A prominent event at the St. John Bazaar is the ever-popular doll booth which dates back to 1959. Steavy Jakubik, who initially started the booth remembers how it all got started.
“Back then, the bazaar was set up on the grounds of the old wooden structure of the KJT Hall, and we ordered undressed dolls from Dallas, handed them out after church to whoever wanted to dress them, and asked them to return them dressed on the day of the bazaar. I managed the booth for 20 years, and I still think I’d like to win a doll each year, it’s in my blood,” she said.
Over the years, the needles and thread have guided countless stitches by many gifted volunteer fingers in Ennis who have shared their time and talents in dressing dolls. Through the decades, these dolls have fulfilled many little girls’ dreams, as the doll booth has remained in continuous operation at the bazaar since the booth first opened.
From the first moment they set foot on the bazaar grounds, most little girls follow their hearts to the doll booth, which has become one of the main attractions. Many brightly colored frilly-dressed dolls, adorned in every type gown, wedding dress, and frock fills the shelves. A spin of the giant numbered wheel might allow the lucky participant a chance to win one of the coveted dolls.
Behind the scenes, these are the dream-makers - the ladies and their quality needlework, dress these fancy dollies before they reach the bazaar. Their frills, delicately cut from scraps of recycled prom and bridesmaid dresses, or made from remnants of bridal materials, satins, lace, net, and taffeta, receive their final stitches from the dream-makers before taking their place atop the shelves of the doll booth.
Stella Tobola, who at the age of 91 has been helping to make the dresses for many years is still making doll dresses for the 2007 bazaar, and so far this year, she has dressed some 80 dolls, and is still going strong.
“Many times, Ennis Helping Hands donates soiled prom dresses, or party dresses that they cannot use and I can cut around the soiled areas, and make good use of the pretty material, bows and ruffles. I love to dress the dolls, it keeps me busy,” she said.
Ella Marusak, 81 is another pioneer in the doll dressing arena. She has dressed hundreds of dolls over the years.
“I have been dressing dolls for the doll booth since 1980. Etheline Sylvester and I worked together for many years in the booth. My specialty was bride and Czech dolls, but I’ve dressed all kinds, and many times I’ve produced over a 100 per year,” she said.
Etheline Sylvester, known for her many dedicated years of work with dolls and the doll booth, and also for other charitable work for St. John through various church organizations, lost her battle with cancer this year. Her daughters, Joan Johnson, Sherry Vrana, Sandra Mikula, and Carla Rhodes, are dedicated to continuing doll and charitable work in her memory.
“Even when Mom’s health was failing, she worked gathering dolls for the doll booth until she was just too weak. My mother was an inspiration to others. Many of the younger women are following in her footsteps, learning from those like Mrs. Marusak and Mrs. Tobola, and others that have pioneered in the area of doll dressing, this artistry is quite creative and fun. These younger women are now finding it to be an interesting past-time,” Johnson said.
Other dream-makers contributing to the booth this year are: Marita Barak, Margaret Bouska, Kim Boyd, Hilary Duncan, Evelyn Gobel, Geraldine Haskovec, Georgia Holy, Jo Leyes, Sally Long, Joan Nors, Karen Orman, Judy Patton, Ollie Ravel (deceased), Bernice Rejcek, Geraldine Spaniel, and Glenda Valek
“Anyone who has ever contributed to the doll booth in any way is acknowledged with love and dedication. Many young girls share the memories of their dolls with your imprints of love. The success of the bazaar has also been blessed with the help of your artistry,” Barbara Sims said.
The event is expected to have a large turn out and many dolls for children to try to win. The bazaar is scheduled for Sept. 15 - 16 and will be held on the KJT grounds.