Growing Up: Malverne, LI, NY 1938-45: The Runaway Doll House

The sun did not shine.
it was too wet to play.
so we sat in the house
all that cold, cold, wet day.

I sat there with Sally.
we sat there, we two.
and I said, ‘how I wish
we had something to do!’

From “The Cat in the Hat” —   by Dr. Seuss


PA-Denny Going into ClosetI really don’t recall if the day was wet or not, but Pattie-Anne and I found ourselves BORED. We were about 5 and 6 and our mother wasn’t around. She was probably down in the cellar (as we called it back then) doing laundry, and we were left to our own devices, which meant we had nothing to do.

So for no good reason we decided to go the hall door closet and hide inside. It was filled with coats and boots and umbrellas and hats. Everything was jammed together, but we decided we’d hide in back behind the coats. We knew our mother would NEVER be able to find us. With much noise and laughter we wormed our way through, giggling and calling, “Come find us!” as we did. But when we pushed our way through to the back we found something totally unexpected. A doll house! It was brown and two stories high–– almost our size!



PA-Denny Running to MotherWe ran out screaming with excitement to tell our mother. “Mommy, mommy, we found a doll house in the hall closet! Come and look!” We jumped all around her, telling her about the doll house. “Come see it!”

I don’t know what she answered – am sure she did some fast thinking. She probably told us not to be silly, that there was no doll house that she knew about, that we were not to be in the closet anyway, and to go out and play. That was the child rearing method those days. No matter what, you were told to go out and play.

We must have gone out and then speculated that if she didn’t know anything about a doll house, that it must have come in the front door in the middle of the night and hidden itself in the closet. It had walked in all by itself!


doll house runningWe talked about it non-stop and could hardly wait to tell our father when he got home. He, however, couldn’t imagine what we were talking about. He’d never seen any doll house, and we shouldn’t be in the front closet anyway. We were sent back out to play.

How they kept us from going back into the closet I’ll never know. I’m sure we were told in no uncertain terms not to; however, they didn’t quite succeed. A few days later when my mother was busy elsewhere we went back to the closet and once again pushed aside the coats. There was no doll house.


Our mother didn’t know anything about any doll house. She had never seen one and besides, why were we in the closet when we were told not to be. She sent us out to play.

But WE knew we had seen one. Where could it have gone then? Maybe it ran away. That was it. It ran away. But where? We had no idea.

floor plan -aAnother day when my mother was busy or even out of the house (back then mothers would walk to market for a few items and leave kids alone) we decided to go up in the attic. (This was before the attic was renovated and turned into a little apartment for my grandmother, Lucy Rice, and Aunt Olive). The stairs were behind a door in the living room. We opened the door and went up. The attic was full of boxes and artifacts––treasures, we were sure. We rummaged around looking at everything and then there, at the very back, stood the doll house.

We were overcome with joy.


“IT’S BACK,” we yelled as we tore down the stairs. “IT’S BACK! THE DOLL HOUSE IS IN THE ATTIC!”

PA-Denny Running to MotherAnd once again we reported our findings to our mother who knew nothing about any doll house and we shouldn’t be in the attic anyway. “BUT WE SAW IT!” She sent us out to play.

Now we knew where the doll house had gone when it left the closet. It had walked upstairs to the attic when no one was looking. However, the next time we tiptoed upstairs, there was no doll house.


“IT’S GONE AWAY AGAIN!” we cried to our mother. “THE DOLL HOUSE IS GONE!”

“I’ve never seen any doll house. You aren’t to go upstairs again! Do you understand? Now go outside and play!”

But WE knew that it must have walked down the stairs and gone out the front door when no one was looking. And this time it had really run away because we never found it again.


PA-Denny-XmasIt was Christmas morning and we were up early. In those days Santa brought the tree so my father went into the living room first and turned on the tree lights. It was a fairyland when we ran in. And there, standing next to the tree, was the doll house, all newly painted and shiny.



“SANTA PAINTED IT AND BROUGHT IT BACK!” We shouted with joy and danced around it. And the mystery was finally solved. “THE DOLL HOUSE MUST HAVE WALKED TO THE NORTH POLE AND SANTA KNEW IT WAS OURS!”

Christmas––a day of wonder and miracles.



Original artwork (C) Denise Moynahan 2013
All rights reserved.

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Oh Denny this is wonderful! I laffed and laffed! What memories! How did you get the floor plan of 35 Doncaster Rd? I don’t remember an entry: just walking directly into the living room. But then there was a coat closet. . . . memory plays tricks as you shall see below.

The thing I don’t remember was the doll house under the Christmas tree. Nor do I remember playing with it. I think mother told us years later that they didn’t want to spoil our belief in Sandy Claws (sigh) so gave it away . . . I like your version a LOT better! And who knows, maybe it is the one that’s true! Keep it up, Denny, I love your stories and your illustrations.

LoL – this is what I remembered, and all my Malverne stories will be coming from memories of long ago. Whether actually true or not I can’t say! Yes, we did have a hallway – there were doors with glass panes that we used to wash to surprise mother when she came home.

Aloha Denny…what a wonderful story…I just came by your blog address after going through a stack of Christmas cards with your wonderful drawings on them. So glad you are writing about childhood memories…had no idea you once lived on Long Island. Would love to hear more and thanks.

Hi Marj, how good to hear from you! We’re still getting snow up here on the mountain so I think of you with envy living in Hawaii. I lived on Long Island until I was nine, so most memories are vague, although a few stand out. My sister and I have had a laugh over them as she remembers the same ones but differently! I plan to write a couple more from that time period. Nice to share my blog with you.

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