June 19th, 2008, marked the 50th anniversary of one of the most popular toys ever to be introduced in America - the giant colorful plastic ring known as the Hula Hoop. Though other more sophisticated toys have superseded the simple hoop, it remains a favorite among both adults and kids and is still a mainstay in almost every American household.

While hoops made from dried vines date back to ancient Egypt, the modern Hula Hoop first became popular in the 1950's when a wooden version was introduced in Australia, primarily for exercise.

The idea was adopted by American entrepreneurs, Arthur Melin and Richard Kerr, who owned a toy company called Wham-O.

Their version of the hoop was slightly different, in that it was made from plastic and came in various colors and was meant for kids to have fun. Unable to get toy stores interested in buying the Hoop, the two spent a lot of time in Southern California parks, demonstrating it to parents and kids.

Much to their surprise and delight, the Hula Hoop became an instant success! Over twenty-five million were sold within the first four months, and the number reached a staggering 100 million units by the end of the first year - averaging about two Hula Hoops per every American family.

As the hoop's popularity soared, the company struggled to keep up with the demand - at times hiring as many as 50 high-schoolers to manually bend and seal the ready-made tubes.

However, just like all fads, the Hula Hoop frenzy died just as rapidly as it had begun. In fact, had the company not purchased the rights to its next big product - a flying plastic ring, also known as the Frisbee, it would have probably gone bankrupt.

Since then, Wham-O has made many fun products, including the boomerang, the Wheelie Bar and the Slip-n-Slide. However, none of them have had the cache that the Hula Hoop did - which even provided inspiration for "The Hudsucker Proxy", a movie starring Tim Robbins and Paul Newman.

As for the humble Hula Hoop - It's starting to make a comebackas a fitness device, thanks to the Wii Fit Hula Hoop game recently introduced by Japanese company Nintendo. Even Disney's Wall-E is geting into the act - Enjoy the videos and don't forget have some fun with your Hoop today!

Source: al.com,modernmechanix.com, wham-o.com