Richard Knerr, co-founder of Wham-O Inc, passed away Monday at the age of 82 after suffering from a stroke. His business partner, Arthur “Spud” Melin, preceded him in death in 2002.
With his boyhood best friend, Arthur “Spud” Melin, Knerr started the company in 1948 in Pasadena. The name Wham-O was onomotopoeia for the sound made when the slingshot hit the target. The company certainly had a talent for coming up with catchy names, starting huge crazes with toys like the Hula Hoop, Hacky Sack, and Slip’n Slide, Wheelie-Bar, and Silly String.
Everybody’s lives have been touched by this man, the visionary pioneer behind Super Balls, Frisbees, Water Wiggles, Super Elastic Bubble Plastic and the unforgettable Hula Hoop. At one point, Wham-O sold 25 million Hula Hoops in a four month period and was producing 20,000 Hula Hoops per day in seven countries. Richard Knerr was never afraid to try anything new and the approach sometimes resulted in flops such as the do-it-yourself fallout shelter.
Founded in 1948, Wham-O is now owned by Cornerstone Overseas Investment, based in Hong Kong.