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article imageCharles Foley, Twister inventor, dies at 82

By Jerry Nelson     Jul 13, 2013 in Business
Minneapolis - Right foot red. Left foot blue.
If Twister comes to mind then you’re a late stage baby boomer. Patented in 1966, Twister quickly became the entertainment of choice for kid — as well as adult — parties.
Charles "Chuck" Foley, inventor of the popular game 'Twister', died July 1 at a care facility in the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park.
Foley was born in Lafayette, Ind., in 1930 and showed off his talent to invent early. When just eight years old, he came up with a latching mechanism that would close a gate to keep cattle penned on the family’s farm.
When he graduated from high school, Foley went to work on a Ford assembly line and continued to put his skill for innovation to work. He equipped his 1952 Belvedere with tricolor taillights; green for speeding up, red for stopping and orange for slowing down. The officer who gave him a ticket also congratulated him.
Foley served in the Michigan Air National Guard from 1950 to 1953. Upon his discharge he was a salesman for a furnace cleaning service and worked for a variety of companies developing different products including the automatic cocktail shaker.
"He was extremely creative and had an open mind to any opportunity that could make a difference in people's lives," son Mark Foley said in The Los Angeles Times.
Besides Twister, Foley invented many other games and toys. Included in his 97 patents were a variety of gadgets and gizmos including soft-tipped darts, toy handcuffs, a hand-launched chopper and ‘un-du,’ an adhesive remover used by people who keep scrapbooks, stamp collectors, librarians and anyone else that wants to remove dried glue without leaving a mark or residue.
Foley collaborated with cartoonist and friend Neil W. Rabens when they were co-workers at a Minnesota design firm in 1965.
"I remember the patent office saying we needed mechanical parts to patent it," Rabens told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. "It was Foley who said, 'How about using people as the parts?'"
Twister proved to be a popular game -- once it got past the bureaucrats at the Patent Office
Twister proved to be a popular game -- once it got past the bureaucrats at the Patent Office
Courtesy of Milton Bradly
Foley and Rabens had to go to Washington to demonstrate to the bureaucrats in the Patent Office how Twister was to be played. The humor of the game was lost on the suits who wrote in a patent filing:
"With a particular limb of each player on a particular locus of a certain column, and with the referee chancing to call for the movement of the said limb to a locus of the same column, the players shall each be required to move that same limb to another locus of that same column."
To put the same “bureau-ese” in plain language, people in various contortions on a mat covered with colored dots get friendly in a hurry.
In addition to his son and daughter, Foley is survived by sisters Veronica Lewis, of Michigan, and Carolyn Walker, of Atlanta; two brothers, Mike, of Michigan, and Bernard of Wisconsin.; five other sons Chuck, of Dallas; Mike, of Cloquet, Minn.; Brian, of Michigan; and Pat and Kevin, both of the Twin Cities; two other daughters, Kerin Logstrom, of the Twin Cities and Mary Kay of Buffalo, Wyo.
Mark Foley said his father never stopped inventing. “At a family Thanksgiving dinner in Dallas a few years ago, he stared into the backyard swimming pool, intently watching a motorized pool-cleaning device on the bottom,” Foley said.
"You know," he said, "if you put a crazy image of a shark with earphones on that thing, it would be fun and cool and people would love it!"
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