WHAM-O! RIP Richard Knerr » Teeny Manolo

WHAM-O! RIP Richard Knerr

By raincoaster

A childhood classic, never to be forgotten:

Let us pause in our busy blogging day to commemorate the truly iconic Richard Knerr, founder of the archetypal toy company Wham-O, maker of those childhood classics the Frisbee and the Hula-Hoop, who died today at the age of 82. The world may never see his like again.

Or get rid of all this damn plastic, neither.

With his boyhood best friend, Arthur “Spud” Melin, Knerr started the company in 1948 in Pasadena. They named the enterprise Wham-O for the sound that their first product, a slingshot, made when it hit its target.

A treasure chest of dozens of toys followed that often bore playful names: Superball, so bouncy it seemed to defy gravity; Slip ‘N Slide and its giggle-inducing cousin the Water Wiggle; and Silly String, which was much harder to get out of hair than advertised.

When a friend told Knerr and Melin about a bamboo ring used for exercise in Australia, they devised their own version without seeing the original.

They ran an early test of the product in 1958 at a Pasadena elementary school and enticed their test subjects by telling them they could keep the hoops if they mastered them.

They seeded the market, giving hoops away in neighborhoods to create a buzz and required Wham-O executives to take hoops with them on planes so people would ask about them.

Wham-O soon was producing 20,000 hoops a day at plants in at least seven countries, while other companies made knockoffs. Within four months, 25 million of the hoops had been sold, according to Wham-O.

In the 1985 book “American Fads,” Richard A. Johnson wrote that “no sensation has ever swept the country like the Hula Hoop.”

Ah, but 1985? That was before Beanie Babies, wasn’t it? All they had back then were bloody Pet Rocks!

Okay, to tell the truth I never mastered the use of either of these damn things, and my dog was the only one in the park chasing an old-skool ball rather than a Frisbee. I am still in therapy dealing with the time I was in a fitness class and my friend laughed at me saying, “If you can have sex you can use a Hula Hoop!”

Which may be true, for all I know.

To be sure, the Hula Hoop is a delightful toy, but can someone explain to me why Amazon is offering them for $162.00? Are they made from mammoth ivory and sprinkled with authentic pixie dust? I’m thinking back to what my friend said and wondering if Hula Hooping is not perhaps a whole lot more fun than I was led to believe? For that you could charge this much…

Hula Hoop

3 Responses to “WHAM-O! RIP Richard Knerr”

  1. Glinda Says:

    I used to be really good at the Hula Hoop. Now, not so much.

    My poor husband! ­čśë

  2. BarkingDogShoes Says:

    Thank you Mr. Knerr for hours of summer fun in the 70’s. I cut myself thrice on the tattered edge at the end, slipped and knocked the breath out of my lungs at least 10 times and kissed my first boy on the Slip and Slide.

    Remember everyone, no one over five feet should attempt it.

  3. raincoaster Says:

    A romantic interlude on the Slip and Slide? How perfect is that? I’m consumed with envy.

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