Thursday, October 2, 2014

Dammit Doll, vent your frustrations!

Stuffed creature helps folks deal with rigors of everyday stress

(I wrote this story for the Temple Daily Telegram in 1989. It was picked up by the Associated Press and appeared in every major newspaper in Texas--including the Austin American-Statesman from whose archives I grabbed this. Since newspapers had a larger subscription base back then, it's not a stretch to say 2 million people read this little article.

I'm posted it here because I was shocked to see someone got away with trademarking Dammit Doll. Basic research tells you that name and the doll dates back many decades. If someone wants to call this guy on the trademark, here's your proof!) Oh, if you want to make your own, here's the pattern!

DATE: March 5, 1989
PUBLICATION: Austin American-Statesman

TEMPLE (AP) - A retired City of Temple employee has found a cure for the everyday stresses of the working world and it comes in the form of the Dammit Doll. Inez Hargrove has shared her secret - the Dammit Doll - with a number of current city workers. The odd-looking doll has a triangular-shaped head, a scruffy mustache and a handy instruction manual.

"When you want to throw the phone or kick the desk and shout, here's a little Dammit Doll that you can't live without. Just grasp it firmly by the legs and find a place to slam it. As you whack its stuffing out, yell Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!" the instructions read.

Hargrove started giving the dolls as presents after getting the pattern from a friend who made them for a church fund-raising event. They became so popular she went into business.

"I always say it's not a cursing thing," she said. "You're just taking your frustration out on the doll and saying her name - Dammit, Dammit, Dammit!"

The strange creatures have popped up on desks all around the Temple Municipal Building. "When you want to say things and you can't, you just beat that thing," said Mary Goad, administrative assistant in the planning department. "You get it out of your system. I hit my desk with it."

Laura Doughty, a city legal secretary, has sent about 20 of the dolls as gifts to friends in faraway places like Montana, Tennessee and Illinois.

"There was once that I grabbed it and started beating it," Doughty said. "It made me laugh. It keeps things light and things shouldn't always be serious in life."

The little stress relievers have become such a hit that Hargrove can't keep up with the orders from friends and friends of friends. She has sold about 100 of them, each made in about 2 1/2 hours and sold for $5.

"I just think it's something people enjoy," Hargrove said. "I've never seen anyone take it in their hand and read it that didn't laugh."

She even gave one to her church pastor who displays it proudly in his office. "I guess we Baptists just have more slang than other people," she said with a grin.

The secret to the doll's construction is extra stuffing in the head and legs that are limber enough to provide a good grip, she said.

"You hit it on the back of the head," Hargrove said. "I haven't got a report of anyone beating them up (to destruction) yet."

Here are two letters to the editor that later appeared in the Austin American-Statesman after this article ran:

DATE: March 28, 1989
PUBLICATION: Austin American-Statesman

Doll promotes violence

Re: March 5 Associated Press story, "Dammit Doll, vent your frustrations."

What a disturbing picture - a doll that you can "slam" around in order to vent your frustrations. This was the story we read March 5 - the same week we heard about the man convicted of murdering a baby by "slamming" it against a wall or by "fierce" blows to the head. If we, as a society, do not begin to recognize our problems with violence and learn more positive means of dealing with our frustrations, I believe we can only expect to see more and more violence.

If Inez Hargrove, who makes and sells the Dammit Doll, wants to do something with her time, now that she is retired, she should volunteer to help out in a children's program or at the local battered women's shelter -maybe then she will understand what violence is doing to our society.

San Marcos

DATE: April 12, 1989
PUBLICATION: Austin American-Statesman
COLUMN: Letters

Dolls redirect abuse

Re: Roxanne McKimmey's March 28 letter, "Dolls promote violence."

If it weren't for Dammit Dolls, then we would use real-life dolls - our children or husbands, wives, family pets, etc.; beat them black and blue, and like the song Dear Mr. Jesus, we would write: "Dear Dammit Dolls, I didn't mean to slam you at all, but my kids are screaming and my husband has the flu, and I'd rather use you than make them black and blue. Please help me, Dammit Doll, on those days when I want to climb the wall. Because you see, I don't want to hurt anyone at all."

Suggesting that Dammit Dolls promote violence is as absurd as saying that little boys who play with G.I. Joe dolls will grow up and want to spend their vacations in El Salvador.

We do have one complaint against Dammit Dolls. When are they going to make a Spanish version for Hispanic people to vent their frustrations?

So we say let the senior citizens make the Dammit Dolls and have fun in whatever way they choose. For if we all don't take life a little more lightheartedly, we may all end up victims of abuse.