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In this day and age when we have a tendency to toss toys that are even slightly worn, it is tough to believe that there is a 'hospital' where dolls along with their accessories like prams, as well as, all kinds of beloved stuffed animals can be repaired and brought back to their original glory. What is even more amazing is that such a place has existed for a century and is still going strong. Welcome to Sydney's 'Original Doll Hospital' that celebrated its 100th birthday, on February 22nd, 2013.
The unique business came into being rather accidently. In 1913, a general store owner in Sydney began importing Japanese dolls. However, the rubber bands that held them together would often break or disintegrate on the boat journey over. Luckily for him, his brother Harold Chapman Sr., was a good handyman and set aside a little 'hospital' area in the store, to repair the delicate toys. But when customers found out about this, they began bringing in their raggedy dolls, stuffed animals and even, leather goods and umbrellas - Starting what would become a family business for many generations.
In 1930, Chapman's son also named Harold, relocated the doll hospital and expanded the business even further, by agreeing to repair anything that could be fixed - no matter how big or small. While business was robust, the real boom came in 1938 during World War 2. Faced with extreme restrictions, new dolls and toys became a rarity, and young girls and boys had no option, but to get their existing ones, lovingly restored - By one of the 70 'doctors' on staff.
While it does not have as many employees today, the hospital that is run by his son Geoff Chapman now sits in a spiffy location with a beautiful store-front that features everything a little girl could possibly wish for - from new to lovingly restored, to even extremely rare and valuable dolls. Also in keeping with modern times and dolls, the doctors are now specialists - Some focus on bringing back to life modern dolls, whilst others stick to antiques. And then there also are the soft toy experts and accessory repair experts.
Though it may not appear to be, the doctors say their jobs are very interesting given that no two dolls are the same or need the same repairs and that just like medical doctors they have no idea what challenge they will have to face, when they come to work each day - The one advantage? There are no emergency night calls to worry about!
Resources: Dailymail.co.uk, dollhospital.com.au