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Parkland’s Doll Doctor mends dolls to honor love, life

Doll doctor mends more than toys

Floyd Blake, 62, has been collecting and selling dolls for 20 some years. His house is the home for thousands of dolls. But it’s much more than that -- Blake sees himself as a “doctor” working in a "hospital" for dolls as he transformed his garage
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Floyd Blake, 62, has been collecting and selling dolls for 20 some years. His house is the home for thousands of dolls. But it’s much more than that -- Blake sees himself as a “doctor” working in a "hospital" for dolls as he transformed his garage

They come to him with broken arms and missing legs.

Some cry, but only when their strings are pulled.

They’re all needing help from Floyd Blake, the Doll Doctor.

“Don’t throw it away,” Blake said of the countless dolls tossed aside every day after an accidental dismemberment or run-in with a dog.

“Just bring it to me, and I’ll bring it back to life. That’s why I’m a doctor.”

Whose patients are dolls.

“I am a doctor, and I always wanted to be a doctor,” Blake said.

He is saying this wearing scrubs with “Doll Doctor Blake” written on them.

Blake owns the Doll Museum, a crammed bazaar of human figures inside his converted Parkland garage.

He buys and sells dolls there, but it’s the “hospital” where Blake has found his true calling after a life of set-backs.

A HARD-KNOCK LIFE

Blake, 62, grew up in Tacoma. He spent most of his working years as a tow truck driver. He shared the business with girlfriend Bonnie Keaton.

They called it Bonnie and Floyd’s Towing.

Keaton got Blake involved in fixing dolls. But only after she was gone.

“She died in my arms,” he said.

After Keaton died in 2007, she left Blake her estate, which included 350 boxes of dolls.

He can’t really explain how he went from tow truck driver to doll fixer.

“I follow in her tracks” is all he offers.

But there are clues. Part of it is to be closer to the woman he loved.

“I think of her every day,” he said.

It also might be the hardscrabble life he had growing up.

“When I was a child, I never had toys,” Blake said. “My parents were poor. They couldn’t afford to buy us gifts.”

Sometimes the family would just skip Christmas.

“I’ve always had a hard life,” he said.

And then there are the health problems. There have been operations, medical emergencies and disabilities.

“I can’t fix myself,” Blake said. “But I can fix a doll.”

THE DOLL MUSEUM

The Doll Museum is Blake’s sanctuary.

Inside, it’s standing room only for visitors and dolls. Not everyone can bend at the waist.

Porcelain antiques rest by Barbies. Newborns lay alongside Raggedy Ann.

The cast of “The Wizard of Oz” is here, along with an entire table of dolls wearing clothes with Native American motifs.

It’s the eyes that get you. Some stare into space, serene in their composure.

But there’s always at least one doll staring straight at you. Sometimes they grin. It’s not always reassuring.

“They are creepy,” Blake acknowledged. “They all look at you. But at my age some of them talk to you, too.”

There is a long pause. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when Blake is joking.

“Pull the cord and it talks to you,” he finishes.

The dolls are in the museum only until a buyer wants one. He is unsentimental. But it’s still not a lucrative business.

“I don’t bring in very much money,” he said, about $500 a month in sales.

His repairs start at $15.

Some dolls are prohibited in the store: those with a cigarette habit.

“People will complain if it smells like nicotine,” he explained.

Sometimes he will show up at his store to find a box of donated dolls. Others he buys at auctions or in estate sales.

DOLL HOSPITAL

The worst enemy of dolls, it turns out, are children. They yank, dunk, squeeze, melt and generally abuse dolls at alarming rates.

“They love to do this,” Blake said as he dragged a doll by its hair across his shop.

Most of the dolls — Blake calls them patients — waiting to be repaired are experiencing one long bad hair day.

The doll-patients come to the shop after home remedies have failed. Blake lifts up the lacey white skirt of one doll to reveal a Band-Aid.

“I’m going to put a new head on it with blue eyes and I’m going to try and find an arm,” he said.

The old head will not go to waste. He’ll part it out by removing the eyes and the eye brows.

On his work table is a large doll called Beany Boy. The doll is based on the 1949 “Time for Beany” TV series that used puppets.

He pulls the string. Beany Boy isn’t talking. His face is contorted into a somewhat disturbing grin. A foot dangles by a few threads.

“The guy who brought it in tried to sew it on,” Blake said. “What I’m going to do is put a rod up there (he jams a finger up Beany’s leg) and put a rod down here (another finger goes in the foot) and glue it.”

One almost feels sorry for the disturbing little doll.

But not quite.

A visitor gleefully asks to see Blake’s containers of eyeballs, fingers and other macabre parts.

The visitor is disappointed.

When a head or digit is damaged, Blake replaces the entire section of the doll rather than glue it back together.

He pulls out a Shirley Temple doll to explain.

“She’s deceased,” he said, holding her up for inspection.

Shirley Temple or the doll?

“You can go either way.”

Shirley, the doll, is missing a finger. But not for long. He will replace the entire arm.

Nearby is a pretty doll if you ignore what looks like a gunshot to the head.

Can he fix it?

“Yes,” he said, looking somewhat incredulously at the visitor.

The Doll Doctor never loses a patient.

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor

The Doll Museum

Who: Floyd Blake, the Doll Doctor.

What: Buy, sell, repair and display of dolls.

Where: 14104 C St. S., Parkland.

Open: Noon-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

Information: 253-538-2596

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