I have something in common with one of the greatest (and simplest) toys ever invented. I am talking about the Slinky. No, I am not wiry nor am I a contortionist, but I do walk down stairs. The big thing we have in common is that we entered this world in the same year, 1943, of course in different ways.
Got some information out of book we purchased at the flea market, entitled “Whiz-Bang Wonders From the Good Old Days” by the House of White Birches. A navel engineer, Richard James, knocked a spring off his work bench when he was making a meter for a battle ship. That gave him the idea, after watching the spring dance around. I must admit, going from war items to toys is a giant leap in the right direction. Don’t you think so?
Richard and his wife Betty spent the next two years working out the details. Then in the 1945 Christmas season, they were able to demonstrate it in the Gimbel’s Department Store in Philadelphia. They sold 400 Slinkys during the 90 minute demonstration. Because of this success, they founded the James Spring & Wire Co.; later in 1956 its name was changed to James Industries. They estimate that 250 million have been sold world wide.
Betty took over as CEO in 1960 and moved production to Hollidaysburg, PA where Slinkys are still produced today using the original equipment designed by Richard, who died in 1974. Poof Toys bought the Slinky brand in 1998 and Betty James was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame in 2001.
I had and played with Slinkys when I was a kid, and my kids played with Slinkys. I am sure that kids today still play with them. The reason for its popularity seems to me to be its simplicity. It was up to you to figure new and different places and ways to get it to work. No batteries, no programming, no multiple pieces to get lost, no assembly required, just remove it from the box and it was ready to go. The only limitation was your own imagination.
Now how many of you had one? I bet most everyone did. Does thinking about Slinkys bring back any special memories?
You all have a good day now, you hear?