Sunday, August 18, 2013

Remembering Walter Frederick Morrison Inventor of the Frisbee January 23, 1920 - February 9, 2010

When Walter Frederick Morrison was 17, he was goofing around in his backyard at his home
 in southern California with his girlfriend, Lu (later to become his wife) when he sent the lid of a popcorn tin through the air. Eventually the result of that day would become hugely successful.  When Morrison became an adult, he remade that lid in plastic and in the process, invented the flying disc known today as
"The Frisbee."  Walter and Lu developed a little business selling "Flyin Cake Pans" on the beaches of Santa Monica, California.

As the New York Times said after Morrison's death, "Beloved of man and dog, the Frisbee has far more than a half of century been the signature product of  the company, Wham-O, a toy and sporting goods manufacturer based in Emeryville, California.  The company has sold more than 200 million of the discs (as of Feb. 2010), since acquiring the rights to Mr. Morrison's "Pluto Platter" as it was known in 1957 and its popularity continues to grow even stronger today with the invention of disc golf. 

Morrison was born in Richfield, Utah.  Inventing was in Walter's blood.  His father invented the "sealed beam headlight" for cars. 

He joined the U.S. Air Force during World War II and became fighter/bomber pilot.  On his fifty seventh mission, Morrison was shot down and became a prisoner of war for 48 days.  He learned about aerodynamics during that time having flown a P-47 Thunderbolt. 

Morrison and the Pluto Platter
In 1946, he sketched out a design (called a Whirlo-Way) for the world's first flying disc.  Morrison and an investor by the name of Warren Franscioni, paid for molding the design in plastic.  They named it the "Flyin Saucer."    Their venture was deemed unsuccessful and the two parted ways in 1950.  Morrison didn't give up.  He had more of the molded plastic discs made and sold them at local fairs.  He soon discovered that he could have them produced in a less expensive way and Walter and Lu designed the "Pluto Platter"  On January 23, 1957, they sold the rights of the Pluto Platter to "Wham-O and it's named changed to Frisbee.  Over the years, Morrison invented other products including a water filled bowling set and a battery powered tomahawk, but none were as successful as the "Pluto Platter."

'That simple little toy has permeated every continent in every country, as many homes have Frisbees as any other device ever invented."

Morrison's biography
Morrison co-wrote a book with Frisbee historian Phil Kennedy called "Flat Flip Flies Straight! True Origins of the Frisbee" (pictured)

Walter Morrison died at his home in Monroe, Utah on February 9, 2010 at the age of 90.  He had suffered from cancer.

Items from Walter Morrison's memorial given to Famous Endings
A memorial service in honor of Walter Frederick Morrison was held at one of his favorite hang-outs, the Cowboy Corral in Elsinore, Utah (program and letter from the owner of the Corral pictured) along with  Morrison's memorial Frisbee.

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