In case you hadn’t noticed, each month has been designated to recognize something, and this month along with several other things is Italian Heritage Month.
The name “Italian Heritage” is new this year having to do with controversies dealing mainly with Columbus, but there are plenty of other Italians to celebrate for their contributions to the world through the arts, music and science.
But is the name Antonio Pasin at all familiar? No? Well his contribution to American life certainly is. Pasin is the inventor of the little red wagon that has brought joy to thousands of children over the years — the Radio Flyer.
Pain’s story begins in 1914 when the then 16 year old came to Chicago from a small Italian town near Venice. Joining other members of his family, he sought work as a day laborer before becoming a cabinet maker along with his father and grandfather.
He later started his own company, the Venetian Furniture Company before branching out to create a company that made the little wagons. The company was the Liberty Coaster Line, then Radio Line and in 1987 it became Radio Flyer. The name was derived from Pasin’s fascination with the radio and its Italian inventor, Marconi.
The wagon was the hit of the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago and is now enshrined in the Toy Hall of Fame. The company is still in Chicago and the owners are now the third generation. Now’s how’s that for an Italian story?
My parents were born in Italy, coming over as children, my mother from the Tuscany region and my father from around Naples. My mother’s family settled at 24th and Oakley and my paternal grandparents around Wentworth Avenue, where they were greeted by friends from Italy. All helped each other.
I am proud of my Italian heritage and celebrate it not only in October, but always. I will of course celebrate in part with a little Italian food and vino, and I plan to go to Vesuvio’s in North Riverside and get a cannoli; now that’s Italian.
Do you think there will ever be a National Columnist’s Day? I don’t think there is but there should be, and it would be something else I could celebrate.