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The ’50s Hula Hoop fad gets millions twirling & whirling – plus tips on how to hoop

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Hula Hoop revival 1972 woman with toy

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 toy life - 1958 (5)

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.

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“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 revival 1972


Hoop diving and spin & swim

Hula hoop toy life - 1958 (1)

Wham-O’s 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 taking long strips of stiff polyethylene tubing, forming them into circles held together by a wooden plug and staples.

People out hula hooping in a field


Many ways to use a 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. The object is to leap through the ring as it is rolled by.

Hoop toy fun and games


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 desperately trying to order more.

How people use a hula hoop toy


How to Hula Hoop: The basics

How to Hula Hoop, from a 1969 toy instruction sheet

1. Hold Hula Hoop tightly against your back.

2. Start Hula Hoop circling with fast forward thrust of either hand.

3. Rotate body in circular motion. Hoop can also be kept in motion by a side-to-side movement or forward and backward body motion.

How to Hula Hoop - fifties

How to Hula Hoop: Tricks and games

THE RINGER: Spin Hula Hoop in circular motion around neck.

KNEE KNOCKER: To circle the knee, hold knees together firmly — now rotate knees in a circular motion.

THE STORK: Start Hoop rotating just below knee — bend and straighten knee to keep Hula Hoop in motion.

UPSY DAISY: Spin Hula Hoop in a circular motion around neck slip arms through Hoop and circle Hula Hoop to waist.

HOOP OUT: Start Hoop at waist and rotate it slowly to knees keeping it spinning.

ALLEY OOP: Start Hula Hoop at waist and lower slowly to knees (like HOOP OUT trick). Speed up spin and bring Hula hoop to waist.

WRAP THE MUMMY: Start Hoop at neck and bring it to knees — speed up spin and bring Hula Hoop back to neck.

HULA HOP: Stand on one foot and rotate Hula Hoop around ankle of other foot with slight kicking motion. Hop from one foot o other to avoid Hula Hoop as it circles around.

DOUBLE TROUBLE: If one Hula Hoop is fun — try two! Start two at one time at the waist.

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How to Hula Hoop


The anatomy of how to Hula Hoop – and a warning (1969)

PUT DOWN THAT HULA HOOP, Pop, unless you want a painful reminder that your lumbo-sacral joint went into lazy adult retirement years ago.

For the benefit of those puzzled parents who wonder what mysterious power is employed to keep a hoop gaily spinning around juvenile hips, Scope Weekly — a medical newspaper published for doctors by the Upjohn Co. — took hula hooping in for a clinical examination. Here’s the verdict:

Hula hooping is an excellent form of exercise for youngsters, but can cause disastrous consequences in an adult. This is because it involves muscles that the average adult doesn’t ordinarily use.

Figure A shows how a child keeps a hoop in rotary motion by rapid reciprocating movement of the pelvis. All flexors and extensors of the vertebral column, the pelvis and the thigh are used (arrows).

Figure B shows how rapid tilting of the pelvis is synchronized with sagittal flexion-extension. Muscle groups act singly and then in concert to produce gyratory motion. The muscles involved (shown by arrows) are iliacus, psoas, quadratus, lumborum and erector spinae.

Cartoon [at the bottom with a man on a stretcher] shows an adult who thought there was nothing to it.

Antaomy of how to Hula Hoop - 1958

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