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The Hula Hoop 51 Years Later

YDNEY, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 30: Eli Green ‘Hula-Hoops’ during the dress rehearsal for ‘Barely Contained’ by Circus Oz at the Circus Oz Big Top at Tumbalong Park on December 30, 2009 in Sydney, Australia. The popular circus troupe will perform the show in January as part of the Sydney Festival 2010. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

When was the last time you used a Hula Hoop? Hard to believe but after 51 years the Hula Hoop is still going strong.  This simple toy was the answer to every parents dream. A durable, lightweight, safe toy that would keep kids occupied for hours. Over 25 million were sold in its first four months on the market.

Hula History and “Wham-O”

Arthur “Spud” Melin and Richard Knerr are responsible for this nationwide craze. In 1948 they founded a California company, and strangely enough, their first invention was a sling shot device to shoot meat up in the air to teach their falcons how to hunt.

They decided to name the company Wham-O after the sound the slingshot made shooting the meat at the falcons. From slingshots they moved on to boomerangs and other sporting goods.

Then in 1957 they hit the market with their first big idea. They patented a flying plastic disc that they originally called “The Pluto Platter” since there was a huge interest in UFO’s at the time. Eventually the name was changed to “The Frisbee.”

Hula Hoops in Australia

On a visit to Australia, Melina and Kneer saw Australian school children playing with wooden hoops around their waists during a school gym class. The two decided that using the hoop looked a little like a Hawaiian hula dance so they originally named it the “Hula” and the marketing department added the “hoop” later. While the Hula Hoop was first introduced and sold in 1958, it wasn’t patented until this date in 1963. They first introduced and demonstrated the Hula Hoop on Southern California playgrounds and the fad was off and running.

Popularity

While everyone has heard of the Hula Hoop it’s popularity died quickly. Perhaps with 25 million sold in the first month they could have reached market saturation. People moved on to the next big thing but kids growing up remembered the fun of a hula-hoop and continued to buy them for their children. So the hoop has endured and sold consistently over the past half century.

Guinness World Records

Two people in Tokyo, Japan, who were able to handle one of 13 feet, 4 inches, spun the largest hoop. They had to spin it around their waists at least three times each for the record.

In 2004 a Big Apple Circus performer in Boston spun 100 hoops at once. There are hula-hoop and Frisbee competitions all over the US. Someone even invented Frisbee golf.

Some Final Thoughts

Wham-O has been very successful over the years by coming up with innovative low cost toys that kids love. Some of their other money makers are the Superball, Water Wiggle, Silly String, Slip N’ Slide, and the Hacky Sack.

It’s really simple. If your children don’t have a Frisbee or Hula Hoop you are a bad parent. So get in the car, head to the toyshop and pick up these little pieces of history. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself having some fun with them too.

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