Walter Fredrick (Fred) Morrison, best known as the inventor of THE Frisbee, passed away February 9, 2010 at the age of 90 at his home in Monroe, UT after a long period of declining health. Fred Morrison had just “the right stuff” to invent the Frisbee!
Tall, with a wiry athletic build; inquisitive, with a razor-sharp mind honed by western wit; generous to a fault with the biggest, kindest, warmest, people-loving heart around. Not known for being humble, Fred was nevertheless self-effacing: he readily admitted to not being overly handsome. (He was also a distant cousin of Marion Morrison…better known as John Wayne.)
The idea for flying discs didn’t start out as the Frisbee(c). Like most boys and girls since the dawn of time, Fred experimented with flat, round objects he found laying about his small town neighborhood in Richfield, Utah. Flipping them to see how well they would fly, Fred developed a lifelong fascination with flight.
They found that a cake pan “borrowed” from Fred’s mother’s kitchen flew even better. They practiced at the beach until they became so skilled that one day an admirer offered to buy the cake pan for twenty-five cents. A lightbulb went off in Fred’s mind. Cake pans then sold for five cents. Trading nickels for quarters had definite possibilities! A new business was born: “Flyin’ Cake Pans” were soon available whenever the two showed up at beaches and parks throughout the L.A. area. Sufficient profits ensued to fund dates, and finally, a wedding ring.
A year later, he and his boss, Warren Franscioni, decided that producing the Whirlo-Way in plastic might have commercial success. In 1948 their little business, called PIPCO, launched the world’s first plastic flying disc, renamed the Flyin-Saucer to take advantage of the new U.F.O. craze. However, despite intense efforts, Flyin-Saucer sales were tepid…attracting no major toy distributors. In early 1950 Fred and Warren parted company.
In 1954 Fred bought more Flyin-Saucers (by then made of the new, flexible polyethylene plastic) from the original molding company to hawk himself at local fairs. As a long-time wheeler-dealer entrepreneur everything was BIG-TIME with Fred: big ideas and big gambles…always with the hope of a big payoff. Thus, when he soon discovered that his margin of profit would be greatly increased by developing a mold of his own, he immediately sat down at the kitchen table and designed the legendary Pluto Platter—now regarded as far superior to the original Flyin-Saucer—and the archetype for all modern flying discs.
By late spring, Rich Knerr, president of Wham-O, had heard that some college students in New England were referring to the Pluto Platters by another name…a name they had co-opted from the Frisbie Pie Co., a local bakery whose empty tins were tossed after classes. “What the heck, if that’ll boost Pluto Platter sales back East, we’ll call ‘em that, too.” Not knowing how to spell the odd name, he settled on “Frisbee” to trademark. The marriage of Fred’s plastic flying disc and the catchy name was complete: the Frisbee was born.
If you have the chance today, go out and toss a Frisbee for Fred, keep on Flying!