Synopsis of Toy
There was nothing more glorious than getting a brand new Big Wheel. And nothing as inglorious as our moms’ mandates that we not ride in the street with the neighborhood kids…that we were confined to the dreaded and boring back yard. But it’s not like we didn’t have a plan. If you’re unacquainted with the ‘Freedom to Ride in the Street’ plan, its basic tenets follow:
First, we did figure eights around the patio furniture, as noisily as we could. Then, we moved out a couple of chairs from inside the house and figure-eighted those, bumping into them every third for fourth circle. We made obstacle courses with mom’s potted plants, we ran over as many snails as we could and then swore we didn’t see them. We skimmed over our parents’ feet “accidentally” when they came outside to screech about not damaging the prized geranium, and when they started preaching about how snails were living creatures too. Yeah, right. We trained the dog to run behind us during our obstacle course regimens and bark all the way. We loaded up the bucket seat with our stuffed animals and informed all within earshot that it was time for an all-day parade. Wait, that one made mom smile—scratch the parade step. We didn’t want to charm here—we wanted to exasperate. It was then about time to start knocking chairs and potted plants over, telling mom after one of our best-feigned crashes that all things considered, the open road would probably be much safer. And worn out, she finally agreed. Now we were free to ride out on the street, to be a part of the street pack! Hallelujah! Big Wheeldom’s heavenly gates had opened!
Invented by Ray Lohr for Marx Toys, the Big Wheel was a sit-down, low-to-the ground three wheel vehicle for kids—like a tricycle, but lower and nearly metal-less, and decorated with a much better color scheme. The seat back was adjustable, so that as a rider grew, he wouldn’t grow out of the Big Wheel. The two wheels in back were small, but in front was the so-called Big one. There were pedals and handlebars that you could decorate with ribbons or flying plastic. Most memorable of all, the Big Wheel made that distinctive scraping noise on the cement or asphalt (if you were riding on the street, that is…if you had, in other words, worked the steps of the ‘Freedom to Ride’ plan and worked them well). Molded plastic was never this good.
Dare other members of the pack to go straight down a hill for a harrowing stretch—turning or using the brakes forfeits the dare. Or give your body a jolting it won’t soon forget and pound down a length of cement stairs—but in this stunt, it’s the fallers-off who lose the dare. Play ‘chicken’ (the first one to change course is the clucker) with fellow members of the pack, stage races and double passenger races, tow each other, push each other off for added launching speed, and perfect your 180 degree skid-outs.
With its patented Snap ‘n Stay assembly process, putting together the Big Wheel once the box was opened was no sweat. The worst part of Big Wheel ridin’ was when the tread on that big front tire wore down. It was hard to get a-movin’ if your tires couldn’t bite down on that pavement. Of course, you could always turn your worn-down vehicle over, spin the big front wheel and pretend you were an old-fashioned ice-cream man with a special churning machine of his very own. Call out the flavors you’ve got on hand—and don’t worry about any odd looks coming your way, because every kid in the Wheel pack has settled into the ice cream man’s role occasionally. It goes hand in hand with Big Wheelin’.