Sunday, January 20, 2008

Life without the Shoop-Shoop

In case you missed it, there was an obituary in Friday’s New York Times about a man who had a large and lasting influence on many childhoods, including mine. His name was Richard Knerr, and he co-founded Wham-O in his garage with his friend Spud Melin.

Try to imagine an American childhood, particularly in the 1960s, with no Shoop-Shoop Hula Hoops? Mine was pink. Or no SuperBalls- my brother constantly risked my mother’s wrath and broken glass by throwing their SuperBalls in the house. And what about the Frisbee? My college diploma is in the shape of a Frisbee (or so it’s said; my alma mater is nicknamed Frisbee U., too, but that’s not a favorite of anyone who went there). What about the American dog? Who of us hasn’t thrown a dog spit encrusted Frisbee to a leaping hound? And if not played with, at least seen the TV commercials for the Slip ‘N Slide and Silly String?

We would have none of these experiences or memories with Knerr

The Times obituary (link above) also mentions some of Wham-O’s less successful products, including a $9.95 mail order mink coat, and a $119 DIY bomb shelter. My personal favorite is their first: they developed a slingshot “to hurl meat to their pet falcons to train them.” Why didn’t Knerr and Melin live on my block?

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