The story of how Joel and Nancy Aronie arrived at the Ball O’Tissue (also known as the BOT) tissue dispenser starts all the way back in 1968. At the time, Nancy was teaching and Joel was a nuclear engineer with Pratt and Whitney, working with acrylic. The pair began by making tables and moved into bedrooms and bathrooms, later adding lamps and home accessories made from acrylic.
The Ball O’Tissue brought runaway success to Aronie Galleries. It came in a huge array of colors. Joel Aronie describes that he “had seen a concept like the BOT and did a design, made a mold, and began manufacturing it in 1979.” It sold for $10. Some 350,000 of them were manufactured and sold in the first five-year run of the Ball O’Tissue, which lasted from 1979 to 1984. Their timing was right, as the object has the look of a whimsical Pac-Man, and Pac-Man was big in the early 80s. It should be noted that the Ball O’Tissue predates Pac-Man, which was first released in Japan in May, 1980 and hit the United States in October of that year.
Success drew to a rapid close, though. Nancy Aronie explains, “Really, three things happened: knock-offs (products exactly like yours but made overseas with huge economies of scale), the oil crisis raised our costs, and crack cocaine came to Hartford. The crack epidemic was the worst part. It just decimated our workforce.”
In 2010, Joel and Nancy began thinking about the Ball O’Tissue again. “We discussed doing it again, but we needed the mold. I found Alan Chapman, who bought the company from us. He had sold it to somebody else. Somehow, he found the mold, nearly 20 years later, in a warehouse in New Jersey, and just gave it to us. Alan Chapman, God bless him.”
Most of the colors available today were also made in 1979. Brown seems to be unique to the original issue, though. The Ball O’Tissue is 6” in diameter and comes in two parts, which separate so that a stack of tissues or small tissue b0x can be put inside. Or, just squeeze to refill. The base is weighted so you can reach from afar to grab a tissue and the Ball O’Tissue will right itself. It works equally well in bathroom, bedroom, and other settings. It rocks, it rolls, it wobbles, and BLESS YOU!!
The Ball O’Tissue tissue dispenser, in brown.
The imprint reads in a circle, “© 1979 ball o’ tissue™ BY ARONIE – GARMENT”
The Ball O’Tissue tissue dispenser was reissued in numerous colors including red, green, blue, ivory, yellow, lime, pink, black, glow aqua, white, and purple.
Image source: zerotoys.com.
The Aronie’s two sons, Josh and Alan, distribute the Ball O’Tissue and other neat stuff on zerotoys.com. It can be purchased for $13.95 there.
Nancy Aronie describing the Ball O’Tissue.
Belt, M. (2011, January 28). Weekend update: Music all over town; pressing tissues. Retrieved from http://concord.patch.com/articles/pressing-tissues
Shea, J. (2010, December 22). Joel and Nancy Aronie reprise unusual tissue dispenser. Retrieved from http://www.mvtimes.com/2010/12/22/joel-nancy-aronie-reprise-unusual-tissue-dispenser-3905/
Pac-Man History. Retrieved December 8, 2012 from http://pacman.com/en/pac-man-history.