On the long list of people who died in 2016 is the name of Robert Hulseman.
You may not know Mr. Hulseman, but you probably are familiar with his famous invention.
In the 1970s, he was working in the family business, the Solo Cup Co., when he designed and created the red Solo cup. According to his obituary, Hulseman was very devoted to his church and saw the cup as a nice item to go along with a picnic. It became a mainstay at college keg parties, tailgate parties and other events where participants were making an attempt to shield their adult beverage from view.
Bob Hulseman’s red Solo cup became an iconic symbol. Some outfit now makes a replica made of a more sturdy plastic and is dishwasher safe. In other words, the red Solo cup could become your everyday pattern.
True to his vision, the cups were used for church socials and covered dish suppers. Some folks, in fear of germs, would write your name on a Solo cup with an indelible marker.
My name has found its way on a number of them. My mama washed them out and used them again. The whole idea is they were disposable.
The red Solo cup was also a fine container for homemade ice cream fresh from the churn.
I tend to think of them as the perfect beverage holder to go along with fried chicken at a picnic.
Hulseman probably never got to see a Baptist homecoming with dinner on the grounds, but I think he would have liked the notion that country folks and city slickers alike found his interestingly shaped cup to be a handy and easy holder of liquid refreshment. This was usually sweet tea dipped from a washtub with a dipper.
There are not many containers, other than frying pans and fruit jars, to become immortalized in a country song. Toby Keith recorded “Red Solo Cup” a few years ago.
“A red Solo cup is cheap and disposable and in 14 years they are decomposable and unlike my home they are not foreclosable,” the song says.
It goes on to herald the cup as more than a cup, but a friend.
Hulseman sounded like the true Renaissance man. He enjoyed playing the piano, telling bad jokes and being Papa to his grandkids. In his spare time, he invented a piece of Americana that will remain with us long after his departure.
He was a wordsmith and enjoyed writing poetry about his knowledge of God’s love, his devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus, and his love for his wife of nearly 60 years. He was a very devout Catholic.
He was also a good dancer, with the “ability to spin a partner on the dance floor,” according to his obituary.
Hulseman sounds like someone who would be a great friend or neighbor.
One of his close friends was the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, the archbishop of Chicago. Maybe that’s why the first of the plastic Solo cups was red.
So, the next time you’re at a church social or a frat party and are served your beverage in a red Solo cup, perhaps you can lift your cup and remember Bob Hulseman, the guy who made it happen.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.