Timeline Story: 1. How It All Started

This post begins a series of posts sharing my Timeline Story, a look at the events, experiences, and occupations that have contributed to shaping my business and writing life to the present.


During what we call today the preschool years, it all started–with paper dolls. Yes, paper dolls. As you may have read in an earlier post here and my bio here, my father had a long career in printing and publishing. Post-World War II, the publisher contracted with a company for printing paper dolls. This meant Daddy brought home proof pages to me before the paper doll books ever made it to the retail shelves.

One set which lingers in my memory was the paper doll book issued following Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. I sat in front of our first TV fascinated with the princess’s coronation and parade. Not long after, Daddy brought home proofs of the paper doll set his companQueen Elizabeth II Paperdollsy had printed. I looked in awe at the realistic images on those galley proofs. At that time, I didn’t know a galley proof from any other proof or even a book of paper dolls. But for me, it was excitement to hold the paper dolls  before any of my little girlfriends.

And something else caught my attention. The smell and feel of ink bonded to paper. When I asked Daddy what I smelled, he replied, “My life’s blood. It’s how I make money to care for our family.” Then I asked about the feel. Daddy told me what I felt was like fine silk, only not made from caterpillars but trees.

Today, I believe the smell and feeling of those first memories near the printing and publishing industry run through my veins. Those senses began my love of seeing words in print and the feel of the paper in my hands.Example of grade school handwriting paper with alphabet

Soon I began school. My mother had beautiful handwriting and despite her poor hearing and eyesight, someone in her short educational life must have spent a good deal of time teaching her to write. Mama was insistent that I spend time each day on my “writing.” Then “writing” meant copying the letters of the alphabet over and over.

Dad at a linotype machine around 1953

Finally, one day in the first grade the teacher told us we were going to learn to write words. This was exciting. I knew words were what Daddy read to me from my Little Golden Books and the Sunday funnies. But how did a person make a word on paper? At Daddy’s printing business, words were put on paper by big presses. I couldn’t possibly do that–I was only six years old.

But I began writing words on paper. It was magical! With a pencil and paper, I could write words. Maybe some day I could write a story, maybe a book. I couldn’t wait to see where this new ability to write words would take me.

My first essay submission and its impact on my writing today. 

10 thoughts on “Timeline Story: 1. How It All Started

  1. Although it’s not such an apt metaphor any more, ink does run through your veins. Your DNA proves it with life impressions from both parents.
    This post reminded me of pressing the tabs of dresses and coats around the my cardboard paper dolls too. I’m glad you are featuring little snippets from your life here. Everybody likes a story!

    1. Marian, I like “your DNA proves it with life impressions from both parents.” So true, but I’d never thought of it in those exact words.
      I wonder if little girls play with paper dolls any more. I think the next time I’m out running around doing errands I’ll keep an eye out for paper dolls or something akin. Thanks for your faithful support.

  2. I would have been very jealous of you in elementary school!
    I remember Betsy McCall in McCall’s magazine. She would have a new outfit in every issue to cut out and carefully wrap around the doll. I loved paper dolls and especially liked a set of dolls in wedding clothes.

    1. Oh, Shirley, I remember Betsy McCall. I couldn’t wait to get to my mom’s last issue of McCall’s so I could cut into it. I loved paper dolls of all kinds. Favorites including ballerinas, and yes, wedding dolls and clothes. You jealous of me? What a pumped up sense of self I have now! Oh, but that was in elementary school–days gone by.

  3. Oh, I remember paper dolls. My friends and I spent hot summer afternoons playing with them and making up stories about them. It’s the very beginning of becoming a story teller!

  4. Oh, I loved paper dolls. And I still have several Little Golden Books tucked away for safekeeping.
    Thanks for sharing your journey with us.

    1. Joan, I’m so glad you’ve kept those Little Golden Books. The ones of ours ravaged by love and time were probably given away or sold by mom in a garage sale. 🙁 And I’m so glad you were a paper doll lover. See Joan Rough’s comment about story telling.

  5. I also loved paper dolls. I’m surprised you don’t mention cutting them out. That was great practice for precision cutting. Besides printed clothing, I often designed outfits for my paper dolls, coloring them with crayons. Later I vaguely recall gluing fabric on a paper background. Did my mother suggest this first? Maybe, but as ink is in yours, thinking outside the lines is in my DNA.

    1. Sharon, an apology for not replying to your comment sooner (doctor appointments most of the day yesterday). No, I didn’t mention cutting them out. I suppose I was focused on the conversation over the smell of ink and feel of paper. I was actually in a VFW Healthy Child Contest (about age 3 or so), and part of the judging was answering a question presented by the emcee. This woman asked me if I colored my paper dolls. I politely (or maybe not so politely) responded I didn’t have to because my daddy made them at work already colored. My parents wanted the floor to open and swallow them. In retrospect, I’m not sure what the woman thought of paper dolls. Love the reference to what’s in your DNA

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