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Monday, February 6, 2017

The "The 'Frisbee' Turns 60" Story

My ring, or coaster Frisbee, waits on my
workbench for a few tosses.
It was an ordinary day.  Digging out my Frisbee to throw with my grandson.  I was never very good at throwing a regular Frisbee, but I can really throw what is called a Coaster Frisbee.  That is a Frisbee that has a hole in the center, making the Frisbee look like a plastic ring.  I can sail that Frisbee great distances and with a fair amount of accuracy.  Not so with a regular Frisbee which I have no idea where it may go and how far.  Anyway, my story today announces the 60th birthday of the fairly inexpensive toy or sports article.  It was in 1871 that William Russell Frisbie moved from Bransford, Connecticut to Bridgeport, Connecticut and began work as a manager at a new bakery.  Wasn't long before he bought the place and named it the Frisbie Pie Company.  He died in 1903, but his son, Joseph took charge until he also died in 1940.  More family members continued the business until in 1956 they were making 80,000 pies a day.  
A more recognizable Frisbee.
At this point I should tell you that there are two schools of thought as to how the Frisbie got it's name.  (1) One group claims that students at Yale College bought Frisbie's pies and tossed them all over campus as they exclaimed "Frisbie" to signal to the person who was catching the pie.  (2) Another group claims they were the developers of the Frisbie because they used the lid of the cans that held the sugar cookies that were baked by the Frisbie Company.  So which one is the correct answer.  Well, may not be either since the now-common plastic variety was invented in the 1950s by a former World War II fighter pilot and carpenter named Fred Morrison.  The shape was inspired by UFO sightings as was Morrison's original name for them: Pluto Platters.  In 1957 Fred sold the rights to his design to Wham-O toy company.  The same company that made the hula hoops.  
Playing with a Frisbee has been turned into a pro sport.
They renamed the Pluto Platter the "Frisbie" after what he heard many people in New England calling the pies or lids that were tossed about in Connecticut.  Since they didn't want any problems with those tossed around at Yale, they changed the name from "Frisbie" to Frisbee.  When Morrison died in 2010 it was said that well over 200 million Frisbees had been sold.  The casual tossing of the Frisbee has grown over the years and there are now  professional disc golfers who compete by hitting targets rather than sinking putts.  There is also Ultimate Frisbee which is a cross between soccer and football.  And then there is "Guts" in which players attempt to catch each other's high-speed throws without breaking their fingers.  
A photograph of the World's Largest Whoopie taken at
the Whoopie Pie Festival in Strasburg, PA.  The festival
is a yearly event held in the fall.
A few years ago my wife and I went with friends to the Whoopie Pie Festival in nearby Strasburg, Pennsyl- vania and got a chance to see how far we could toss a whoopie pie which is much the same shape as a Frisbee, except smaller.  I watched contestant after contestant throw their whoopie pies and when it was my turn I passed on throwing it, opting to eat it instead.  There was another contest where you put your whoopie pie on a slingshot type device to see how far you would sling it across nearby farm fields.  One way or another, Fred Morrison, at the age of 17 sent the lid of a popcorn tin skimming through the air in a California backyard and eventually made a similar device from plastic and invented the Frisbee.  As for me, I'd rather eat a whoopie pie than throw a Frisbee any day.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

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