Tim Walsh’s WHAM-O Super Book, published in 2018 for the 70-year anniversary of the company, is a colorful, eye-catching celebration of all the fun WHAM-O has created over the years. Walking readers through the company’s creation in 1948 with founders Richard Knerr and Arthur “Spud” Melin all the way to 2008, Walsh provides an engaging history of all things WHAM-O.
The first thing you’ll notice about the book is the replicas of toy catalogues, magazines, and advertisements sporting WHAM-O products beginning in the 1950s. The bright colors and variety of block- and bubble-lettered descriptions not only engage readers and take them on a trip back in time, it also emulates the attitude that WHAM-O represents: fun. Time and again, founders Rich and Spud explain that they just wanted to have fun and make their toys fun. Those who knew them, those who worked for them, and anyone who met the two friends-turned-business partners describe them as fun-loving people who just wanted to spread joy with their creations.
In addition to the photos and advertisements, Walsh tells the story of the history of WHAM-O, complete with quotes from Rich as well as both Rich’s and Spud’s families. The story starts in 1942 when Rich and Spud met, and continues through the products that became staples and stood the test of time, as well as fads that lasted a couple months but brought tons of fun while they lasted.
Starting with their first product, the Slingshot, and the creation of their company, Rich and Spud’s WHAM-O wasn’t always a toy company. Its first couple of products were weapons: slingshots, blowguns, throwing knives, even swords. They then joined the sports market by creating cheaper and more accessible versions of already existing sports like Floor Tennis, Scoot Shuffleboard, and Home Bowling Set, and then creating originals: Trac Ball, Tether Game, and WHAM-IT. Walsh then gives readers in-depth histories of classic toys like the Hula Hoop, Frisbee, and Hacky Sack. Chapter by chapter, readers are introduced to all the toys WHAM-O produced, including water toys, super toys, and their winter line.
Walsh concludes with what the company is planning for the future, and at the back of the book: a comprehensive timeline of WHAM-O: its creation, the toys it produced, and important dates for the founders and their families. Overall, Walsh does an excellent job capturing the fun-loving attitude and family-oriented values of the company through a book that’s just as fun to read as the toys inside of it are to play with.
Julia DeKorte is a book reviewer focused on the noteworthy people and manufacturers from the toy and game industry. In addition to Toy Tales, she is a regular contributor at People of Play.