The 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.
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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