November 30, 1992 12:00 PM

WHEN HE WAS A TEENAGER IN SOUTH Dakota, LeRoy Hart worked summers as an acrobat, traveling to rodeos and fairs across the country to do back flips and double full twists with an itinerant troupe of tumblers. Now 60, Hart, a successful Vancouver, Wash., building contractor who retired with his wife to Palm Springs, Calif., in 1987, is making it possible for other kids to know the joys of defying gravity. With the help of Moon Shoes, a plastic catapulting contraption that Hart devised in his garage, some children are amazing the neighbors by bounding into the air with seemingly bionic ease.

Six inches high and shatterproof Moon Shoes are powered by an internal cat’s cradle of rubber bands and can be attached to street shoes with Velcro strips. Explains Hart: “They’re like having minitrampolines strapped to the bottom of your feet.” Since his Moon units hit the market in late 1990, Hart’s Vancouver-based company has sold around 220,000 pairs at $50 a pop. With the help of a recent tie-in with the Nickelodeon cable channel—the shoes are occasionally featured on some shows—he expects another 100,000 pairs to leap out of the stores by year’s end. Hart’s equally proud of another statistic—so far, he says, there have been no reports of injuries.

A father of six who let his nine grandchildren test prototypes for the Moon Shoe, Hart himself is ecstatic, if no longer airborne. “This is the most fun I’ve ever had making a living,” he confesses. His one regret? “I wish I’d had a pair of these when I was a kid,” he says. “I would have really made them look good.”

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