly, but the toy wasn’t made anymore.
As her mother went off to a white sale in Eugene on the way home from a family trip to California, her dad took his children into a drug store. And there they were – three tiny replicas of America’s sweetheart with the iconic corkscrew curls and dimples, placed in a television-shaped box.
“I screamed,” said Beese, now 62, smiling as she recalled the day she found the doll. It was $11 and she had enough of her own money to buy it.
She had never seen one of the dolls before that day in 1964 and the only time she saw them after was in antique shops.
“That was pretty magical,” said Beese, who still has her favourite childhood doll.
Beese has always loved dolls. Today she has around 300 of them.
She grew up in Ladner, B.C., outside of Vancouver. Her dad was a model train enthusiast and a commercial artist for a movie theatre and her mom was a Grade 1 teacher. It was during another family trip, this time to Colorado, that Beese saw her first doll museum. She decided then, at 15 years old, she wanted to start a collection.
It wasn’t until she was able to join an online community of doll enthusiasts in the 1990s, however, that the collection took off. With the Internet, she not only connected with other collectors but learned to sew and sell doll clothes. It was the start of her hobby fund.
Beese scooped up her cat before she opened the door of an upstairs room in her south Nanaimo home.
“This is my doll room,” she said, unveiling a wonderland of figurines of every size.
Fabric and vinyl, hand painted and lifelike; some squeezed into shadow boxes and others lined up in rows upon shelves.
There are well-known faces of Judy Garland as Dorothy and the Harry Potter characters, and ‘twin dolls’ made in the likeness of herself, husband and two children.
There are also doll scenes, set up by Beese who finds the creation of backdrops creative and fun.
Collecting the dolls is relaxing and she said she’s met people through the Nanaimo Doll Club, a monthly meet-up of people who share their doll collections.
Most thrilling to her, however, is the artistry and beauty of the dolls.
“If you look at this one, it’s hand-painted by the artist,” she said, pointing to a blue-eyed doll with cheeks sprinkled with freckles.
“It’s like artwork, you know?”
Beese’s story is part of an ongoing News Bulletin series featuring the people of Nanaimo.