You might think that today’s 20-something year old tech entrepreneurs are whippersnappers, but they pale in comparison to Frank Epperson of Oakland, who inadvertently invented the popsicle in 1905 at the ripe old age of 11. After mistakenly leaving a glass of flavored soda water and a mixing stick outside overnight, the pre-teen treat king stumbled upon one of the world’s most popular summertime snacks and copyrighted his idea in 1923.
As the old adage goes, necessity is the mother of invention. And so it was up on Nob Hill in 1873 when Andrew Hallidie tamed San Francisco’s notoriously steep streets with the cable car. Relying on an endless cable running around two points, this new mode of transportation was far more smooth and efficient than early electric cars.
Fantasy Football might be a $70 billion market today, but back during its inaugural draft in 1963 it consisted of just one eight-member league huddled together in an Oakland rec room. Developed by Raiders’ partner Bill Winkenbach and a few close friends (PR flacks, sports reporters), the game slowly spread, first to Oakland bar King’s X, then league by league across the country until it became the behemoth known and loved by everybody.
Today, “the wave” is synonymous with professional sports. But the popular cheer didn’t reach critical mass until high school teacher and part-time cheerleader “Krazy” George Henderson led a stadium-wide wave at an Oakland A’s game on October 15, 1981. Broadcast on live TV, the mass participation cheer quickly gained momentum, washing all over the world like a, well, wave.
It’s hard to imagine that this summer marked mountain biking’s 20th anniversary as an Olympic sport. But before its meteoric rise to global phenomena, mountain biking was just a NorCal hobby, with pioneers like Gary Fisher barreling down the slopes of Marin’s Mount Tam aboard a cruiser bike modified with road bike gears, beefy tires, and motocross handlebars. Sure, today the sport might require the latest high tech equipment, but its roots are as laid-back and DIY as they come.
With a background in both the telegraph and phonograph business, inventor Louis Glass introduced the world’s first coin-operated jukebox — or nickel-in-a-slot machine, as it was known in those early days — at San Francisco’s Palais Royal Saloon in 1889. Encased in an oak cabinet, it earned $1000 within six months, paving the way for many a barroom rock out session in the ensuing decades.
Surfing might have been all the rage in Hawaii and SoCal, but back in the 1950s the Bay Area waters were too cold for the young sport to really catch on. Enter Jack O’Neill, who opened his fist surf shop in a garage in 1952 on Great Highway. An avid body surfer, O’Neill began gluing together vests from neoprene, creating the world’s first wetsuit (not to mention an iconic American sports brand).