Hula hoops were a two-time fad. The first was before my birth. The second was when I was seven years old. Needless to say, I only recall the second explosion. But you earlier Boomers will, I hope, feel familiar with today’s column, provided with lots of research.
It began, as did a number of Boomer crazes, with the minds at the Wham-O company.
In 1957, an Australian visiting California told founders Richard Knerr and Arthur “Spud” Melin that in his home country, children twirled bamboo hoops around their waists in gym class.
At least one light bulb appeared over a head, possibly two.
Wham-O began manufacturing hoops out of Marlex, a cheap, durable plastic that had been recently invented.
Within two years 100 million hula hoops had been sold.
The fad was the hottest thing around during that time, and beach movies showed California teens enjoying hula hooping on the big screen. But, like all fads, hula hoops became passe.
Then, in 1967, a bright mind at the aforementioned Wham-O placed a half dozen ¼-in.-diameter ball bearings inside a hollow hoop to give it a whirry sound. The noisy hoop’s colors were brightened, and the Shoop Shoop Hula Hoop was born.
The brilliance of the move was that the kids who played with the 1958 vintage hoops were now entering young adulthood. But Boomers being Boomers, they had plenty of younger siblings too young to recall the original fad who were suddenly exposed to many hours of commercials on Saturday morning TV advertising “The Shoop Shoop, Hula Hoop, Hoop!”
Once again, sales exploded, although nothing like those of the previous decade.
But the Shoop Shoop Hula Hoop has proven to be a steady seller over the years that passed by all too quickly afterwards. Even today, it can be spotted at discount stores all over the world.
And Wham-O, which seemed to somehow know the pulse of the millions and millions of Boomer kids, and knew just what they would beg their parents to buy them, scored yet another pair of coups in marketing. They also gave us lots of other wonderful memories from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s.