November 29, 2008
— Open Blog A toy story.
Tragedy: Betty James, co-founder of the Slinky Company passed away last week. Its old news by now, being last week and all.
The story has a kind of a weird twist though. Seems her husband, co-inventor of the Slinky, ran off to join a religious cult in Bolivia at some point in time, leaving Betty to run the Slinky empire.
HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa. - Betty James, who co-founded the company that made the Slinky and beat the odds as a single mother in the late 1950s to become a successful executive, has died. She was 90.
In 1945, James and her husband at the time, Richard, founded the company that would later make Slinky, the toy for which she was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame in 2001.
Hundreds of millions of Slinkys have been sold worldwide. James explained the classic toy's success in a 1995 interview with The Associated Press.
"I think really it's the simplicity of it," she said. "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."
Of course, there was always the matter of two specific problems. 1) The Slinky had a bad habit of getting all tangled up, particularly when you threw it at someone. Say, for example, your younger brother. And 2) It had limited entertainment value if you lived in a single story house with no stairs. Watching the Slinky go over a 6 inch curb in the front yard was entertaining for exactly never.
But RIP to Mrs. James anyway. The article doesnt really tell us about the fate of Mr. James, except that he died in 1974. Probably due to cannibalism.
More toys below the fold.
I was always partial to Lincoln Logs.
But who could forget this?
And who wouldve ever suspected that WicketPinto was tricking out his Big Wheel with miniguns at the age of five?
Add your own toy stories in the comments.
Posted by: locus ceruleus at November 29, 2008 02:41 AM (e2mBS)
But the story of another brother puking cranberry-orange relish out his nose on Christmas night is probably better.
Posted by: Herr Morgenholz at November 29, 2008 02:41 AM (kVujF)
Posted by: dfbaskwill at November 29, 2008 02:41 AM (ympAm)
OMG! What a blast those were! We lived out in the country. We had a long dirt road through the woods from the highway to our front yard, that ended in a great big circle driveway. One year my little brothers each got those (bc I had a real bike), and my baby sister got a smaller girl version. We raced those things around and around that driveway. What fun! I seem to remember that the same year they got those, they also got machine gun (toys) that made this great sound and also made sparks when you pulled the trigger. So att 3:30 Christmas morning I woke up (and more importantly Mr & Mrs Clause (aka Mom and Dad) woke up) to the wonderful sound of machine guns going off and big wheels driving around and around in our house! My brothers (of course) had done a commando raid of the Christmas tree and found their spoils a wee bit early! Somehow Mom and Dad were able to get them back to bed, w/o spoiling the Christmas joy! THAT was a very fun Christmas!
Confession - I was obssessed for a few weeks with getting a house with stairs so I could slide down the banister and ply with slinkies!
God bless you Mrs James!
Posted by: freetofly at November 29, 2008 02:56 AM (NLExP)
Posted by: freetofly at November 29, 2008 02:56 AM (NLExP)
Posted by: Fish at November 29, 2008 03:04 AM (6Rihj)
Posted by: 'Big Jim' in Texas at November 29, 2008 03:10 AM (iO+UE)
Posted by: East Bay Patriot at November 29, 2008 03:28 AM (t/GDA)
Posted by: alexthechick at November 29, 2008 03:31 AM (RQaRb)
My favorite toys of the age were Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, Lionel Train, and the classic Aurora Model Car (Racing) Set.
Mostly we played outside baseball and football. Something kids dont seem to do much of anymore.
Posted by: Vic at November 29, 2008 03:36 AM (Qd7GC)
Posted by: dfbaskwill at November 29, 2008 03:42 AM (ympAm)
Mr Potato head
GI Joe (the big ones)
and regular simple blocks.
Posted by: csdeven at November 29, 2008 03:50 AM (8cxzy)
Hmm. There's a couple sets up for sale on ebay right now.
Posted by: lauraw at November 29, 2008 03:50 AM (DbybK)
Posted by: MamaAJ at November 29, 2008 04:02 AM (X6Zdh)
Sure, gently arcing jarts across the lawn was entertaining.
Me and my neighborhood morons preferred the overhand-pitch death matches though. Moms just don't understand the pure entertainment value of dragging your buddy into the house bleedin and watching the fun when everybody freaks.
Posted by: Dave in Texas at November 29, 2008 04:09 AM (VEBC3)
Posted by: Lt. York at November 29, 2008 04:14 AM (u3pgy)
"Your message has been rejected because long strings of unbroken text are very annoying. Use the space bar or tinyurl.com as appropriate."
Now that's annoying, especially since the comment is lost in cyberspace.
Posted by: Pelayo at November 29, 2008 04:16 AM (nw+cE)
Posted by: alexthechick at November 29, 2008 04:18 AM (RQaRb)
Posted by: chemjeff at November 29, 2008 04:18 AM (VLxln)
Posted by: batteryguy at November 29, 2008 04:20 AM (WhoZn)
Posted by: JohnJ at November 29, 2008 04:27 AM (mNH8S)
I got a Stretch Armstrong when I was about eight and immediately set about trying to test his limits. Those things are filled with goo, by the way.
I got an original Transformer when I was about ten and since the instructions were so poor had it broken by the end of Christmas Day. Cool toy, but not so much fun to play with.
I used to have a Dukes of Hazzard remote control Hot Wheels raceway. Freakin' sweet.
Nerf pool table. Looked like way more fun in the ad.
Posted by: Caustic Conservative at November 29, 2008 04:30 AM (FoAvW)
Once upon a time society was not preoccupied with political correctness and toy guns looked real and were fun. In the dark ages of the 40s and 50s, we falsely believed that firearms were incapable if causing harm by themselves. Now, due to the efforts of the Brady folks and others like them we know that guns have an intrinsic evil and have been known to turn children into teenage killers and gangbangers. This evil can be contained by coloring toy guns bright yellow or orange.
The Nichols guns actually had a two part bullet and loaded like a real handgun.
Posted by: Pelayo at November 29, 2008 04:35 AM (nw+cE)
Tinkertoys! And you didn't notice if a few pieces were missing.
BTW: bright yellow and orange Nerf guns don't have to look real to feel real. My son and his dorm buddies have continuous gun fights with toy weapons that shoot darts at about a bazillion a minute. Awesome for zombie wars!
Posted by: katya at November 29, 2008 04:45 AM (G3frc)
Posted by: Millions of kids with scissors at November 29, 2008 04:53 AM (DbybK)
Thundershift 500, baby! Waaay more fun than electric slot cars. I also had a Wheel-O and a spirograph. What the f*ck was up with that long skinny piece? That shit never worked.
Posted by: Hurricane Mikey at November 29, 2008 05:15 AM (OmIEH)
Posted by: EC at November 29, 2008 05:20 AM (1RqzW)
Posted by: Jean at November 29, 2008 05:23 AM (HVRSA)
I got hand-me-down Barbies from my sister and GI Joes from my brother. One Christmas I got the Big Jim Sports Camper and the Evel Knievel action figure with the motorcycle. That was teh awesome!
Was Big Jim just a knockoff of GI Joe or was he just something more masculine than Ken? I didn't get the Big Jim figure, just Evel. Wearing the fringed white suit, of course.
Posted by: roamingfirehydrant at November 29, 2008 05:29 AM (X+tXI)
Posted by: politicalmuse at November 29, 2008 05:32 AM (kLKnf)
One toy from those days that I never got tired of playing with were these water rockets, only mine were made of clear red and blue plastic. I was surprised to find that they're still sold, despite the numerous do-it-yourself sites that detail how to make water rockets out of PET bottles.
Speaking of do-it-yourself, when my dad returned from his tour of duty in Viet Nam, he helped me make one of these tennis ball cannons (when we fired ours, we held it in our hands though). I loved it because it was pretty simple to make and it involved lighter fluid and fire, but mostly because it involved lighter fluid and fire. Twenty some odd years ago during a Fourth of July block party, I showed my sons and the neighborhood kids how to make one and it was the hit of day.
Posted by: NM Hick at November 29, 2008 05:49 AM (STXJ7)
My favorite toy firearm: The Magumba gun.
It had a 4x detachable scope with a focus ring.
It had a bolt action and internal magazine just like a real rifle.
Fired realistic looking plastic bullets. They flew fast and were accurate, too.
Could fire caps.
Came with a semi-auto pistol that also fired bullets from a magazine.
I also loved my Johnny Reb cannon, of course.
Posted by: Tinian at November 29, 2008 05:54 AM (Ohodx)
Posted by: Wyatt Earp at November 29, 2008 06:00 AM (xQ52y)
The favorite of girls
Posted by: pc at November 29, 2008 06:07 AM (S7zPk)
Of course nothing opened new avenues of discovery quite like your first chemistry set.
maybe a little sugar to keep from blowing your hand off
Posted by: pc at November 29, 2008 06:18 AM (S7zPk)
Posted by: Frank G at November 29, 2008 06:33 AM (P0rQD)
I got teh Schwinn Sting Ray banana seat five speed shift ... in yellow for my 8th birthday.
Which made up for the fact that my parents got me a 27" thin tired road bike from a yard sale for my first bike... because I was tall for a 7yo. It took me about two months to learn to ride that fucker. All my friend were riding across curbs, lawns, doing wheelies ... I was not. The turning radius on that bike was so long I had to make three-point turns and it felt like I as about four feet off the ground.
The cable-remote triceratops robot toy rocked.
As did Hot Wheels track. Not so much for the Hot Wheels.
But because you could have slaptrack fights with them. The only rule was flat side hits ... no edgies.
Posted by: BumperStickerist at November 29, 2008 06:43 AM (8WOzU)
The question of the day is the Neil Cavuto test for the economy. Those folks who went out yesterday; how as the business? Were the parking lots full and overflowing, as they normally are the day after Thanksgiving. Was there waiting for seats at the good restaurants?
Per Cavuto that is the test of a good economy. The doom sayers are all wrong if the malls are crowded and you cant get a table at the eateries.
Posted by: Vic at November 29, 2008 07:04 AM (Qd7GC)
Remember Click-clacks? They were GLASS balls on the end of strings that you waved aroung to get them to click at the top and bottom of the arcs. They shattered and had to be recalled. But we had them!
Also - are you old enough for the toodleloop? I had a white one!
Posted by: Zelda Starr at November 29, 2008 07:08 AM (OLbi5)
Those of you who are looking for those old classic toys like Lincoln logs and tinker toys The Vermont Country Store carries them. But be warned, they are as cheap now as they were in the 50s.
Posted by: Vic at November 29, 2008 07:09 AM (Qd7GC)
Posted by: Vic at November 29, 2008 07:12 AM (Qd7GC)
Posted by: Zelda Starr at November 29, 2008 07:20 AM (OLbi5)
Nothing like sending the Slinky walking down the stairs. And playing with the Whee-lo.
Posted by: icus at November 29, 2008 07:20 AM (mOFr4)
The James Bond 007 briefcase was awsome. Contained a pistol with a "silencer", scope, shoulder stock, day-glo orange bullets that it really fired, business cards (for the 8-year-old world traveling spy), knife and cap gun built into the case, secret combination locks. Why Mom saved that toy for me, I'll never know.
Posted by: BackwardsBoy at November 29, 2008 07:22 AM (ZGhSv)
Best gift ever--hot pink banana seat bike with a white plastic basket trimmed with flowers on the handlebars. We'd go up this really big hill and then coast down reeeeeeally fast and half the time end up in the creek (pronounced crick). Also street hockey sticks, but I bet kids aren't allowed to play in the street anymore. Also we'd go to houses that were just being built, and jump from the first floor to the basement. I don't know how we didn't kill ourselves. Also, we'd play Nazis and GI Joes and Spies (girls had to be spies).
The Chrissy doll was kind of neat--long hair, short hair, etc., until the button broke and then you had a choice--long hair or scissors.
Posted by: ushie at November 29, 2008 07:23 AM (XWJh5)
I must say that my brother, the neighbor kids, and I playing out platoon-size combined arms attacks against entrenched positions (courtesy of our beagle), with one side lead by a guy with a bag over his head and laryngitis, was highly entertaining for an 8 year old.
Another fun set of toys were our toy guns. Living out in the country with a Christmas tree farm to run around in with a fake plastic belt-fed M60 is always good (I think it was a tie-in with Rambo, though I don't know if it was for the second movie or the cartoon show, which is a pretty messed up concept by itself).
Posted by: Hoss Fuentes at November 29, 2008 07:38 AM (QWAKu)
Posted by: Remember the Kat-Mo! at November 29, 2008 07:44 AM (falCl)
Posted by: Shannon at November 29, 2008 07:48 AM (q0Z3p)
Posted by: Frank G at November 29, 2008 08:00 AM (P0rQD)
Damn, I just saw this advertised, and I remembered that I had one!
A Strato-Ray! And I loved Captain Video and TOBOR!
Posted by: sherlock at November 29, 2008 08:07 AM (8V5Ut)
I was a huge tomboy and thus my merriest visits from Santa resulted from lots and lots of boy-toys; baseballs, footballs, bmx bikes, basketball hoops, go-karts, cleats, tube socks, etc... Yet, there were two items which I begged for every Christmas and never received. I sooo desperately wanted a Sit-N-Spin and a microscope. Back when I was little, the school across the street from me still had those playground toys of death such as the merry-go-round, so the Sit-N-Spin might had a limited shelf life with me anyway.
One year, my mom and grandmom tried to get me to be more 'girly' by buying me a playhouse with the requisite kitchen, including a toy blender which I promptly took to school for show and tell. My mom was so happy until she realized that I had no intention of blending anything but was instead fascinated by the vortex created by it.
Why, yes I do. In fact, when I started with my current employer about 15 years ago, there were lots of extra turbo-mouse balls lying around as the damned mouses were constantly breaking. I promptly became the most annoying person in the department as I took two of the balls, wrapped rubber bands around each of them, and then took a long piece of scotch tape (folded over for strength) and created my own 'clackers'. Sure, I was annoying, but half the people in the department promptly followed suit.
I'm a born leader like that, you know.
Posted by: jmflynny at November 29, 2008 08:13 AM (Rq3XN)
But is says the Strato Ray was "chrome-colored plastic". Bullshit. That sucker was solid metal... how else could I have cold-cocked the neighbor kid with it? That's when it got confiscated, I recall. Once they take away your guns, you don't get 'em back!
I think I got a chemistry set after that: I didn't say my parents were smart, just disciplinarians. Later I managed to cadge a Daisy air rifle. Sweeeet.
Posted by: sherlock at November 29, 2008 08:14 AM (8V5Ut)
I recall finding an old Big Wheel in the woods when I was younger. we were drinking and having a fire and someone got the idea to toss the Big Wheel into the blaze. Man, those things burn awesome, numerous colors and a huge flame.
Posted by: Scott at November 29, 2008 08:22 AM (7OGBU)
Crimp-on roller skates with metal wheels and that damn skate key that seemed to always get lost.
WW2 plastic model kits of any type.
1960's Mini-Planes. http://tinyurl.com/5c7emb the Stuka Messerschmitt 109 was probably the best, most detailed model.
Posted by: 13times at November 29, 2008 08:29 AM (8mI4p)
I was always irritated by that vibrating football game where the players had green bottoms and would float in every direction but the one you wanted.
Never got past the first quarter.
Posted by: Scott at November 29, 2008 08:30 AM (7OGBU)
They had a limited fun factor so it wasn't uncommon to see a set of click-clacks hanging from utility power-lines in the old neighborhood.
Posted by: 13times at November 29, 2008 08:39 AM (8mI4p)
Posted by: Frank G at November 29, 2008 08:42 AM (P0rQD)
They're illegal in my state now. Actually illegal! Fortunately, my family has a set we bought before the nanny-state crackdown, so we can continue throwing them at each other.
Posted by: OregonMuse at November 29, 2008 08:46 AM (bMJ2V)
Posted by: Gabrielle at November 29, 2008 08:54 AM (D15UF)
The Slinky was one of my favorite toys. We had a long curving staircase in our home with hardwood treads, so I would start mine at the top and then rush to the bottom to catch it as it walked down the steps. Hey I was maybe 6 years old, don't laugh.
Anyway, the company produced a limited number of gold 50th anniversary editions and Mrs. James sent one to me to commemorate our joint birthdays.
My Mother's best friend grew up in Hollidaysburg and returned there on her retirement and reconnected with Betty James and the three of them, my Mother, Betty and my Mother's best friend were like the 3-Muskateers. My memory of Betty James is of one tough old broad, but then that describes both my Mother and her friend, Helen, so she seemed normal to me.
My gold Slinky in its beautiful wooden box always has a place of honor in my display case. Kids can look, but not touch. The ones they sell today are plastic. Yuck!
Posted by: Sara (Pal2Pal) at November 29, 2008 09:11 AM (nas9l)
You guys are killing me, such memories. Cooties, Mr. Potato Head, Lincoln Logs, Silly Putty, erector sets, all favorites. Those clip on skates were our nemesis. My Mom made me a beautiful lanyard so I could wear my skate key around my neck. Ruined lots of shoes, those did.
Besides the Slinky, I think my favorite was a simple Jacks set. We could sit on the front stoop and play Jacks for hours. Same with a good jump rope, usually purloined from the drying lines that were strung in the backyard, much to my parent's or the neighbors' dismay when it was time to hang the laundry.
TV consisted of test patterns and Howdy Doody, so we spent most of our time outside doing something active. Shooting baskets with the boys or playing tag or down at the playground on those great merry-go-rounds and the big swings. Or we would be out exploring, gone for hours at a time, building forts in the woods or playing cowboys and Indians.
Speaking of TV, though. Does anyone remember the show where you stuck this green piece of plastic to the screen and then traced over whatever they were drawing? I sent away for the green screen thing, but it didn't last very long, so I discovered that SaranWrap worked just as well and started using that.
Posted by: Sara (Pal2Pal) at November 29, 2008 09:32 AM (nas9l)
Posted by: Sara (Pal2Pal) at November 29, 2008 09:38 AM (nas9l)
Posted by: GareyNash at November 29, 2008 09:47 AM (aYHUZ)
Posted by: bob T at November 29, 2008 09:56 AM (DmlVS)
Posted by: bob T at November 29, 2008 10:01 AM (DmlVS)
"Watching the Slinky go over a 6 inch curb in the front yard was entertaining for exactly never."
You obviously never hooked one up to electricity.........
Posted by: memomachine at November 29, 2008 10:25 AM (f4Zt4)
Oooh, I'd forgotten about the chemistry set. There was a permanent patch of orange on the harvest gold carpet in my bedroom from that.
I guess my parents can feel justified since I have a career in chemistry now.
Posted by: roamingfirehydrant at November 29, 2008 10:32 AM (X+tXI)
Chemistry set. Yeah that one was a bad idea.
After I managed to whip up something that exploded all over my bedroom, on Christmas day, it went right into the trash.
Posted by: memomachine at November 29, 2008 10:34 AM (f4Zt4)
Posted by: Fa Cube Itches at November 29, 2008 10:37 AM (RWmCt)
Best toy gun ever:
There were great ones when I was a kid: plastic MG42 with looped belt of shells; M2 with an empty shell that flipped back and forth to look like spent rounds ejecting; even a smallish cannon that fired "exploding" shells that you had to reassemble (that worked about twice, then a piece or two went missing).
But the Johnny 7.....that was teh awesome.
Posted by: Fa Cube Itches at November 29, 2008 10:47 AM (RWmCt)
Posted by: rightwingprof at November 29, 2008 11:08 AM (52wuV)
Posted by: Satan at November 29, 2008 11:08 AM (4MHbz)
Anybody else have that bug-making kit where the molds were metal and you absolutely could NOT not burn yourself? I loved that.
Also loved those gunpowder strips you could bang rocks on and they'd blow up (ok, only a little, but it was cool).
Posted by: ushie at November 29, 2008 12:17 PM (Z+oOG)
I remember those and they reminded me of one of my other childhood favorites, my Hopalong Cassidy outfit. Shirt, big white hat, chaps and holster, complete with two six shooter cap guns. I begged and begged for this and much to my Mother's dismay, my Dad got it for me.
Can you even buy cap guns anymore?
Posted by: Sara (Pal2Pal) at November 29, 2008 12:54 PM (nas9l)
Posted by: ushie at November 29, 2008 01:25 PM (Z+oOG)
Posted by: scrubjay at November 29, 2008 01:37 PM (W6/1s)
YES! And I still have the scars to prove it. Man, I can still smell that plastic goo as the bugs were cooking.
Winky Dink! Now THERE was a bright idea. They took it off the market after kids forgot to put the plastic on the tv screen and began ruining TVs by the hundreds..
Posted by: ombudsman at November 29, 2008 03:02 PM (fWF4Q)
Posted by: Purple Avenger at November 29, 2008 03:25 PM (CwzFE)
Posted by: JimK at November 30, 2008 09:03 AM (Q5xuH)
Posted by: Spurwing Plover at November 30, 2008 05:24 PM (ObFiq)
You absolutely can still buy cap guns. You have a choice of the paper rolls of caps or little plastic wheels of caps. I have bought both kinds for my grandsons at Walmart in the past year. They loved them.
One of my favorite toys was "Poor Pitiful Pearl." She was an outstandingly plain looking doll, with ragged hair, dressed in a flour sack type dress and ripped long black stockings. She was trully pitiful and touched my senstive little heart. I also had Lincoln Logs, a Lionel train with an engine that smoked, the original Barbie and a Tiny Tears.
When my son was little, he found a box of toys in my aunt"s spare bedroom. He liked them, so she gave them to him as a birthday present. In the box was a complete set of full sized Howdy Dowdy marinettes. I've tried to price them but I can't even find them listed anywhere on the internet. My mother thinks they were a one of a kind promotional prize that my aunt won.
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They bring to them a lot of smile
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