The summer of our favorite toyLike many other families of the ‘50s and ‘60s, we got a lot of use out of a baby buggy that was traded back and forth between relatives. Ours was of two-toned blue vinyl-coated canvas and the size of a large bassinette.
Like many other families of the ‘50s and ‘60s, we got a lot of use out of a baby buggy that was traded back and forth between relatives. Ours was of two-toned blue vinyl-coated canvas and the size of a large bassinette.
It could be removed from its collapsible aluminum frame and used as a portable crib or in the back seat of the car. The hood folded back; a compartment under the mattress was handy for storing extra diapers, bottles, and baby food (buggies had been around for decades; my grandmother told my mother that she had stashed doughnuts in hers when my dad was a baby).
As the buggy was pushed down the street, the wheels made a satisfying little click-click-click and the springs ever so gently jiggled and soothed the baby during the ride.
Though they were bulky and heavy by today’s standards, buggies made life more convenient in times when few households had more than one car. Mothers could load several small children into the buggy and walk to the store, to visit friends, to school conferences. I had seen mothers actually hold a baby in one arm while folding the buggy, then carrying everything onto a city bus!
Baby buggies were sturdy enough to last for quite a while, but they did eventually wear out: When the vinyl frayed and the springs began to sag and squeak, our dad took ours apart and put it in the trash.
We kids weren’t especially interested in a tired-out old buggy body, but when we saw the folded down frame, so compact over those spoked wheels and egg-shaped sets of springs that looked like Christmas ornaments, our reaction felt like the excitement of Christmas morning. “Can we have this to play with?”
Our mom left the buggy body in the trash but let us haul the frame away from the garbage, and for the next several weeks the LeGarde kids had one of the coolest toys in the neighborhood.
Folded down, a baby buggy frame is a rectangle of several layers of aluminum rods spring-suspended over four wheels. It is a great go-cart: the buggy handle, which was covered by a ribbed rubber tube the width of the cart, became the place where a child, flopped belly-down and suspended over the frame, would hang on, chin above the handle and a fist on either side of the chin.
Our driveway, unpaved and not too steep, was a short and thrilling ride of bumps with a turn at the bottom that, missed or not, ended the ride in the back yard, in grass.
Our mom didn’t allow the little kids to ride, and she told us big kids to be careful. Were we? We pinched our fingers some, never enough to cry or go into the house. The wheel base was broad enough that we didn’t wipe out; however, thinking back, I now wonder how it was that we didn’t lose any teeth.
After a few weeks of being left outside the buggy frame began to rust, leaving orange stripes on our knees and arms. One morning when we went to the back yard (where Mom made us keep it because of the way it looked) it was gone!
We were horrified at the thought of its being stolen, but then found it, once again next to the trash. We rescued it, thank goodness, and wheeled it to the back door to tell our mother about the terrible mistake that had almost been made, and how lucky we were!
She started to laugh, and we heard her later in the morning telling our Aunt Peggy about it over the phone, and laughing all over again.
A couple of weeks later the buggy frame disappeared again, this time for good, but since it was getting close to the end of summer we were distracted by our thoughts of new shoes and who our teachers would be.
And so we left behind one of the great times we LeGardes had as kids, and went on to the many others ahead of us, and the ones that we enjoy to this day.
Monthly columnist Linda LeGarde Grover is a professor of American Indian studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth, an award-winning writer and a member of the Bois Forte Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.