©South Bend Tribune -- September 15, 1999 PHOTO

Bobby Williams of South Bend has a Pillsbury Doughboy collection.

His interest in Doughboy rises

Tribune Correspondent

Everyday, sixth-grader Bobby Williams walks into Madison Elementary School in South Bend wearing one of his 14 Pillsbury Doughboy T-shirts and carrying his Pillsbury Doughboy backpack. With a collection of more than 200 Doughboy items, it's no wonder his friends so fittingly call him "Doughboy.''

Bobby started his collection 2 1/2 years ago when he spent his afternoons at the Carousel Children's Center after school.

A vinyl, hollow doll caught his attention.

"They finally gave it to me after a year of wanting it,'' Bobby said of the Doughboy that remains his favorite to this day. It was just the beginning.

Bobby's next move was getting on the Internet and searching for more Doughboy collectibles. With his father's help, Bobby obtained the majority of his collection through the Internet, but it certainly wasn't the only source.

"I got some from Spencer Gifts and at the Lighthouse (Place Outlet Center) mall,'' Bobby said. "I also have teachers and friends who give them to me because they know I like them so much.''

It helps that Bobby's friends and family encourage his collections.

"It's a good hobby, and I'm glad he takes an interest in something,'' Bobby's mother, Anne Mannix, said. She pointed out that although they encourage and help Bobby, his interest in the Doughboy came from his own imagination.

It's an active imagination, too. Bobby created, wrote and animated a comic book featuring the Doughboy when he was just in the fourth grade. With his father helping, they scanned the images Bobby drew into their computer and made copies that Bobby was able to share with other children at school.

Bobby's collection contains other homemade items, including about 20 clay Doughboy figures. One of his favorite homemade items is a blue and white T-shirt he created.

"I drew a picture of a really strong Doughboy and took it to a printing company, and they printed it on a shirt for me,'' Bobby said. "The shirt says 'DBW' Doughboy Wrestling.'"

With a collection so unique and so extensive, Bobby wanted to share it with the world. About a year ago, Bobby and his baby sitter wrote a letter to The Tonight Show host Jay Leno, looking for a little publicity.

"I wrote about how much I liked it and how it would be good entertainment, and that I don't charge,'' Bobby said. "I told him that David Letterman was calling me, even though he's not, but he hasn't called back yet. He's missing out."