Wham-O Co-Founder Richard Knerr Dies at 82

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The Associated Press
Friday, January 18, 2008

ARCADIA, Calif. -- Richard Knerr, co-founder of the toy company that popularized the Hula Hoop, Frisbee and other fads that became classics, has died. He was 82.

Knerr, who started Wham-O in 1948 with his childhood friend Arthur "Spud" Melin, died Monday at Methodist Hospital after suffering a stroke earlier in the day at his Arcadia home, his wife Dorothy told the Los Angeles Times.

Knerr and Melin got their start in business peddling slingshots. They named their enterprise Wham-O after the sound a slingshot made when it hit its target.

They branched into other sporting goods, including boomerangs and crossbows, then added toys that often bore such playful names as the Superball, Slip 'N Slide and Silly String.

When a friend told them in 1958 about a large ring used for exercise in Australia, they devised their own version and called it the Hula Hoop.

Around the same time, they bought the rights to a plastic flying disc invented by Walter "Fred" Morrison, who called it the Pluto Platter. Wham-O bought the rights and renamed it the Frisbee.

The rest is amusement history.

"If Spud and I had to say what we contributed, it was fun," Knerr told the Times in 1994. "But I think this country gave us more than we gave it. It gave us the opportunity to do it."

Melin died in 2002 at age 77.

Besides his wife, Knerr is survived by three children from a first marriage that ended in divorce, two stepchildren, and eight grandchildren.

Services will be private.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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