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Better Mousetrap? Nah, Better Spitballs

September 4, 1990

NEW YORK (AP) _ Class clowns around the country are returning to school armed with a new tool for teacher torture: ″Spit Wads,″ a high-tech version of the old- fashioned spitball.

″You can’t stand in the way of progress,″ inventor Ted Skup said, tongue in cheek.

″It sounds simple, but try developing one,″ said Skup, who created the wads after a year’s worth of sticky, slippery research.

So what does this invention mean to the average underachieving student with $1.29 to spend?

No more telltale straws or messy clumps of unused, well-chewed paper, for one thing, because you don’t spit ″Spit Wads,″ you toss them. You get a quarter-ounce of a light blue non-toxic compound, enough for several traditional-size spitballs. The material is described as a polymeric improvement on the original spitball that won’t stain when stuck.

″I threw a lot of stuff at the walls which never came off when I was developing this,″ said Skup, 38, of Schererville, Ind. ″There’s still a lot of marks on my wall.″

Skup came up with the idea during a lunch break from his job as a refinery worker. After a year’s worth of experiments with every glue, paste and adhesive he could find, Skup produced the space-age spitballs and trademarked the ″Spit Wads″ name for the gum-like clumps.

″I was lucky to get that,″ he said proudly. ″That’s my own personal trademark for the next 20 years.″

Skup brought his creation to an old soccer-playing buddy, soon-to-be financial backer Scott Hicko. Both vividly recall that day of destiny this past March.

″Once I threw it against the wall and it stuck, I sold him. You don’t need a big presentation when the guy starts laughing for an hour,″ said Skup.

″I’ve seen products all my life, been in business for 20 years, and seen a lot of gimmicks. Something hit me with this - nostalgia, maybe the old troublemaker in me,″ said Hicko.

Hicko is not the only one with a misspent youth; Skup quickly announces he was voted class clown in high school. Both were surprised the product has been as popular among adults as with children.

″It touches something in everybody. Everybody knows what a spit wad is,″ said Hicko. ″I mean, we thought our market was 7 to 12 year olds. We go into corporate offices and they go nuts - everybody is flicking ’em at pictures of the boss.″

Groups dedicated to policing the school system said it was too soon to assess the impact of the spitball of the ’90s.

″This is the first we’ve heard of this. We’d have to get a little more information,″ said Stacey Moore, spokeswoman for the National Parents & Teachers Association. ″I sure can’t recall any product like that.″

But Skup is hopeful his product will soon become as popular as the Pet Rock or the mood ring.

″There hasn’t been a good fad in a really long time. I mean, Bart Simpson and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?″ asked Skup. ″We’re hoping to jump in with something really off the wall.″