Beloved Belindy by Johnny Gruelle
For our writing group we had to write a paragraph or two about one of the oldest objects we still own. Of course I thought of my childhood books and decided to introduce the group to Beloved Belindy.
I own quite a few very old books. Although I don’t have many left over from my childhood this is one that has travelled with me whenever I moved. I don’t remember how I acquired it but it has been with me for more than 60 years.
As a child I loved the Raggedy Ann and Andy series of books written and illustrated by Johnny Gruelle.
Johnny Gruelle, according to Wikipedia, was born in Arcola, Illinois, in 1880. He died in 1938.
He began his career as a painter and cartoonist but then went on to illustrate books. He was friends with James Whitcomb Riley who wrote Little Orphan Annie.
The story goes that his daughter Marcella brought from her grandmother’s attic a faceless doll on which the artist drew a face. But this story was evidently a myth according to his biographer, Patricia Hall. In reality, Gruelle’s wife Myrtle told Hall, it was Gruelle who retrieved a long forgotten, homemade rag doll from the attic of his parent’s home sometime around the turn of the 20th century. There was something he was looking for in the attic when he found an old doll his mother had made for his sister. He thought it would make a good story.
What he was most famous for was his series of books about two rag dolls called Raggedy Ann and Andy. I read everyone of those books from the Grand Ledge, Michigan library in the 1950’s.
All of the dolls in the Raggedy Ann and Andy series came to life at night and played in their mistress’s playroom upstairs in an old house. They had big adventures and got into much mischief. Not only did Ann and Andy come to life but they had quite a few friends. Readers never knew if they were brother and sister or husband and wife. We never thought about it.
There was Beloved Belindy who was the black nanny who took care of everyone. I know Beloved Belindy isn’t politically correct but back in the 1950’s I adored her. She could cook large meals, gather eggs from the hens and organise garden parties. One night she cleaned up Percy the policeman when he got covered in flour from some misadventure they encounted when they ventured into the kitchen. Beloved Belindy could also stitch their ragdoll injuries, sew button eyes back on if they fell off or mend their britches if they were snagged while climbing trees.
They represented the best that friendship had to offer. They were kind to each other and worked together so they would enjoy the adventures they set out on each night.
I used to think it would be wonderful if all of my dolls and stuffed animals came to life at night. I would have given anything at that time to hang out with the Raggedy Ann crew and share the events they organised.
Are there any American readers out there that loved these characters as a child, or dressed up as them on Halloween night?