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The Radio Flyer


Rolling in a wave of beach-y summer nostalgia for that little red wagon that could (and still does).

As a boy of five, I had a Radio Flyer wagon, which I shared with my three siblings. We used it to more or less help carry compost and the like for my dad, who saw the Chicago-invented little red wagon as more of a practical gardening apparatus than a toy for us kids to ride in.

It wasn’t until I dated a girl after college that lived in Saltaire, Fire Island, that this now-iconic wagon really had an emotional impact on me. As they do in many East Coast ports, the Radio Flyer continues to be an indicator of your local status in beach towns. You use them to pick up your groceries and board-walk them home. The more faded and weather-beaten and creaky, the more personalized, the bigger the badge of honor. Like many good things in life, they take a licking but keep on ticking.

“Rosebud,” indeed.

A guy named Antonio Pasin made the first wooden wagons of this kind out of Chicago in 1917, and by 1940, the wood-and-steel little numbers with the non-inflatable rubber wheels had become as familiar to American families as Flexible Flyer sleds (which came far before the wagon).

When you’re thinking about buying your kid the latest ephemeral gadgetry this summer—or you yourself—perhaps reconsider, and get a man-child wagon. It won’t depreciate your yard as so many ugly toys do. And maybe the girl of your dreams will think you’re simply boyishly yar for having one with its very own nickname inscribed on the side of it just like that speedboat you claim to have stored “in dry-dock.”

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