Emeryville, California (EastBayDaily) — “It is extraordinary to see such a simple and fundamental product continue to evoke the passions of kids and adults alike over the course of so many years,” said Mojde Esfandiari, WHAM-O’s President and CEO. “The Hula Hoop has inspired millions of children and adults to express themselves in new and imaginative ways, and will forever have its place as a part of pop culture, embodying the entrepreneurial spirit that pervades American history.”
The use of hoop-like objects dates back to Ancient Egypt when children played with large hoops of dried grapevines, but it was not until the 1500′s in England, when the first official “hooping” craze hit western society. Over three centuries later, the term “hula” was first connected with the hip-shakin’ hoop when British missionaries explored the Hawaiian Islands during the 18th and 19th centuries and noticed a striking similarity between the swaying hip motions of the hula dancers to the motions of an individual using the popular hoops.
In 1957, an Australian company began making wood rings, which were sold in retail stores. The rings attracted the attention of WHAM-O founders Richard Knerr and Arthur Melin, and they decided to manufacture a plastic hoop in a variety of bright colors. Knerr and Melin spent the first few months in 1958 promoting the new Hula Hoop on the playgrounds of Southern California where they gave away hoops and “wowed” the local children and their parents with demonstrations of their gravity-defying toy.
Within months of the Hula Hoop’s unveiling, the entrepreneurs’ simple hoop had ignited the greatest fad the country has ever seen, and during the first four months after its introduction, WHAM-O sold more than 25 million Hula Hoops. The demand for the Hula Hoop continued to grow at such a rapid rate that in 1958, even though WHAM-O was producing 20,000 hoops per day, WHAM-O halted production of its other toys in order to produce more Hula Hoops to keep up with the demand.
The Hula Hoop craze swept across the nation as people of all ages clamored for the hoops that became more than just a toy. The Hula Hoop quickly grew into a cultural phenomenon that went hand-in-hand with the hip-gyrating, rock ‘n roll and bebop music of the time, to the point that Japan banned the hoops thinking they might promote impropriety and the Soviet Union called the Hula Hoop an example of the “emptiness of American culture.”
Having sold more than 100 million hoops in the first year, the craze of 1958 began to fade and in 1965, WHAM-O re-launched the Hula-Hoop with several ball bearings trapped inside its hollow tubing to create the “Shoop-Shoop” Hula-Hoop, named for the sound made by the tiny ball bearings as they raced around the hoop. The sound instantly became synonymous with the Hula-Hoop.
While the Hula Hoop is still a staple of playtime, it has evolved to become a sporting good and a method of exercise as well as a form of self-expression in many ways. As a true testament to its time-tested popularity, the Hula Hoop is featured as one of the exercise activities on Nintendo’s recently released Wii Fit.
In addition to the Hula Hoop’s 50th year, 2008 also marks the 60th year since childhood friends and University of Southern California college students Arthur “Spud” Melin and Richard Knerr founded WHAM-O as a leading designer/distributor of innovative, high-quality recreational activity products. Six decades later, WHAM-O continues to provide endless hours of affordable, creative, interactive outdoor fun through its iconic line-up of imaginative toys that includes Hula Hoop®, Slip ‘N Slide®, Frisbee®, SuperBall® and Hacky Sack®, to name a few.
ABOUT WHAM-O, INC.
Headquartered in Emeryville, California, WHAM-O, Inc. has provided children and adults with innovative, imaginative toys that spark creativity and encourage social interaction and get kids playing for 60 years. Founded in 1948, and inheriting its name from the sound that its flagship product, the WHAM-O Slingshot, made when connecting with its target, WHAM-O, Inc. continually redefines the concept of fun by remaining simple, uncomplicated and without age boundaries. WHAM-O, Inc. makes simple, fun, affordable, interactive products for all seasons. The company’s rich history and solid reputation for innovation, quality and value, makes WHAM-O, a dominant force in today’s toy and sporting goods industries, and includes category leading brands such as the Original Slip ‘N Slide, Frisbee, Hula Hoop, Hacky Sack, and SnowBoogieâ¢. WHAM-O also, is the exclusive licensee for SEA-DOO and SKI-DOO inflatable water and snow tubes, towables, islands and pool products. WHAM-O, along with its other brands MOREY and BZ Bodyboards, CHURCHILL Fins and Riva Snowboards, designs and manufactures a core of more than 70 products that are carried by virtually every toy, sporting goods and mass retailer in the world. For more information please visit http://www.WHAM-O.com or call toll free 1-888-WHAM-O-50 (1-888-942-6650).
Will Ostedt/Monica Ballin
The Pollack PR Marketing Group