HOLLIDAYSBURG - Slinky icon Betty James is remembered as a pioneer in Hollidaysburg with a legacy fit for Broadway.
Betty (Mattas) James, co-founder and former owner of James Industries Inc., the maker of Slinky Toys, died Thursday evening at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, Philadelphia.
''She was an icon in the community because of that business,'' Blair County Commissioner Diane Meling said. ''What kid didn't grow up with a Slinky?''
Betty (Mattas) James, co-founder and former owner of the maker of Slinky Toys, died Thursday in Philadelphia. (Courtesy photo)
James, 90, of Hollidaysburg was born in Altoona, graduated from Altoona High School and attended Penn State University.
In 1945, she co-founded what would become the Slinky empire with her husband, the late Richard James.
She took over management of the company in 1959, moved it from Philadelphia to Bellwood in 1961 and then to Hollidaysburg in 1965.
She retired in 1998. Today the company is called POOF-Slinky Inc.
The mother of six received numerous national, state and local accolades, honors and awards, and was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame in 2001.
In 1962, Tom Cureton of Barton-Cureton Advertising said James hired the ad company to promote what is today the official state toy of Pennsylvania.
Months ago, Cureton said he gave James the final script of a Broadway musical based on the life of his friend, including how her husband left her and their children to follow a religious cult to Bolivia, prompting her to take over the company and its eventual move to Hollidaysburg.
Cureton said the show has two acts, is a little more than two hours long and contains 29 songs. He and Bob Brabham, who filmed the Slinky commercials, wrote the script and Brabham and his daughter Becky wrote the lyrics and music.
Before she moved the factory - with the help of Bill Ward Sr. of Ward Trucking - closer to home, her son Tom said, James left her kids with a caregiver Sunday evenings to drive to Philadelphia to run the business until Thursday, when she returned home. He said his mother was a kind business woman.
''They adored her,'' he said of the people who worked for his mom. ''She was very strong.''
Local business leaders remember her fondly, as well.
She was a ''very good business mind and yet a very elegant lady,'' said D. Stephen Martz, former chief executive officer, president and chairman of Hollidaysburg Trust Co.
He said she was one of the first women to have a nationally-known business and often supported her community anonymously. The business world and the community suffered a loss with her passing, he said.
Borough Manager John Little said James was a pioneer in her field and POOF-Slinky Inc. continues to contribute to the area.
''We appreciate her and all the good she has done in the borough of Hollidaysburg,'' he said.
Hollidaysburg Mayor Joe Dodson also referred to James as a pioneer, as well as great human being, mom, grandmother and asset to the community.
''She was a nice person,'' former Hollidaysburg Mayor Jim Shoemaker said. ''We thought a lot of her.''
Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Clegg is at 949-7030.