Thursday, December 11, 2008

a maven of mirth worth remembering.

With a name as plain as Betty James, you'd never guess she came up with a name as world-renowned as Slinky.

Betty James named her engineer husband's toy creation 65 years ago; by Christmas 1945, the Philadelphia Gimbels department store had sold the first 400 models within 90 minutes at the price of $1 a piece.

According the Associated Press:

[James] beat the odds as a single mother in the late 1950s to become a successful executive . . .. She took over management of James Industries, Inc. 14 years after the company was founded, after her husband left her to follow a religious cult in Bolivia. Richard James died in 1974.

Initially, James would leave her six children with a caregiver from Sunday through Thursday while she oversaw operations in Philadelphia. But in 1965, she moved the company to her hometown of Hollidaysburg, [PA], where, though sold in 1998 to Michigan-based POOF Products, Inc., it remains today.

By the time of her death November 20, 2008, at the age of 90, Betty had been inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame, and over 300 million Slinkys and Slinky variations had been sold in her lifetime. In a 1995 AP interview, she offered her perspective on the classic toy's spectacular success:

"I think really it's the simplicity of it," Betty explained. "There's nothing to wind up; it doesn't take batteries. I think also the price helps. More children can play with it than a $40 or $60 toy." Even now, Slinkys retail for only about $4-5.

And who can ever forget the catchy Slinky jingle? Here you go, kids of the '70s (love the carpeting):

And here's my favorite faux commercial, clearly derived straight from the Slinky original (no disrespect intended to the dedicated, ingenuous, persistent, successful and fun Ms. James - just had to share):

No comments: