By Thomas A. Bergbauer – Retired Courier-Post Editor
While reminiscing about street games and vendors and the subject of orange crates came up and how versatile they were in our early years.
This struck a chord with me because innovation back then seemed to be a universal thing with the children of my time. Kids in that day and age were more innovative than they are today. We had to be or we would have been bored to death. Besides, our parents usually never had the money to buy us those expensive toys. So we all looked at an object as an adaptable tool and we had to improvise—if we can't afford it we'll make it.
That brings us back to the orange crate. They were usually found discarded at most corner grocery stores. Now a kid picking up one of those would look at it with a creative eye. Stand it upright and it could become a scooter, lay it down and it could be an orange crate car.
The crates were about 30 inches long, about 12 to 14 inches wide and about 12 to 14 inches deep with solid wood top and bottom and a wood partition in the middle. To make a scooter you needed a crate, of course, and a piece of 2 x 4 wood strip that would be nailed to bottom of the box for the scooter's running board. Next you needed a roller skate. Skates then were adjustable and attached to the shoe and tightened at the front with a special key. Each skate came apart in two sections and one section was nailed at the front of the 2 x 4 and the other at the rear. At the top of the crate a piece of wood was attached to either side of the crate and used as ‘handles’ which could be used as steering.
We found out later that many others spent days in the 1930s and 40s doing something creative with that wooden box.
We thought scooters and cars was it, but we never dreamed of the number of uses for that old wooden box. We are talking about chairs, doll houses, bookshelves, night stands and storage space for can goods and clothes, in some cases firewood to keep warm and not to mention drying racks for muskrat skins.