Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/11/2015 (1378 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
What do you do with a labour of love that's lasted a lifetime?
Rozalynde McKibbin, a Winnipegger in her 60s, is searching for a home for her astounding doll collection. She could try to sell them off one by one, but she shudders at the thought.
Selling off the dolls and breaking up the collection would be breaking promises, McKibbin said.
"People have said to me, 'You could sell the dolls on eBay and make a fortune.' But I couldn't... too many old people have given me dolls and made me promise to look after them. And if I make a promise, I like to keep it," she said.
There are more than 1,000 dolls in her tiny North End home. There are porcelain dolls she's collected for more than 50 years or even poured, painted and dressed by hand. There are wax antique dolls that are probably worth money, but McKibbin refuses to sell them.
The dolls line her two-storey home from floor to ceiling and make the house a living museum.
'The dolls all have names, or the ones I made do. I can name them, you see, because, they're like my babies' — Rozalynde McKibbin
"There are two bedrooms upstairs you can't even open the doors into because of all the boxes (of dolls)," McKibbin said.
There's barely room for a tiny TV in her living room. In the dining room, an antique pump organ peeks out from behind a display of dolls a metre or more high.
"I hope this story doesn't make me look like a hoarder," McKibbin said, adding she's the very definition of a collector. "If I had a dollar, I'd buy something I could keep forever."
She hopes someone will help her find a place for the dolls.
"I would love to put this back into a normal house," she said. "But all this stuff, wow... I've thought of moving to a small town, if the town had an empty storefront with living quarters. And when I was gone, the town could inherit the dolls," she said.
Perhaps someone will partner up with her, open a tea house and put the dolls on public display, she mused.
Every year, there is one little girl, her granddaughter in Texas, who gets a doll from the collection, but at one a year, the annual gift won't make a dent in the collection.
"I just want the collection to have a home," she said. "I thought the public might come up with a suggestion."
If no one does, she sees only one option: "I'm left with the collection."
McKibbin is a petite woman, and she shares her living museum with her pets.
There's her 18-year-old cat and an elderly dog who wore a tiny blue-and-pink-striped T-shirt the day McKibbin opened her home. The dog's name is Gypsy Rose Lee, named for the late burlesque entertainer.
"But she's not a stripper. She's a ballerina," McKibbin said fondly, holding the dog.
This is a story fit for a movie, but first here's a little about McKibbin, to set the scene. To say McKibbin's life has been backlit by her love of the silver screen and Hollywood's celebrity culture would be an understatement.
Violin teacher, doll maker, movie extra — she was paid for 14 hours' work for footage that never made it to the screen in Shall We Dance, a 2004 movie starring Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez that was filmed in Winnipeg.
She's a former look-alike Elizabeth Taylor entertainer, winning contests while impersonating the famous star more than once. She's sewn more vintage costumes for dolls, her own and others, than she can count.
There are collectors in the United States and Canada who own her creations.
Her motto for personal struggles is "Tomorrow will be a better day."
If the line sounds familiar, it's inspired by the movies: "Tomorrow will be another day was Scarlet O'Hara's last line in Gone with the Wind, the Hollywood antebellum classic. Most people remember it for Rhett Butler's last line: 'Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn.' "
McKibbin believes in tomorrow, a feat of faith given the horror stories she's survived in real life.
That includes a vicious arson that destroyed her doll tea house and museum in Victoria, B.C., on Christmas Day in 1985.
Her estranged husband was eventually convicted in the blaze but never served time in jail, she said. She subsequently sued him in civil court, winning a settlement worth nearly $1 million that was never paid.
Her mother's death made headlines after McKibbin alleged the 98-year-old was improperly deprived of food and water for 14 days at Seven Oaks General Hospital. An investigation absolved the institution of wrongdoing.
Her son became a lawyer, a sense of social justice ignited by the B.C. arson. At 25, he was among the youngest to be called to the bar of the Law Society of Upper Canada, his proud mother said. He now practises in Toronto.
McKibbin memorialized both her sons, making porcelain portrait dolls of them as little Victorian-style boys.
As with many of her other dolls, she made them by pouring liquid porcelain imported from the U.S. into special moulds and sewing them vintage-style doll clothes.
"The dolls all have names, or the ones I made do. I can name them, you see, because, they're like my babies," McKibbin said.
Alexandra is a veteran news reporter who has covered stories for the Winnipeg Free Press since 1987. She held the medical beat for nearly 17 years, and today specializes in coverage of Indigenous-related issues. She is among the most versatile journalists on the paper’s staff.
Updated on Sunday, November 8, 2015 at 5:37 PM CST: Adds video.