Wanting your dolls to come to life is a wish on the mind of every child, and to them it seems entirely possible. In the real world, we know that it is a physical impossibility, but within the realm of the “Imagi Nation” all things are possible if we only believe.
If we can take that attitude toward the little people in our doll’s house, then a dash of magic has just been added to the grim world around us. And sometimes, it is very likely that you will find a tiny teapot has fallen to the floor or a doll in a different place than you remember. You can explain it away as “the vibrations from the washing machine caused them to fall or someone walking by bumped the dollhouse,” but if you take the magical viewpoint, you will conclude that one of the dolls was just not fast enough to get things back in its place before you entered the room.
My love affair with all things miniature started one Christmas morning just a little over 30 years ago. Out from under the tree stepped a tiny group of pirates with their camp, two Victorian Royal Guards and their guardhouse, four little boys playing soldier, and finally a little girl with a doll carriage and her brother on stilts. A fascinating group of little pioneers fresh out of the box, ready to claim this new land as Playmobil territory.
They wasted no time in setting up a civilization using their meager possessions. The guards declared their guardhouse “headquarters” and were immediately in business. Millie, the little girl with the doll carriage, started a restaurant that specialized in vegetable stew. The pirates had their own supplies which included a roast pig and the fish they caught when out on their boat, but they were still not above robbing the restaurant and kidnapping Millie to help improve their cuisine. The twin guards, Mr. Peter Anderson and his brother, Frank Anderson had many run-ins with the pirate camp, but they managed to keep the little boys, Adam, Frank, Tom, Thomas, James and Millie safe from harm.
Although these 12 pioneers were the only Playmobils in the new land in 1990, there were other kinds of small dolls to meet and trade with, Lego pirates to cross swords with and cowboys and Indians to tangle with. The first year may have been a bit lonely for them, but it was not long before more Playmobils began making the long journey from Zirndorf, Germany to Hawthorn, Pennsylvania, to that house on the corner of Maple and Arch Streets.
In the year 2020, the Playmobil population numbers in the thousands, and after 30 years, they may finally decide to close their borders and focus on building grand and beautiful cities where every doll family’s dream of a dollhouse of their very own can come true. But whatever happened to those brave pioneers who first tread the carpet of the Smith living room decades ago? All but one are still with us.
The guards now have their own families and adopted the boys who came with them. Millie and James were adopted by the rich Kent family, and went to live in a fine house. They have all suffered from the minor wears and tears of old age, loose limbs and a few scrapes, but they are still strong and brave. Most of them have been lost and found at one time or another. Adam had an incident with a lawn mower that left scars, but it has not impacted his quality of life.
The only one no longer with us is Tom Anderson. There was a boating accident in the ditch after a heavy rain and Tom was washed out to sea. There have been very few casualties over the years, which is surprising, considering the population growth, but this was the most “high profile” tragedy. There was also a western sheriff who mysteriously disappeared and the bandits remain under a cloud of suspicion to this day, but nobody is talking.
The biography of Frank Anderson Jr. is an inspiring tale of injury, courage and triumph. Frank suffered from weak legs right out of the box when he was new. Additional adventures, including a slide down a giant sliding board and landing on a cement sidewalk caused his legs to break apart at the hip. They were glued, but broke again and one leg got lost. He was missing a leg for a few years, but then one day it was found and with an operation, Frank’s mobility was restored. He joined right in the artistic gymnastic competitions and easily beat out newer dolls, but then a fall from the high bar put him back in emergency surgery — the incident was recorded in a YouTube video. This time stronger glue was applied and to this day, Frank Anderson Jr. is a formidable athletic competitor despite his long history of accidents and repairs.
Being the only Playmobil girl for the first year did not bother Millie, she was tough and able to take care of herself. Although, when periodically snatched by the band of pirates, she was grateful to have the two Victorian Royal Guards on hand to protect her and her restaurant. Being a romantic, Millie immediately developed a crush on Adam Anderson and the two became an “item.” In addition to being an excellent cook, Millie was the fastest runner in the land. Her racing career culminated when the cowboys and Indians challenged her to race wild horses — and she won!
We seem to be running out of time to tell of how Hawthorn’s Playmobil population grew into a great nation. Perhaps we will take a look at some of the highlights next time.