The Doll in the School Picture

The year was 1955. It was picture making day at Allons School, a day that Virginia Garrett (who is later became Virginia Dodson) decided to do something unusual on that occasion. As a Christmas gift one year, Virginia’s oldest sister, Onia D., had given her a very pretty doll. In fact, Virginia thought the doll was so pretty she decided to take the doll to school the day individual pictures were made. When it was Virginia’s turn to get her picture taken, she included the doll in the picture. It didn’t take long for the idea to catch on with some of the other little girls and classmates of Virginia’s. Several other girls borrowed the doll to have their picture taken with too. Virginia later learned that some of the parents were not too happy when their little girl came home with a school picture that included someone else’s doll. One of those girls who borrowed the doll was a second grader named Janice Zachary, who is now Janice Kirby. Little did Janice know at the time her picture was taken with the doll that much later that same doll would end up in her home.

The school days at Allons flew by, and before you knew it, Virginia was grown, married, and had moved away from home. Left behind in the upstairs of her parents’ home in the Allons community were some things from her childhood, including her dolls. As often happens, one by one, members of Virginia’s family passed away, and the old home place ended up at auction. Items of personal property were also included the day of the sale, and among those things sold were Virginia’s dolls. Josephine Long and husband, Arnold, who live in the Willow Grove area, attended the sale that day, and when the dolls came up on the auction block, Josephine, who has a very large doll collection, bought them. Some time later, Janice Kirby’s husband, Jack, was visiting with Arnold Long and the auction was discussed during that visit. Jack saw the dolls that day, and later that same evening, he told Janice about the new additions to Josephine’s doll collection bought at the auction. It was that conversation that reminded Janice of the photograph and she wondered if one of those dolls Josephine bought might possibly be the same doll in the picture. After making a copy of Janice’s school picture with the doll, Jack later took the copy to the Long home. Sure enough, the doll turned out to be the one photographed not only with Virginia, but with Janice, and several other little girls at the Allons school more than 50 years ago.

A few weeks went by, and after talking about the situation, Arnold and Josephine, along with their daughter, Carla, decided the doll’s home should really be with Janice. And that’s where she is today. Janice thought the doll should have a name similar to her original owner, Virginia, so she choose to call her Jenny Ann. She sits in a doll high chair in the family room of their home. Jenny Ann still has her original clothes and shoes, is in excellent condition for her age.

The company who manufactured that particular doll is known as Horsman, a company founded in New York in 1865 by Edward I. Horsman. The year this doll came out was 1951. She is described as a Fairy Skin doll with sleep eyes and washable hair that can be curled. I think it would be safe to say that even though there were probably lots of dolls just like Jenny Ann placed under many different Christmas trees during the 1950's, she’s probably the only one who was ever photographed with several little girls on picture making day at a rural country school in Tennessee. And if you look close enough, you’ll see a twinkle in her pretty blue eyes that seems to say she quite proud of that fact too.


Virginia Garrett Dodson and the special doll her sister, Onia, gave her one Christmas were photographed at Allons school in 1955.

Janice Zachary Kirby smiles happily for her school picture made with the doll belonging to Virginia Garrett Dodson.

The doll manufactured in 1951 by the Horsman Company remains in excellent condition today.