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Frisbee business

Hudson Cooper
Posted 3/17/23

Recently the National Football League held their annual Pro Bowl game where the best players compete in a televised event. But if you tuned in this year you experienced a “what the heck is …

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Random Thoughts

Frisbee business


Recently the National Football League held their annual Pro Bowl game where the best players compete in a televised event. But if you tuned in this year you experienced a “what the heck is this” moment. Instead of a football game with tackling and full contact, they played a version of flag football. Each player had a flag strapped around their waist. Instead of tackling them, the play was over if the flag was pulled out. Of course, the league instituted this to prevent injuries. I started thinking that eventually they might take it one step further. Why even bother using a football? Maybe it is time for frisbee football.

Many of you have played around with a frisbee in college or at picnics. A frisbee is a disc that is used for throwing and catching. It is made out of injection-molded plastic and is about 10 inches in diameter. What makes it aerodynamically sound is the pronounced lip around its circumference. The design reduces the drag in flight and, in fact, increases the lift as it flies through the air. The simple design allows it to be aimed with accuracy and thrown for distance.

There are many conflicting stories about how the frisbee came to be. But first a little intellectual property disclaimer. The word “Frisbee” is a registered trademark of the Wham-O company. That being said, in this column I will be using the word generically. Wham-O protects their disc by having organized professional games of Ultimate and Golf precluded from using the word “Frisbee” without getting a license.

The concept of a flying disc traces its origins back to ancient Greece. There is a famous statue of a man hurling a circular object.  His name is Discobolus and might be the first to toss a frisbee-like discus. I do not know if he was a talented dancer, so I cannot vouch for him inventing the disco.

In the 1870’s a baker named William Russell Frisbie from Connecticut started a business selling homemade pies. Each pie came in a tin plate embossed with the words “Frisbie’s Pies.” Eventually a group of students from Yale discovered that the tin plates could be tossed with the flick of the wrist. With so many pie plates zipping around, they learned to shout “Frisbie” to warn of the incoming projectiles.

Another theory about the discovery of the flying disc originates from a beach outside of Los Angeles. Walter Morrison and his future wife, Lucille, decided to burn off some calories after their Thanksgiving meal in 1937. They took a tin of popcorn to the beach. Once the tin was empty, they began tossing the lid back and forth. People began watching and some joined in marveling at the flight of the flying lid. One of them offered Walter 25 cents for the lid. Walter gave the guy the lid for free. On their way back home, Walter and Lucille talked about turning this flying lid into a business. They found out that you could buy them in bulk for five cents. They started a business that existed on a local level.

The business was interrupted by World War II when Walter, a pilot in the Army Air Force, was shot down and held as a prisoner of war. After the war, Walter tinkered with the design and invented an improved version of the popcorn lid that was more aerodynamic. He named it the “Whirlo-Way” after a famous racehorse of the time. His company began producing the first plastic flying discs in 1948. They renamed them the “Flyin’ Saucer” perhaps joining in the UFO craze that enveloped the country after the incident in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947.

In 1957 the Wham-O company bought out Morrison’s business. They renamed the flying disc “Frisbee” having discovered that it was the popular name used by the students at Yale.

So, if winter ever gives up its grip and spring arrives, grab a group of friends and find an open field to toss that disc around and yell “Frisbee!”

Hudson Cooper is a resident of Sullivan County, a writer, comedian and actor.


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