The first time I saw a Frisbee coming towards me, I ended up seeing stars. That is because I did not have the presence of mind to step out of the way of the flying disc. I knew it was coming straight for me. My mind was busy filling in the blanks. I was sure a mini unidentified flying object, better known as acronym U.F.O., was finally making a public debut and it had chosen a nine year old yours truly as its spokesperson.
After my Dad and a few surrounding friends revived me, the older youths who were flying the U.F.O. around came by to apologize. I was a little embarrassed, but I could not take my eyes off the disc. They saw my interest and asked me and my friends if we wanted to join in. So begins my adventure with the U.F.O., I mean, the Frisbee.
Today, there are many flying disc games that use the Frisbees as their recreational product. Some famous flying disc games are Disc Golf and Ultimate. The more widely known flying disc games have standardized rules and international followings. These games, popular as they may be today, would not have been possible were it not for a cake pan and two lovers at the beach.
The Frisbee is proudly distributed by a Californian (USA) toy company known as “Wham-O Inc.” Other popular recreational products Wham-O distributes are the Silly String, Hacky Sack, Boogie Board, and Hula Hoop, just to name a few. Richard Knerr and Arthur “Spud” Melin were unhappy College graduates who started a toy company in 1948.
Earlier in 1938, at Santa Monica beach in California, Fred Morrison was “flying” a cake pan at the beach with Lucille, his future wife. They were paid 25 cents for the cake pan by another beach goer who wanted to toss the cake pan as a game as well. This accidental invention was quite lucrative since a cake pan in 1938 cost only five cents.
After World War II, Morrison worked to improve the flying disc which he dubbed the “Whirlo-Way”. With business partner, Warren Franscioni, the Whirlo-Way was renamed the “Flyin-Saucer” after sighting reports of U.F.O.s circulated in 1948. By chance, they overheard that the flying disc could be made to hover in the air using wires. Morrison added the latter to their product.
By 1955, Morrison came up with a new model he named the “Pluto Platter” when he formed his own company, American Trends, and used a cheaper and more flexible polypropylene plastic. He bought the original moulder from a company called Southern California Plastics. Finally, in 1958, Morrison received the U.S. Design Patent D183,626 for the flying disc, which he had sold earlier in January 1957 to Wham-O.
Around this time, Richard Knerr of Wham-O started calling the flying disc “Frisbee” when he learned that some college students were calling it by that name. The Northeastern college students named it after a Connecticut pie manufacturing company “Frisbie Pie Company”. Morrison was displeased with this name but after receiving roughly two million dollars in royalty payments, he told Forbes Magazine in 1982 that “[he] wouldn’t change the name of it for the world.”
It was not until 1964 when the Frisbee became a phenomenon after Wham-O’s General Manager and Vice President, Edward “Steady Ed” Headrick, marketed the first professional model. Headrick’s redesigns included adjusting the rim thickness and top of the Frisbee so that it became possible to throw accurately and stabilize disc flight.
Since precision is now possible, the Professional Model Frisbee entered the market, and soon Frisbee became a sport under U.S. Patent 3,359,678. At Headrick’s request, his ashes were moulded into Frisbees for family and close friends. He founded “The International Frisbee Association” (IFA) and became known as the father of disc sports.
The next time you are on a date and headed for the beach; make sure you take along a Frisbee. If you did forget, remember that a cake pan does the trick, too. Have fun!