Friday, December 26, 2008

Radio Flyer

If you are just plain fed up and sick of reading my take on the current “depression” and whining that folks don’t really know what a depression is all about; don’t read further. Actually, thanks to the efforts of my parents and a lack of comparative knowledge and the eternal optimism of youth, I have little memory of personal depravation. About the only area in which I have an active memory of lacking the basic necessities of life was the absence of a Radio Flyer coaster wagon under the Christmas tree.

That venerable and essential tool of childhood never did make an appearance. It was especially biting on my seventh Christmas in 1939 when my cousin (ugh!) –a year younger—managed to score one under the tree. Never mind that I was covered up with Tinker Toys, Erector sets, wood burning kits, hats, gloves, socks and wonderful stimulating little books; I didn’t manage the “big” one. That stinging memory still burns in my breast and detracts from an otherwise wonderful childhood. My parents, although personally incompatible, treated me as a person favored by God. A condition I continue to enjoy which has, thankfully, not abated in the intervening years.

My lack of personal ownership of this cherished icon did not bar me from enjoying the use of ones which my close friends possessed. There were so many that our favorite occupations were parades, cavalcades, convoys and any other formations our fertile minds could originate. We loaded them as buses, dog carriers, covered wagons heading west, and on hills of appropriate height, racers. After December 7th, ’41, they—with the addition of a piece of stove pipe—became artillery pieces, tanks, personnel carriers, and generally, the precursor of the ubiquitous “jeep.” Its utile simplicity encouraged the imagination to furnish a transition to whatever was demanded by the occasion.

Once WWII was underway, they became the vehicle of choice for the collection of waste metal, old newspapers, and whatever else was required for doing our part to help out in the war effort. The government realized the foolishness of sending scrap metal to Japan to be recast as weapons of war and we all enlisted, with wagons, in the effort to obtain critical discarded materiel for our own factories. Every grocery outlet had a place to park the wagons for the pull home laden with groceries—driving to the store was a waste of gas. They were also a useful, if unstable, platform to enable their height-challenged owners to gain a better view at various rallies, war bond drives and other public gatherings.

When the hostilities ceased and the surviving owners aged, they found peace and comfort in using their dependable childhood toy as garden carts and tool caddies in their new lives as veterans in the emerging “homes of their own.” They were then passed on to their progeny in the baby boom and found new life firing the imaginations of the young.

Progress—or provable evolution—has now provided us with what is considered by the manufacturer to be the “final” step in their newest offering of this old stand-by. In a world now consumed with the use of poly carbonates, we find the absolute latest edition of my childhood favorite.

Seat belts?!? Cup holders?!? Have I become such a cantankerous old dyspeptic that I cannot see this as the marvel which it is? The tires are pneumatic and mounted on axles which actually have bearings and grease zirks. They have provided every possible safety feature thus depriving the user of the opportunity of the injuries so common on the learning curve of my generation. I am certain that no statistics were ever kept on the broken arms, contusions from roll-overs, and other mishaps so common with the original. I am not the “market” for this item so the manufacturer is not in the least concerned with my response to this travesty.

I do have faith in the youth of America, and for that matter, the world, that they will find a way to supercede the safety and turn this wonder into a wagon. Kids today have variant interests from my generation but they are still kids. They have imaginations to turn this thing into a space ship or whatever they choose. Some things are inescapable. Thank God!

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

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