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Biscayne Barbie: 1972

"Cornett family, Kentucky, 1972. Girls playing with Barbie dolls next to parked car." More members of the Cornett clan and its fleet of vehicles. William Gedney Photographs and Writings Collection, Duke University.  View full size.

"Cornett family, Kentucky, 1972. Girls playing with Barbie dolls next to parked car." More members of the Cornett clan and its fleet of vehicles. William Gedney Photographs and Writings Collection, Duke University. View full size.

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This could have been me

In 1972, I was 11, so the girl on the left could have been me. We lived a similar lifestyle as well. My dad had returned to college courtesy of the GI Bill and we lived at 50% BELOW poverty level. My point is this: we didn't have much in the material sense, but we always had a good time with the toys we did have.

My sister and I learned to sew making Barbie clothes. Our Barbies were also Renaissance women; they traveled the Great Plains via covered wagons (read shoe boxes being pulled by Breyer horses) as well as fashion models, teachers and undercover FBI agents!


Not that it matters, but the doll is called Dollikin. Not a cheap knockoff of a Barbie but her own brand that was sold exclusively at a specific department store. She was even more poseable than Barbies at the time.

One strike for fun

That looks like a large box of wooden matches on the "doll house" floor next to Big Sister, probably serving as an key piece of furniture or, on second thought, the discarded box has been put to use (the Cornetts went green!) as a storage container for loose doll accessories and clothing.

These photo-visits with the Cornetts have reminded me of two things: My own good fortune to have had a pretty comfortable childhood, and of the indomitable we-can-handle-it attitude visible in many of the Cornetts' faces which seems to be a rock-solid detail of the American personality. Not all of us have been as blessed as the Cornetts have with such strength and grace. I sure have not.

Obviously many of the Cornetts we've met are far into their lives. My hope for each of them, and I'm looking at the little girl and her sister as I write this, is that their happy moments far outnumber the sad ones. God bless them all.

Very Interesting

Criticism about Barbie dolls being authentic or not, charges of spending more money on Beer and Chevy’s than on Mattel Brand…Real, Official, and Bonafide Barbie Dolls? Are you kidding me here? Are you Really Serious?

We have a picture here of a little girl, about 10 or so, playing with and teaching her Baby Sister about "House" and "Dress" and all of that. Sorry, I am a guy, so I am sure I have missed many other things, but I haven't missed This…

This Sister; not the biggest, and maybe not even the Best, is playing with the Baby Sister, and that, in my mind, Says a lot. Neither gives a ‘Hoot’ if the dolls came from Mattel or the “Dollar Store” of that time, or any place else. The point is…they have Dolls to play with and even Doll Furniture, too. And, they seem to be pretty concentrated and involved in the whole thing…bless them, they Are Happy…and not pretending.

This little adventure into the Cornett Family has been pretty interesting, and I am quite sure that Dave has been, as I, rather intrigued with the Varied Comments.

I must admit, like a previous poster, that I was a little “Creeped Out” in the beginning…and I didn’t even have a reason for that feeling…it just was. But, maybe like others, and I know Dave and William Gedney came to this place; I grew to understand this family over time…and to Respect them. I can’t say that I Love them…and only because I don’t Know Them. And, I wish that I did…we have so many of these families today, and always will have.

These are “Poor People” in only the economic sense…and trying their best, too. I have yet to see even One Photo of Unhappiness or Despair displayed in this series.

I see a Father with his Sons, I see Brothers with their Brothers, a Mother with her Daughters; and, I see Sisters with their Sisters… and I see Kindness and Love throughout these photos.

How could this be more perfect?

Time passes in Kentucky

I see this is eight years later than the "All Our Children" family portrait.

I would guess the older girl here is the little blonde sitting on the steps in the 1964 photo. And the little one here must be #13? #15? #20?

[Some of these are Willie and Vivian's grandchildren. These girls might be cousins. - Dave]

"Real Dolls"

With twelve kids and no job, I doubt these Cornett kids expected to get name brands of anything. I met a very poor, aged Oklahoma Dust Bowl farm woman many years ago who told us about some type of shrub or plant that grows in Oklahoma which produces a bud that looks like a tiny baby doll wrapped in a blanket. The "blanket" can be unwrapped and the pod inside becomes the doll. Those were the playthings of her and her sisters during the Great Depression. One splendid quality of children is that they can summon incredible imaginations when they have to and if they have nothing better, they "make do" with what they have. I have seen city kids with no toys playing with dirt and pebbles on the sidewalk and only they knew what their imaginations pretended to have. One has to wonder if it causes any real harm to the psyche or if, in fact, it improves their improvisational and inventive skills. Necessity is the mother of invention.

[Footnote: "No job" was in 1964. This is eight years later. - Dave]

The Garnetts

I am very much enjoying the montage of the Garnetts. Thanks.

[I guess a Garnett is what you get when you cross a Gedney with a Cornett. - Dave]

All you need is imagination

The standing doll isn't a Barbie. She's probably one of those cheap knockoffs we all had. ("We" being little girls in the '60s and '70s.) They've turned a board into a perfectly fine dollhouse with chairs, a carpet and kitchen -- no matter that they're smaller in scale than the dolls. I remember gluing small wooden blocks together and coloring them with markers to make chairs for my Barbies. You don't need pink plastic furniture with the Barbie logo printed on it; you just need some imagination.


Those aren't Barbie dolls. No doubt, some cheap dime store knockoff. I'm sure after purchasing cigarettes, beer and Chevies for the male Cornetts, there was little left to indulge the girls with hifalutin' playthings.

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