Doll's Douglas sash sends woman on search for history

Posted: Monday, August 21, 2000

Whether by fluke or by fate, Kathleen Wiest's doll has come home.

Now she's searching for the history of her beloved childhood toy, which was found decades ago in a storage room in Washington state, but wears a Girl Scout uniform that bears a Douglas insignia.

"I want to know how she got to Tacoma and who she might have belonged to," Wiest said. "Why did she get left behind?"

The questions were first raised when Wiest moved to Douglas from Newport, Ore., in 1982. She discovered, while unpacking, that the sash of her treasured doll read "Douglas Alaska, Troop 13."

"It felt really strange," Wiest said of the realization. "It was just like hair goes up on the back of your neck. I just thought Oh, honey, you're home.'"

Wiest has had the doll since she was a child. Her mother and her co-workers discovered it in the early 1960s while cleaning out a storage room at a Tacoma insurance agency where they worked.

"Being probably the only person working there that had a little girl, they gave it to my mom and she gave it to me," Wiest said. "I played with this doll, I had this doll forever. Kind of lived on my bed for years."

Later, she took it to college with her.

"She thinks the world of that doll," said Lesley Thompson, executive director of the Tongass Alaska Girl Scout Council. "She played with it and it meant a lot to her."

When Wiest came to Alaska, the doll had been boxed up for years. While unpacking in her new Douglas condo, she noticed the notation on the doll's uniform sash.

"I was just floored when I put on her little Girl Scout outfit and it said, Douglas, Alaska,' " Wiest said. "It was just too cool."

So far, the search for information about the doll's past hasn't yielded much. The doll has a date on it that reads "1945," and by examining drawings and historic descriptions, Wiest and Thompson have ascertained that the uniform fits in with the style worn in 1951.

Beyond that, there's not much information.

"We don't know much about the Douglas troop," Thompson said.

Girl Scouting began in Alaska in the 1920s, but for years, there was no council to keep records, Thompson added. Besides tracing the doll's history, she hopes that holes in the Girl Scouts' history can be filled.

The doll is delicately formed, with weighted eyes, articulated arms and legs, and little teeth, Wiest said.

"She's just a cool doll she's real pretty," Wiest said. "She has those little teeth; they just look so real, they look like they could just become alive."

Her outfit is made of dark green acetate, with a white blouse and kerchief. The Girl Scout insignia and other details are painted on. It has one small crack, which Wiest said may be from being in a damp box.

Wiest, an art teacher at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School, has always enjoyed dolls. Today, she makes them as a hobby and gives them to friends as gifts.

Her only fear in finding the doll's history is the possibility of loss.

"I don't want to lose my doll," Wiest said with a laugh. "I have this fear that somebody will want it back. I have a feeling she's been on loan."

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