MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — You may not know his name, but you’ve almost certainly played his game.
Charles “Chuck” Foley, the Minnesota man who invented Twister, passed away on July 1. He was 82 years old.
His family said he had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Foley dedicated his life to finding new games and toys for children.
Haven’t we all, after all, been tangled in Twister’s web of fun? But few have spent more time on that plastic sheet of colored spots than Foley’s family.
“Twister took on its own life,” said Mark Foley, Chuck Foley’s son.
Mark knew at a young age that play goes with being the son of a toy inventor.
“He was a fierce competitor. When he was involved [in the game], we didn’t win,” Mark said.
Hard to believe that 47 years after Twister hit the market, the world almost missed out. The iconic mat posed a problem in the beginning. Initially made out of a shower curtain, Foley made a deal to sell 1 million games to get production in place.
“Making the mat, in and of itself, was a challenge, because there was a manufacturer that would manufacture the shower curtains, but didn’t have a machine set up to do the design he needed,” Mark said.
Foley also ran into issues with the game patent.
“Initially, the United States patent office rejected his patent. So he went there and played the game with them, and they got it,” Mark said.
But after a plug from Johnny Carson and Eva Gabor, Twister became a game everybody wanted to buy.
Ever the visionary: Chuck Foley wasn’t ready to stop there.
The Minnesota man is responsible for toy handcuffs, with a lock that made it easy for kids to remove safely, dart boards that used darts with a flat head, and of course more games.
He even ventured outside the toy market. Foley and his son brought an adhesive removal product to store shelves called “Un-DU.”
An inventor into his 70s, it’s the drive to create that his loved ones will remember most.
“He was always interested in improving, or making the quality of life, or the quality of play, better,” Mark said.
The true legacy of someone you might call the original gamer.
Chuck Foley didn’t work alone. He teamed up with another Minnesota man on Twister and several other toys and games.
Neil Raben is still alive and doing well in Mora, Minn.