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Dolly Parton is a sweet and warm celebrity, but she wouldn’t have reached her level of success without a calculating side. It seems that she had this trait long before she reached fame. Parton explained that when she was younger, she spent a lot of time with her grandmother in the hopes of getting presents out of it. She shared the kinds of tasks she would perform. 

Dolly Parton wears a white lace dress and crystal earrings.
Dolly Parton | David Becker/Getty Images

Dolly Parton grew up in the Smoky Mountains

Parton grew up in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, living in a two-room home with her parents and 11 siblings. She explained that the family was poor but happy.

“We always made jokes and said we didn’t even know we were poor till some smart aleck up and told us,” she told Today. “We didn’t have any money, but we were rich in things that money don’t buy. You know, like love and kindness and understanding.”

Parton moved to Nashville at 18, but she has such fond memories of her childhood home that she bought and restored it to look like it did when she was young.

She had a ploy for getting more presents growing up

Parton said she didn’t often have toys when she was growing up.

“We had nothing, we had no toys, no clothes,” she told The Washington Post in 1989. “When we used to get the catalogs, my momma always called them the wish book. She didn’t like us to look at them, ’cause it just made us wish for stuff we didn’t have, but I used to look at those catalogs, all those clothes, all those dolls and all those toys.” 

Though her parents couldn’t purchase the items Parton wanted, she found a way around this. When she realized her grandmother liked to order from the catalogs, she deliberately began spending more time with her.

“My Grandma Parton was bedridden and I was about the only one of the kids who liked to stay with her and carry out her bedpan and brush her false teeth and things that other kids would not want to do, but I liked to stay with her ’cause she was big on ordering things from the catalog,” she explained.

She added that her love of ordering things lasted into adulthood. 

“I’m just a sucker now for mail-order stuff,” she said. “Like those gift catalogs on the plane, I have to not get it out of the back of the seat. If I see it, I think I want it and I’ll have a list this long before I get off the plane. It’s just junk, but I get so excited waiting for the mail to come.”

Dolly Parton doesn’t have grandchildren of her own 

Parton and her husband, Carl Thomas Dean, do not have children of their own, she helped raise some of her siblings. Her nieces and nephews refer to her as Aunt Granny, and she thinks of them as her grandchildren.

“I grew up in a big old family with eight kids younger than me and several of my brothers and sisters came to live with me early on in my life,” she told People. “I’ve loved their kids just like they’re my grandkids, and now I’ve got great-grand-kids!”


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She explained that not having children allowed her to behave maternally to many people.

“Now I’m GeeGee, which is great-granny,” she explained. “I often think, it just wasn’t meant for me to have kids so everybody’s kids can be mine.”