The history of the Bounce House is a fascinating one. The inflatable fun structures have only been in existence for a total of 57 years! They have received all sorts of names over the years like moonwalk, bounce house, bouncy castle, and so much more. Why is it that the name moonwalk was the original terminology, and why isn’t it used prominently anymore?
In 1959, mechanical engineer John Scurlock was designing inflatable tennis court covers to manufacture and sell. While he was working on developing the covers, he noticed that his employees were taking turns jumping on the pads. He recognized the fun they were having as a potential business opportunity, and quickly became the inventor of inflatable domes, tents, moonwalks, and more. His greatest credited invention is the inflatable pillow the firefighters use when jumping out of high buildings. This inflatable pillow has saved thousands of lives over the course of it’s existence.
From the time Scurlock first noticed his employees playing on the inflatable pillow, it took nearly 10 years for him to establish the first moonwalk rental company. The moonwalk rentals were initially called “Space Walks” or “Space Pillows”. The name was appropriate, given that America and Russia’s space race first took off in 1955, just years before Scurlock invented bouncy houses and culminated with the first walk on the moon in 1969. Given America’s obsession with space, and the associated movements in lower or zero gravity environments, it was only natural for “Moonwalk Rentals” to be the best marketing ploy. The name Moonwalk wasn’t officially coined until 1975, when Neiman Marcus developed an enclosed version of the inflatable with walls around the exterior that prevented kids from falling out (a safety feature we are very grateful for here in Portland and Seattle!).
A very interesting tidbit about moonwalks and bouncy houses is that they have been almost exclusively a rental business. While there are some low quality bounce houses that you can purchase from Wall Mart and other department store outlets, a majority of the high quality inflatables and bounce house are only available as rentals. Even with the cost of new bouncy houses dropping over the years, the price point still makes it to difficult for people to afford anything other than a moonwalk rental.
As the space race came to an end, America’s focus and fascination with space also slowly died off. The word Moonwalk slowly went away with America’s declining interest. Moonwalk soon came second to many other terms such as bouncy house, bounce castle, jolly jump, inflatable trampoline, and many more. West Coast cities historically are exposed to trends much later than the East Coast. With Bounce House Rentals originating in Louisiana, the South East, by the time the inflatable had made it’s way over to Portland, it’s no wonder the term Moonwalk had become secondary.
Perhaps with a new and exciting space race brewing, this time out of competition between corporations, and not countries, we will see a resurgence of the term “moonwalk”. We are definitely fans of space, and the classic terminology has always had a nice ring to it.
If you are looking to bring back a blast from the past with a traditional Moonwalk rental, we can definitely bring one to your local Portland, Hillsboro, Seattle, or Beaverton event this coming summer. Happy Jumping!