Frisbee inventor dead at 90, leaves behind joy

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The man credited with inventing the Frisbee, Walter Frederick Morrison, died last week at the age of 90, leaving behind one of the most popular toys of the modern world, beloved by beachgoers, college students and competitive teams.

Utah-native "Fred" Morrison first began in 1937 flinging a circular metal cake pan - two decades before it was licensed as a plastic, aerodynamic disc - on the beaches and parks of southern California.

The wild success of his invention, which went on to sell hundreds of millions of discs, never ceased to amaze Morrison, who died Tuesday at his home in Monroe, Utah.

"Who could ever imagine this?" he was quoted as saying in 2007 by Utah's local Deseret News. "From such a simple beginning 50 years ago, to have it become what it has become. My goodness, it's amazing."

Morrison and his future wife Lucile began selling their cake pans as toys and after he returned from World War Two they toured local fairs across the West hawking his disc as the "Pluto Platter."

In 1957, the hopeful inventor sold the license for his design, with deepened sides for aerodynamic grace and using a strong but light plastic frame, to the famous US toy manufacturer Wham-O, makers of the Hula Hoop.

A few months later, then-Wham-O president Rich Knerr heard that college students on the US East Coast were calling tin lids they tossed about after the name of a local bakery that supplied the discs - the Frisbie Pie Co.

After coopting the mantle and changing it slightly for copyright issues, the catchy new name and superior flying plastic disc ensured Frisbees went on to sell over 200 million units over the next 50 years.

"Not since the invention of the ball," Wham-O states as part of its company history, "have so many fun games and competitive sports been derived from such a simple object."

Wham-O paid tribute Friday to Morrison on their official Frisbee website.

"As Frisbee discs keep flying though the air, bringing smiles to faces, Fred's spirit lives on. Smooth flights, Fred," it read.

Morrison, on the 50th anniversary of his invention's license, said that while the world had changed in the last half century, "the original purpose of Frisbee has remained constant."

"Just seeing the smile on a child's face as he or she catches a soaring disc on a summer afternoon in the park, or a grown-up diving headfirst to grab a falling disc, that is what the spirit of the Frisbee is all about."