Fond Memories of a Red Wagon

Image

The English proverb or saying,

“Necessity is the mother of invention,”

certainly applies to the life of an Italian

immigrant named, Antonio Pasin.

This post was written before the

newest part of the post was imagined.

Radio Flyer is coming out with a

new “riding toy,” an Italian car:

What will children think of a smaller

version of a Tesla Model S? πŸ™‚

Their daddies, uncles and other fancy

car aficionados will be pleased.

Antonio Pasin came to America from

Italy, in 1914, at the age of 16.

He was the son of a cabinetmaker,

whose family settled in

Chicago, Illinois.

Antonio started a business of making

wooden cabinets for phonographs.

The wooden cart or wagon he built to

carry his tools in was a creation that

became popular among parents who

saw it as a place to put children and

pull them along behind them.

This is the story of the creative

development of the Radio Flyer

wagon business.

In my family, we had a red, metal

wagon with wooden slats which were

inserted into their places to hold the

three of us while going through a fair

or park. When we grew older, if my

memory serves to remind me, how

useful this was to carry a cooler of

food, beverages and blankets.

I remember a few times taking my own

children to the Fourth of July fireworks

in a large red wagon.

My grandchildren are lucky to have

seats in their heavy and durable

plastic Little Tikes’ brand wagon.

The tradition of having a wagon to cart

children or stuff in, continues in our

family. A wagon is so handy:

sometimes a place to put jackets,

snacks, diaper bags, and prizes won

at the Delaware County Fair.

Here is a recent memory:

My oldest daughter, Carrie, came by

with their yellow and orange Little

Tike’s wagon to collect me for the

late September’s All Horse Parade.

We stuck a large blanket, sweet and

salty snacks, water bottles in a

lunchbox with one of those blue

frozen blocks, toys and Micah in it.

While coming across this saved article

in my notebook, kept since the Summer,

2012, it brings smiles,

fond remembrances

and nostalgia for times

long passed by.

One of my favorite memories is my

father pulling us all down the sidewalk

in our Radio Flyer wagon to a

‘progressive dinner’ in our suburban

neighborhood in North Olmsted, Ohio.

I am holding a tray of hors d’oeuvres,

on my lap while brothers are

trying to sneak a few.

Antonio Pasin’s original name for his

wooden wagons was,

“Liberty Coasters.”

He had felt the influence of Liberty

(from his new homeland and the

Statue of Liberty) along with the

forward-thinking concept of wagons

“coasting” along city and much later,

suburban sidewalks.

Once Antonio Pasin started getting

larger orders, including one that was

for 7,000 wagons, he opened their

factory in Chicago.

He began making the wagons from

steel. He used some borrowed

techniques and scrap metal from the

auto industry. He also chose to name

his first steel wagon, “Radio Flyer.”

This was his homage to the invention

of radio and also how airplanes,

and the flight industry, were taking off.

In the middle of the Depression, Pasin

decided to expand his business,

against all sensible advice.

He took out a $30,000 loan,

risking his existing business

and family home.

He also used the money to produce a

statue of 45 feet height, of a boy riding

a wagon, to become part of the exhibits

at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.

He sold beneath, “Coaster Boy,” little

miniature souvenir wagons for a

quarter apiece. The souvenir sales

repaid the loan and the statue

created “quite the buzz”

increasing company

sales.

When Antonio reached his 70’s, he

allowed his son, Mario, to rename

company Radio Flyer.

To branch out and adapt the business,

they included in new lines,

wheelbarrows,

garden carts and

outdoor furniture.

This is a good example of how

businesses expand and adapt

to the times they are in.

In 1997, Antonio’s grandson, Robert,

son of Mario, took over business.

This family business has expanded

from those reliable and durable wagons,

carts, wheelbarrows and lawn and patio

furniture to embrace current fads.

Introducing new products such as

scooters, tricycles and training

(exercise) bikes.

Still a modern financial success story.

Customers may design wagons

online, adding canopies,

padded seats and

engravings.

Robert emulated his grandfather

by creating his own, “Coaster Boy,”

so to speak. He has a 15,000 pound

replica of the original Radio Flyer,

outside the Chicago headquarters.

This is where the offices are located.

The sad part of the story, (don’t

get me wrong- I am not judging this

business), is that the Chicago factory

has closed. Competition in pricing and

wages, led to this move. They became

outsourced in their production since

2004. The proceeds climbed to

$76 million in 2012.

Following up on Antonio, he passed

away at the grand age of 93 and as of

2012, my source at this time of writing,

his aged but still living wife, Anna,

was 104 years old.

I hope she is still

living.

The business story mentions Anna still

kept a little red wagon on the porch of

their home in Chicago suburbs.

I also believe the Pasin ancestors will

appreciate the sacrifices and stretches

of budgets Antonio and Anna

made along the way.

This is an incredible story of

‘rags to riches.’

How practicality in Antonio’s choice

of a wagon, to cart his tools from

carpentry job to job, led to one of the

most memorable ‘icons’ of the

1950’s and beyond.

Are you ready for a child-sized

Tesla Model S?

Wonder if they may

create someday a

red Lamborghini?

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66 responses »

  1. The wagon is so significant to America legend, Robin. Covered wagons of the West. Radio Flyer wagons that pulled generations of kiddies, like your children and their children. Station wagons, like the wood-paneled Buick my father used to haul his drum set to and from the wedding receptions his band played at every weekend of my youth. Thanks for sparking the memories.

    • I like the way you wove the wagons from history, into the ones that pulled children and came to the station wagon story. I love that I learned about your father playing for weddings, hauling his drum set in a wood-paneled station wagon. We had a cream colored one with those wooden panels, too! Did you ever read my post with the sad story about settlers heading west and seeing (golden) Carolina parakeets on the plains? Your reference to the covered wagons made me remember this… Thanks, Mark!

      • Thank you for the pleasure of sharing that little story. It was an amazing one that did get me teary eyed, too. No rush, I and my posts are not going anywhere! Having a bird name helps me sometimes to notice unusual bird stories. Smiles, Robin

    • I have finally completed the arduous task of accepting your kind and generous ABC Award, Mark! Thank you again for this special award and being here, to give me support! Smiles, Robin

  2. What a fun story, Robin! Who cannot relate to wagon rides when we were little and giving rides to the little ones as we got older? Your story evokes a sense of nostalgia for a simpler time when Smart Phones and electronics were not diversions from interacting and playing with one another. – Mike

    • I am so glad you enjoyed this story. I had held onto the article (since 2012) and it was a ‘springboard’ for my memories, too! I had rewritten it a few times, trying to get it ‘just right,’ and I can still see improvements… I like that Florence calls the extra stuff I add to stories, “fluff.” I am a big fan of Fluff, including that Marshmallow CrΓ¨me Fluff! Smiles, Robin

  3. One year I bought my husband an all-terrain radio flyer (with wooden slats to build up the sides, and special wide wheels for utility). He used it to haul wood for our fireplace, and he smiled, every time he had the opportunity to use it.

    We both love a Radio Flyer.

    • This is so wonderful and I appreciate this extra addition to the continuing saga of Radio Flyers! Thanks, Tracy! I love the bright red color and now, will picture your hubby with the wood for a fire on a cold winter’s evening! Smiles, Robn

  4. Interesting post Robin! Recently I’ve been thinking of the inventor Daedalus from Greek mythology, who designed the labyrinth the minotaur was kept in, and the wings of feathers and wax he used to escape imprisonment on an island. This morning the English proverb you quoted in the start of your post, came to mind, and was inspiring to me in the haiku set I posted this afternoon!

    • I am so glad that my proverb brought you inspiration, my friend! I am also glad that you were thinking of mythology and the inventor Daedalus. This is very good for my readers to expand their thoughts far back in history and into mythology. There were many lessons in the stories about Greek/Roman gods. Thank you! Robin

    • I am always amazed when someone comes to our country and makes a fine and profitable life for his family. I mean, who would have thought that this simple means of carrying tools would become a huge company? I have had this since Summer, 2012… I tend to keep articles and then, have to decide how to tell the story with both the facts and a little ‘romance’ or fun included! Smiles, Robin

  5. Robin, I had a bit of free time at work and was finally able to catch up with the blogs in my reader. So glad I did! I have a faint memory of riding in a little red wagon long ago but we never had one when my girls were young. I do recall pulling one at someone else’s home and wishing the handle were longer (I’m tall for a woman and found myself having to hunch over a bit). You’re so right that the wagon is an iconic symbol of America and hearing the history has been fun! I went to their website and loved that you can design your own! If I had the $ I’d build one for my youngest grandchildren – they’re the only ones still small enough to fit into one. Thanks for this, it brought a smile to my day. πŸ™‚

    • Thank you for your blurry or faint memory of riding in a little red wagon… I am always happy when someone gets time to add a bit to the story circling around here! I think that designing a wagon for your grandchildren would be fun, although costly, as you mentioned. I did not know you were tall, glad to know that! I also, think that I am behind on reading our posts, so don’t worry, we all tend to catch up in spurts! It is a busy place on wordpress, my friend! Take care and glad to have given you a smile! Robin

  6. Robin, what a wonderful story! My brother and I had a red wagon that had first belonged to our grandfather, and I passed it on to my daughter (after we did some repairs…more than a few, actually). The tradition…and the smiles and stories…continue.

    • Thank you for your special story and sharing a memory with us! I am so glad you liked this, I always am inspired when someone finds a way to make or create something that is very much needed and appreciated, like a metal wagon! The fact he was an immigrant was also a special plus, in my book! Pasin contributed to his new country, with lots of fun memories abounding! Thanks, Marylin! Robin

    • I think having your grandfather’s wagon is indeed a special acquisition and includes memories and traditions, too! I just looked back on my comment and I had forgotten to add that part to my response! Thanks for sharing and it is neat that you still have that wagon in the family! Robin

  7. I am not familiar with these carts and wagons but they sound wonderful. I like how a sixteen year old immigrant from Italy became( not by chance as he had a dream that was realised) such a household name, and the progression of his company through the years adds to the adventure. A fitting result for a well thought out idea : Brilliant…

    Andro xxxx

    • Thank you, Andro, for this great summary of my post! It is always amazing when someone finds a way to make their dreams come true, partly from a simple beginning but like you said, he had to have initiative, too! Robin

    • Yellow is a cheery color! I like all kinds of wagons, Jill. I had a friend who had a wooden wagon which was pine or oak stained. It was so pretty, if I had it, I would put dolls or toys in it as decorative.

    • I cannot imagine one for kids to ride in! Now, a match box car or hot wheels Tesla car would be cool. πŸ™‚ Thanks, Brenda, you had me giggling all over again!

    • Lol, I just updated and re-blogged the Radio Wagon post, which made me a bit sad at how busy my summer has been, just flying by, Brenda!
      The past two weeks, our warehouse supplied Connecticut and Indiana with our car parts so I put in: ta da! 99.89 hours! Yikes!We clock out so this doesn’t include out ten (half hour lunch times) so technically add five more hours spent in the warehouse facility!
      I had fun in the early summer months, carefree and slightly “in tune” with your family’s comings and goings, surgery and trip to ocean. . . Miss you and hope to try and get reconnected with several fellow friends and bloggers. . .
      Hope you are doing well, Brenda and family! xo ❀

      • I am much better, thank you. I only took one day off from writing after the surgery. Funny to think of that now. I feel sure you are vastly overworked. I guess the money will be nice, but the toll on your body is too high. I wish you well! XOXO

      • I am glad you are much better, Brenda. One day certainly wasn’t enough “time off” but you might have enjoyed being side-tracked!
        Money isn’t very important to me, but I have been trying to save the overtime amount. Thanks for your catching up note. I will see what the kids have been up to, also. . .

    • Glad you enjoyed this one. I am having a shortage of data, my 11 year old grandson watched 4 episodes using 10 gigabytes of my data plan on his tablet. He usually uses 4 or 5 for a month. After work Monday, I ran to library and got on waitlist for computer. Just am lucky I scheduled posts before this. It is funny though. πŸ˜€ I made him come to Verizon phone store and we put a “limit” on his tablet. Out of shared data for now. What’s new with you and life? πŸ™‚

      • Nothing much to report at this end …. Running again which feels SO good after the ice and snow. Watching Spring emerge tentatively blinking in the warmer light and hearing the insane chatter of the birds. That’s good enough for me πŸ™‚

  8. Thank you, Robin for this great story and piece of history. Wagons and carts, from the old world to America, then a ‘rags to riches’ story in the best of ways. Thank you!

    • Judy, just found this comment and am wishing you had received a reply upon your leaving it!
      Here is my belated answer to your nice addition to the post! I like very much how you have one of these wagons still hanging in your barn.
      I would smile if it were hanging in my garage or shed. πŸ™‚ Thanks for this response! I just reblogged this since Hendrix was given a toddler Radio Flyer, from me, to put in my son’s garage.
      Have a wonderful weekend!

    • Wouldn’t it be cool to drive a Tesla, Nia? I found a few older comments here, today.
      I re-blogged this post and updated with the fact I purchased a toddler Radio Wagon which has 2 seats and cupholders for Hendrix’s first birthday two weeks ago. I posted only a week ago but honestly, not sure don has had time to put it together! *smiles xo

    • Thanks for enjoying this essay. I found the humble beginnings to be incredible.
      I know, how I wish I could either pile stuffed animals or children’s books in my first red wagon! πŸ™‚

  9. I did not remotely know ANY of that! Thanks for the education!
    My older kids had the Radio Flyer and it was second generation, so when the wee ones came along, we too bought the Little Tikes hard plastic one. It was useful, especially at the zoo. I think that’s where we used it most. I used to take the kids weekly then, and the wagon kept them corralled and kept them from being tired out, but it also let them climb out and run to the glass or the fence. Besides, it was nice the older kids could pull or drive it πŸ™‚
    Good memories you’ve brought me today, thank you!

    • Joey, I decided after all this time of your patiently waiting for a comment to re-blog the Radio Flyer post. . .
      Mainly since I gave Hendrix one two Sunday’s ago for his first birthday! It is a cool “double toddler seats” version which when he gets older, the seats are able to flip into a thicker “flatbed” style.
      I included a link to your post since guilty me wanted to make it up for your long wait. Probably had many sleepless nights over it, besides.
      Thanks for telling me about how Moo and before her, how the older siblings travelled around the Indianapolis Zoo often. I think your refurbished Radio Flyer wagon sounded wonderful. The Little tikes version turned out to be a very handy part of my oldest daughter’s two boys travelling around our county fair and up and down Delaware, Ohio sidewalks. Hugs to you and your growing children! xo
      It was a warm, friendly comment which made a great impression on me today.
      Have a fantastic weekend! πŸ™‚

      • You’re welcome.This was kind and letting me off the hook, Joey. πŸ™‚ I have had a nice one, about to head to the pool with DIL and six of seven grandies, two cars! πŸ˜€

  10. Reblogged this on witlessdatingafterfifty and commented:

    For Hendrix’s first birthday in August, I bought him a “toddler” Radio Flyer wagon. It has cup holders and a shelf. There is a way to flip the shelf and seats into a standard flat-bottomed wagon.
    This essay is from March, 2016 but this is on its third “re-blog” from 2012!
    If you have already commented, or have nothing more to say on this great, life changing invention, thank you for simply stopping by.
    The comments you wrote in the past are treasured and I found Joey here, among two others, waiting patiently for her reply. You may wish to check up my friend from Indiana’s blog, if you are new or visiting today:
    http://jolenemottern.com
    I know traditionally, people start with a “fresh” blog with no old comments, but this is my way of holding a party with old friends and new. . .

    Thanks for joining my “gang!” πŸ™‚

    • Oh, I am so glad you enjoyed this, Jennie.
      I told it to many people over the years. Many had not heard how this particular kind of wagon came about. Of course, flower and useful carts have been around for ages; but the design of a crate with a handle gives credit to this Italian “inventor.”

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