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Tag Archive: Barry Shapiro

Sep 16

In recessions, hula hoop comes to the rescue

“When the world is in kind of a messy way and people are unhappy, something like the (hula) hoop lets them just forget everything while they go crazy for a minute or two spinning around.” –Barry Shapiro, vice president of Wham-O Toy, 1982.

Can you still hula hoop?

Do you remember the hula hoop fad in the late 50s and again in the early 80s? It might be making a comeback now because, just like then, we are in a recession and that means it is time to dust off the hula hoop and start swirling those hips.

Why? “You just can’t help but laugh and smile when you’re hooping,” says Marisa Tomei, Academy Award-winning actress and star of a new ‘hooping’ fitness video.

If the recession is making you frown, then perhaps the hula hoop will make you smile again like it did in previous recessions and loose a few pounds in the process.

When we were kids, we took to it naturally. Anyone can do it, right? I wonder if I still can without landing in the chiropractor’s office.

At age 11, I could whirl it around my waist or spin it around my arms or neck for as long as I wanted. So could my friends. Most adults could not. It baffled my parents, as I recall, but it made them smile.

The hula hoop was first introduced during an economic recession in 1958. It was a simple 4 ft.-wide plastic hoop that came in a variety of colors and cost less than $2.00. It became an instant rage. Some consider it still the greatest fad this country has ever seen.

It was one of those inventions that made its creators, Richard P. Knerr and Arthur K. Melin, rich indeed, and left the rest of us wondering why we had not thought of it ourselves.

The fad was short lived, however.

By the time I attended college in the sixties, the hula hoop craze was over.

Fast forward 25 years to the early eighties when a severe recession hit. That particular recession was complete with high interest rates and a drought that ruined crops. Farms and businesses went bankrupt. People were unhappy.

Re-enter the hula hoop.

Wham-O, the Australian company that originally produced the hula hoop, decided to try to make a comeback in 1982 saying, “Wham-O believes that the current economic troubles may be just what is needed to give the Hula Hoop another whirl.”

Twenty-five years after the original hula hoop craze, Time Magazine wrote in 1982, “that during a slightly mad six-month period 25 years ago (in the fifties), as many as 120 million hoops were sold around the world.”

Wham-O believed it might be time to try it again.

The 1982 model, according to a Time Magazine story was known as the “Peppermint Hula Hoop” because it was peppermint-scented and striped like a barbershop pole. It made people happy during hard times. I remember that one, too.

Regrettably, that fad was even shorter-lived.

And now here we are again in a nasty recession, and whammo (pardon the pun) here comes the hula hoop to save the day, once again. This time in the new fitness craze called ‘hooping’, as Marissa Tomei explained.

Hmmm. I wonder if I can remember how to hoop.

Let’s see, first you have to bend your knees slightly. Put the hula hoop around your waist and start moving your hips in a gyrating, whirling circular motion to keep the hoop up.

Bend my arthritic knees slightly? Move my bad hip in circles over and over?

I don’t think so.

I see why my parents stood back and watched.