Are pictures really worth a thousand words, or ten thousand words or more?

Are pictures really worth a thousand words, or ten thousand words or more?  I do not know, but I know they are worth many memories of my past – good memories of who I was growing up and who my parents wanted me to be.

Recently my aunt came across a photograph of me sitting on a lawnmower with two of my cousins and my baby brother at my knee.  Seeing the picture, I knew it was the summer of 1976.  I was 14, my baby brother was two.

The picture was made at my Papa’s (grandfather’s) home in rural Alabama.  The lawnmower was old and rusted and had the blade removed, but it was good for grandchildren to drive around and be pulled in a little red wagon.

Papa always made sure we had things to ride in, push and pull.  Sometimes they had engines, sometimes they did not.  I wore the wheels out on an old mini-bike that didn’t have an engine.  Time after time I pushed it up a hill to coast back down.

Looking at the picture, I still am proud of how my baby brother stuck to me like we were about fly down a steep hill in a wagon; my parents tasked me with keeping a close eye on him.  I wanted to.  I did. I always will.

Little red wagons were always available at my grandparents.  Between my Papa being a collector of motorized and non-motorized things with wheels and my Grandmama being the owner of a ten-cent store that sold toys, we were in good shape. 

Personally, I get a kick out of watching children with wagons.  As many simple toys do, the wagon leaves much to the imagination and ingenuity of the child.   Whether they are pushing, pulling or riding in them, a picture is created that allows us to peek into the mind and heart of the child. 

Did the psychological study of pushing and pulling, and the motivation involved come before or after the little red wagon?  I am not sure; it really doesn’t matter.  However, I am pretty sure that when I watch a child playing with a wagon, I have on my brother and daddy hats, rather than my Sigmund Freud hat.

Recently, I was reading about motivation, specifically about  “Why do we do anything at all?”  Unfortunately, some folks answer this question, “I don’t and I won’t.”  Forgive me for my ability to go from little red wagons to psychology, but they are related.  At least the pushing and the pulling are related.

As I understand it, the pushing comes from inside us or our “internal drive.”  The pulling comes from things external to us or incentives to make us move.  After summarizing these complex thoughts in a couple of simple sentences, I would now like a Ph.D. in Red Wagon Psychology. 

Seriously it takes both pushes and pulls, however it does seem when we look at the lack of motivation in some folks - they do not have the desire to push themselves nor pull anyone else – they wish only to sit in the wagon and wait for someone else to do it.  That would be fine, but life is not all downhill or coasting, someone has to get you back to the top so you can ride again. 

Not only do they want you to push the wagon up the hill for them to ride down, they want you to pull them back up in the wagon to ride again.  You get tired of this when your wagon starts to fall apart.

Perhaps we should all study Red Wagon Psychology from an Italian cabinet-maker.  What?  That is correct.  His name was Antonio Pasin.  Antonio is the man who gave us the Radio Flyer wagon.

Born in a little town outside of Venice, Antonio was greeted by the Statue of Liberty in 1913; he was 16 years-old.  He had no money and didn’t know a soul.  What did he do?  He started working – pushing, pulling and dreaming.  Antonio invested his savings in used woodworking equipment and rented a one-room workshop.

By 1917, at age 20, Antonio was making wagons.  He called them “Liberty Coasters,” in honor of the lady who greeted him when he showed up in our land of opportunity.

Soon after, Antonio headed west to Chicago where he would open a small factory with the goal of making affordable wagons for every child.  In 1927, inspired by the auto industry, he started using a steel stamping process to mass produce the wagons.

These new mass-produced little red wagons, were named the “Radio Flyer.”  Have you ever wondered why they are called Radio Flyers?  It’s obvious.  Antonio was amazed by radios and the wonders of flight – there you go.

The 1933 Chicago World’s Fair was the mountain that started Antonio and his company coasting to long-term success.  Against the advice of folks working for him, he borrowed $30,000 to create a 45 foot tall wood and plaster replica of a boy on a wagon to be part of the fair.   Antonio’s company sold miniature wagons for a quarter from a shop under the statue. The statue was big, Antonio and his company would be bigger.

His company became the world’s largest producer of toy wagons.  Antonio passed away in 1990.  His grandson now run the company.  As of 2012, Antonio’s widow was still alive at age 104.  I’m pretty sure she is/was a woman who knew about pushing and pulling.

Therefore, the next time you see a couple of kids with a mobile lemonade stand on a little red wagon, think about the Italian cabinet-maker, Antonio Pasin, who showed up in America with no one to push or pull him, but himself.  You might also want to buy some lemonade, the torch holding lady on Ellis Island is there to welcome folks who want to work and pay for stuff they need like lemonade and little red wagons.

Folks don’t mind pulling the wagon up the hill for those who need help, but let them enjoy their little red wagons before you start pulling the wheels off and breaking the axles with loads they weren’t intended to carry.

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