My Girlfriend is a Frisbee
By the summer of 1969, the now famous Columbia parking lot had been built. Down the hill from the school, the lot is bounded on the east by a 12-foot drop that descends into the Rahway River and on the west by a railroad embankment. Because the lot was lit by mercury vapor lights, the students could play there at night, after the day’s activities. Games at the parking lot included teams of 20 or more per side, but that was eventually whittled to seven because “that was the most you could fit in the parking lot,” Leiwant said. Soon, it became known that a regular game could be found on the “field” almost every weekend night and during vacations. “I used to spend so many weekend nights at the Frisbee field during my junior and senior high school years that my parents would kid and lament that my only girlfriend was a Frisbee or that I would marry a Frisbee,” Hines said.
The sport was first publicized in a June 1969 Newark Evening News article, written by Silver, entitled “Frisbee Flippers Form Teams” and appearing above a story called “John and Yoko Croon Again.” On the first day of school that fall, the Frisbee squad played its first game on the school’s new parking lot.
As the weeks and months passed, everything was not rosy in the lot, however. Local toughs and troublemakers would sometimes drive through the lot at high speeds hassling the players and forcing them to scatter. Summers recalled one night when a “real big bruiser” about 6-foot-2, 240-pounds and a smaller guy got out of their car and attacked the No. 2 student in the class. “He was a very gentle, unassuming guy who wouldn’t have hurt a fly,” Summers said. “I went over to them and the smaller guy took a swing at me. I knew I could’ve decked him, but the big guy was standing right there.” (It is believed by some that the attackers went on to found Ultimate in North Carolina.)
Despite receiving abuse for their anti-establishment, countercultural game, the Frisbee players carried on. In February, 1970, the players adopted the name The Columbia High School Varsity Frisbee Squad, a tongue-in-cheek reference because the team had no official connection with the school. One player designed “CHS Varsity Frisbee” sweatshirts, Silver’s mother paid to have them made up and the players proudly wore them in the first team photo. In the picture of the “Original Ultimate squad,” a school custodian appeared as “Head Coach,” the school security director was the “General Manager” and a fictitious player, Arnold Tzoltic, was listed as a member.
According to Hellring’s sister, Heidi, Hellring got Wham-O to send the team a box of Frisbees because the discs kept cracking in the 15-25 degree Fahrenheit air; one green 120-gram “moonlighter” was lost in the brook by the lot, The Colombian reported. Silver and Hellring also took the International Frisbee Association’s test, passing it as masters. The IFA was then the sport’s governing body.
Hellring continued to write tongue-in-cheek Frisbee stories and place ads for the team in the paper. In one, the paper reported that “the rise of Frisbee in Columbia high school is merely indicative of a world-wide trend, according to major national periodicals.” The story went on to cite a Time magazine article which recommended that the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. take their cue and henceforth “settle all disputes between the two with Frisbees instead of missiles.”
Article by Adam Zagoria.