Stuffing the ballot box with a cutie

Petition: Raggedy Ann is not just a doll to those who love her, she's a friend and companion who deserves her own spotlight in the Toy Hall of Fame.

February 10, 2002|By Susan Reimer | Susan Reimer,SUN COLUMNIST

What does Barbie have that Raggedy Ann doesn't? Besides the hourglass figure and all those accessories?

How cuddly is a Tonka truck? Has anyone ever written the adventures of the Hula Hoop?

The shocking fact is that all of these toys have what the beloved rag doll does not: A place in the National Toy Hall of Fame.

"We love all toys, including Raggedy Ann," said Kim Baldwin, spokeswoman for the Hall of Fame in Salem, Oregon. "The fact is, she just hasn't made the cut."

Raggedy Ann fans are out to remedy this injustice with a grassroots petition drive to influence the voting of the 100 mysterious selectors who, each year since 1998, have decided which toys make it into the Hall of Fame.

"This is her year," says Joni Gruelle Wannamaker, granddaughter of Johnny Gruelle, creator of the Raggedy Ann and Andy series of books.

"People really need a lovable toy in this country right now. She is needed this year."

The National Toy Hall of Fame is located in A.C. Gilbert's Discovery Village, a children's interactive museum established in Salem to venerate the native son who was the inventor of the Erector Set.

(It bears noting that the Erector Set was inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame in 1998, the first year of voting.)

"Raggedy Ann has been on the nomination list several times," said Baldwin, who welcomes the groundswell of support for a nominated toy. "But there have been such a wide variety of toys. And there are so many great toys."

The Hall of Fame -- where the toys are displayed -- is located in one of the historic homes where Gilbert played as a child. Its administrators accept nominations for a full calendar year, and it only takes one nomination to make the list.

"We are looking for the kind of toy that is an icon in American culture. It has to be safe and inspire creative play," said Baldwin.

Among the honorees are generic toys like the bicycle and the jump rope, and specific toys such as Lincoln Logs and Etch a Sketch. "A new toy can get in if it is loved, but generally these are toys that have been loved by generations," said Baldwin.

That list of nominees, which numbers 90 this year, has been distributed to a selection committee that is made up of educators, child development experts and toy industry experts. But not toy manufacturers, Baldwin is quick to add.

Among the nominees this year is G.I. Joe. Many a girl who is a woman now remembers how her brother tortured her Raggedy Ann with Joe.

More than 100 ballots have gone and must be returned by Friday. The winners will be announced, with considerable fan fare, on March 27th at noon in Salem.

Only the top vote-getters in a complicated point system make it into the Hall and since the first year when 11 made it, the number of inductees has shrunk to a precious two last year: Silly Putty and Tonka trucks.

"We love the idea that there is a petition drive for Raggedy Ann," said Baldwin, who has heard that one of them carries 3,000 names.

"But unless the selectors hear about this, the petitions can't have any effect on their voting. I mean, the selectors are scattered all over the country."

Meanwhile, in Arcola, Ill, the granddaughter of Johnny Gruelle presides over the Raggedy Ann and Andy Museum with calm certainty that this is Ann's year.

"I have been thinking that it has just not been Raggedy Ann's time until now," said Wannamaker.

"But because of what has happened in these last few months, there is nothing more American than a red, white and blue Raggedy Ann," she said, in the kind of soft and pleasant voice that must be perfect for reading aloud her grandfather's books.

"Raggedy Ann has been a kind of cyclical doll since she was created in 1915. Every 20 years or so, she experiences a kind of upswing, and that is happening now."

Gruelle, a newspaper and magazine illustrator, created a whimsical drawing of a doll named Raggedy Ann in 1915 and pitched the idea of a juvenile book about her adventures to a Chicago publisher. In 1918, P.F. Volland Co. published Gruelle's Raggedy Ann Stories and introduced a matching character doll. The rest is history.

It isn't clear where the petition drive began, but Wannamaker and her husband have proposed that they all be sent to the museum, where they will be collected and sent to the Toy Hall of Fame, but not until after voting is complete.

"We don't want to overwhelm those poor people," said Wannamaker, politely.

If Wannamaker is conflicted about anything, it is the fact that she has never considered Ann a toy. She considers her a friend, a companion.

"We hear stories every day in the museum from people about their adventures with her. She has been in fires, with soldiers in all the wars.

"Have you ever heard a story about someone going back into a burning house for a Monopoly game?"

Monopoly made it into the Hall of Fame in its first year.

CAST YOUR VOTE

If you would like to add your name to a petition urging Raggedy Ann's induction into the National Toy Hall of Fame, go to www.raggedyann-museum.org.

TOY ALL-STARS

Here is the list of toys in the National Toy Museum and their year of induction.

1998

Barbie, Tinker Toys, Crayola Crayons, Erector Set, Etch a Sketch, Frisbee, Monopoly, Play-Doh, Marbles, The Teddy Bear, Legos

1999

Hula Hoop, View-Master, Duncan YoYo, Red Wagon, Lincoln Logs, Roller Skates

2000

Slinky, the bicycle, jacks, the jump rope, Mr. Potato Head

2001

Tonka trucks, Silly Putty

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