Reflections on the Frisbee

When I was growing up, the Frisbee, those flying discs made by Wham-O, were all the rage. I’d spend hours in the park with my friends throwing that disc around, more-so in high school then grade school. It was probably the only sport I was really good at. Sure, I could throw a baseball, but I couldn’t hit one, nor was I much good if it was a popup. I wasn’t much of a shooter, nor was I tall enough for basketball. I was way too small to play football. The football players were monsters compared to me. Hey, I barely weighed over 100 pounds. I could have BEEN the football.

But Frisbee? I was king. I could throw it with precision. I could catch it, making spectacular dives and rolls, coming up and firing it off again! But back then, it was just a kid’s game of catch. There were no organized sports for the Frisbee. In fact, back then it was a game for the counter-culture. Burnouts played Frisbee, so it wasn’t really taken seriously.

Now they have Ultimate. It’s a non-contact sport that mixes some of the best features of soccer (didn’t know it had any good features), basketball, American football, and netball (whatever that is). It’s played worldwide in over 50 countries. If your interested in learning more, go to the official website Whatisultimate.com.

And of course, there’s Frisbee Golf.

Anyway, what got me thinking about this was, I was looking for an activity for my Cub Scouts to do at the next meeting and found they had a belt loop for Ultimate, with no explanation of what it was. For all I knew it might have been that fighting style they have on TV. So I looked it up.

I learned it the Frisbee game played by thousands, but in looking it up I also discovered that the inventor of the Frisbee, Fred Morrison, had died two months ago and I hadn’t heard anything about it. So I felt I needed to give a shout out to the man who gave me the only physical activity I was ever any good at.

Fred was born on January 23, 1920. He was a fighter pilot during WWII and learned a bit about aerodynamics there. He hit upon the idea of a flying disc in 1937 when he and his girl friend were throwing a popcorn can lid around. Soon he realized pie pans flew better and they started selling them as “Flying Cake Pans” on the beach.

After the war he started work on serious development of a flying disc. His original sketches called it the “Whirlo-Way.” An investor helped pay for it to be made into plastic molds and it was named the “Flyin-Saucer,” to cash in on the UFO craze of the 1950s. Soon Fred figured out how to mold it cheaper and he and his wife designed the “Pluto Platter.”

In 1957, he sold the marketing rights to Wham-O, a company that until that time was only marketing the Wham-O Slingshot (I guess when the missile hit the target it made the sound WHAM-O!). Later Wham-O would be known for creating the Hula Hoop, Slip ‘N Slide, the Water Wiggle, the Super Ball, Silly String, among other toys known by kids the world over.

Wham-O originally marketed it under the name Pluto Platter, but the next year they changed the name to Frisbee, which was a takeoff on the Frisbie Pie Company, because many kids were already familiar with that name, having played with the pie tins. Fred was granted a patent for his flying disc design and he allegedly earned more than $1 million in royalties.

The sales of Frisbees has reached well over 200 million.

Fred’s wife, Lu, died in 1987. Fred passed away just a short while ago on February 9, 2010.

Oddly enough, Fred once said, “I never liked the name Frisbee. I thought it was stupid.”

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