25
Jul

The Story Behind the Friendship Dolls of 1926

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Even before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, there was strife between Japan and the United States as early as 1907 when the US passed immigration laws making it challenging for Japanese citizens to immigrate to the US. In 1924, an Immigration Act effectively barred Japanese from entering the US, even making it difficult for Japanese war brides to return to the US with their husbands.

Saddened by the deteriorating relations between the countries, in 1924, Reverend Sidney L. Gulick, a missionary to Japan, founded a committee called World Friendship Among Children. They began collecting dolls from United States children, planning to send them on a good will mission the children of Japan and scheduled to arrive in time for their national doll festival on March 3rd.

The committee collected 12,739 blue-eyed, blonde haired dolls, and dressed them in typical American clothes. They attached a message to each doll. “May the United States of America and Japan always stay friends. I am being sent to Japan on a mission of friendship. Please let me join the doll festival on March 3 in your country” The dolls carried a passport which read, “This doll is a good citizen of the United States of America. She will obey all the laws and customs of your country. Please take care of her while she is with you.”

The dolls were well-received by the children in schools and kindergartens around Japan. As a return good-will gesture, in November, 1927, fifty-eight Japanese Ambassador dolls were returned to the United States. Each was named for a particular province or Japanese town, such as Miss Akita, or Miss Ehime. Each stood 81 cm tall and was exquisitely dressed in authentically styled kimonos of fine silks and brocades, each created and valued at $2,400 (by today’s monetary standards).

The American Friendship dolls and the Japanese Ambassador dolls were displayed in museums and places of honor until the war in 1941. Sadly, large numbers of the US Friendship Dolls were destroyed in Japan during the war and most of the Japanese Ambassador Dolls in the US were put in storage or lost.

To date, at least 270 of the American dolls and 35 of the original Japanese Ambassador dolls have been recovered in Japan and America by people interested in preserving history. Many hold places of honor in museums, schools and collections both in Japan and the U.S. Many of the Japanese Ambassador dolls make their way annually back to Japan in time to celebrate the March 3rd Japanese Doll festival.

Reverend Gulick’s family continues to make and send dolls to the children of Japan in a continued friendship gesture. Since 1986, they have sent approximately ten dolls each year to schools in Japan, each dressed in traveling clothes and carrying a handbag and a passport.

A local Sacramento author, Shirley Parenteau, has written a delightful children’s book about the Friendship Dolls called SHIP OF DOLLS. It can be purchased at her website, www.shirleyparenteau.com or at Amazon under the title SHIP OF DOLLS.

As I child, I collected storybook dolls. I still have several of my childhood dolls on display in china cabinets. Tell me about your favorite doll or doll related story. I’d love to hear from you.

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4
Jul

Fourth of July Celebration

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Agnes pulled into the driveway and stepped out of her Prius.

Her neighbor, Millie, hailed her from across the street. “Yoo-hoo! Agnes! Wait up. Happy fourth of July!” She scurried across the street.

Millie was the last person Agnes wanted to talk to. They had nothing in common. Millie and her husband, George, were antique buffs. Her house looked like a museum full of relics from the Revolutionary War. Why did Millie put up with such nonsense?

Millie, out of breath from rushing, said, “Are you coming to the Independence Day celebration at the Vet’s Memorial Building tonight? They’re having a military band, Viet Nam veteran speakers, and then fireworks after the meeting. You’re welcome to ride over with us.”

Agnes lifted her grocery bags from the back seat. “Sorry, can’t make it. Gotta’ get these things inside. Frozen stuff. Talk to you later.” She hurried into the house. A twinge of guilt gripped her chest. It wasn’t very nice, snubbing Millie like that. But, Millie was so gol-darned boring. Every conversation somehow turned to her latest E-Bay purchase. A Minute Man rifle. A battered sword. A faded shirt. Agnes sighed. Who cared about all that stuff anymore? What difference does it make, anyway, two hundred years later? Who cares?

The fourth of July was such a nuisance. The fireworks just got all the dogs in the neighborhood barking and the streets were a mess the next morning.

Agnes preferred closing the blinds and going to bed early.

****
The boom-boom of fireworks turned into the sound of a beating drum. The sun blazed down on men dressed in brilliant red jackets. Sweat poured from their faces. They marched in a straight row toward an outline of shadowy figures in buckskin, hiding behind rocks and trees.

Agnes ran back and forth on the battlefield, as the soldiers moved forward with guns drawn. Redcoats? From England? A battlefield?

Agnes jerked and twisted, thrashing her pillow. How did she get in the middle of a Revolutionary War battlefield? I don’t belong here! Wait. I can’t be here. The field will soon be littered with dead and dying men. She turned and tried to run. Wake up! Wake up!

Someone grabbed her arm, dragged her from the line of fire and pulled her down behind a rock. Her heart pounded. Perspiration trickled down her forehead. She crouched beside the men, so close she could smell their sweat. Older soldiers grimaced, their lined faces knowing what was soon to come. “Hold the line, men. Steady now.” Younger soldiers, terrified of the unknown, sniffled as the enemy advanced, step by step to the beat of their drum. Though the ragtag soldiers were outnumbered by the advancing troops, the advantage lay in their favor, as they took advantage of the cover of trees and rocks. The men primed their guns with powder and ball and squatted in the dirt, waiting, waiting as the formidable enemy advanced closer and closer.

I’ve got to get away. This can’t be real! I must be dreaming! Why can’t I wake up?
The drumbeat stopped. Silence! She peeked around the rock. There stood the enemy, immobile on the field, guns at the ready, feet in mid-step. The flag drooped unmoving, despite a brisk breeze. The young drummer’s drumstick hung suspended in mid-air, above his drum.

Agnes lifted her head toward the brilliant sky scattered with patches of clouds as though suspended from wires on a stage. Overhead, a bird hung motionless as though frozen in time. What happened?
She opened her eyes, blinked against the darkness as she lay in her bed. The boom-boom of the fireworks had ceased. A nightlight glowed across the room. I was dreaming! Dreams were, after all, just snatches of thoughts and memories, sounds and sights stored willy-nilly in one’s mind and pulled into a fractured scenario to haunt our restless nights. She shuddered. There was a day when her dream had been another’s reality.

She turned toward the window. It had begun to rain and rivulets streaked the glass, curving and twisting as it traversed the pane. Outside, the tree in the backyard wavered in the wind of an unseasonable summer storm. The celebrations had ended and fireworks ceased.

Agnes put her hand to her pounding heart. It was just a dream. Everything was fine. Just a dream. It doesn’t matter now.
Agnes rose from her bed and found a book on the Revolutionary War in her library. She sat in a rocker and began to read: For the sake of independence, farmers, storekeepers, bankers, men from all walks of life, rebelled at the tyranny England imposed on their fledgling nation. Ill equipped, with antiquated guns and untrained, the Continental soldiers chose to fight a highly-trained army made up of Englishmen, German mercenaries and Hessians.

The Revolutionary war lasted over eight years.
The estimated population in America in 1776 was three million.
80,000 militia and Continental Army soldiers served at the height of the war
25,000 Revolutionary soldiers died during the war
8,000 Revolutionary soldiers died from wounds inflicted during battle
17,000 Revolutionary soldiers died from disease
25,000 Revolutionary soldiers were estimated to have been wounded or maimed
1 in 20 able-bodied white free males living in America died during the war

All for the sake of following generations, so we could have the freedom to make laws and live by our own rules as established by the Declaration of Independence.

Agnes left a message on Millie’s answering machine. “This is Agnes. Sorry I couldn’t make it tonight. I hope you had fun. I promise I’ll come with you next year. Our freedom is important, isn’t it? We need to remember what the holiday cost our forefathers. It really matters.”

Agnes returned to her room with her cat. The rain had stopped.

Boom! Another fire-cracker cracked in the night. “Does he have any idea why he’s celebrating, or just having fun?”

Agnes’s cat blinked and though he had no answer to the provocative question.

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