Four decades ago, two California entrepreneurs made a killing selling Superballs, Hula Hoops, and other simple, iconic toys to America's children. Can aimless summer fun still sell in the age of hyperscheduled kids and achievement-oriented parents?
KIDS-IN-CHIEF. Wham-O founders (top right) Arthur 'Spud' Melin (left) and Richard Knerr, testing their famous product in 1958. Knerr said the company looked for the ''wow'' factor: ''If you're playing with it and showing it off and everybody says, 'What's that? What's that?''' BACK TO THE FUTURE. Vice president of marketing Peter Sgromo says the company's classic toys come without any competitive pressure. ''There's no winning and losing on a Slip 'N Slide (bottom right),'' he says. ''It's not like you're going to become the Michael Jordan of Frisbee.'' (Corbis / Bettman Photo) Corbis / Bettman Photo
A LITTLE MORE THAN 40 years ago, a Southern California chemical engineer approached a local toy company called Wham-O with an idea. It stemmed from a substance he had stumbled on by accident while designing an industrial valve. It didn't teach anything, or require batteries purchased separately, or appeal to a carefully-studied demographic group. But formed into a ball, it ... (Full article: 2126 words)
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