Before it was the iconic pastime of hippies at music festivals, and before it was the easiest game to pack and play at tailgate parties, it was just a distraction for a bunch of bored bakery employees. In Bridgeport, Connecticut, a family named Frisbie started a business selling pies: The Frisbie Pie Company. While waiting for the yeast to rise, employees busied themselves tossing empty metal pie tins back and forth. Kids can make toys out of anything laying around, and this new twist on the old game of catch included kids yelling “FRISBIE!” to avoid head injuries or black eyes.
William Russell Frisbie started selling fresh pies from home in 1871. Thirty-four years later the family built a power plant in their basement to meet the high demand for the popular cherry, blueberry, and apple confections. A decade after the in-home, industrial-sized, easy bake oven, the next generation of Frisbie’s constructed a three-story factory in Bridgeport. The pies they baked sold for five cents and were delivered by horse and wagon. The family went on distributing pies until 1956, and at their peak operated a fleet of two hundred delivery trucks delivering fifty thousand pies a day.
Due to advances in refrigeration and corporate distribution, the baking aspect of the brand slipped into a food coma. In 1956 Frisbie Pie Co. was purchased by Table Talk, a pie company from Worcester, Massachusetts. The Frisbie brand-name successfully took off in a different direction like the lead singer of a boy band going solo. The metal tins proved a solid foundation for a hot business. That business turned out to be more centered on pastime than snack time.
The game of Frisbee gained popularity when the flying tins were liberated from Yale University dining halls and flung across the greens. When California based toy company Wham-O caught wind of the trend in the 1950s, they designed and marketed a plastic disc called the “Pluto Platter”. Because of the East Coast influence, the company renamed the toy Frisbee, adding the change in spelling to avoid trademark infringements.
Since its humble pie beginning, tossing a plate back and forth has become more than a game for idle bakers. Ultimate Frisbee has taken off as a non-contact team sport developed by New Jersey high school students and comes across as a mixture of American football and freeze-tag. Most colleges have teams or public co-ed leagues.
The lesser known “Frolf” or “disc golf” has also gained traction in the summer sport arena. Frolf courses are popping up around the country where a series of chain baskets are hung from metal poles in the ground at varying distances and players use Frisbees of different weights and sizes, similar to a golfer changing clubs, to drive or put the disc into the “hole”. Depending on difficulty, each basket has a different number of throws estimated to get the disc to its destination, taking into account interfering winds, trees, or birds.
Dan O’Connor, a Fairfield Connecticut resident and one-time avid Frisbee player, started collecting Frisbie Pie Company memorabilia with a single metal tin from a tag sale, then graduated to scouring flea markets. Realizing the local history of the classic toy, his collecting got more serious. In 2008 at an estate sale, O’Connor found a load of recipe books and photographs from the Frisbie family. “It’s been something I’ve been pretty passionate about for a long time,” O’Connor told the Hartford Courant.
He acquired the trademark for the brand name, the license and distribution rights to put the Frisbie Pie Company back in business. Now two fundamentals of any social gathering, pie and disc, can be found under the same name. The improved pie company offers the same classic treats but also keeps it current by sponsoring an annual Disc Golf Pro Tour and Frisbee Sport Festival in Bridgeport. O’Connor himself, the CEO and president of the company, delivers pies in a replica of the 1936 Chevrolet truck with the same vintage logo on the side. Man, time flies when you’re having fun.
Headline photo courtesy of Petey21.