During WWII it’s likely that many soldiers left behind not only “the girl next door” but also hard-earned automobiles. But this is the tale of a young man and his little red wagon.
Walt was 17 in 1941. After graduation from high school, he took a job working as a mechanic at a local garage. As he tells it, “I was OK with living at home.”
Like so many other young men of that post-Depression era, he wasn’t certain what his future held. Marriage and children? Maybe a different career path? Who knew? But on that Sunday in December, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, life as he knew it changed forever.
Thousands of young men across America ran to their local recruiting stations in order to “do their bit.” Walt was no different.
“I chose the Navy,” he says. “I guess I went to sea because I had grown up in land-locked Iowa, and this seemed like the most daring thing to do. My poor mother was terrified!”
He glances at his crowded garage and sighs.
“So many things in here are just ‘things’ to most people, but to me, they hold a lifetime of memories. My wife, Del, and I were always sentimental. We just couldn’t bear to let go of some of the toys and other belongings that our three kids had grown up with. Those were such great years.”
When his adult children lovingly approached him about having an auction of these excess belongings, his head began to spin. What could he let go of? He just shakes his head.
The auction will take place in the springtime. One of the treasures that will not leave Walt’s side will be his little red wagon. The paint is a bit faded and chipped, and when he rolls it back and forth it pulls to the left a little, but to Walt it is a gem.
“It’s my ‘Streak-o-Lite,’ he proudly declares. “This little wagon was patterned after the Zephyr Stream Lined Train back in the late ’20s, early ’30s. I loved it, and so did all my neighborhood friends. I can still see their faces and hear their laughter as we took turns riding down those endless hills of summer. And in the winter? Well, it served us well as we hauled wood for both indoor fireplaces and outdoor campfires, under a million stars.”
It’s quiet for a moment. Walt’s far off look disappears. He stands up as straight as an old Navy veteran can and firmly but kindly states, “Nope. It stays.”
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