From a simple hula hoop to the complex mechanics of a Zamboni, every invention has a story. California’s southern region is home to legendary inventors and their “firsts,” so take advantage of school vacation and see where the history of famous foods, toys and more all began.
Herb Peterson got his start with McDonald’s Corporation as part of its advertising team, but later decided to open his own franchises in Southern California. As a fan of Eggs Benedict, Peterson worked to create something similar for his customers. In 1972, he came up with an egg sandwich topped with cheese and grilled Canadian bacon, served on a toasted and buttered English muffin. Peterson introduced the “Egg McMuffin” at a restaurant in Santa Barbara he co-owned with his son. Until his death in 2008 at age 89, the businessman was still a familiar face at his six McDonald’s restaurants in Santa Barbara and Goleta, enjoying Egg McMuffins just as much as he did decades earlier. Curious to see where McDonald’s originated and learn more? Head to nearby San Bernardino where the McDonald brothers opened their first restaurant in 1940, and check out www.aboutmcdonalds.com/mcd/our_company.html.
The hula-hoop is one of those timeless items you can always find on toy store shelves. In 1957, Richard Knerr and Arthur “Spud” Melin were talking to a visitor from Australia who told them about children twirling bamboo hoops around their waists in gym class. A year later, Knerr and Melin started marketing the hula-hoop (inspired by the name of the Hawaiian dance) through their Los Angeles-based company, Wham-O. In two months, the duo had sold 25 million hula-hoops and the fad has since come back in style many times throughout the years. While the hula-hoop may be somewhat of a reinvention, Knerr and Melin used a new type of plastic to make their product and gave it a name that children and adults around the world now know. If you’re a big fan of classic toys like the hula-hoop, check out the Big Kid Collectible Toy Mall & Retro Store, just north of Los Angeles in Sherman Oaks. You can also shop online at www.bigkidcollectables.com.
If you’ve ever been to an ice rink, you know how important the Zamboni is, smoothing out the surface quickly and efficiently. The man to thank would be Frank Zamboni. At the age of 21, Zamboni moved to Southern California to work as an auto repairman, but soon got into the refrigeration business. In 1939, he built Iceland Skating Rink in Paramount, one of the largest in the country at that time. Zamboni soon learned, however, that there was no easy way to resurface the ice once it had been chipped from use. After several experiments and prototypes, the entrepreneur developed the "Model A Zamboni Ice Resurfacer" (patent number 2,642,679) in 1949. When Olympic skater Sonja Henie saw the machine in action, she ordered one for her national tour and helped spread the word. Today, skaters and hockey players would be lost without the Zamboni. Check out the place of its birth – and go for a skate – at Paramount Iceland. For more info, visit www.paramounticeland.com.
Southern California boasts its fair share of great minds, and the area’s inventions are enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. Learn something new this month and get inspired to create your own work of genius.