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History of Fli-back
by James E Gibson III, grandson of the founder

My Grandfather, James Emory Gibson, was born in Perquimmons County in eastern North Carolina in 1894. He grew up in the Portsmouth area of Virginia and became a grain and feed salesman when he was about 17. Early in his salesman travels he met my grandmother, Rozena Gibson, in High Point North, Carolina. They married around 1915 and had five children, of which my Dad, James Emory Gibson Jr. was born in 1920. My grandfather started the Fliback Company in 1931. It came about when my grand father was suffering thru the depression and trying to find something else to supplement his income. My dad's oldest sister, Josephine, came home with a toy given away at an ice cream store which was a primitive version of a paddleball. My grandfather thought that this was an item he could easily manufacture and that it had good play value and could be sold cheap.

The end result was that he ended up making millions of them and diversified into other simple toys such as spinning tops, yo-yos, balloons, rubber balls, etc. By the 1950s the Fliback Company was selling world wide and employed several hundred workers. In the early 1960s my father, Emory Gibson Jr., became president of the company and was positioning it to build a new plant and more than double production. Sales and production was at an all time high and new products such as golf balls, footballs, basketballs and other mainline athletic products were being developed for production. Unfortunately my father died in 1963 at the age of 43 and his plans were put on hold. Accordingly, the company was sold to Ohio Art company in 1972 and started a downward spiral. The Hedstrom company was the final owner who eventually closed the factory in North Carolina and moved the remaining production to Mississippi in the 1980s. Apparently Hedstrom has now ceased manufacturing any toys under the Fli-back brand names and may now actually be out of business altogether.

James E. Gibson III
2005-2017 © David W. Hall & Grahame Wright