This disc has flown

A moment of silence, please, in memory of the late Walter Fredrick “Fred” Morrison, who shuffled off this mortal coil earlier this week.

Who was Fred Morrison? I’m glad you asked, friend reader, for indeed this esteemed gentleman played an essential role in my formative years.

Fred Morrison, you see, invented the Frisbee.

Morrison got the idea for his legendary sporting device from tossing a cake pan around when he was young. In 1948, after extensive research into the aerodynamics of bakeware, Morrison began marketing a modified, plastic version of the pan under the trade name Pluto Platter. After Morrison’s initial success, Wham-O Manufacturing bought the rights to the product and changed its name to Frisbee.

As the story goes, the name Frisbee came from a New England bakery — the Frisbie Pie Company — whose aluminum pans were already popular with college students for their fun-flinging capabilities. Wham-O, recognizing a marketable buzzword when they heard one, borrowed the name for Morrison’s flying discs.

The rest, as they say in the sporting goods business, is history.

Here in Rohnert Park, the Frisbee holds a lofty place in our local lore. In the 1970s, Sonoma State University was one of the last remaining bastions of bohemian — dare I use the word hippie? — subculture. Among the hallmarks of Granola State — as the university was often nicknamed in those tie-dyed, macraméd days — was the colorful fusillade of Frisbees that could be seen sailing across its verdant lawns on any sunny afternoon.

Although I didn’t attend SSU, I did obtain my final two years of secondary education on the campus immediately adjacent. Thus, I spent more than my fair share of time hurling a plastic plate to and fro with my friends.

Ah, youth.

Cameron Crowe’s novel Fast Times at Ridgemont High contains a hilarious scene that was, sadly, excluded from the hit film based on the book. In it, a couple of arrested postadolescents in the employ of Wham-O visit the school to perform a Frisbee demonstration. These self-important jocks insist that their sporting device of choice be referred to as “the disc,” because calling it a Frisbee would be plebeian and therefore uncool. (The pair collect the phone numbers of several Ridgemont females before taking their leave.)

There is, I’m told, no truth to the rumor that instead of being buried, Fred Morrison’s remains were simply cast willy-nilly upon the roof of a nearby house, and abandoned there.

As fitting as that might have been.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Aimless Riffing, Celebritiana, Dead People Got No Reason to Live, Hero of the Day, My Home Town, Reminiscing, Ripped From the Headlines, Sports Bar

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