Little red wagons –they just keep rolling along

Whether young or young at heart, who doesn’t associate the holiday season with big red bows, shiny red berries, and the crackling red flames of a cozy fire. Some of us associate the holiday with little red wagons, as well.

Multi-taskers, little red wagons are equally at home on a porch, in the garden, or at the flea market. Images by Diane Morey Sitton

Once a gift cherished mostly by kids, the low, long-handled, four-wheeled carts are now a flea market icon topping wish lists written by gardeners, collectors, crafters, and moms.

It all started in 1917 when 16-year-old Italian cabinet-maker Antonio Pasin came to the U.S. and began using his woodworking skills to construct toy coaster wagons. He named his business Liberty Coaster Company in honor of the Statue of Liberty.

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In 1930, Pasin began mass producing steel wagons. After gaining international attention at the Chicago World’s Fair three years later, the company (renamed Radio Steel and Manufacturing) went on to become the world’s largest producer of toy coaster wagons, adapting the slogan, “For every boy. For every girl.”

Pasin’s fascination with radio, the biggest technological invention of the time, along with his awed admiration of flight, account for the name he chose for his ever popular steel wagons—Radio Flyer.

Gardeners’ helper. Little red wagons grew up from being a child’s toy to becoming a garden helpmate.

Hop aboard. Want to show off a collection; use a little red wagon.

Today, gardeners use Radio Flyers and similar little red wagons as garden carts to tote tools, sacks of soil, bags of fertilizer, flats of seedlings, and freshly harvested fruits and vegetables. Moms use them to carry groceries, recycling, and kids. Collectors treasure them as iconic American toys to be displayed and preserved. Crafters retool them as tables, trays, and wall shelves. In mudrooms, red “pull-alongs” serve as boot storage. In garden rooms, they serve as book storage; on patios, filled with ice and soda, they become a party essential.

An oldie but a goodie. When is old too old? For little red wagons, never!

Portable planter. Stake sides add to the usefulness of little red wagons. Here, they help contain coleus, sweet potato vine, and ivy.

Often, as testament to their appeal, versatility, and longevity, little red wagons are put to use until they rust away. Look around. Gardeners use the faded, rusty receptacles as planter boxes for bulbs, small herbs, and succulents. Weatherworn wagons serve as quaint containers for fairy gardens and plant collections. In summer, wobbly wagons overflow with impatiens; in winter, they brighten landscapes with pansies and Johnny jump-ups.

Holiday symbol. Old or new, red wagons are the making of mood and memories.

But for all their charm and usefulness, perhaps there is no better time to enjoy little red wagons than during the holiday season. It is then that they brim over with cedar boughs, pine cones, sprays of red berries, and memories…old and new…of family and friends.

Posted by Diane Morey Sitton
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