Our upper story resident has peered stoically out a second floor round window overlooking Coconino Street in Ahwatukee Custom Estates since 1992.  She is, effectively, in retirement.
The first indication that our upstairs resident was attracting an undue amount of attention came as 2002 drew to a close.  Late one Friday evening, I heard scuffling noises in the driveway in the front our our garage.  I peered out the window to the study which looks onto the drive.  There crawling up the drive military style was an adolescent boy.  He appeared to be casing the house--but his attention was directed only at the round window on the second story loft which overlooks the drive and the street.  When he caught sight of the opening shutters at the window, he suddenly jumped up and ran to the street.  He hopped into a car filled with other teens and they sped off into the darkness.

The object of his attention was a shadowy feminine figure which has resided in our second story for over a decade.  That figure is, in fact, a mannequin.  She has stood at the top of the stairs leading to a loft overlooking our family room for over a decade.  If one walks up the stairs not expecting to see anyone in the loft, she can be a startling figure.

Once our lady's startling appearance nearly cause her to get shot.  When our alarm system was new, we used to experience a number of false alarms.  The police would be summoned by the alarm company.  At the same time, we or a designee would be summoned to provide access to the home.  Before letting anyone in, the police would enter the home and check to be sure that no prowlers were inside.  One Phoenix officer told of having his weapon drawn as he checked the premises after dark.  As he reached the top steps of the loft stairs he was suddenly confronted by an eerie figure towering above him.  He later said that our lady was such a surprise that he came precariously close to firing at her.

Aside from the occasional false alarm, our lady lived in obscurity for years.  On Halloween she would dawn a witch's hat and wig.  The occasional trick-or-treater would remark about the shadowy figure, but otherwise she would go unnoticed.

At least we thought she was going unnoticed.  At some point, rumors began to circulate among high school students.  "A strange woman is always staring out a window...she never moves...she must be paraplegic."  Overactive teen minds have no doubt imagined worse.  "Is she held captive?"  "Has she done anyone in?"

On Friday and Saturday nights, traffic through our neighborhood picked up.  Cars with teen drivers would slow passing our house, or even stop and stare.  The bolder teen might ring the doorbell and ask about the lady in the window.

One evening in February, 2003, four girls from Corona del Sol High School in Tempe knocked on our front door.  They asked to see our upstairs resident with giggly exuberance only teen girls can muster.  She graciously posed for a picture with her fans.

Four girls from Corona del Sol High School in Tempe dropped by to pose with our lady in the window.  2-03.

In June 2003, we went on a short vacation.  Wary of the attention our lady was receiving, we didn't want anything untoward happening in our absence.  We moved her a few feet from her normal position so that she was no longer visible from outside.

Her absence was noticed.  On our return, we found a note on our front door:  "To whom it may concern:  Please -- bring her back!  We like her.  Thx."

When we returned from vacation, we found this note on our front door.  6-03.

 

Five visitors from Gilbert meet our lady in the window.  7-03.

 

A couple of the Gilbert guys get up close & personal.  Please--no tongue!  7-03.

 

The Mode Ltd department store purveyed high fashion from the corner of 8th and Idaho Streets in Boise for over half a century. The store closed in the 1990ís and its fixtures and mannequins were sold. Today, the Mode building is a collection of specialty stores and restaurants.

Decter American Mannequin was founded in 1924.  For three quarters of a century, they designed and manufactured premium quality visual merchandising equipment, including most notably, mannequins.  Decter had over 3000 proprietary molds, which were used to make mannequins in factories in Los Angeles and China.   In 1999, Silvestri Studio acquired Decter, and continues to market the Decter line along with the Silvestri models.

Our mannequin is model number J369W from Decter's "JR MS Collection,"  which was copyrighted in the early 1970's.  The mannequin was patterned after a live model, and cast in fiberglass from molds which long since been destroyed.  Optional wigs for the Decter models were styled by Suzanne Victor who was Decter's stylist at the time this collection was created.  She sold for approximately $525.

The Mode Ltd. acquired our mannequin sometime in the 1970's.  There she would wear the latest in fashions in a career which spanned the better part of two decades.

Every day hundreds of admiring spectators would cast their eyes on her and seek to emulate her look.  On occasion she would stand in a giant picture window where passersby might be enticed to come into her building.

Her high fashion career came to an ignominious end early in the 1990's.  In 1992, The Mode had closed its doors. The store's fixtures and equipment, including a small community of mannequins, were offered for public sale.

That was when the lady and I met.  I was traveling to Boise with my wife and step mother for my father's funeral.  Although he had lived for many years in Phoenix, it was his desire to have a Masonic funeral in the town where my family lived when I was gowning up.

My nephew met us at the airport.  Practically the first words out of his mouth were, "Uncle Eddy, you have to see this."  In Boise, I was still "Eddy", a kid's name that I shortened about the time that I left for college.  He brought a clipping from the Idaho Daily Statesman advertising the liquidation of The Mode department store.  The featured items included the store's collection of mannequins.

I don't know why he thought I would be interested in a department store mannequin, but it did pique my interest.  Later in the week we visited the store.  On the second floor the entire family of female mannequins was huddled in a corner.  They were all naked, all thin, bordering on anorexic, and all were without wigs.  They gave the disturbing impression that they might be about to be sent to the gas chambers.

We chose our lady because she was in excellent condition, and had the most natural pose.  Apparently, the more suggestive the pose, the more likely shoppers will be enticed into purchasing the clothing displayed.  We then proceeded to hair collection and chose the one that fit her best.  The liquidation purchase price, as close as I can recall, was in the $150 to $200 range.

Since we were boarding our plane for the return trip to Phoenix early the next day, the immediate problem became how to get our purchase back onboard.  I was not about to pay for another seat, and even if I did, she was not articulated and could not sit.

Her hands and arms can be removed, and her head and upper torso can be separated from her legs and buttocks.  Thus disassembled we were able to fits her into two reasonable sized cardboard boxes.  We had no packing, but we had a generous supply of unpopped popcorn.   Late into the evening we popped popcorn and nestled our future houseguest in edible packing.

The next morning, we arrived at the Horizon Air counter at the Boise airport with two cartons of body parts.  Although one of the boxes was 2 inches in excess of the maximum size allowed for checked baggage, Horizon accepted our "luggage," and we were  on our way home.


Sources:

Joe at Northwest Mannequin, 6318 E. Greenlake Way Seattle, WA 98103, USA, (206) 522-7292, http://www.nwmanikin.com (nwmanikin@msn.com) identified our mannequin as a Decter model made in the 1970's from picture emailed to him.  06-12-2003.

Gloria Sotelo, Customer Service Manager for Decter American Mannequin Division of Silvestri California, answered our email inquiry, giving information about the manufacture of our mannequin, info@silvestricalifornia.com.  6-26-2003.

__________, Decter American Mannequin A Division of Silvestri California, http://www.fashionwindows.com/mannequin_companies/decter.asp, accessed 06-12-03.


This page was last revised on 05/22/07.