Beth Jacks Column

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 11, 2008

Jacks: Grandchildren bring old fashioned hula hoops back around

The Hula Hoop is 50 years old this summer – a nice, mature age worthy of great esteem – and yet this toy surpassing all toys has never, up to now, received the respect it deserves. In fact, readers may not be aware that the former Soviet Union banned the Hula Hoop years ago (when there WAS a Soviet Union) because they considered the toy to be a “symbol of the emptiness of American culture.”

Hmmph! I don’t think so. Tell me another toy that’s quite as mesmerizing while affording terrific exercise to the shimmy-shaker? A bike is exhilarating but not mesmerizing. A pogo stick is jerky. Jump ropes jar your innards. Most other sports require a partner or partners. The Hula Hoop wins, hands down.

My grandsons, Wayne (10) and Jacks (6), are pros. Wayne is older and more of an expert – he can spin the hoop around his knees and neck as well as his torso; Jacks is learning fast. He can whirl the thing forever around his waist. Those two are the Tiger Woods of Hula Hooping, no doubt about it, and will cash in on their expertise one of these days.

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You laugh, but I’m (half) serious. Hula Hoops may be reaching middle-age, but they’re coming back with a vengeance. Their devotees are a legion. I read where one guy said that every time he watches Hoopies he has “renewed hope for the human race.”

How profound is that?

Invented back in 1957-1958 by the Wham-O toy company, Hula Hoops quickly grabbed youngsters’ fancy. These were the early years of Elvis’s outrageous swivel hips, remember? And then a whole lotta shaking was going on, in addition, when Wham-O sold over 25 million Hula Hoops in the first four months of production.

For several years, hoop popularity soared. The early duration record was achieved by three 11-year-olds from Jackson (Miss.) in August, 1960, in a competition sponsored by WOKJ radio. Paulette Robinson, Charles Beard and Patsy Jo Grigby actually spun the hoops around their bodies for 11 hours and 34 minutes before the contest was called.

Surely these three were a team working in tandem. I mean, there had to be food and bathroom breaks, but you know if you read it on the Internet it’s bound to be true, right?

The current duration record, according to, is held by a gal named Roxann Rose. She hooped 90 hours over a period of 4 days in April, 1987. Another guy currently holds the record for spinning the most hoops at the same time – 105. And then there’s the fellow named Roman Schedler; he recently spun a 53 pound tractor tire for 71 seconds around his middle during an Austrian festival.

Obviously, in the last 20 years things are looking up for the hooping crowd. Just seven years ago in Taiwan, almost 2,300 folks met in a (very) large town square to hoop in unison. Don’t you know that was a joyous occasion? And there are now World Championship festivals where competitors shake their stuff with moves ranging from “Knee Knockers” to “Wrap the Mummy.” I get excited thinking about the energy of it all – not since the “Twist” has there been a more revolutionary movement!

For those who find themselves inspired, the writers at provide guidance, advising that the bigger you are, the bigger your hoop should be. (I could have guessed.) While smaller hoops are better for tricks, larger hoops rotate more slowly and are better for beginners. Most learners think they’ve got to establish a twisting motion to keep the hoop spinning, say the gurus at, but that’s not good form. Instead, place one foot in front of the other and keep shifting weight in a rocking motion. Right-handers are usually more successful hooping counter-clockwise; lefties, clockwise.

And that’s it – all the advice you’ll ever need to conquer everything from the “Hula Hop” to the “Alley Oop.”

Happy Birthday, Hula Hoops! Here’s hoping you wiggle, waggle and wobble another 50 years. I’ll watch.