On March 5, 1963, Arthur Melin, co-founder of the toy company WHAM-O, Inc., received a patent on the hula hoop. This week, On Remand looks back at the hula hoop and one of the era’s other crazes: Alvin and the Chipmunks.
By the time the hula hoop received its patent in 1963, it had already enjoyed great success. The hula hoop fad started in the summer of 1958, and by fall, WHAM-O had at least twenty-five million customers gyrating and swiveling their hips to keep the hoop in motion. By Christmas, the hula hoop had become the “Tickle-Me-Elmo” of 1958. Everyone wanted one, including a chipmunk named Alvin.
Alvin, and his chipmunk pals Simon and Theodore, also debuted in 1958. Ross Bagdasarian, Sr., a composer, singer, and actor now better known by his stage name David Seville, created the singing squirrels by manipulating the playback speed of his voice on a tape recorder. His gamble – spending $190 of his last $200 on the fancy machine – paid off. By Christmas, one of the songs from the first Chipmunk album, “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late),” had reached number one on the charts. In it, Alvin pleads for the year’s hot toy: “me, I want a hula hoop!”
By the mid-60s, Americans had lost their enthusiasm for the hula hoop and Bagdasarian had grown bored with the Chipmunks. When Bagdasarian died unexpectedly in 1972, his son Ross Jr., a chip off the old block, longed to revive his father’s creation. First though, because his father had insisted, Ross Jr. went to law school. . .