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
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 They have been replaced by slick chrome platforms,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
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.