My sister has acquired another challenging doll through eBay. Her name is "Melodie" and she is an Effanbee doll from the 1950's that talks and sings using a battery powered phonograph. I haven't seen the doll in person yet. One sister e-mailed me smart phone photos while another sister unpacked Melodie from the shipping box. (See also Melodie 2)
Here is some background information on Melodie excerpted from Effanbee - The Dolls with Golden Hearts by M. Kelly Ellenburg, 1973:
The Doll Reference website gives the following information:
My sister did some research in old catalogs and found the following:
The 1956 Sears catalog sold Melodie for $28.79 cash - which was so expensive for a doll at that time that they allowed people to put $3.00 down! She was also pretty heavy - shipping weight was 7 pounds. The catalog description said "easy to operate - nothing to wind". She came dressed in a fine-quality printed organdy dress, lace-trimmed rayon taffeta half-slip, panties, rayon socks and patent leather shoes. It also says "A perky straw bonnet tops her curls".
Figures 1 - 14 summarize my over the phone/e-mail photo diagnosis. The poor condition of her hard plastic is going to make this doll challenging to repair. From researching other Melodies online, it appears missing or broken fingers and hands is a common problem as is discoloration of the hard plastic. I won't be able to comment on the state of the electronics until I can view the doll in person.
My sister has already begun working on Melodie. Here (in her own words) is a summary of what she has done so far:
Other comments from my sister (with minor editing):
The record jacket says the following -
I can sing:
I can recite:
I need information on the other records.....
Takes 2 "D" batteries.
The patent for Melodie is US2982552. Allen H. Kent received the patent on May 2, 1961. It has good information on how the phonograph system works.
I looked at Melodie's parts. I don't see anything obviously missing from the phonograph system - so I am guardedly optimistic that we might get it to work once cleaned. I studied the legs and arms and found that one arm is also smaller than the other. All joints are original and intact. Both damaged limbs are on the same side and both show signs of heat damage. I am beginning to think that the limb damage is also connected to the damaged dress and the split hip. I suspect the doll was left on a radiator or some other heat source which caused the plastic to shrink and bubble.I've removed the arms (cut the rubber band) so I wouldn't have to worry about damaging them to work on the phonograph system. Oddly enough, there is a hook inside the neck, hanging down into the body cavity. I do not understand its purpose since it can't be related to the head or arms.
I decided to focus on getting the phonograph system operational. I started cleaning the heavily corroded contacts with a solution of baking soda and water. It is very effective at removing the corrosion caused by the batteries. The contacts will still need to be burnished. During the process, I came to across a serious issue regarding the phonograph system. The shrinkage of the body relative to the phonograph housing prevents the turntable from entering the body cavity and the cover from closing. The needle could not reach the phonograph, and the motor wouldn't engage because the contact switch on the cover doesn't connect with its other half in the housing.
With a non-operational phonograph and all the damaged limbs, Melodie would be a write-off. I found this option unacceptable without a fight.
The phonograph cannot be restored without serious intervention - like altering the body and/or the phonograph housing. The most desirable solution would be to remove the phonograph casing and restoring the phonograph to working order and then modify the body as needed. Removing the phonograph proved to be a bit of a challenge as I realized that the body was sealed around the phonograph housing. The unit could not be removed without opening the body. I read in a doll repair manual that the seam on a body could be worked open with a thin blade. Using an x-acto knife and taking advantage of the split hip, I worked my way around the body and split it open. This freed the phonograph unit and had the added advantage of freeing the walking mechanism and legs, which were seriously rusted. At this point, there was no turning back, so I decided to go for broke and removed the screws holding the damaged lower leg in place. All the damaged pieces are now separated and a total restoration can be attempted.
Figure 2 - Melodie's torso and limbs are not in as good shape as her head. Her right hand is obviously missing and her legs are discolored and disintegrating around the knees. Something is clearly wrong with the lower legs - the right and left sides don't match. Could someone have performed a transplant at some point? This could be possible - the two references gave different heights for the doll (27" and 30"). If two different sizes were manufactured someone may have swapped legs.
Figure 6 - The cover to the phonograph compartment appears to have shrunk at a different rate than the torso. According to the instructions, the function of the red knob is to open the phonograph compartment and the function of the depressed button below the left shoulder (called the "Magic Button") is to activate the talking/singing function.
Figure 17 - The torso after it was opened along the original seam. Notice how one edge is more bowed than the other. The phonograph system rests on the hollow cylinders. The central cylinder is for the screw holding the phonograph system in place. The 3 slots at the bottom secure the walking mechanism in place. The mystery hook in Figure 18 seats in the groove at the top of the neck.
Figure 19 - The hip joint was loose because of the split in the torso. Splitting the body open freed the legs. The mechanism is really rusty. It is interesting to note that one hip flange is white. The notches in the flanges interlock with the metal rods that run through the hip plate and linkage shown in Figure 20. The two notches in each flange correspond to the legs being in standing or seated positions.
Figure 21 - The knee mechanism after removing the shrunken, cracked lower leg. The metal wishbone is badly rusted and has stained the leg. The wishbone is connected by a rubber band to a point in the upper leg near the hip. The bands are original and should be replaced when the legs are repaired as they show signs of deterioration. The design of the knee joint allows Melodie to attain the kneeling position while reciting "Now I lay me down to sleep" which gave rise to her nickname the "prayer doll".
About 6 months later...
Due to various reasons the Melodie restoration went on hold for about 6 months. The hope was to make replacements for the limbs suffering from HPD. All the pieces were stored in a large plastic container with a lockable lid. The container was kept in a relatively dark basement with a temperature range from 50 degrees F to about 70 degrees F. This turned out to be a bad idea as the container was too air tight. When the container was opened a vinegar-like odor was quite noticeable. The deteriorating hard plastic pieces continued to deteriorate and affect other hard plastic parts as well as the metal components that had been restored. The following photos document the situation. Since then, the parts have been separated and are being allowed to out gas to the open air. Additional restoration will now be necessary.