Wondering about wild grapes

Monday, June 13, 2011

Wondering about a simple toy that made it big.

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?


  1. I saw one made out of plastic and it just seems wrong.

  2. I had one of the first out but having no staircase was quickly bored. The last time I had one was about 25 years ago and I had two. I made them into an adjustable, loaded dipole antenna for my radio.

  3. Frann, Plastic just does not get it. . .

    Oldfool, they actually make antennae like that. They are great for recieving but should be run through a match-box for transmitting. Are you a HAM also?

  4. Slinkys and Lincoln Logs were a large part of my youth.

  5. Like Barney, Lincoln Logs Slinky's and even two erector sets!!

  6. Barney, yep and don't forget the Tinker-Toys. Could build a lot out of them.

    Ben, Liked all that and American Bricks, too.

  7. When I was a little kid, they seemed like magic. Then I wanted to figure out how it worked, and it was physics. Cool, all the same.

  8. I think the most important thing we all seemed to have in our childhood was imagination!

    Nearly everything became a toy when viewed by a child with a good imagination!

    BTW, I still keep a Slinky around for the grand kids! They seem to love it and play with it a lot!

  9. Sixbears, I like magic and I like physics, so got to love the Slinky.

    HJ, That is the trouble with modern toys, they don't let the child use his or her imagination. Heck, my kids prefered the box the toys came in.

  10. I think kids still like to play with the boxes. What I hate about modern toys is that everything talks. Good Lord, you can't even think with all the chatting between the toys.

    I don't remember having a slinky but my kids played with them (and I probably played with the slinky when the kids went to bed.)

  11. I even had one here in New Zealand but I don't think they were called by that name...

  12. Gypsy, kids don't get a chance to use imagination anymore and their toys talk back to them.

    Keith, You guys rename everything down there, don't you :-) Yep, they were sold world wide.

  13. The obligatory slinky joke:

    Some people are like Slinkies . . . not really good for anything, but you still can't help but smile when you see one tumble down the stairs.