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Richard Knerr (30 June 1925 – 14 January 2008) was an American inventor best known for marketing the Frisbee and Hula Hoop. In 1948 he cofounded the company Wham-O with Arthur Melin (nicknamed "Spud"). In 1957, an Australian visiting California told them offhand that in his home country, children twirled bamboo hoops around their waists in gym class. Knerr and Melin saw how popular such a toy would be; and soon they were winning rave reviews from school kids for the hollow plastic prototype they had created.
Richard Knerr co-founded Wham-O with Spud Melin in South Pasadena, California. Their first invention was a sling shot they used to sling meat at hawks. As they did this, it created a "wham" sound, and so the name of the company was born - Wham-O. There are many stories as to how the frisbee and hula-hoop came about, but here are the facts:
The Pluto Plate Flying Saucer was originally invented by Fred Morrison out of Glendora. Richard and Spud were at the beach when they saw these pie plates being thrown around. They contacted Mr. Morrison and bought him out of his idea. They then manufactured the plates into plastic and marketed them as the Pluto Plate Flying Saucer. Not many sold. They sat in their garage on LeDroit in South Pasadena, and had newspapers spread around to keep the floor clean while they worked on their product. One of the comic strips was called, "Mr. Frisbee" and they decided to name their product "Frisbee". Once they put it on the market, it sold more than all the "balls" combined (basketballs, baseballs, soccer balls, etc.).
The hula hoop was not a result of somebody coming to America, but rather Spud going to Australia. There he came across people using an exercise hoop and brought the idea back to the US, manufactured it and then gave it to the kids in the neighborhood to see what they would do. The result was them twirling it on their arms, necks, and hips (looking like they were doing the hula).
Richard never insinuated to anyone that he "invented" these toys, but was rather a master marketer. He was often heard saying he was the "originator" of the frisbee and hula-hoop. He loved kids, and spent his life making toys they would love.
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