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Delaware County Daily Times from Chester, Pennsylvania • Page 48

Delaware County Daily Times from Chester, Pennsylvania • Page 48

Chester, Pennsylvania
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DELAWARE COUNTY DAILY TIMES Thursday, November 25,1976 'Slinky' brainchild of former countian Slinky, the worm-like coil toy that has fascinated children all over the world for the past 30 years, was the brainchild of a former county resident. Richard T. James, a marine engineer who lived in Chester Heights from 1926 to 1939, designed the toy as he sought during World War II to perfect a spring that would keep sensitive instruments on U. S. warships free from vibration given off by gunfire and propeller shafts.

The idea for a toy that would walk down steps actually came to him by accident. He had tried and tested hundreds of springs of different sizes and tensions and made a habit cf piling them on his desk at the Cramp Shipbuilding Co. One of the springs was accidentally jarred loose by impact one day in 1942 and began a slithering motion. It caught James' eye and he sensed the commercial possibilities of such a toy. He immediately obtained a government patent but it wasn't until the summer of 1945 that he decided to back up his idea with every cent of his savings.

He found a machine shop that would make the stack of coils and ordered all that he could afford. He called his firm James Industries and for several years was located in Clifton Heights. The plant is now in Hollidaysburg and remains in the family. It wasn't easy to sell the Slinky idea to businessmen, as James soon discovered. One storekeeper, informed that the toy could walk down stairs, snapped to James: "This is the atomic age in toys.

Kids want big, bright, fancy things with lots of color and lights. An old beat up spring! We couldn't give that thing away if it played God Bless America and picked the daily double at Hialeah as it walked down the steps." But James persisted and in Baxter (Bon) Ladomus, who for many years was Chester's city engineer, took the first moving pictures in Chester, according to the late Chester F. Baker, a prominent Chester historian. In a 1937 letter possessed by the Delaware County Historical Ladomus took first movies Society, Baker wrote that Ladomus took his movies and exhibited them at fraternal and organization meetings. No dates are mentioned but the films were of an early vintage.

"They were principally of the fire departments it in action," Bak horse-drawn home and wrote. Ladomus had seven or reels of film, one of which showe how the Chester Fire Department and its horses responded to alarm. Swiss term Stores Richard James, in one of his last photos, is shown with fabric of cable resembling his Slinky. November of 1945 he got a tcy buyer in a department store to give him space on the end of a counter to demonstrate the toy. The toy caught on like wild- fare.

Every child that passed seemed to plead with parents for one of the contraptions. More than 400 were sold at the outset, 20,000 before Christmas and more than a quarter million the next 12 months. Millions have been sold in the ensuing years. Samuel James, a brother employed at Wolff's Apple House on Pennell Road, Middletown, says his brother was the type of person who could always get things done. "I remember a Sunday morning hike in Chester Heights when Richard found an old abandoned 1923 Buick car," he said.

"He was only 13 years old at the time but he was determined to fix up the car. It was full of wild cherry seeds and mice. It was a mess. But he got it to run and he sold it for $25." The Slinky, now brightly painted and still enjoying wide popularity, is simply a ribbon of steel 79 feet long, wound so the loops have zero tension or compression a condition in which the loops would as soon fall together as apart. When idle, Slinky resembles a stack of piston rings.

The toy enabled James to realize a childhood dream of becoming a wealthy man the time he was 40. But that fortune, James told the Chester Rotary Club in May of 1956, had only brought him sorrow. He told the Rotarians he had finally turned to the Bible and found fulfillment. James, who attended the old Chester Heights grade school and was graduated from Penn State College in 1939, resigned as president of the toy firm in 1960 and wen to Bolivia to work for the Wycliffe Bible Translators. Much of his wealth was spent in erecting churches and doing other missionary work in that part of the world.

In 1969 he turned to a Bolivian copper ore firm for employment. He died in Bolivia July 15,1974, at the age of 56. Tragedy at hotel Pet tiger claws inn owner to death Of all the colonial taverns that flourished in Delaware County none had a more tragic event than the Black Horse Hotel. James Pennell, one of many proprietors of the historic inn in Middletown, was clawed to death in 1794 by his pet tiger in full view of his patrons. Pennell had been a taver- nkeeper in Chester for many years and had become quite popular with his animal act.

There were no traveling animal shows in those days and the tiger performance attracted large crowds. Pennell had owned the animal for several years and took great pleasure and pride in exhibiting his control over the beast. He could make the tiger perform many novel tricks. He became the Black Horse Hotel proprietor in 1793 and continued his tiger act there. on iliis particular day in 1794, while showing off the tiger to patrons, he taxed the beast beyond its patience.

The great cat sprang upon him in anger and before he could be rescued the animal had torn him so violently that he died within a few hours. The Black Horse Hotel, established in 1739 by William Noblitt, once stood on the northeast side of the cloverleaf carrying Middletown Road across Baltimore Pike. The location in colonial days was described as the juncture of the Baltimore Turnpike and the old Edgmont Road, known as "the great road leading from Chester." Crowning the crest of one of the highest points in Delaware Police paid $12 a week Policemen in Chester 100 years ago were paid $12 a week for day work and $14 a week for night work. They also had to buy their uniforms and even supply their own "locusts," or sticks. The policeman's lot since then has improved considerably.

The starting salary is about $225 a week and uniforms, guns and nightsticks are provided. County, the Black Horse Hotel enjoyed great popularity in the days before Media became the county seat and transportation was largely by team and stagecoach. It was noted for the quality of its food and the comfort of its lodgings. It was a popular stopping place for farmers from Coatesville, Lancaster and other points who brought their wagons to Chester in the spring to cart home hundred of succulent shad packed in ice and straw, to be cured for winter use. Public sales of cattle were held often at the inn.

Every Feb. 22 there was a great rendezvous in which farmers vied to display the fattest beef and the finest pork. The Black Horse consisted of some 300 acres, and the pastures often were filled with oxen, dairy cows and steers. Chester was then the judicial seat and back-country folks often stayed at the Black Horse after settling legal entanglements. Early fox hunts were held at the Black Horse in the years before the Rose Tree Hunt Club became famous.

The hunter's horn, it is said, sounded the call there for some of the greatest fox hunts ever held in the county. In wintertime, the merrymakers would come in sleighs for a supper and dance. The Black Horse probably had its greatest prominence as a political center. The great historic meeting "to take into consideration the propriety of removing the seat of justice to a more central position" was held there. This meeting resulted in the removal of the county government to Media.

In its heyday, the Black Horse was the favorite convention place of all political parties. At one time, the tavern was the polling place for Middletown, Edgmont, Concord and Upper Providence townships. Historians say politics eventually doomed the Black Horse, that "it fell into disuse as a political rendezvous, and gradually dwindled into desuetude." The ONLY MILK DELIVERED FRESH EVERY DAY 7 DAYS A WEEK DIRECT FROM THE COUNTRY TO YOU! I SMCIAL GOOD THKU NOV. 28 GRADE URGE EGGS 79 MZ. WE RESERVE THE RIGHT TO LIMIT OUMTITIES I PURE FLORIDA 9 CONVENIENT LOCATIONS OPEN 7 DAYS A WEEK 9 A.M.

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