I understand the Wonder
Products Co was started in the late '40s when a man bought rights to a design
featuring a rigid 4-post frame and a horse suspended from 4 coil springs. These
were made in Arkansas [the Wonder state] for a while and then moved to Collierville,
TN, east of Memphis. Wilson (footballs, meatballs, & goofballs) owned Wonder
then, then Pepsico, then CBS. The toy was almost all wood. The sides were masonite
silkscreened red and black with wood blocks separating the sides and giving
a place to sit. Dowels pierced the masonite/woodblocks to provide handgrips,
footrests, and spring connection points.
When Wonder moved to plastic horses their appearance improved dramatically. Wonder had the largest injection-molding machines of any toy company. Styrene (hard shiny plastic) horses were made in 6 parts, to allow for insides of the legs, and solvent-welded as soon as they came out of the presses.
Wonder's paint lines were really a marvel, as it was considered a high-status job and people advanced by merit to the most difficult workstations. That is why I (apparently) accurately predicted failure when Wonder moved to Bossier City to be under Gym Dandy (a CBS Toys fiasco.) CBS Toys worked out the motion-activated voicebox of the Clip-Clop model.
Collierville's workforce consisted mostly of part-time farmers and country folk who had already done their morning chores when they arrived at the factory complex just southeast of the town square.
Wonder went to rotational molding of bigger polyethylene (softer, translucent plastic) horses and other items as well. [I was hired to design "anything but horses, we have enough." I did a lot of toyboxes and wheeled toys.] These required big 6-part aluminum molds but no gluing. After they cooled, each was trimmed using a special knife and a buffing wheel on a die grinder. Polyethylene must be flametreated before paint will stick - a dramatic sight.
Steel tube bases were made down the road by Troxel, a bicycle-seat manufacturer. The CBS whiz kids who moved Wonder to Bossier City thought they'd save money by having Gym Dandy make the bases. We painted the bases electrostatically; no paint hit the ground.
Wonder's maintenance men cared for 100-ton injection molding machines, large 6-cavity rotocast cages, etc. There was a marvellous machine to drill holes in dowels, invented by maint foreman Lonnie Manley.
When Wonder was bought by Wilson Sporting Goods it was tasked with molding plastic golf bag bottoms, football facemasks, and other things. As I was moving to Wonder in 1974, there was a story on the national news of plastic molded facemasks failing! Yes, they were made in Collierville. I asked, of course, and Wonder had done everything it or anyone could think of. They attributed it to material contamination preventing the plastic from bonding where it met.
Wonder even got into flocking, spraying a glue patch on the horse, statically charging it, and sending short fibers to stick in the glue to give a velvety texture. When this was discontinued in the mid-70s, every effort was made to clean the whole building of those damned fibers!
At one time they rotomolded a variety of vinyl balls. I remember the large vinyl tanks being cut down and scrapped.
Almost as soon as I started, I told my boss Nolan Ray Taylor that our packaging was in need of redesign, as the boxes were so dissimilar. I learned that the forklift drivers were pretty-much illiterate and depended on the looks, not the words, to tell which were which. Our packaging was 2-color on mist corrug board, usually with a glued-on photo. The glue line was so good I was spoiled.. when I went to Hunter Fan, people could not be bothered to do such careful work.
Wonder sent out replacement parts with great diligence.
We also had a tiny division making Yell-a-Phones, plastic megaphones we molded, silkscreened with school name, mascot, and colors. My boss Nolan Ray ran YAPs as well as product development. I did all the real product design, along with outside designers, and he worked on paint schemes. When Nolan left, R+D went under Bill Woodruff and engineering.
We tested products on children carefully, going to several church daycare centers so that we'd see which age groups played appropriately with a design. When we took them to the Jewish Community Center daycare, one-year-younger children played appropriately.
As I designed toys we watched closely for pinchpoints, strangulation and drowning (in a big toybox) dangers.
My big deadline was designing and producing prototypes for Toy Fair held in NYC every February, but designers never got to go.
I found this case..
The judgment and injunction
were entered in Civil Action No. 52-C-2134. This cause was brought by Baltz,
the owner of U.S. Patent Re. 23,849, and Wonder Products, his exclusive licensee,
against The Fair for its use and sale of spring-suspended hobby horses manufactured
by Rich Industries, Inc., alleged to infringe the Baltz patent. Rich voluntarily
joined as a defendant and assumed the complete defense of the action on behalf
of itself and The Fair. Following a trial and related proceedings, the issues
were found for plaintiffs; and favorable findings of fact and conclusions of
law were entered. There was a judgment holding the Baltz patent valid and infringed
and enjoining defendants from any further infringement. This judgment became
final following the dismissal of an appeal therefrom by defendants.
Don E Toussaint Sr-pres
Don Beiser treasurer
Ernie Leachman, controller
Whit Whitman HR
W W Woodruff chief engr shelby racing
Carl Dietz Head of manufacturing
Ron Hayes foreman of inj molding
Son Hailey Randsburg machine (metal tube painting)
Arland C. Eilert QC -to Lionel
Ron Dawkins engr scarred face tall
John Wheeler engr
Don Toussaint Jr- foreman rotomold
Steve Smith? old b-ball star, sales
Chris Schadrack -traffic/sales
Katie Thompson, secy
Bill Smith -purch. and his 'dwarf' Buddy
Dorothy Rutledge payroll clerk
Tina Nicholson, clerk
David Hollis qc, of Moscow TN
Virgil Kimery -rotomold maint; Betty wife- QC
JW Brown, head of maintenance... Jerry, Larry, Jewel Ray Jordan
Mike "the Whale" Whalum
Minnie Smith office head
David sent replacement parts
Carl Hayes foreman
Nolan Ray Taylor -Prod dev+yellaphones
Brenda -Yellaphones + voicebox testing