Hula hoop toy life - 1958 (6)

Hula Hoop fad gets millions twirling and whirling

A simple and inexpensive new toy has thousands of the nation’s children and many of its adults going around en-circled.

The toy is a plastic hoop, which one West Coast company introduced in mid-summer, taking the idea from bamboo hoop twirling which has swept Australia.

The Hula Hoop became a fad faster than you can say “Davy Crockett.”

Estimates from industry sources are that 25 competitors of the first manufacturer have spun into production; that some 20,000,000 hoops already have been sold; and that before the toy is dead as the yo-yo, another 15,000,000 to 20,000,000 will get around.

I first noticed the hoop among the small fry of my own apartment house neighborhood, and stood agape as children from tots to teens twirled the hoops around their bodies with a gyrating motion to challenge Elvis.

Hula Hoop revival 1972

Some twirl several Hula Hoops

The twirling operates on the same principle with which you can swing a bracelet around your finger: the body rotates in a small circle, the hoop makes a large one.

The experts can spin the Hula Hoop around their necks, waists, knees, and move it from one part of the body to the other. Some of the veterans of five or six hours’ practice can keep several hoops in orbit.

“We have one man who can keep five going at the same time,” said a spokesman for W. R. Grace Company, one of several makers of linear polyethylene, a tough and rigid plastic from which the better hoops are made.

The children are getting so good at spinning that in one contest, a 10-year-old in New Jersey lasted through 3,000 twirls — some sort of record for endurance. And twirling contests are springing up in all parts of the nation.

Hula Hoop toy

Some hoops jingle

Most hoops measure 35 or 36 inches in diameter, although smaller ones now are coming to market. They weigh from six to 11 ounces, depending on the type of plastic, and the cost is from 79 cents on up to $2.50. Some jingle as they whirl.

Credit for starting the toy idea goes to Arthur Melin and Richard Knerr, youthful partners in a San Gabriel, California, firm. Melin said they started demonstrating the Hula Hoop at beaches in California. Because the hoops float, they are popular for water games. Some youngsters use them as skipping ropes.

Spinning started with the children but has moved “to all ages, right up to 100,” said a spokesman for the hoop-making firm owned by Art Linkletter, of radio and television.

Hula Hoop toy life - 1958 (5)


How to Hula Hoop (1969)


Hula Hoop diving and spin & swim

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Hoop factory

The Wham-O plant in San Gabriel, California, turns out 20,000 hoops a day and is still falling behind on order. The hoops, which cost only about 50 cents to produce, are made by takign long strips of stiff polyethylene tubing, forming them into circles held together by a wooden plug and staples.


Many ways to use a Hula Hoop toy

Weight reducing is the prime purpose of the hoop used by hefty advertising man Jim Riley of Chicago. Running hoops, Ellen Ilfeld, 3, plays in Jackson, Michigan. Object is to leap through the ring as it is rolled by.

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Relaxing hoopsters

… at an Atlanta motel practice rotating at the pool during the cocktail hour. Atlanta department stores were selling Hula Hoops like hotcakes, had largely exhausted their supplies ,were despertately trying to order more.

Hula hoop toy life - 1958 (3)


About this story

Source publication: Article: Steubenville Herald Star (Steubenville, OH)

Source publication date: September 8, 1958

Filed under: 1950s, Discoveries & inventions, Family & parenting, Featured, Sports, Toys and games

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