Radio Flyer

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If you, like me, are a fan of US movies and TV series, then the iconic Radio Flyer will be more than familiar. Indeed, I know they must be sold in other parts of the world, but like so many everyday iconic items of US life – check out our earlier post on Iconic US Sweets/Candies –  Iconic American Candy – Part 1 – I don’t think I have seen one for sale in the UK. Certainly, when my kids would have loved such a product they weren’t available.

For generations, US kids have carted themselves, several siblings, pets, toys and other important treasures in these charming red trolley wagons. A wonderful item  of great simplicity that’s use is limited only by the depths of a child’s imagination. As American as “Milk Duds” but what’s their story?

2017 saw the celebration of the first hundred years of the Radio Flyer. Antonio Pasin, a Venetian born son of a cabinet maker who, aged 16, in 1913 arrived in New York City to start a new life. In 1917, in Chicago, he started building wooden toy wagons and selling them to local shops. He was a jobbing joiner who built the wooden wagons to carry his tools.

Demand for the wagons led to Pasin forming the Liberty Coaster Company in 1923, and ten years after he made his first wooden wagons he was making pressed steel versions and selling them for just under $3.00. He was very interested in the many production techniques used in the local car industry, earning himself the nickname “Little Ford”. In the 1930’s he produced several versions of his “Liberty Coaster” including The Streak-O-Lite” and The Zephyr that echoed the Chrysler Airflow.

Renaming the company in 1930 the Radio Steel and Manufacturing, the brand name “Radio Flyer” stemming from Pasin’s fascination with the pioneers of Radio (Marconi) and Flight (Lindbergh).

Production was interrupted during the latter stages of the Second World War and turned to oil drum manufacture but the company survived. In 1987 Radio Steel and Manufacturinf became “Radio Flyer Inc” which has been overseen by Pasin’s grandson, Robert as CEO, since 1997.

The company’s range of Radio Flyer and associated products grows annually and aside from being voted a great company to work for, its iconic products are rooted deep in the warmth of the American psyche.

Images used with grateful thanks – Radio Flyer Inc., ClassicCars.com and Vintage Vending Inc.

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Filofax, Stabilo Boss and Post-it Notes

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I was at our son’s school’s Speech Day and the Head of KS5 – what we used to call the Sixth Form – was addressing 26 Year 13 pupils in celebration of their graduation. All 18 to 19 year old boys and girls.

Two of the girls were referred to as having “particularly severe highlighter addictions”. No, they weren’t prone to slope off for a chemical hit behind the Bike Shed – unlikely to still exists at a school where behind “the virtual reality white board” or “elaborate holographic image” is more likely – but I digress. He wasn’t inferring any noxious ingestion, but to the over use of Stabilo Boss highlighter pens invented by a member of a Bavarian pencil dynasty, Günter Schwanhäußer.

We will all recognize the Day-Glo coloured inks used by Stabilo Boss for highlighting text in books, plays and other literature. It seems that these pupils’ use has progressed to the almost clinical.

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This got me thinking. These student are barely Millennials yet they are using – some apparently to excess – a technology that has been around since 1971, with the original yellow Stabilo Boss, the world’s best selling highlighter. They are continuing to use this aging tech, but why? Primarily because as it promises, as per the Ronseal advertisement “It does what it says on the tin”!

I have been discussing with my eldest daughter, now 23, that there seems little sense in discarding technology simply because it has been superseded by something newer – see our previous post on the Braun Calculator Braun Calculator – which in essence may not be better but just newer. We agreed that there were many good reasons to continue to use a favored product, if it delivers the required function. It may also be wise to revisit those products that have served well over the years but may have got slightly left behind by the enrapture of the new.

This got me thinking about those products that perform brilliantly, without unnecessary song or dance – and deserve re-discovery. Filofax is one such item.

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For all of its pejorative connotations with the now uncool 1980’s Yuppie Culture (you may need to explain that to our younger readers) I still have one and use it regularly. A friend has recently adopted a family version in green and based I her kitchen to record “troop movements” in her weekly agenda. I really enjoy its versatility and purpose.

I know a Filofax is not at the leading edge of new tech. You can download a business card smart reader App to populate the contact fields on your I-Phone and most Filofax’s don’t give you an electronic reminder prior to your meeting. Naturally without a digital search function you need to engage your brain to remember where you have scribbled a note or phone number. A Filofax this is an enduring and stylish way to maintain your data – and also probably doesn’t need to be GDPR compliant!

Products from the LeFax business founded in Philadelphia by JC Parker in 1910, by 1921 were imported into the UK by London printer Norman & Hill. In the mid- 1980’s the company changed its name to “Filofax”. The popularity of the Filofax was phenomenal but a fad. The Letts Filofax Group in 2012, after several corporate takeovers, was acquired by HSGP Investments.

For me the coincidence of two technologies, the Filofax and the Post-it, are inextricable.

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At a certain point in the 1990’s an optional extra to the Filofax range was a dispenser for various sized “Post-it” notes adding definition and colour to the reminder flags that were stuck to your Filofax entires. A product of such amazing simplicity, again its long term reliability is akin to staple or the paper clip. I challenge anyone not to see the practical sense in using the brightly coloured notes as a powerful aide memoire.

If you have had any experience of signing of legal documents there has evolved a short hand that a “Post-it” flag indicates, without any end for direction from your advisors, where you signature is needed. Again, we have an indelible reliance on a product launched in the late 1970’s.

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3M had a patent until 1997 under the “Post-it” brand. They were originally small yellow squares of re-adherable, removable and temporary small notes. The name “Post-it” and the yellow colour remain 3M trademarks. The late 1960’s research of a Dr Spencer Silver and his colleague Art Fry resulted in the launch of the “Post-It” product in 1979. A litigious claim settled in 1998 appears to have acceded to the role of inventor Alan Aaron in the development of the “Post-it” with the 1974 disclosure to 3M of his “Press-on” memo sticky note invention.

Add to your collection of reliable – unpowered and analogue – well designed business and social tools by clicking the following Amazon links – appearing below the image.

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Stabilo Boss Highlighters Original Colours + Pastel Shades Complete Set 15

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Filofax The Original Personal Organiser – Red

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Filofax Personal Nappa Leather Zipped Organiser – Black

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Post-it 3M 654-TFEN Notes, 76 x 76 mm – Energetic Colours, 6 Pads (100 Sheets Per Pad)

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Image credits – with grateful thanks – Filofax, 3M and Schwann – Stabilo Boss.