12 Lesser-Known Wham-O Products You Have to See to Believe

Tim Walsh
Tim Walsh

Founded by friends and business partners Rich Knerr and Arthur “Spud” Melin in 1948, Wham-O is best known for amusement staples like the Hula Hoop, Frisbee, Hacky Sack, and Slip ‘N Slide.

For every hit, however, there were more than a few misses: Knerr and Melin never had to answer to a board of investors and were free to experiment with almost any far-fetched idea that popped into their heads. Check out 12 of their lesser-known offerings—some of which would be impossible to market in litigious, civilized society. 

1. EDGED WEAPONS

Before Knerr and Melin dominated the novelty toy market in the 1950s, they specialized in weaponry no suburban child should have had any use for. In addition to a “jungle machete,” Wham-O sold throwing daggers, a tomahawk, and fencing swords. (The company tried separating the two markets by selling their killing tools under the name Wam-O, fooling no one.)    

2. A BLOWGUN

Assuming your child had a machete and a bad attitude, the thing to do would be to simply stay out of arm’s reach. But with the introduction of distance weapons, more covert attacks could be implemented. The company also marketed a slingshot that was packaged with real ball bearings. Surprisingly, none of these resulted in real lawyers filing for real damages.

3. INSTANT FISH

On safari in Africa in the 1960s, Melin discovered a species of fish that lays eggs in dirt; they later hatched after the ground was soaked in rain. Thinking there was money in peddling mud, Melin and Knerr marketed Instant Fish, and took $10 million in pre-orders from retailers. But the fish they brought back never mated in sufficient numbers. Sea Monkeys, which were released around the same time, became the standard in lazy aquariums.

4. GREAT WHITE SHARK TEETH

Wham-O was never one to let a fad pass without trying to capitalize on it. When Jaws became the then-biggest film of all time in 1975, the company marketed a plastic shark-tooth kit that clearly took inspiration from Steven Spielberg and Peter Benchley’s creation. Molded, apparently, from a species that has "probably killed more humans than any other shark." Wear it with pride.

See More: How Wham-O got its start. 

5. MR. HOOTIE EGG RAKE

According to Tim Walsh, author of the Wham-O Super Book, Melin and Knerr probably drew this up just to make themselves laugh. In true Wham-O fashion, it was sold anyway. The idea, according to Melin, was to have a utensil that could remove the string (which he dubbed “woogers”) that connects the yolk to the egg shell; more sophisticated owners could use it as a bar tool for olives. In the end, no one used it for anything.

6. DRAW YARN

It’s unlikely Europeans were all that crazy about—or even aware of—a method by which one would draw using yarn. Then again, who would ever think to check? The company marketed this bizarre art kit in 1959.

7. HOME GYM

Wham-O entered the sporting goods market in the 1950s as a kind of segue between their death utensils and the popular outdoor products that would come later. This Charles Atlas-esque resistance band purported to enhance the female form. Melin and Knerr drew up the ad before any product was made to gauge interest before committing to a production run.

8. SUN-VU

A kind of futuristic sombrero following the space-age trend of the ‘50s, the Sun-Vu promised to shield the face from harmful UV rays. Throwing an entire sheet over one’s head may have been more fashionable.

9. TANK

Figuring kids were their own best energy source, Wham-O marketed this giant, eight-foot-long cardboard tank that was operated by climbing inside and walking on all fours. Due to non-military issue materials (paper), it probably didn’t stand up to the wear and tear of a normal backyard siege.   

10. MONORAIL

Cool kids had train sets; cooler kids had monorails. At least, that’s what Wham-O was counting on. But few amateur conductors saw any significant difference to warrant the $12.95 asking price.

11. TURBO TOPS

Asthmatics were best served avoiding this tabletop game, which required players to huff and puff until light-headed victory set in. Previously known as Knock Yer Top Off, Turbo Tops was one of Wham-O's final releases under Melin and Knerr's original ownership: They sold the company in 1982. 

12. BOMB SHELTER COVER

Consumers needed to supply their own ditch-digging in order to survive nuclear annihilation. Released to capitalize on Cold War paranoia, people thought the concept of preparing for doom too depressing to labor over.

See more: How Wham-O got its start

All images courtesy of Tim Walsh.

Turn Your LEGO Bricks Into a Drone With the Flybrix Drone Kit

Flyxbrix/FatBrain
Flyxbrix/FatBrain

Now more than ever, it’s important to have a good hobby. Of course, a lot of people—maybe even you—have been obsessed with learning TikTok dances and baking sourdough bread for the last few months, but those hobbies can wear out their welcome pretty fast. So if you or someone you love is looking for something that’s a little more intellectually stimulating, you need to check out the Flybrix LEGO drone kit from Fat Brain Toys.

What is a Flybrix LEGO Drone Kit?

The Flybrix drone kit lets you build your own drones out of LEGO bricks and fly them around your house using your smartphone as a remote control (via Bluetooth). The kit itself comes with absolutely everything you need to start flying almost immediately, including a bag of 56-plus LEGO bricks, a LEGO figure pilot, eight quick-connect motors, eight propellers, a propeller wrench, a pre-programmed Flybrix flight board PCB, a USB data cord, a LiPo battery, and a USB LiPo battery charger. All you’ll have to do is download the Flybrix Configuration Software, the Bluetooth Flight Control App, and access online instructions and tutorials.

Experiment with your own designs.

The Flybrix LEGO drone kit is specifically designed to promote exploration and experimentation. All the components are tough and can totally withstand a few crash landings, so you can build and rebuild your own drones until you come up with the perfect design. Then you can do it all again. Try different motor arrangements, add your own LEGO bricks, experiment with different shapes—this kit is a wannabe engineer’s dream.

For the more advanced STEM learners out there, Flybrix lets you experiment with coding and block-based coding. It uses an arduino-based hackable circuit board, and the Flybrix app has advanced features that let you try your hand at software design.

Who is the Flybrix LEGO Drone Kit for?

Flybrix is a really fun way to introduce a number of core STEM concepts, which makes it ideal for kids—and technically, that’s who it was designed for. But because engineering and coding can get a little complicated, the recommended age for independent experimentation is 13 and up. However, kids younger than 13 can certainly work on Flybrix drones with the help of their parents. In fact, it actually makes a fantastic family hobby.

Ready to start building your own LEGO drones? Click here to order your Flybrix kit today for $198.

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How to Brew Your Own Fluorescent Beer at Home

The Odin
The Odin

If you're one of the many people who made their own sourdough starter in quarantine, you already know yeast is a living thing. That means its biological makeup can be tweaked using genetic engineering. As Gizmodo reports, that's exactly what a former NASA biologist has done to create his new fluorescent yeast kits.

A few years ago, Josiah Zayner left his job as a synthetic biologist for NASA to found The Odin, a company that lets anyone experiment with genetic science at home. His recently launched yeast kit accomplishes this in an eye-catching way. Thanks to a fluorescent protein from jellyfish, yeast that's been genetically modified with the kit glows green under a black or blue light.

Despite looking like a prop from a sci-fi film, the yeast is still yeast. That means it can be used in home-brewing projects if you want to take the science experiment a step further. According to Eater, yeast made with the kit ferments and fluoresces when added to honey and water. If you brew a batch of beer with the right amount of yeast, the final product will emit an otherworldly glow when viewed under a blacklight. The kit hasn't been FDA approved, but the company states the materials are nontoxic and nonallergenic, and beer made with it will still taste like beer.

You can purchase a fluorescent yeast kit from The Odin's online shop for $169. If you're looking for more ways to experiment with genetic technology at home, the company also sells kits that let you play with frog and bacteria DNA.

[h/t Gizmodo]