Turns out, John sold the rights to his game to Marvin Glass for $500 and the promise of a job upon his graduation from the University of Illinois. He got the $500. Marvin Glass & Associates licensed the game to Milton Bradley, which in turn modified it with the surgery theme we recognize today. In 1965, Operation, the "skill game where you're the doctor" was released. It was an immediate hit.
Over the years John and I stayed in touch. In 2008 when Director Ken Sons and I set out to make Toyland, our documentary film on toy and game inventors, I knew John and his story had to be a part of it. Ken and I flew up to Chicago with our small crew and spent the day with John and his wife, Madeline. After several hours and several courses of the best Italian food ever, our friendship was secured. We shared a love of toys and family. Over the years I've met John's kids and grandkids and through every interaction I've ever had with him, I was always struck by his positivity. He was never bitter over the raw deal he got from Marvin Glass and instead, focused on the joy the game brought people and his legacy. Here's John's segment from Toyland, filmed in 2008.
John has come upon some tough times and could use help covering some medical biils. Fellow game inventor Peggy Brown and I have launched a website and have planned an upcoming Crowdrise campaign for John. For now, we're asking you to send John a $3 thank you for giving so many of us, so much joy over the years. Or simply offer him some encouragement by writing him a Dear John letter. Please head here to learn more: http://www.iloveoperation.com/