It's strange what sometimes pops into my brain. The other day, for no apparent reason at all, I remembered this weird "toy" I had as a child in the 1970s. It was a "Pickled Person" and consisted of a strange misshapen head made out of a pair of panty hose stuffed with cotton, and then smushed into a jar with a cork on top. Between my Pickled Person, my Pet Rock, and my Sunshine Family dolls, I was, through and through, a child of the 70s.
I have searched online and cannot find much about Pickled People other than some originals you can still buy on various auction sites. I did stumble upon a really interesting exchange on flickr from 2007, through which I learned about the company that made Pickled People—Clifton, New Jersey-based RNC Creations.
First, a user named Plaid Pony Vintage posted a couple of photos of Pickled People, along with this explanation:
I don't know how widespread the Pickled People phenomenon was, but there was a restaurant we would go to for dinner when I was a kid that had a whole shelf of these in the gift shop and I really, really, really always wanted one (pleeeeassseee Mom!). They're pantyhose dolls stuffed in a jar for whatever reason, and I think they pretty much paved the way for the Cabbage Patch phenomenon. This one is from 1978.
Luckily, the tag on the Pickled Person jar in the photo is easy to read. Here's what was written on the tags that accompanied Pickle People:
Why Pickled People? Because! Because everybody needs someone they can count on, someone thy can tell their troubles, their secrets, their dreams to. Pickled People are always ready to listen. They seldom yawn or fall asleep, and never ever interrupt or talk back. For all the joy and benefits of having a pickled person around they are surprisingly easy to care for.
The Care and Feeding of Pickled People This is the best part! Pickled people don't need food or water, just lots of love. They do need to be dusted occasionally, and like to sit on window sills in the sun. But not on rainy days because it plugs up the cork and they have trouble breathing.
May we be the first to congratulate you and your chosen Pickled Person and wish you both many many years of joy and devotion.
RNC Creations, PO Box 643, Clifton, New Jersey, 07012
A user named smknek, who signed their response "Nora K., Clifton, NJ" replied with this wonderful description of the company where she had actually worked:
You're probably not going to believe this, but I was the [only] secretary working for this company for the first 3 years of its existence! The CEO was a young man (23 years old!) named Richard, from Clifton, NJ. The premises where the Pickled People were assembled was in Belleville, NJ. Richard distributed the materials (knee-hi's, little boys' crew socks, felt "eyes" and stiff paper tags with strings — jute, I guess) to a few local women at their homes, where they would stitch and glue and tie, etc. One of those women was the mother of my then-boyfriend (now my husband), who eventually went to work at the building in Belleville. I was lucky enough to be hired as Richard's "corporate secretary to the President" of RNC Creations, Inc. at the age of 21. Pickled People (as well as Pickled Love — 2 in one jar — and Pickled "uglies" — not their official names, but big ones in gallon-sized jars that were not always the cutest People) were manufactured, assembled and shipped worldwide by a handful of people from 1978 for maybe 5 or 6 years (I left in 1981 to work for a lawfirm).
I was AMAZED to find this photo of yours a few days ago. I'm so curious to know where the restaurant was where you saw them as a kid! I dealt with all of the customers and have some fond memories (like the store in GA where we shipped some last-minute Pickled People for Christmas; the owner sent me a box of chocolates as a "Thank You"! Isn't that amazing?).
I'd love to hear from you — let me know where you saw the Pickled People!
Four years then passed, and another user responded, and stated that her mother used to make some of the dolls! She explains:
My mother was one of the women that made these and I remember helping her as a child if anyone would like more information, please feel free to contact me at [email redacted]. Btw, if someone has one for sale, please let me know, as it would mean a great deal to me if I get one to remember that time by.
It was really cool to walk down memory lane and learn so much about Pickled People. Let me know if you remember them, too–I'm super curious!