Abe Lonnie

Thirty-five years ago, the hottest item for Christmas was unavailable.

In 1983 before ebay, Craig’s list and Abilene Buy, Sell and Trade, Cabbage Patch Kids were simply sold out at stores.

Each kid came with a name. One didn’t just buy a Cabbage Patch Kid, they adopted it. Proud new parents “registered” their adoption by filling in the form enclosed in the box the doll came in.

Finding one for my 5-year-old daughter as Christmas approached was just not possible.

By the end of 1983, the first year of the dolls, almost 3 million Cabbage Patch Kids were adopted but the demand still had not been met. The Cabbage Patch Kids went on record as the most successful new doll introduction in the history of the toy industry.

In December of 1983 the doll was featured on the cover of Newsweek.

By late December a store chain located in Abilene, of course that would be Alco-Duckwall, came through.

David Hayes, a buyer for Alco, announced that Alco received 1,200 dolls and 50 of the sought-after dolls were going to be available four days before Christmas at Store No.1 which was the one in Abilene, now Shopko.

“They were the hottest thing since the Hula Hoop,” said the store manager.

The dolls which were going to sell for the regular price of $22.88 was broadcast on the news state-wide.

People started lining up at the door at 7:30 a.m. for a 9 a.m. store opening that Thursday morning, Dec. 22, three days before Christmas.

Abilene Police Chief Fred Garten was on hand just to make sure the mob didn’t get out of hand.

Before the doors opened, it was obvious to the estimated 100 shoppers that not everyone was going to get their hands on the precious dolls which were stacked in a pyramid at the rear of the main aisle in the store.

You can guess what happened.

When the doors opened the mob pushed and shoved its way down the aisle when suddenly someone slipped, or was shoved. She fell into the center of the stack of dolls and the beloved babies went flying everywhere.

“In 13 years as a buyer I’ve never seen anything like this,” Hayes told the Reflector-Chronicle reporter covering the event. “I don’t think anyone got hurt so maybe it was just good clean fun.”

He said the sale of Cabbage Patch Kids in Junction City, Hutchinson and Manhattan stores would be handled differently.

“I don’t think it took a minute,” Garten said. “They didn’t even have a chance to look at them.”

While the reporter for the newspaper covering the story had the opportunity to grab one before the doors opened, as did other news media covering the event did, he did not.

Eventually, however, his daughter, well, my daughter Robin, was given her own Cabbage Patch Kid which we still have in the toybox. His name is Abe Lonnie. He hasn’t aged a bit!

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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