Look at a Frisbee in profile and you'll notice the edge is shaped like an airplane wing.
Like an airplane, that gentle upward curve lowers the pressure of air flowing over the Frisbee, causing the relatively high-pressure air beneath to push up, giving the disc lift and making possible the long, floating glides resulting from a good throw.
That distinctive upward curve is called the "Morrison slope" after the inventor of the Frisbee, Walter Frederick Morrison, who is alive and well and living in the central Utah town of Monroe.
"When I first heard about him here, I thought it was the biggest cock-and-bull story I ever heard," said Doug Smith, president of Utah Team Disc Golf, the local disc (or Frisbee) golf group.
It is, nonetheless, true. And now, after long years in Utah, the 84-year-old Morrison who still receives Frisbee royalties from Wham-O will be recognized Saturday at Creekside Park, just west of Cottonwood Mall, in a ceremony complete with a newly installed 1,500-pound sandstone monument inscribed with his name and achievements, a flagpole, and County Mayor Nancy Workman reciting an official proclamation and naming the park's 18-hole disc golf course "Walter Frederick Morrison Disc Golf Course at Creekside Park."
Keep in mind that, for Frisbee enthusiasts, this guy is the equivalent of William Harley for motorcycle fans.
"Really?" said disc golf player Victor Staten, when told the news while flinging discs at the park Thursday. "He's coming here? The inventor of the Frisbee? Cool!"
"Isn't that the guy who got cremated and had his ashes (molded) in the shape of a Frisbee?" said his friend Nick Jones.
(Answer: No. Rumors of Morrison's death have been greatly exaggerated.)
Morrison has lived a long, colorful life. While flying a P-47 in Italy during World War II he was shot down and captured, spending the rest of the war in the Germans' infamous Stalag 13. After the war, while earning money as a building inspector in Los Angeles in 1948, he recalled the pie tins and paint can lids he threw around as a boy in Utah and set out to make a plastic version that would fly even better.
His first attempts had their problems. Morrison initially used a butyl stearate blend that became brittle in cool weather, so the discs shattered into a million pieces when they hit the ground. Also, each of his Morrison Flyin' Saucers featured six topside curved spoilers, or vanes, that were supposed to improve lift. They didn't.
In 1951, Morrison improved his model, removing the vanes and dubbing the UFO-like result the Pluto Platter. He hawked them around Southern California, Wham-O came calling and in 1957 the company began mass production of what would eventually become 200 million Frisbees sold around the globe.
Workman spokesman Jim Braden remembers going to the 1954 Orange County Fair in Pomona, Calif., as a boy and seeing "these guys in sports coats and ties in this cage throwing the Pluto Platter. They were making it spin and curve and we all wanted one."
A Wham-O representative on the east coast contributed to the lasting name. Ivy League college students had long flung pie pans through the air to each other. The most popular pans held pies baked by the Frisbie Pie Co., which had its name embossed on the bottom.
A slight misspelling later and the Frisbee name was born.
Morrison later moved back to Utah, bought a motel, ran a quarterhorse ranch and for a while owned the Richfield airport, "all on Wham-O money," said his friend Ron Tische, with whom Morrison plays penny-ante poker. "He's always looking for something to do."
Time passed until, two years ago, Colonial Flag President Paul Swenson, a Frisbee enthusiast (he once threw a Frisbee into the Nile River), learned that the inventor of the Frisbee lived in Sevier County.
"I thought, no one's really honored this guy," Swenson said, and he set to work. The result, today's ceremony, will be a surprise to Morrison, whose friends are keeping him away from TVs and newspapers to preserve the secret.
"Walt will be pleased as punch," Tische said. "He's got a little bit of a rough exterior, he's kind of crotchety, (but) I think the biggest problem he's going to have is not to cry. This is going to mean a great deal to him."
The ceremony is 2 p.m. at Creekside Park, 1660 E. 4800 South, during a break in a disc golf competition. There will be food and 200 free Frisbees, which Swenson hopes to have signed by Morrison himself.
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