Dale Bochy figures her fascination with dolls started when she left all of her Barbie dolls at a friend’s house in Great Falls.
Bochy, who is now in her 50s, had outgrown her interest in Barbies during her pre-teen years and never bothered going back for them. She has since made up for that loss by collecting 600 dolls over the past 30 years.
She opened the Legacy Doll Museum on Sixth Avenue North and Division Street five years ago. And the place just keeps getting fuller.
“Right now, I have 600 dolls and 4,500 other toys on display,” said Bochy, who also works as an addiction counselor in Billings.
The museum is open Fridays and Saturdays from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. during the winter months.
The 6,500-square-foot exhibit space is neatly arranged with display cases that group dolls from the same decade or country. Bochy has numerous dolls from France, many of which date back to the 1800s. One of the dolls were created by noted French doll maker Adelaide Huret, who created a doll that writer Victor Hugo kept by his desk as a source of inspiration when he wrote “Toilers of the Sea.”
Another doll created by a noted German doll maker, Kathe Kruse, features a pouting baby doll. Legend has it that during Hitler’s regime, Hitler banned the doll from being made because he thought it looked sad and would make the world believe that German children are sad. A Big Timber woman received one of the dolls from her father, a World War II veteran. The doll was manufactured during Hitler’s reign, indicating that the doll maker worked in secret to continue her craft. The woman donated the doll to the Legacy Doll Museum and also included a leather-fringed jacket that was made for the doll in Montana.
Bochy said she has been collecting the dolls for 30 years and wanted a place where she could show them off. She has a Princess Elizabeth doll that was made in the 1930s, styled after Queen Elizabeth when she was 3 years old. There are I Love Lucy dolls, Frank Sinatra dolls, and a whole section of Shirley Temple dolls.
One doll collection from China dating back to the 1890s shows a Chinese family with parents and children and a reclining figure of a grandfather puffing on a opium pipe.
"He needs a divan to lean on because his body is so damaged from the opium, he can't stand up," Bochy said. "It tells a cautionary tale."
The museum includes one display case showing toys that were manufactured in Japan after World War II and were labeled with the required sticker, "manufactured in Occupied Japan."
Walking through the museum is like a walk through history, especially when Bochy is there as a tour guide. She gives tours to groups if prior arrangements are made by calling her at 256-5447.