We’ve all seen Frisbees; plastic discs floating through the air. For years, the Frisbee has been a favored pastime when at the beach or at the park. Why? Because it’s simple, it’s fun, it can involve any amount of players from 2 upwards; at any skill set, from a lame slow-paced toss-about to a competitive, high-octane sporting pace. But where did it come from, and how long has it been around?
1) The idea for Frisbee came from throwing a cake pan
A man called Walter Frederick “Fred” Morrison was on a beach with his girlfriend Lucille in 1937. The two had finished a picnic when they started tossing a popcorn can lid to each other. It soon became dented. So, instead, they switched over to a cake pan, which they discovered flew much better, and it was more durable and resistant to denting.
2) A family offered money for a go on the cake pan
A year later, Fred and Lu were on a beach in Santa Monica, California, again tossing a cake pan to one another after a picnic; as had become their hobby. They looked like they were having such a good time that they were approached by somebody else on the beach who offered them 25 cents for the cake pan, so that they could have a turn.
3) The couple started a business, selling cake pan on L.A.’s beaches
This set an idea running in Fred Morrison’s head – that if someone was willing to pay a quarter for a flying disc, then there must be a market for it that he could tap into. The couple started a little business on the beaches of L.A. where they sold ‘Flyin’ Cake Pans.’
4) Morrison became a prisoner of war in WWII
Morrison flew a P-47 Thunderbolt in Italy in World War Two. This position taught him something of aerodynamics, which would come in useful later in his life. During the war, he was shot down, and was kept for 48 days as a prisoner of war.
5) The first plastic design was called the Whirlo-Way
The year after the war ended, Morrison designed the world’s first flying disc, which he called the Whirlo-Way. Fast forward a couple of years and Warren Franscioni, an investor, paid for molding Morrison’s design in plastic. They ditched the name Whirlo-Way, though, and marketed it as the Flyin-Saucer instead (inspired by the Science Fiction comics of the time).
Sadly, the Flyin-Saucer didn’t take off, and Morrison and Franscioni parted ways following poor sales.
6) The next design, Pluto Platter, was a success
In 1955, deciding they could make another disc more cheaply, Fred and his wife Lu designed the Pluto Platter, which looked much more like the modern discs you see today! They managed to sell the rights to the Wham-O toy company in 1957, who went ahead and started producing the disc and marketing it across the States.
7) College students named it ‘Frisbee’
Although Wham-O stuck with the name Pluto Platter at first, they discovered that college students in the Northeast were actually calling it ‘Frisbee,’ so by June 1957, they renamed it and started marketing it as the Frisbee – the brand we know and love today.
8) The International Frisbee Association
In 1964, Whamo-O hired Edward Headrick as vice president of marketing, and it was his idea to market the Frisbee as a new sport – and that’s when the sales really took off!
Headrick founded the International Frisbee Association and began establishing tournament standards for the sport. 1972 saw the Canadian Open Frisbee Championships in Toronto, and many other sporting events followed, all revolving around the flying disc!
When he died, Headrick was cremated and his ashes were cast into memorial Frisbee-shaped discs, which were given out to family and friends.
9) Hall of Fame
In 1998, the Frisbee took its place in the National Toy Hall of Fame, which is a prestigious library reserved only for the most loved and treasured toys and games.
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