Now if I'm a sailor in the 18th century that's been holed up on a musty ship for 5 or 6 months and suddenly we drop anchor in Hawaii, you better believe I'm going to thank my lucky stars. I'd have thought I'd died and went to heaven if I was looking at some nubile Hawaiian girls in grass skirts and flowers, rotating a hula hoop around their waists while dancing to some crazy drum beat.
Must have been quite a sight. Amazing that these sailors actually left the islands and took the idea of the hula hoop with them. Well, a couple thousand years have passed since the invention of the first hula-hoop. The first hula hoops were obviously low-rent models that were made out of grass and wood or maybe vines. But again, if I'm looking at a scantily clad Hawaiian girl wearing coconut shells and a smile, I probably don't care what material the hula hoop is made out of.
In the Hawaiian language, the word "hula" means "dance". So hula hoop literally means "dance of the hoop". Those crazy sailors - at least the ones who were able to pry themselves off the Hawaiian Islands - made their way back to England and introduced to hula hoop to modern society. Kids took to the hula hoop like a fish takes to water, and before you know it, a fad was born. In England, adults and children of all ages were wild about this new pastime called "hooping".
Now here's where the story of the hula hoop gets a little foggy: apparently someone from Australia was in England and saw all that crazy hula hoping going on and decided to take the idea back with him to the Outback. Well, before you can say "Hey mate", an Australian company took to making their hula hoops out of wood. And they sold quite a few. But we're talking about Australia in the 18th or 19th century, so how many people are we really talking about? A couple dozen and you're closet neighbor is twenty miles away. So much for starting a craze. Anyway, now it gets even zanier: fast forward about 100 years and now someone from California is in Australia and gets wind of the hula hoop craze and took the idea back with him to the United States. Hey, doesn't anyone believe in patents? Or maybe the concept of the patent wasn't invented yet.
At any rate, these Californians decided to make their hula hoop out of plastic instead of wood. They also decided to color the darn things. Would you believe in six months these guys sold almost 20 million hula hoops? And do the math: each hula hoop sold for two dollars. Let me see...20 million times two dollars is...a heck of a lot of money in 1958. This was when a million dollars (or 40 million dollars to be exact) was really worth something. Twenty million hula hoops twirling around the waists of little children, teenage girls and silly adults. But like any other fad, the hula hoop craze withered on the vine and petered out within a few years. But with all that money in the bank, do you really think those two guys from California cared?
At its height, the hula-hoop reached such levels of popularity that hula hoop games and competitions were created. Things like the longest you can hula before dropping the hoop. Or spinning the hoop on your arms, legs and waist simultaneously. Hula Hoop games are pretty much a thing of the past, but the hula hoop lives on - creating fun for a new generation of kids.