How Bounce Houses Started
Inflatable Bouncy Houses
Bounce houses or inflatable structures were first designed in 1959 by John Scurlock, a mechanical engineer in Louisiana when he saw some of his employees jumping on the inflatable covers for tennis courts. He was a pioneer of inflatable tents, domes and his biggest achievement was the design of the safety air cushion used for catching people jumping from the building or heights.
When he saw his employees having fun, he was struck with an idea of an inflatable floor for fun. His idea soon developed and started a company in New Orleans called Space Walks. They came out with inflatable mattresses, called ‘Space Pillow’, and quickly evolved into bounce house structures. In the meantime, a few students in England used this concept to raise funds. The word ‘moonwalk‘ was used to describe these inflatable structures because it made people feel like as if they were walking on the moon.
In the 1960s, the bounce houses were a little big and high. In 1968, Scurlock’s wife Frances started the inflatable rental company and eight years later built a custom facility to produce and rent out the products. They promoted the space walk for children’s events such as birthday parties, fairs, picnic. The only problem with these inflatables was that it did not have any enclosure which posed as a safety threat. In 1967, a pressurized inflatable top and two fans were added, but it heated up faster during the summer. Walls and circulating air were added later.
Inflatable Water Slides
Soon, their son, Frank Scurlock set up the rental concept all through the U.S. under the name of ‘Space Walk’ and ‘Inflatable Zoo’. On Thanksgiving Day in 1986, he came up an inflatable indoor play park know as Fun Factory. A year later, he opened a second unit in Memphis, Tennessee that was called Fun Plex.
In 1974, a new product called Jupiter Jump was launched that had inflated columns supported by netted walls, thus allowing the air to pass. Gradually, castles and animals were launched called as ‘Inflatable Zoo’.
In the early 90s, Frank came up with inflatable water slide called Aqua Tunnel. Bounce House structures are made of PVC or vinyl and nylon and the structure is inflated using a powered blower. Cheap quality inflatable structures are also made of polyester and filled with air using a pump like an airbed. These do not last long. But fret not, they are illegal in the US and UK.