Norman and the (not very) Giant Peach

CONTRIBUTORS

Mum phoned last weekend to say it was time to sort through the childhood toy box – the wasteland of eclectic toys still taking up space.

And so I journeyed back as a 26 year-old to the house I grew up in. Simple I thought, “I’ll throw away everything, what use are these toys to me now?”.

Opening the cupboard door, memories poured out as I dragged the giant green bin of toys from within. Sprawling the contents on the hard wooden floor, I smiled as I looked through the glistening plastic pieces, forgotten dreams and fluffy stuffed toys.

I hoped to see an old favourite among the random limbs from action figures and dolls, the Racer Red box cars and Pinkle-coloured Barbie shoes.

Then I saw it. Joy!

How could I forget the hours of silly play as my all-time favourite bouncy ball zipped about the room. Unpredictable. Captivating.

Seeing it again, I was reminded of a visit to a preschool connected with my work (yes, Big Fat Smile) and the way children placed importance on showing me their favourite toys. Just like my favourite.

Everyone remembers the bouncy ball, right?

For some it’s the peach-toned rubber ball that dried and cracked like sunburnt skin at the end of summer. For others it’s the 80s-inspired fluoro swirl of colour that danced to infomercials and Saturday morning cartoons.

For me, it was Version 2.0 of Galactic Glitter, inspired by my obsession with space and infinite wonder.

I have great memories of playing with my futuristic space ball, trying for hours as hard as I could to make it speed ever-faster around the room.

“Take that, wall!”

“If I put everything into it I bet it could bounce into space”, I would say.

Years later I checked the web and, thrown down hard by an average adult, it can leap over a three-story building. Awesome!

It was also as deadly as it was fun. No brother could enter his sister’s room and escape unbranded.

Every late-60s home had it. Small, polybutadiene, peach-coloured and marketed as the Super Ball.

It was invented by Californian chemist Norman Stingly while experimenting on the durability of rubber. In one life-changing moment, Norman subjected a rubber compound to 3,500 pounds of pressure per square inch. The result is history.

Fast forward a couple of years to the NFL / AFL merger in American professional football. Watching his kids playing with the ball, Lamar Hunt joked “Call it the Super Bowl”. And they did.

Without realising it, Norman created something that would engage kids across the Western World. It’s a genuine symbol of 60s culture and, for this story, a lasting symbol of what imagination and experimentation can achieve.

To me the Super Ball is inspired – just like a child’s imagination; resilient, irrepressible and never-to-be-underestimated.

After all, these qualities are essential for a Braver, Brighter, More Creative World!

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by Eliza Burrell, Big Fat Smile HQ