New Year’s Eve dance party in 1963. Doing the twist, drinking booze, taking photos, and having a great old time, with the addition of some “groovy” music.
New Year’s Eve is the time when most people look back and reflect upon the events of the past year – various forms of media present ‘the year in pictures’, ‘the year in video’, ‘the year in music and film’, etc. Individuals think of lost friends and family members, births and celebrations, achievements and disappointments.
Overall, there is a kind of nostalgia for the twelve months just passed. One could sense those moments of thought fade as the hours become minutes before the big moment. As the final seconds tick down, the memories of the past disappear and anticipation grows. At the stroke of midnight there are cheers and hugs, kisses and smiles, balloons bursting and noisemakers sounding. For some folks it’s a celebration of a new year with new possibilities and hopes. For some it’s a celebration for the end of a good year that has passed or a bad year now gone. For others, it’s a celebration of having made it one more year without having succumbed to that final farewell.
In keeping with the tradition of nostalgia, it seems appropriate to reflect upon what has passed. But rather than looking at the memories of 2013, we’re going to leap back not one year, but fifty – a half century. What kind of things occurred back then that helped shape who and what we are today – and even, perhaps, what we will continue to become next year and the years to come.
The year is 1963. It is the turning point of the decade and, in many ways, a turning point historically for the U.S. – both politically and as a society. It was a year that began with optimism and many hopes. Overall that trend seemed to continue throughout, until a dark pall set upon the nation and the world on one fateful November day. Some people say that this was the year the United Sates lost its innocence – that from ’63 and onwards nothing in society or politics would ever again be seen through the eyes of a credulous public. That may have changed on a clear September morning in 2001 – and perhaps that’s something we should all ponder today.
A half century – fifty years. We can look back and reflect about how that year helped shape the world we live in today. What will the people fifty years hence ponder about the legacy formed by our actions in 2013?
This robot is a star from the Golden Age of robot and toy production. It was a masterpiece of mechanical design. The ‘Television Spaceman’ was created and manufactured by Alps – one of the top Japanese toy companies to emerge post-WWII. If you wonder why so many collectors note Made In Japan when describing a mid century robot or toy, the answer is twofold: quality and multiple features. Alps put both of those virtues into the Television Spaceman – and a lot of creativity to boot. You can click here to read all about the fantastic features of this little marvel at Robot Era.
As can be seen in that nifty video, the centerpiece of this prized robot is the television:
…pre-Apollo era artwork inspired by (or more accurately copied from) the works of the famous space artist Chesley Bonestell…Also noteworthy is Dr Werner von Braun’s space plane prominently displayed at various points in the panorama.
Not all toy robots are alike – and there’s more than just a bit of graphics that set them apart. Alps’ ’61-’69 Television Spaceman robot is a splendid example of just what exactly does.
Christmas should be fun – sooo, here’s Pee Wee’s Christmas Special, 1988. Loads of special guests include, Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, Dinah Shore, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Little Richard, and, of course, Charo!
Below is an image of a 1938 Disney rejection letter to a woman named Mary Ford. It pretty much speaks for itself. What seems kind of creepy are the illustrations on the stationary. I’m thinking that there’s some kind of message going on here.
Below is a vintage postcard showing the home of the Frisbie Pie Company, located at Kossuth Street on Bridgeport, Connecticut’s East Side:
Below is a photo of a Frisbie pie tin:
Children who lived near the pie company, and students from surrounding colleges, liked to toss the pie tins around as spinning, flying discs.
Pictured in the photo below is a guy named, Walter Frederick Morrison. He wasn’t really a spaceman and that isn’t a Frisbie pie tin that he’s about to toss:
You see, Morrison teamed up with a friend and business partner, Warren Franscioni, to develop the first plastic disc-shaped flying toy called the ‘Flyin’ Saucer’ – ‘Precisely Engineered’ and ‘Aerodynamically Correct’ the PIPCO Flyin Saucer was designed to fly straight, curve, circle, skip, and, best of all, not break.
Unfortunate circumstances split the Morrison/Franscioni partnership and the early 1950s saw the introduction of two new plastic flying discs: The ‘Space Saucer’ marketed by Bill Robs in college campus bookstores on the East Coast, and the ‘Pluto Platter’ – a Flyin Saucer re-design by Walter Morrison.
In 1956, a toy company called Wham-O (founded in 1948 by Rich Knerr and Spud Melin) acquired the rights to the ‘Pluto Platter’ and in 1958 the company introduced the Wham-O ‘Frisbee’.
Throughout its history – from the Frisbie pie tin, to the Space Saucer, to the Pluto Platter (with the famous ‘Play Catch – Invent Games’ stamped on the underside), and beyond – the flying saucer toy has captured the interest of playful people who enjoy(ed) the pasttime of flicking a disc into the air and watching it float to the end of its flight. The ‘Frisbie-ing’ of the 1940s developed into campus ‘Frisbie Matches’ and the first ‘International Frisbee Tournament’ of the 50s. In the early 60s an outfit in Chicago named, Copar Company, introduced the ‘Sky Saucer’ complete with a rule book for the games, Sky Croquet and Sky Golf.
One could say that the modern age of the flying disc toy began in 1964. That was the year that Wham-O introduced the Frisbee Official Pro Model. Multi-talented Ed Headrick re-designed the Pluto Platter to give it better flight performance and greater distance. The now familiar grooves on the top of the disc were added for greater stability. Today those grooves are known to disc-philes as ‘The Lines of Headrick’. Headrick did include the ‘Morrison Slope’ from the original Pluto Platter to describe the outer third of the Frisbee disc. The Frisbee patent filed by Ed Headrick on behalf of Wham-O was issued in 1967 – U.S. patent 3,359,678.
The flying-saucer references of the 1940s and 50s were removed and the Frisbee image changed from a playful toy novelty, to a more serious piece of sporting equipment. In 1967, Headrick established The International Frisbee Association (IFA) and codified the original standards for various disc sports such as Distance, Freestyle and Guts. In 1976, Headrick became ‘the father of “Disc Golf”‘ when he ‘coined and trademarked the term and standardized the sport by inventing the “Disc Pole Hole” – the first disc golf target to incorporate chains and a basket on a pole.’* Today there are associations that represent all levels of the sport, from recreational to professional. It is estimated that there are four-million recreational players around the world, and the numbers are growing.
To read more about the life and times of Ed Headrick – including what happened to his cremated remains – click here.
The flying disc continues to have a following to this day. Frisbee knock-offs are commonplace – the plastic platters are even used as novel vehicles for promoting and commemorating diverse corporate and sporting events. Marvin P Paul has one of the largest collection of flying discs in the world with just over 4400 – that number conveys not just how culturally pervasive the discs have become, but also how timeless they are. To check out some of the more curious discs in the ‘mimetic’ section of Marvin’s Flying Disc Collection click here.
The Frisbie Pie Company closed its doors in 1958 – a year after Wham-O dubbed their space-age flying disc, the ‘Frisbee’. The children who shouted ‘frisbie!’ as an alert for the incoming tin pie plate grew up and embraced a plastic version designed for longer flight and artful tricks.
The rest, as they say, is history.