More room for kids to roam

Thursday, May 25th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

When is a wagon not just a wagon?

When it's a Sports Utility Wagon.

Those who remember the good old days when Halloween was just a children's holiday and parents didn't collect their kids' toys as if they were Krugerrands can only heave a sigh at this latest adult-driven inroad to kiddie-land.

After 80 years of childhood service, the red wagon seemed a rare instance of pop-culture perfection. No improvements needed. Until recently, that is.

But you asked for it, says Robert Pasin, chief "wagon" officer of Radio Flyer, the Chicago-based company that for more than 80 years has been making an American classic: the Radio Flyer red wagon (which currently sells for around $70).

"The sports-utility style of wagon is a customer-driven product," he says. "We started getting calls five years ago, from parents looking for a bigger, nicer wagon. We introduced our first model four years ago, and we've been adding new models ever since"

In the wagon game, bigger and nicer means things such as "oversized brawny air tires" and "beautiful wooden construction," not to mention prices, depending on model, that are two to three times higher than the suddenly undersized classic wagon.

Such descriptions are sprinkled among other button-pushers such as "massive capacity" ("Dads might like to haul something with it, but kids like the extra space, too," Mr. Pasin explains) - and "super-soft super-quiet ride" ("I'll grant you, this is not high on any child's list," he avers).

The specifications for a kid's wagon start to sound like the ad-campaign for the latest Suburban knock-off. And why not, since Radio Flyer's latest model just happens to be "the LARGEST wagon we've ever made!"