Simple wheels: wagons and DIY scooters

by Juanita Lovret
Reprinted courtesy of the Tustin News


As kids we spent a lot of time on wheels: bicycles, roller skates, wagons, scooters – anything that rolled. Sometimes it seemed that wheels had replaced our feet. Bicycles carried us everywhere: to school, to visit our friends on the next block, to the store to pick up the item our mother forgot, to the library. Bicycle racks were standard equipment at school or any locations where lots of kids congregated. The sidewalk in front of the drugstore was littered in the afternoon with bicycles temporarily abandoned when their owners went in for ice cream.

Granted, kids still ride bicycles, but their equipment is sleek and streamlined. Beach cruisers, racers, mountain bikes, folding bikes, bikes with gears and even electric bikes – these machines are nothing like the clunkers we pedaled. Our bicycles had handlebars and two wheels, but there the likeness to today’s cycling equipment ends.

The skates used by kids today can’t be compared to the set of four little wheels that we strapped and clamped to our shoes, then adjusted with a key. Dozens of styles of roller blades and shoe skates as well as skateboards offer speed with none of the frustrations we experienced with clamps that came loose or lost keys.

The avid gardener next door is the only person in our neighborhood who still uses a wagon. The kids consider wagons prehistoric. They fail to see what is fun about kneeling in a wagon bed and pushing yourself along with one foot.

And homemade scooters – can you remember the last time you saw one? They have been replaced by slick chrome platforms, sometimes with motors, that whiz along the sidewalk or street with ease. Urethane wheels, aluminum T-tube frames and decks as well as rear fender brakes are advertised as giving greater performance on bumpy roads and rough pavement.

These are nothing like the awkward scooters that boys, and sometimes girls, jostled along the sidewalks and streets, providing power by pushing valiantly with one foot. Kids no longer nail old skates to a piece of 2x4 and attach a cutoff broomstick to the front for a handle, thus creating a very primitive version of today’s scooters. Nor do they attach an orange packing box on end to the front of a horizontal board, thus giving their vehicle a “dashboard” front.

The inventive boys who came up with many versions of these original models are now old men. They have fond memories of using apple boxes in place of orange crates, attaching wheels directly to the box, omitting the platform, or enlarging it to make room for a second rider. They recall the old days and wonder why kids no longer are interested in making such vehicles. But homemade scooters have vanished. 


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