12 Lesser-Known Wham-O Products You Have to See to Believe

Tim Walsh
Tim Walsh

Founded by friends and business partners Rich Knerr and Arthur “Spud” Melin in 1948, Wham-O is best known for amusement staples like the Hula Hoop, Frisbee, Hacky Sack, and Slip ‘N Slide.

For every hit, however, there were more than a few misses: Knerr and Melin never had to answer to a board of investors and were free to experiment with almost any far-fetched idea that popped into their heads. Check out 12 of their lesser-known offerings—some of which would be impossible to market in litigious, civilized society. 

1. EDGED WEAPONS

Before Knerr and Melin dominated the novelty toy market in the 1950s, they specialized in weaponry no suburban child should have had any use for. In addition to a “jungle machete,” Wham-O sold throwing daggers, a tomahawk, and fencing swords. (The company tried separating the two markets by selling their killing tools under the name Wam-O, fooling no one.)    

2. A BLOWGUN

Assuming your child had a machete and a bad attitude, the thing to do would be to simply stay out of arm’s reach. But with the introduction of distance weapons, more covert attacks could be implemented. The company also marketed a slingshot that was packaged with real ball bearings. Surprisingly, none of these resulted in real lawyers filing for real damages.

3. INSTANT FISH

On safari in Africa in the 1960s, Melin discovered a species of fish that lays eggs in dirt; they later hatched after the ground was soaked in rain. Thinking there was money in peddling mud, Melin and Knerr marketed Instant Fish, and took $10 million in pre-orders from retailers. But the fish they brought back never mated in sufficient numbers. Sea Monkeys, which were released around the same time, became the standard in lazy aquariums.

4. GREAT WHITE SHARK TEETH

Wham-O was never one to let a fad pass without trying to capitalize on it. When Jaws became the then-biggest film of all time in 1975, the company marketed a plastic shark-tooth kit that clearly took inspiration from Steven Spielberg and Peter Benchley’s creation. Molded, apparently, from a species that has "probably killed more humans than any other shark." Wear it with pride.

See More: How Wham-O got its start. 

5. MR. HOOTIE EGG RAKE

According to Tim Walsh, author of the Wham-O Super Book, Melin and Knerr probably drew this up just to make themselves laugh. In true Wham-O fashion, it was sold anyway. The idea, according to Melin, was to have a utensil that could remove the string (which he dubbed “woogers”) that connects the yolk to the egg shell; more sophisticated owners could use it as a bar tool for olives. In the end, no one used it for anything.

6. DRAW YARN

It’s unlikely Europeans were all that crazy about—or even aware of—a method by which one would draw using yarn. Then again, who would ever think to check? The company marketed this bizarre art kit in 1959.

7. HOME GYM

Wham-O entered the sporting goods market in the 1950s as a kind of segue between their death utensils and the popular outdoor products that would come later. This Charles Atlas-esque resistance band purported to enhance the female form. Melin and Knerr drew up the ad before any product was made to gauge interest before committing to a production run.

8. SUN-VU

A kind of futuristic sombrero following the space-age trend of the ‘50s, the Sun-Vu promised to shield the face from harmful UV rays. Throwing an entire sheet over one’s head may have been more fashionable.

9. TANK

Figuring kids were their own best energy source, Wham-O marketed this giant, eight-foot-long cardboard tank that was operated by climbing inside and walking on all fours. Due to non-military issue materials (paper), it probably didn’t stand up to the wear and tear of a normal backyard siege.   

10. MONORAIL

Cool kids had train sets; cooler kids had monorails. At least, that’s what Wham-O was counting on. But few amateur conductors saw any significant difference to warrant the $12.95 asking price.

11. TURBO TOPS

Asthmatics were best served avoiding this tabletop game, which required players to huff and puff until light-headed victory set in. Previously known as Knock Yer Top Off, Turbo Tops was one of Wham-O's final releases under Melin and Knerr's original ownership: They sold the company in 1982. 

12. BOMB SHELTER COVER

Consumers needed to supply their own ditch-digging in order to survive nuclear annihilation. Released to capitalize on Cold War paranoia, people thought the concept of preparing for doom too depressing to labor over.

See more: How Wham-O got its start

All images courtesy of Tim Walsh.

8 Emojis That Caused a Public Backlash

iStock.com/Rawpixel
iStock.com/Rawpixel

With technology improving daily and the potential to colonize Mars or cure diseases looking more promising, it’s surprising we still can’t cobble together a decent bagel emoji. Earlier this month, Apple took blowback from carb lovers for their rendering of the popular baked good as part of their iOS 12.1 beta 2 rollout. The bagel was too smoothly-rendered, critics charged, and lacked cream cheese.

Apple has since fixed the bagel for their beta 4 release, but it wasn’t the first time companies have been criticized for poorly-designed emojis. Here’s what else got the thumbs down from users.

1. BURGER

Everyone loves a good burger. Virtually no one enjoys a burger with the cheese located below the patty. This gastronomic offense was committed by Google during its Android Oreo 8.0 release in 2017 and fixed in 8.1.

2. BEER

In that same 8.0 update, Google took a curious approach to a glass of beer, placing froth on top despite the glass only being half-full.

3. PAELLA

Apple added this shallow pan food assortment to iOS 10.2 in 2016 and immediately drew fire for using unconventional ingredients like shrimp, peas, and something resembling slugs. The revised version replaced them with chicken, lima beans, and green beans.

4. LOBSTER

The Unicode Consortium, the nonprofit that introduces emojis and lets tech companies arrive on final designs, got people boiling mad in early 2018 when their rendering of a lobster was missing a pair of legs and sported a misshapen tail. (Strangely, the logo for seafood dining establishment Red Lobster makes a similar mistake—their lobster has only eight legs instead of 10.)

5. SALAD

Salads are often populated with a hard-boiled egg for a little protein, so it’s understandable Google opted to include one in its salad emoji for Android P earlier this year. But vegans took issue with the egg, prompting Google to revise the bowl of greens so it contained just lettuce and tomatoes.

6. FEELING FAT

Facebook didn’t get too many “Likes” from users in 2015, when it introduced an emoji that depicted a bulbous face to signal someone was “feeling fat.” Body-positive activists argued it could constitute body-shaming. The site switched the description to “feeling stuffed.”

7. SKATEBOARD

Skateboard enthusiasts were happy when Unicode introduced a four-wheeled emoji in 2018. They were not happy the board looked like a ‘'70s relic, with divided grip tape and an overly-curved body. Skateboard legend Tony Hawk helped Unicode refine the design into something more palatable to skaters.

8. PEACH BUTT

Owing to the relative simplicity of their designs, emojis can often take on alternative meanings. The best example may be the peach, which in iOS resembles a plump little butt complete with a crack. Apple foolishly tried fixing this in 2016, rounding off the edges to look more like the fruit. Users complained, and Apple backed off. Emojipedia ran the data and discovered the emoji was most frequently used with Tweets containing the words “ass,” “badgirl,” and “booty.”

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