Dixie Darling fashion doll (1962)
This 18-inch Dixie Darling fashion doll, produced by Battat, was donated by a former Dixie Darling from 1961-63, and is dressed in the 1962 uniform. The donation information states that this doll was sold in stores, and one was owned by Dr. Mannoni. The doll's identification tags are cut, and no specific donation year is listed.
The Battat company, previously a lighter and toy importer, began manufacturing its own toys in the 1980s. The company began their first 18-inch doll line, Collectors Lane Kids, in 1998. These dolls, now re-branded to the name Our Generation, are still produced today, and can be purchased from Target stores. The dolls are on the affordable end of the 18-inch doll market, retailing at $20 - $25 in 2006 and $25.99 - $34.99 in 2022.
A stock image of an Our Generation doll released in 2004 closely resembles the features of this Dixie Darling doll, so it is likely that this doll was purchased in the early 2000s and altered to look like a Dixie Darling from the 1960s, with shorter hair and a uniform complete with gloves and boots. This uniform closely resembles the black uniform worn in 1962 and is not tagged with any specific date. The doll has a vinyl head and limbs, a cloth body, rooted hair, and sleep eyes that close when the doll is laid down.
The Dixie Darlings began in 1954, founded by university band director Dr. Raymond Mannoni. After watching a performance by the Texas Community College's dance team, the Kilgore Rangerettes, Mannoni contacted one of the team's members, Joyce Scimeca McHenry, and asked if she would be interested in auditioning at USM (at the time known as Mississippi Southern College). McHenry would go on to assist the team in choreography and was an integral part of the foundation of the group, which doubled from its initial total of 16 members within a year. The number averaged at 50 after a few years, and by 1961, the group had members representing nine different states.
The group was briefly named the "Dixie Maids" by Dr. Mannoni but was changed to the "Dixie Darlings" with input from the dance team members. The group's first performance was at the USM – Alabama football game in Montgomery in 1954, and since then, the group has performed at numerous games, such as the Sugar Bowl and College All-Star Game in Chicago, Illinois.
Great care was taken to preserve the uniforms; they were kept in thick plastic dress bags to prevent dust and taken to shelters during storms.
The significance of the Dixie Darlings uniform is emphasized by the three fashion dolls modeled after different periods of the group's history, each of which are housed in USM's archive collections. Two of the three dolls are dressed similarly to the 1962 black uniform, while the other is dressed similarly to an earlier uniform. The two smaller dolls, one produced in 1961 and the other undated, have clear signs of wear, including chipped painted-on gloves and fading face paint. The 18-inch doll, though dressed in a 1962 uniform, appears to be made more recently, with the only visible sign of wear being partially functioning sleep eyes.
Mary Carol Dassau, '25, Music & Spanish BA
Clement, Eric. "Joe Battat: de créateur de jouets à catalyseur d'art." La Presse, 2010, https://www.lapresse.ca/arts/arts-visuels/201007/03/01-4295312-joe-battat-de-createur-de-jouets-a-catalyseur-dart.php.
Greene, Maria. "Just Magic: Meet Battat." Just Magic Dolls, 2006, http://www.justmagicdolls.com/meet/Battat/ourgeneration.htm
Larman, Anne Sharp. "Rockettes of the Gridiron."
Tisdale, David. "Dixie Darilings [sic.] to celebrate 50th anniversary at homecoming." Campus Review, 2004.
Taylor, Freddie. "In Remembrance."