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What does the Radio Flyer wagon have to do with radio?

Radio FlyerThe gift giving under the holiday tree is done around my neck of the woods, and is as often the case on Christmas Day, I’m suddenly beset by a perplexing holiday question. What the heck do Radio Flyer wagons have to do with radio?

The answer, as per the Radio Flyer company’s history website, is that the toy firm’s founder, Italian immigrant Antonio Pasin, really dug Marconi and early aeronautics.

Antonio Pasin’s wagons captured the spirit of the times. He named his first steel wagon the Radio Flyer, after his fascination with the invention of the radio by fellow Italian, Guglielmo Marconi; and Flyer, which reflected his wonderment of flight.

Inspired by the Statue of Liberty, Pasini originally name his company Liberty Coaster Manufacturing, then changed it to Radio Steel & Manufacturing in 1930. The company got a huge boost with the appearance of its major coasters and wagons in the Chicago World’s Fair of 1933—which must have been a study in contradictions, since the official US unemployment rate was about 24.9 percent.

The economy got better by the 1950s, of course, and the Radio Flyer received its cinematic moment when it appeared alongside the famous item in A Christmas Story, a Red Ryder BB gun. The latter item is alluringly displayed near to a Radio Flyer wagon in a Highbee’s department store. Ralphie (the youthful protagonist of the film on the far left) longingly covets the weapon in this screen shot.

A Christmas Story

The movie was based on Jean Shephard’s autobiographical writings, Shephard a famous raconteur and radio commentator, of course—yet another radio connection (albeit a loose one).

Anyway, happy holidays Radio Survivor readers!

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3 Responses to What does the Radio Flyer wagon have to do with radio?

  1. Sharon Scott December 26, 2011 at 10:21 am #

    Radio Flyer wagons sold well during the Depression because, at $3 a pop, they were an inexpensive and useful toy. Pasin, the son of a poor Italian carpenter wanted his toys to be affordable to all children & his company adopted the slogan “For every girl. For every boy.”

    During WWII, however, no children were receiving new Radio Flyer wagons because Uncle Sam prevented toy manufactures from using metal for their “non-essential” products. Unable to make toys during the rationing, Pasin converted his factory to produce Blitz cans for transporting water and gasoline to the troops overseas.

    You can learn more about the history of Radio Flyer & other iconic playthings in the book I wrote just before enlisting in this struggle to save college radio —

    Toys and American Culture: An Encyclopedia

    Happy Holidays & Viva WRVU!


  2. Erin Yanke December 28, 2011 at 3:23 pm #

    During the KBOO coverage of the Occupy Movement in Portland, we had a studio in the camp. The night the camp got busted, we took down our tent, and moved all of our broadcast equipment into a Radio Flyer Wagon, to continue our coverage! A photo of it is about 2/3rds down the page.

  3. Royce Smythe January 15, 2012 at 12:04 am #

    I am so grateful for your article.Really looking forward to read more. Awesome.

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