To me it just wouldn't be feel like Christmas without a secret project to be busy working on. It really gets me in the nostalgic Christmas mood when I have a little something to work on during the season. I think I can blame it all on my Mom and Dad and even trace my sneaky genes all the way back to my Grandma Brown. She recently told me that she would stay up many nights before Christmas while everyone in the house slept, and she would lovingly stitch up beautiful clothes for all of her kids. Shirts, jackets, pants, even a entire wardrobe for one of my mother's dolls. She said that one year she hand made 38 articles of clothing for Christmas morning!!! What an amazing Grandma!
A few months ago, I was at my parents house, and Dad was cleaning out the attic and found one of my favorite gifts that I got when I was maybe 5 or 6, and he thought that It might be better in my attic instead of his.
This favorite gift of mine was an old time runner sled that Santa probably stayed up some nights to work on just special for me. I remember seeing it under the tree for the first time that day with "Ryan's Racer" painted on the top. It really intrigued me when I watched Dad heat up the metal runners with a flame then rub white parafin wax the length of the sled just to make it that much faster. Then, finding a good hill (snow packed roads worked best) letting fly, and steering around the man hole covers. So many years had passed since I had taken a look at the old racer and I now see it with different eyes. I will hang on to it forever. Thanks for the great present Dad.
With some help from the Internet and some crazy but very helpful vintage sled enthusiasts, I was able to discover that I was probably not the Racer's first owner. I strategically removed some paint on the back of the wood deck, and by some other markings I was able to identify
that it is a.... 1935 Flexible Flyer 41 inch "Airline Pilot" model D
That makes it 74 years old!!!!
With that information I just couldn't let it collect 30 more years of dust in the dark attic. So I spent the better part of my spare time in December returning the racer to it's glory. Starting with cutting all of the rivets that held it together, chasing down 3 local sandblasters to prep the runners, The first two didn't appreciate my vision. A shot of primer, 2 coats of red paint and a few more clear coats all done in secret in Grandmas basement. I was able to keep the original Ryan's Racer wood deck intact and I cut, routered, and sanded some beautiful American Black Walnut for the new deck. (My favorite wood) I think it kind of has a "Fire Engine" look to it now with all the natural brown wood, red runners, gold stripes, and brass hardware. It is one of those labors of love that took way too long to complete but maybe in 30 years it will also be seen with different eyes, and my little Piper will know that her Dad loved her too. Ryan