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Hula Hoop turns 50Posted Saturday, June 28, 2008, at 2:53 PM
I can't believe it's been 50 years since I first tried to get my hips to swivel inside that plastic ring! If I had kept it up all these years, I'd certainly be in better shape than I am now.
According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Hula Hoop was invented and developed by entrepeneurs Richard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin. Knerr died earlier this year; Merlin, his boyhood friend, died in 2002. It seems that their invention was based on a similar toy that had been popular in Australia.
The two men started a company called Wham-O, which sold 100 million Hula Hoops the first year they were on the market. Even in the late fifties, the $1.98 suggested price was considered reasonable. There was reportedly a Hula Hoop for every two Americans in those simple years.
One thing I found funny was that the former Soviet Union banned the Hula Hoops, labeling them symbols of the "emptiness of American culture." Ha! Who's laughing now, Kruschev??
I'm not sure when the round piece of Americana went bust, but it very nearly took Wham-0 with it, before they came up with another perennial favorite - the Frisbee, the favorite toy of my border collie Sassy.
Wham-0 stopped manufacturing Hula Hoops (storing their enormous supply in a warehouse somewhere, I gather) until 1965, when the two developers came up with the idea to add ball bearings in the cylinder to make a "shooshing" sound! Haha! That's the one that I found down in the basement... (I'm sure I haven't had it since 1958!)
Wham-0 is also the marketer for the popular Slip 'N Slide, which absolutely beat the stuffing out of my kids when they were young!
There's something sweet and innocent about a toy which requires no batteries, has no mechanized voice blasting at you, no viewing screen - and has to employ a kid's hips, hands, feet, etc... In other words - a toy that has to be operated!
Lori Gregory, Knerr's daughter said, "My father always believed the more simple a toy was, the better it was. If he brought home a toy and we couldn't figure out how to play with it, he figured it wasn't any good."
Well, Happy 50th anniversary, Hula Hoop! I'm sure you'll be around several hundred more years with roller skates and Slinkies!
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.