Category Archives: Illinois

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? 🙂

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?

Spring Ball Fever

Standard

Baseball field walls have been adorned with catchy slogans and

advertising posters, practically since they started building them.

With the bigger stadiums, local news and television stations, major

automobile and other products have been featured and promoting,

along with paying money for the advertising. It is nice to be reminded

of Indianapolis’ being one of the first stadiums to display naturally

growing ivy at Perry Field. It sure would ‘cushion’ someone jumping

into the wall, to catch a long distance ball!

The Perry Field ivy is what inspired William Wrigley to decide to

decorate his new Wrigley Field, reaching its 100th anniversary this

year. A great book, written by George F. Will, better known for his

essays on politics was published in March, 2014. Its title is:

“A Nice Little Place on the North Side.” (Crown Archetype, a division

of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.)

The background story about Wrigley Field was they invested an extra

$200,000 to help make the bleachers reflect nature, along with the

idea of having the ivy walls. At the onset of building, they inserted

big cement tree boxes at the ends of the rows, where plans were made

to plant trees in each of these. Once they completed the stadium,

thy tried this, which sounded like a gorgeous natural setting,

with possible shade for some spectators, too. Unfortunately, the

trees were not able to survive. Gusts of wind off Lake Michigan,

repeatedly stripped the bark and leaves off the trees.

In the book, this simple description also shows Cubs’ owner,

William Wrigley’s frustration at the devastation:

“A week after we were finished, the bleachers looked like the

Russian Steppes during a hard, cold winter. Nothing but cement

and bark.”

George F. Will’s explanation:

“The forestation of the Wrigley Field bleachers was abandoned.”

The Boston Ivy was supposed to be planted and growing, when a call

was made to the ones in charge of this duty. They were only given

one day, so once agriculturalists were consulted, they chose to

plant a fast growing plant named, “Bittersweet.” It grew quickly

with lights strung along the wall. The ‘effect’ of green was able

to satisfy visiting guests to view the sight. Later, they inserted

into the bittersweet the Boston Ivy, since the original ‘quick fix’

for the presentation, still needed a more solid and denser growing

plant for the long haul. It took longer but is a magnificent wall

of flourishing ivy.

I have fond memories of going to the old cement stadium in Cleveland

to see both the Indians and Browns play. When they tore it down, to

build what was first named, “Jacob’s Field” I thought I would miss

the old one. It is a beautiful structure and ‘there isn’t a bad seat

in the house.’ I have never personally been to the Indianapolis Perry

Field or Chicago, Illinois Wrigley Field, but enjoyed seeing the

photos and reading about the history of the latter’s field.

Happy 100th Anniversary, Wrigley Field!

Congratulations for making it to one hundred years!

Since I know that Columbus Clippers is having a whole weekend of

playing against Toledo Mud Hens, I will say I am ‘rooting’ for my

home team of the Clippers!

I can hear the old song, “Take me out to the ball game,” and imagine

the old Cracker Jacks and peanut shells falling onto the ground…

Have a wonderful weekend and I am now off to Mom’s…

(We only worked a half day today, due to a lot of overtime this

week… Also, my eyes are doing much better, less pressure than

in the Fall and Winter months! Hip hip hurray!)

Book Review: “Pioneer Girl”

Standard

A woman who wrote a memoir, titled, “Stealing Buddha’s

Dinner,” (2007) has used what is called the ‘working

title’ from “Little House in the Prairie.” Originally,

Laura Ingalls Wilder had written “Pioneer Girl,” on

her rough draft of her first book to be published.

There is a former Purdue professor, Bich Minh Nguyen,

born in Viet Nam and who immigrated to Grand Rapids,

Michigan who has written her second book, this time

a novel inspired by the life of Rose Wilder Lane.

When Ms. Nguyen discovered that Rose had traveled to

Viet Nam on an assignment for a magazine to put a

feminine perspective on the Viet Nam war, she felt

a common bond with Rose. Ms. Nguyen was compelled to

write about a fictionalized part of Rose Wilder Lane’s

life. She incorporated some details, by having the main

character and narrator, named Lee Lien, discover the

common ties between the real journalist named Rose and

the fictional character named Lee.

I found that this book has a fascinating way of drawing

you into Lee’s life. She has completed her education,

but comes home to live with her mother and grandfather.

For the time being, Lee Lien has decided to help run

the fictional Lotus Leaf Café.

This restaurant is an Asian, mixed with fusion, place

in a strip mall in Chicago, Illinois. Lee’s mother is

portrayed as a pushy and domineering woman, while her

grandfather is given a gentle, sympathetic personality.

In an interview, Ms.Nguyen, the author, says that it

was quite a challenge to mesh the real life character

with “an alternative reality.”

I have found myself drawn to immigrants’ stories. I

have shared that my own mother’s parents met in NYC,

one a Swedish immigrant and the other a German one.

The way Ms. Nguyen shares that she never felt very

comfortable in Michigan and always wondered why her

parents stayed there, since they could have sought a

different part of the country. She did finish her own

education in Indiana, part of the Midwest, but has

moved in the past year to the San Francisco Bay area.

Here is a quotation from Ms. Nguyen,

“I’m a Midwesterner. We sort of believe you should

grow where you’re planted. So it was hard to leave.

It took me and my husband a long time to make this

decision.” (She, her husband and two children, ages

two and four years old moved in July, 2013.)

She feels that moving to the West coast is like a

dream and it is more home to her now, too.

I felt that this book would be a great one to share

with people who don’t feel like they belong, if they

were Asian descent, if they were adopted and to help

come to terms with becoming part of American culture.

A great part of researching Rose Wilder Lane, beloved

character and daughter of the “Little House” books

series, was to discover that she became such a

renowned journalist and novelist that her numerous

publications have become enshrined in the Herbert Hoover

Presidential Library!

What a fantastic legacy, as the daughter of Laura Ingalls

Wilder, to become a famous journalist and author, in her

‘own right.’

I think this meant a lot to me, having been such a fan of

L. W. Ingalls’ books, to know what happened to her daughter,

Rose Wilder Lane.

As a last explanation for combining her own roots with the

life of R. W. Lane, author, Bich Minh Nguyen states:

“I was interested in the idea of mythmaking and the idea

of trying to find one’s story.”

As writers, we all try different ways to combine our own

lives, weaving them into our stories, along with wishing

to create ones that are mythical and meaningful.

You may find your “muse” in another person’s life story.

Hope this book will inspire you.