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Thread: Betty James, Who Named the Slinky Toy, Is Dead

  1. #1

    Default Betty James, Who Named the Slinky Toy, Is Dead

    What a story here. Must have been quite a lady:

    Betty James, Who Named the Slinky Toy, Is Dead at 90

    By DENNIS HEVESI
    Published: November 24, 2008
    Betty James, who came up with the name Slinky for the stair-walking spring that has delighted children for more than 60 years and who ran the toy company after her husband, the inventor, left it and his family in 1960, died Thursday in Philadelphia. She was 90 and lived in Hollidaysburg, Pa., where the company, James Industries, is located.

    The cause was congestive heart failure, her son Tom said.

    Paging through a dictionary in 1944, Mrs. James put her finger on the word slinky because she thought it best described the sinuous and graceful movement and the soft sound of the expanding and contracting metal coil her husband, Richard, had fashioned.

    Mr. James was an engineer at a shipbuilding company in Philadelphia in 1943 when a torsion spring fell off a table and flipped end over end on a ship’s deck.

    “I think I can make a toy out of this,” he told his wife.

    The Jameses made 400 Slinkys and, just before Christmas 1945, persuaded Gimbels department store in Philadelphia to let them set up a ramp in the toy department. Not only could a Slinky perform serial somersaults down the ramp, but it could turn a child instantly into a faultless juggler. At $1 each, those first 400 sold out in 90 minutes.

    So far, more than 300 million Slinkys, including rainbow-hued plastic models and Slinky Dogs, have been sold, enough to circle the earth about 150 times, if stretched, which they shouldn’t be.

    Mrs. James was president of James Industries from 1960 until 1998, when the company was acquired by Poof Products of Plymouth, Mich., a manufacturer of foam sports balls. Ray Dallavecchia, president of what is now Poof-Slinky, would not disclose company revenue. Slinkys now cost $4 to $5; Slinky Dogs cost about $20.

    Betty Mattas was born in Altoona, Pa., on Feb. 13, 1918, the only child of Claire and Irene Mattas. She attended Pennsylvania State University until she met and married Mr. James. They ran the company together for 14 years.

    As successful as Slinkys have been for 63 years, there have been slumps. In 1960, with sales down, Mr. James joined what his wife considered a religious cult and moved to Bolivia, leaving her with six children and the company. Mr. James died in 1974.

    To a degree, Slinky Dog came to the rescue. The original version — a waggling spring between a plastic head and tail — was quite successful.

    Then, in 1995, a new Slinky Dog was bred. It was modeled after the version featured in the Disney computer-animated movie “Toy Story,” about toys that come to life to battle a bully who likes to torture toys. More than 800,000 of the new Slinky Dogs were sold that year, and revenue jumped 25 percent.

    In 2001, Pennsylvania legislators named Slinky the official state toy, and Mrs. James was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame.

    Besides her son Tom, Mrs. James is survived by two other sons, Christopher and Peter; three daughters, Elizabethe James, Susan Peoples and Rebekah Morris; 16 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

    Having raised six children largely on her own and also enjoying a gaggle of grandchildren, Mrs. James was adamant about keeping the original Slinky affordable. In 1996, when the price ranged from $1.89 to $2.69, she told The New York Times: “So many children can’t have expensive toys, and I feel a real obligation to them. I’m appalled when I go Christmas shopping and $60 to $80 for a toy is nothing. With 16 grandchildren you can go into the national debt.”

  2. #2
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Betty James @ slinky_e-news ...



    For the 2006 Motivation Show, held from September 26 to 28 at
    the McCormick Place in Chicago, Slinky Print's exhibit included
    special guest Betty James, Slinky® co-founder,
    wife of Slinky® inventor Richard James and
    mother of Slinky Master Tom James.


    Betty (seated) and Slinky Master Tom James (far right)
    join guests in a rousing chorus of the Slinky Song.

  3. #3
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Fun to lick, fun to play with... and fun to sing-along-with ...


  4. #4

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    So her husband turned out to be just as slinky as his invention.





  5. #5

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    Oops.

    You had one too, Lofter?

  6. #6
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Of course, as with just about everything, over the years stuff evolves ...

  7. #7

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    ...Some of them even can glow...
    ROTFLMAO!

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