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  • Writer's pictureMacabre Emporium Pod

Episode 24 - How Many Leaves Are Dilated??


Sarah's 40th Roast and Cabbage Patch Doll Drama

The time has come! I have only been waiting 5 months for my turn at roasting Sarah for her 40th birthday! If you are a new listener that likes to jump around and would like to hear mine and the origins of birthdays check out Ep. 4 “Over the Hill.” Even though I am older than her she is still getting the same treatment.

I'm sure her AARP membership card hasn’t arrived yet but I am sure it will be our next episode after this one, and for the record just in case something happens to me, I didn’t off myself.

So first off we are going to start off with some jokes:

Sarah is so old when God said “Let there be light!” Sarah was there to flip the switch on.

Sarah is so old that she remembers rainbows in black and white.

Sarah is so old Julius Cesar asked her what time it was.

Sarah is so old that when she went to the liquor store, the clerk asked for ID and said that will do when her blockbuster card fell out.

Sarah is so old there wasn’t a history class just current events.

Sarah is so old she knew Gandalf before he had a beard.

Sarah is so old her first pet was a T-Rex.

Fun Facts of 1983:

A gallon of gasoline here in our state of Indiana was .88 cents and the national average was $1.16

The average cost of a new home was $82,600 and existing homes for 70k

A new car cost about 15,000 and the top-selling cars of 1983

Oldsmobile Supreme, Ford Escort, and Ford LTD

Stephen King would have two best sellers this year with “Pet Sematary and Christine”

McDonald’s would serve its 50 billionth hamburger and introduce chicken nuggets and Wendy’s would introduce baked potatoes. And if you need a dipper or some sauce for your baked potato Hidden Valley Ranch hits stores shelves.

And to wash that all down grab an ice-cold Diet Coke.

But at home if you wanting a late night snack of Ham and cheese just grab the brand new hot pockets from your freezer.

The top 5 hits of 1983:

5. Billie Jean - Micheal Jackson

4. Jeopardy - Greg Kihn Band

3. Mr. Roboto - Styx

2. Beat It - Micheal Jackson

  1. Come On Eileen - Dexys Midnight Runners

Honorable Mention from one of Sarah’s favorite artists at number 9 Let’s Dance - David Bowie and one for Me Hungry Like the Wolf - Duran Duran at number 11

But Sarah’s theme song One Night in Bangkok wouldn't be released until October 1984 MOVING ON!

Some of the top toys of 1983

The original NES console would debut in July at 89.99 (271.89)

The Atari 5200 at 199.99 (604.25)

Hasbro’s Glo worm 9.99 (30.18)

The Cabbage Patch Kids 19.99 (60.40) wouldn’t reach their popularity until 1983, which brings us to the rest of today’s episode. The back story and somewhat weird history of the riots that parents caused nationwide to get their hands on these dolls.

First originally “created” in 1982 by Xavier Roberts, after meeting Martha Nelson Thomas in 1976 at a craft fair where Martha was selling her one-of-a-kind soft sculpted dolls she named Doll Babies. The doll babies were all hand sewn and have been described as expressions of Martha according to her close friends making no two alike. Martha would also personally select the clothing for each of these dolls.

Xavier Roberts, the self-proclaimed soft sculptor, had taken a strong interest in Martha’s dolls and wanted her to supply them for his gift shop known as Babyland in Cleveland, Georgia. Martha would end up going down to Babyland in Cleveland, Georgia and Martha was uncomfortable with Roberts overcharging for them and would take them back. Roberts was selling Martha’s creations under the name Little Person between 100 to 200 dollars. Marth would end up taking her dolls back and upon returning to Kentucky Marth and her Husband would receive a letter from Roberts stating “ If I can’t sell your dolls I will sell something just like them.”

Martha and her husband Timothy became aware of Xavier Roberts selling his version of Martha's original design when a lady commented to her that she had seen her dolls in the Atlanta airport which Martha replied she wasn't selling them to the airport.

By 1983 the CBK exploded with the backing of Coleco Industries, the creators of Colecovision. What made the CBK dolls so popular was the unique identity each doll had, similar to Martha doll babies. No two were the same, they would all have different eyes, skin, hair color, smile, etc… Coleco would use the current technology of the time to randomize the features of CBK to keep repeats from happening.

With Doll Babies and CBK you didn’t buy one of them you would “adopt” them. Smaller retailer shelves would have signage that read “CBK adoption center.” Some of the larger retailers like Macy’s and Fao Schwartz for example would have full CBK adoption centers with nurses and go through the birthing process. This process would be pulling the doll from a cabbage head and announcing to the waiting parent if it was a boy or girl and sprinkling baby powder on them and placing them in a diaper before handing them off to the new parent.

You could also have this same experience down in Babyland in Cleveland, Ga which is still open today. In Babyland, you can see the hospital staff feeding and caring for the newly born CBK where they would spend their days laughing and playing until they are adopted. You could also witness live births of the CBK where the Doctor would announce how many leaves dilated and would ask for TLC and imagicilin. Shortly after this, the doctor would pull the newly born CBK from a cabbage head but with more pageantry than the retail version. If we're lucky enough to go through the adoption center experience either as a larger retailer or Babyland itself you would also take an oath.

I promise to love my Cabbage Patch Kid with all my heart. I promise to be a good and kind parent. I will always remember how special my Cabbage Patch Kid is to me.

They both would come with birth certificates waiting to be signed by you and a brief introduction with their name and things they would like to do.

With this as the main idea behind CBK people lost their minds over them. In some of the news reports I watched for this store, managers would protect themselves with baseball bats trying to do crowd control. In some locations store employees just threw them randomly into the crowd, and some women would rip boxes from the arms of children, also two women would be locked in a fight together holding on to each other's hair like two bucks with locked antlers with a CBK between them. Injuries were common as well from bumps and bruises all the way up to broken legs in Wilkes Barre, Pa. Also, one good dad would show up late for work right now trying to get one for his daughter but wasn’t going to tell his boss that. One other witness would state seeing another woman being attacked with a purse strap around her neck as she clings on to the CBK.

Toys R Us, Sears, JCPenney, and other retailers would hold lotteries for shoppers to purchase one of these dolls. If your number was called you would have to rush to the back of the store and make your selection before the mobs would show up. In Saskatchewan, they would twee this lottery system by taking all the names of those present and telling them it's a chance to purchase a CBK and not win one. One of these lotteries had 400 names in it for 36 dolls they had currently. Some parents would wait up to eight hours or more in hopes of scoring a CBK. One woman would tell a reporter it's ridiculous her husband works for Toy R Us and can’t even get one.

The demand was so high retailers could receive anywhere from five to 500 at one time even though people by the thousands were trying. Some parents would drive 100s of miles a day to try and obtain a CBK. And one store in Camden New Jersey would set up a trading post of sorts as to where you could sell them your CBK for 40 dollars and they would turn around and sell it for 50. When one lady was asked why she is willing to pay 50 dollars for a doll that only cost 20 she would reply “By the time i go looking in stores it will cost me 30 dollars in gas and aggravation.”

To give you a better idea of how chaotic this was I want to read a blog posting named “Memoirs of Doll Riot Veteran” by Alan K. Stout from the Times Leader Newspaper in Pa

“Now Remember Martha Nelson Thomas I mentioned earlier? In 1979 she started the legal process that would happen to take action against Xavier Roberts for copying her original idea of the Doll Babies I had brought up earlier. His defense was that he was inspired by Martha’s dolls but he changed the design. In 1985, She would end up taking Roberts to court seeking 1 million dollars in damages, around this time there was a nine-month waiting list for CBK as well. With photographs from her friend Guy Mendes as early 1975 with her doll babies. Along with how blatantly clear how similar they looked even though Roberts changed mostly the color of their skin and how their hair was shaped. Roberts would end up settling out of court midway through the trial with Martha Nelson Thomas for an undisclosed amount and recognition of her influence on the CBK. The amount has never been revealed; the only hint to the amount was that her actual children would go to college.?

One thing that could have prevented all this was putting a copyright on the doll babies but Martha didn’t want to do this as she felt that it would take away from the doll as a person. During the entire legal process would show her teeth. Multiple companies would start producing their own variations causing Roberts to go after them for “copying his design.

After the court case, Martha continued making her Original Doll Babies and selling a line of craft products through Fibre-Line allowing crafters to make their own version of Martha’s dolls. Even with the waiting list, CBK would go for 30 to 150 (92.50 - 462.47) dollars a doll whereas Martha’s kits would cost only 16 dollars(49 2023). She would go on to be an artist in residence at her children’s elementary school and do workshops with local girl scouts and other organizations.

Martha the mother of the CBK passed away from Ovarian Cancer in Louisville, Ky on May 26, 2013. At Martha’s funeral and celebration of life, her family would reserve the front pews of the church for the dolls that anyone had as she saw them as her children when she created them. Her husband and friends would say Martha had a lot of love and used her doll babies as a main way to express that love. Martha’s husband Tucker doesn't begrudge Roberts as he marketed a product very well. He would also say they had a wonderful life together, it wasn't elaborate but it wasn’t wonderful, and wouldn’t trade that for a few dollars.

Fun facts

The CBK riots were the main inspiration for the movie Jingle All the Way.

The world's largest collection of CBK totals 5,000 and is housed in a 6,000-square-foot building named Magic Crystal Valley, referencing the crystals sprinkled by the bunny bee to create the CBK. And has been up for sale since 2015 for 360k but is valued at 900k.

The first original CBK dolls had cloth faces until Coleco started to produce them with the vinyl heads most of us had grown up with.

The most valuable CBK is James Dudley from 1985. A blonde hair blued-eyed CBK donning a red jersey with the number 31 and blue shorts. His current value in the box is 3,000

The rarest are the original Xavier Roberts Little People dolls are autographed twins at 3,500

The most expensive CBK created

The ink color of the trademark Xavier Roberts determines what year the doll was made.

In 1983, Roberts signed the dolls with a black pen. Green was used in 1984, blue in 1985, red in 1986, aqua in 1987, lavender in 1988, and rose in 1989.

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