Richard Knerr started Wham-O with a boyhood friend, Arthur “Spud” Melin, in 1948 in Pasadena. I always wondered how they named the company and according to the LA Times: “they named the enterprise Wham-O for the sound that their first product, a slingshot, made when it hit its target.”
The biggest item from Wham-O’s product line was the Hula Hoop. It was the iPhone of its day, with people standing in line in front of stores to get one in 1958. The partners had made it big with the Frisbee, then someone told them about bamboo rings used for exercise in Australia. Without even seeing this thing in action, they built plastic versions and “tested” them with kids in nearby schools, letting the kids who mastered them keep the hula hoops. Then Wham-O! (sorry) the Hula Hoop was huge.
If you are of a certain age, most of Wham-O’s products filled your childhood days: The Frisbee, the Superball, Slip ‘N Slide, and Silly String (now used to help soldiers find booby traps in Irag). Gawd I loved my Slip ‘N Slide! It made hot summer days fly by.
Thank you Mr. Knerr for years of fun.
Mr. Knerr was born in San Gabriel and lived in Arcadia. He suffered from a stroke and was 82.