Dr. Del Rye,
Back in the mid to late 1970’s our high school mostly used the clear shell Macgregor helmets and then for a few seasons added another model of helmet which I believe was made by a company called “Protective Products”. The padding was a tan-colored, covered foam and the crown was of the same material but was suspended by a thin, strapped webbing system, much like the Riddell suspension helmet’s gray, rubber crown. The helmet also sported a long, gray nose-snubber. Some of the shells were clear-painted and others molded I believe. Aside from our team I did see a few teams with this type of helmet, but shortly after high school I don’t recall ever seeing that type of helmet much. Several years later I played semi-pro ball and a few of the guys on the team used this type of helmet, but you could tell it was an older model that they somehow “obtained”.
I think your site is great and very informative, but have not noticed any articles or pictures of this type of helmet. Was this helmet rare and the company’s life manufacturing football helmets short-lived? Any information you can provide will be much appreciated! Many thanks again for the Helmet Hut site. - Mike Kunkel
Thank you for your question. The public knows The Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD) as a huge medical technology concern that is involved in the research, development, manufacturing, distribution, and sales of a wide variety of medical and laboratory supplies and instruments. They have numerous sub-divisions and one of them, not surprisingly located on Becton Drive in Franklin Lakes, N.J. is the Edmont-Wilson Company. Protective Products was a subsidiary of BD and specifically fell under the umbrella of Edmont-Wilson. One of the products, originally designed for NASA and the space program that the company worked with, after its initial development by other companies, was so-called “memory foam” or temper foam. This polyurethane/silicon plastic with an open celled design was first used in NASA aircraft seats in order to reduce impact forces upon landing. The product had the unique ability to evenly distribute weight and pressure, to compress to as much as ten percent of its size and then return to its original shape while providing great shock absorbency. The well-known “Tempur Pedic” mattresses and pillows are made of this material as well as motorcycle and aircraft seats. Protective Products used this unique foam as the basis for applied patents for both helmets and shoulder pads and worked out of its headquarters in Grand Prairie, Texas.
The company first developed Little League batting helmets that proved to be well designed and well accepted. With early clients that included the Dallas Cowboys, Protective Products used a vinyl dipped body of temper foam to produce a line of football helmets. While this was an innovative design and Protective Products also applied for a patent that would allow for the manufacturing of shoulder pads made with the same compressive foam with vinyl covering, the popularity of the Riddell PAC type of helmets made for a limited number of Protective Products helmets to be introduced.
Dear Dr. Del Rye,
I have an unusual question for you. I don’t know if you can put a date on this but if you look at photos, many of which are on your site, of the games from the 1950s and also see the magazines from those days, there are a wide variety of types of helmets that are seen. Some are close-fitting Wilson or Rawlings helmets, some are the Riddell suspensions you have, some are other models. Eventually, most of the close fitting to the head types were phased out and it seemed that everyone in college or in the pros was wearing a suspension helmet. Is there a date that helmet experts agree on that would mark this event or sort of “end of the other kind of helmets” if you know what I mean? Thanks.
Jerold, Perrysburg, Ohio
Thank you for your question and it is an interesting one, and not at all unusual. Your observation is certainly correct in that the 1950’s, even into the late 1950’s, at all levels of play, featured a wide variety of helmets. A brief look through our College Helmets area for example (see http://www.helmethut.com/colindex.html ) shows many photos from each university’s history, indicating that many wore different brands or styles of helmets before switching completely to the Riddell suspension types.
University Of California 1958
Of course, one could choose an arbitrary date and still find examples one, two, or more years later of a particular high school for example, still wearing what might be considered an outdated helmet style or brand.
Future Great Jack Pardee Christoval, Texas HS, 1952
However, as a general statement, close examination of publications, game films, and books indicates if there is a “tipping point” for the college game, then the 1960 season marks the period where most, not all but most programs at the collegiate level had moved to a suspension type of helmet. A number of schools and specific individual players, as the HELMET HUT NEWS, HELMET HUT ASK DR. DEL RYE, HELMET HUT COLLEGE summaries, and various HELMET HUT features wore externally padded helmets, or an “older style” helmet, and/or a specific brand that was still of the tight fitting or as you phrased it, “close fitting” to the head style of headgear.
Rutgers ballcarrier, #33, chased by Delaware opponents 1961
Looking at high school publications from the early to mid-1960’s, one can find the most varied styles and ages of helmets. Budget constraints, the preferences of individual coaches or athletic directors, or tradition has some high schools wearing what appears to be very outdated helmets long after all of their opponents had switched to the Riddell suspension models. Below, note that UCLA great Gary Beban wore a suspension helmet at Redlands High School in 1962 and ’63 while in Louisiana, State MVP Running Back Anthony Papa of Shreveport Jesuit High School, as late as 1965 was still outfitted in a non-suspension model.
Gary Beban, Future Heisman Winner, 1962, Redlands, CA HS
Lousiana State MVP Back Tony Papa, Shreveport Jesuit, 1965
In some cases, like the Chicago Bears, their relationship with the Wilson Company kept them in what appeared to be “old fashioned” helmets that were obviously different than every other team in the NFL, at least until Wilson altered their helmet construction procedures. The “tight to the head fitting” Wilson helmets were worn by the Bears into the mid-1960’s.
A number of individual players or a number on any specific team chose to wear a non-suspension model helmet due to personal preference, such as quarterback Charley Johnson of the Cardinals in 1964, who wore a Rawlings helmet.
However, you asked for a date that might be used as a “marker” and our HELMET HUT staff agrees that 1960 is an arbitrary but very good choice. Please note the various photos selected, and identified, to make this point. Your question stimulated a great deal of very enjoyable research.