Mercury News 1983


By Stan Moreillon

Mercury News Staff Writer

   The front window of the little shop at 534 S. Bascom Ave. is lined with doll houses.The shelves inside are filled with scores of tiny, bald, unpainted dolls' heads.

   The name of the shop is "Hello Dolly."

   The owner, Mary Watts, 49, sells dolls and teaches people to make dolls and teddy bears.

   She also is vice president of Peticoats and Parasols, a doll club she helped organize a year ago.

   The 15 members, including one man, meet on the first Thursday evening of each month at Hello Dolly to swap doll collectors' talk and to repair, dress and de-wig dolls.

   "We also attend doll shows and potluck suppers," Watts said last week. "We eat a lot."

   The loan male is Michael Kelsey, 39, a San Josean whose occupation is building custom doll houses. He got into doll collecting "by accident."

   "I used to see an especially interesting-looking doll in a miniature store I do business with," he said. "It was a Madame Alexander Bridesmaid. I talked about it often. My wife surprised me by giving it to me for Christmas last year.

   "Since then, I've gone bananas about dolls. I have more than 100 now. I usually buy dolls that need repairs. I enjoy fixing them."

   "You see a lot of men at doll shows," Watts said. "They just don't talk about collecting dolls."

   "Some men are amoung the best collectors," said Emily Salm of San Jose, who was shopping for dolls last week at Hello Dolly.

   Salm, 88, said she had collected dolls since early childhood.

   "I had several thousand once, but I'm down to about 100 now," she said. "I've sold most of my dolls and given some to my nine great-grandchildren. Even the men love them."

   She bought a "googly-eyed" doll for $300 and left.

   Watts herself isn't a collector.

   "I can't afford those old dolls," she said. But besides running the shop, she teaches "from scratch" doll-making classes three times a weekat the shop.

   "I've got 25 students - all women - right now," she said. "But I've had three men students in the four years I've been teaching."

   Watts teaches her students how to make clothing, shoes and wigs for dolls and how to paint them.

   Watts said she has always been fascinated by dolls. A few years ago, she found a shop in Fremont where the owner taught doll making and attended some classes. Later, she did castings for a woman who had a shop on Bascom Avenue.

   "One thing led to another," she said. " I opened my own shop here four years ago."

   Anyone interested in joining Peticoats and Parasols or taking lessons may call Watts at 288-7897.

   Club dues are $1.50 a month. The fee for classes is $16 a month.

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