March 1, 2011 BY John Kim
It can be hard to believe that some of the world’s greatest companies had the most humble beginnings. Nike, the world’s largest and most successful athletic outfitter, was actually a late bloomer of sorts; by the time Nike first began its company, several other successful footwear manufacturers and moguls were already in play. Bill Bowerman, a legendary track coach with an astounding ‘track’ record, began Blue Ribbon Sports with Phil Knight and introduced the Nike Cortez in 1968 – one of Nike’s most iconic and recognizable footwear models. To improve track traction and running performance, Bill experimented with his wife Barbara’s home-style waffle iron and created a lightweight traction outsole that featured a waffle-like tread . In 1974, the Waffle Trainer was introduced, and today is considered to be the catalyst behind the growth of Blue Ribbon Sports/Nike.
During a recent house-cleaning, Melissa Bowerman discovered a box of what appeared to be dirty and muddy junk – old shoes and other trinkets destined for a garbage dump. Melissa is the daughter of Bill and Barbara Bowerman, and her brother-in-law Tom discovered a pit of Bill’s old junk buried in the Bowerman property (garbage trucks did not visit the property due to its unique location atop a steep slope). Melissa received confirmation from her mother Barbara shortly before her death that the waffle iron was indeed the original, and so Melissa later contacted Nike regarding these items. Nike was equally as shocked at this finding, and an even trade was performed – Melissa gives Nike the relic, Nike fives a pole-vault pit to Condon-Wheeler – a track team comprised of students in Oregon to which Melissa’s son is a member of. The original waffle iron was recently showcased to surprised Nike employees on Monday, February 21st, two days before Bill Bowerman’s 100th birthday. Want a real piece of Nike history? Check out the images below and let us know what you think. via The Oregonian.
Original waffle iron used by Bill Bowerman
Original Nike Waffle prototype
Bill Bowerman as track coach of University of Oregon
Bill and Barbara Bowerman