Richard Knerr, the co-founder of Wham-O, the originators of Hula Hoops, Super Balls, Frisbees, Silly String, Hacky Sacks, and Slip ‘N Slides has died at age 82. He and his longtime friend Spud Melin founded Wham-O in 1948 to market slingshots. But it wasn’t until 1958 when they heard about a bamboo ring used in Australia for exercise and their business took off.
Without seeing one of these Aussie exercise devices they devised their own and made it out of Marlex. Then they re-wrote the book on product marketing, giving away free to kids who mastered them, had salespeople take them on planes, and generally did everything possible to create buzz. Soon their new product, the Hula Hoop, was the biggest fad to ever hit America.
Wham-O didn’t stop there. They went on to become heroes to hippies everywhere when they brought the Frisbee and the Hacky Sack to the market. They defined summer entertainment for kids (and drunk college students) when they introduced the Slip ‘N Slide. They seemingly defied the laws of physics and redefined bubble gum machines when they developed the Super Ball. Along the way they entertained countless people with reasonably-priced, innovative toys. Basically, if there was a Nobel Prize for toys, Knerr and Melin would get it.
So rest in peace Richard Knerr. I hope like the Egyptian Pharaohs they buried you with all of your toys to keep you entertained on your journey over the River Styx.
Classic commercials for Wham-O toys after the jump.
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