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John Hollenhorst ReportingUtah inventors have had some inspired ideas in the past that really took off -- television, the traffic light, fry sauce -- but one invention took off and has flown billions of times. The Frisbee is now celebrating its 50th year.
The remarkable Utah man who invented it is still alive and still drawing royalties. The inspiration for the Frisbee came from a mundane cake-pan, but it flies a lot better. now it reportedly outsells footballs, baseballs and basketballs combined.
The spinning disk has been around so long, it's part of our lives and part of our dogs' lives. They've been selling like high-flying hot-cakes for more than 50 years.
Walt Morrison is the man we can all thank for the invention. A Utah native, he invented it in California, and later moved back to Utah. "It's been knocked off so many times, it's incredible. Everybody has got a copy," he said.
Morrison's flipping arm is still pretty good, considering that seven decades ago he started using it to flip cake pans and popcorn lids.
"Cake pans fly better than popcorn can lids. And these things fly better than cake pans," Morrison said.
Six decades ago, Morrison and a partner had the inspiration to mold the thing out of plastic. He sold a bunch on the beach and at county fairs, to surfers, beatniks and Arab sheiks. "One sheik came back and he bought 20 boxes, 24 in a box. Didn't ask for a discount," Morrison said.
Five decades ago Wham-O bought Morrison out.
They were dirt cheap back then at $1, but pretty pricey today. And what variety there is now. Some glow in the dark, others are for dogs, with a built-in bone. Give Wham-O credit for diversifying a simple product."
Morrison never had a patent but Wham-O voluntarily pays royalties, although once he had to bring in a lawyer to get it in writing.
Maybe not, but he contributed something that might be just as important as aeronautical science, fun! For a lot of people, that's plenty good enough.