It sounds like a story right out of Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and it probably contains more fiction than fact – but it’s still too good not to repeat for old time’s sake. In Burma, there lived a poor little shoeless girl named Pogo. Her bare feet made it too difficult to make her daily trek, along the muddy roads filled with jagged rocks, so she could pray at the local temple. Her father finally came upon a solution to her dilemma and fashioned a jumping stick so that she could propel herself over these various obstacles and strengthen her soul without sacrificing her soles. A worldly traveler named George Hansburg happened to witness this miraculous jumping stick in action during one of his trips and decided that the rest of the world could also benefit from Pogo’s jumping stick.
Now, whether this heartwarming story of parentally inspired projection is true or not is anybody’s guess. What is known for certain is that a Mr. Hansburg did, in fact, have the idea for the Pogo Stick patented in 1919. Gimbles Department store took interest and ordered a large shipment to sell in the United States but, unfortunately, the magical wooden sticks all rotted during their journey to America and Handsburg would have to craft a more durable version if he ever hoped to see his dream of bouncing children come true. He founded a company called SBI Enterprises, who devised a metal version called the “Master Pogo” and soon after, the Pogo craze exploded.
In the roaring 20s, Hansburg introduced the Ziegfeld Follies to the pogo stick and once they started to bounce, it seemed that the rest of the nation followed suit. Jumping contests became the activity of choice as pogo loving people tried to earn their way into the record books across the nation. Couples even bounced into the bonds of matrimony, exchanging their vows while proudly perched on a pogo stick. And the New York Hippodrome chorus girls gave entire performances atop their Pogo Sticks. In other words, Pogo-mania had swept the country.
And while Pogo Sticks have never since enjoyed the same level of popularity that the 20s afforded, generation after generation have also taken many a pleasurable ride on a Pogo Stick and they remain in production to this day. In the 70s, New York entrepreneur Irwin Arginisky bought the rights and the company from Hansburg and continued the proud Pogo tradition. The iconic toys have seen many variations over the years, including the introduction of Superhero torsos attached to the handlebars, “bounce-ometers” to keep track of Pogo-progress and even day-glo “Go-Go Pogo” sticks from Pierce Toys. But none of these gimmicky versions has ever managed to knock the no-frills SBI brand Pogo Stick from its pedestal. Sometimes it’s just hard to beat the original.
Pogo Sticks aren’t all fun and games, as they also stealthily burn calories and help children to develop their sense of balance. As a result, maybe we should be buying kids more Pogo sticks and less video games. And even if the story of their namesake is completely fabricated, the Pogo stick has earned it’s place of cultural significance through the generations of kids and adults it has entertained over the many years of its existence.
If you have some personal experience of proudly bouncing yourself silly on a Pogo stick, we welcome your recollections in our comments section, as we pay tribute to this iconic toy that continues to delight.