For children of the 80s, few things evoke stronger memories of summer than Slip ‘N Slides, Super Soakers, Fla-Vor-Ice, and if you live in New England, Hoodsie cups.
If you were the lucky kid to have a Slip ‘N Slide in your backyard, you could expect to be friends with the entire neighborhood. There was something so simple, yet so liberating about running at full speed and then falling to your stomach to slide down a soaking wet (and sometimes soapy), yellow plastic runway.
Despite the craze in the 80s, the Slip ‘n Slide was created by Robert D. Carrier in 1960. Carrier was a Californian father who would come home from work to find his 10-year-old son and friends sliding down his painted concrete driveway – exciting for the kids but extremely worrying for the father. Carrier happened to be an upholsterer for a boat-seating manufacturer, and so like any good dad, he created a safer version for his kid and friends.
After every kid in the neighborhood came to his house to slide all day, Carrier knew he had a hit. He refined the product and filed a patent, describing the product as “a portable aquatic play device for body planing.” After filing his patent, he took his creation to toy manufacturer Wham-O.
Wham-O already had a successful roster of toys, including the Hula Hoop and Frisbees, both of which were also brought to the company by outside inventors. Wham-O made some adjustments to Carrier’s version, swapping out the plastic for a cheaper version (still used today), and shortened the length of the slide from 50 feet to 25 feet.
In 1961, Wham-O debuted the Slip ‘n Slide in 1961 and it was a runaway success. Within six months, 300,000 units were sold. Kids all over the country loved the simple gadget with no rules that provided that few seconds of adrenaline rush. And parents everywhere sighed in relief in finding an activity that would keep kids occupied for hours.
Slip ‘n Slide also had its share of controversy, surprising few who have used the danger-ridden toy. Between 1973 and 1991, seven adults and a teenager suffered serious injuries while using the Slip ‘n Slides, prompting Wham-O warn consumers in 1993 that only children should use the product. Use by adults or teens could cause neck injuries or paralysis. The recall warned that those above a certain size and weight who dive into the slide may hit and stop in a way that could cause permanent spinal injury.
Nevertheless, by Slip ‘n Slide’s 50th anniversary in 2001, the company had sold over 30 million Slip ‘n Slides and Time Magazine named Slip ‘n Slide one of its all-time greatest toys.