Barbies rule in this Stoney Creek home
She never liked Midge, and Ken was just annoying.
But bring out a Barbie, and Janice Kalnay lights up.
“I love Barbie’s fashion and accessories, the fact she can dress up or down.”
Kalnay collects dolls: Shirley Temple, Eaton’s Beauty, wax dolls from the 1800s, but Barbies are her favourite.
She got her first one at age 10; it was 88 cents, delivered to her door. “I’m pretty sure it was a knock-off Barbie,” she says. Now, Barbies rule in her Stoney Creek home. They stand with their perfect posture in glass cabinets and on shelves,
and layered in dresser drawers packed tight as sardines. Theatre Barbie meets Flight Attendant Barbie meets Olympic Medalist Barbie. The outfits are perfect, the accessories all in order. It’s a world frozen in time.
Barbie debuted in 1959, wearing a ponytail and a black and white one-piece swimsuit.
“Bubble Cut Barbie was from 1962 to 1967,” Kalnay explains. “I don’t collect after 1972.”
It all has to do with childhood. The joy she got from the Barbie doll she played with, the love of fashion and the tiny Barbie outfits made with such precision.
It was a family affair too. Her mother, Eva Pattison, was a doll collector. When she died in 2015, Janice became curator of her mother’s dolls. There’s a 1934 Shirley Temple, a 1911 Eaton Beauty, an Antique Parian Bisque (bisque is unglazed porcelain) made in Germany circa 1860 to 1870, and an 1848 wax doll with beautiful flowing hair and a velvet dress.
When Janice got married, her mother gave the newlyweds a doll for their first anniversary. “She said ‘Norm won’t mind, will he?’” Apparently Norm Kalnay did not mind, because that was the start of his wife’s collecting fervour.
“The thing with this hobby,” she says, “is I can close the door where the dolls are and no one will see it, it doesn’t take over the house.”
Kalnay joined the Golden Horseshoe Barbie Club in 1991 and became treasurer; by 2002 she was president of the Stoney Creek Doll and Teddy Bear Club, and a member of the Hamilton Doll Club. There were tours, parties and shows, but the clubs are all gone now. “Young people don’t want antique dolls.” But there’s not much antique about Barbie. She keeps up with the times, though Kalnay is happy to settle in the ’60s. She takes us to her basement to see a Coca-Cola soda fountain display where Poodle Skirt Barbie, Waitress Barbie and Chef Ken time-shift to 1962.
Though prices for Barbies and Barbie accessories are down from a high point in early 2000, Kalnay loves buying, selling, trading and gifting Barbie. She drove to Sauble Beach in her mint Camaro (she’s collected those too) to buy her sister a Barbie car: an orange Austin Healey produced in 1962.
For another friend, she gave up one of her favourites, a Bubble Cut talking Barbie. “He’d given me Theatre Barbie and he wanted this one really bad.” So off it went, in pristine condition and ready to chat. “I really miss that doll. Once in a while I’ll call him and say ‘Can you play that for me one more time?’”
This Coca-Cola soda fountain with Waitress Barbie, Chef Ken and Poodle Skirt Barbie is one of Kelnay’s favourites.
The first ever Barbie, produced in 1959.
Vintage Barbies, from left: Skipper, Talking Barbie, Side Swirl Barbie, Ponytail Barbie, Midge, Twist Barbie, Bubble Cut Barbie, Stacey, and three more Bubble Cut Barbies.
Janice Kelnay in her Stoney Creek home.
Wax doll circa 1848-1868, left, and an Antique Parian bisque doll made in Germany circa 1860-1870.