Wineka column: Wagon full of stories

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 2, 2011

By Mark Wineka
GRANITE QUARRY — This “Little Red Wagon” comes with a lot of stories.
They involve former dragster Bill “Maverick” Golden, country singer Jimmy Wayne and the Granite Quarry family of Kevin and Cynthia Kisamore.
Where to start?
The Little Red Wagon became a legend in drag racing as the original “wheelstander” in 1965, when it was considered the world’s fastest truck and competed at drag strips across the country.
Golden owned and drove this Dodge A-100 compact pickup.
The reason it became so recognized: With its throttle applied, the Little Red Wagon’s front wheels popped into the air, while still achieving maximum acceleration down the track. It all happened from the combination of a Hemi engine’s torque and horsepower, rear-wheel drive and a rear-weight bias — helped by the unsprung rear axle.
So say all the experts.
Now to Jimmy Wayne, whose online biography says survived “a turbulent, abusive childhood.”
“His father abandoned the family,” the biography continues. “His mother went to prison, and he was shuttled to a series of foster homes. His stepfather tried to murder him. He was a homeless teen, living by his wits on the street.”
An N.C. couple named Russell and Beatrice Costner eventually took him in as a young adult and encouraged his evolving love of music.
Wayne worked as a prison guard before breaking through with his music. He then started “Project Meet Me Halfway” to raise awareness of the youth aging out of the foster care system whose uncertain circumstances are similar to those he faced.
Wayne recently promoted a 1,700-mile walk from a children’s home in Nashville, Tenn., to one in Phoenix, Ariz.
In February, Kevin and Cynthia Kisamore attended a Jimmy Wayne concert in Tarboro, and the performer’s life story — shared with the audience that night — prompted the couple to ask, “What can we do?” Kevin says.
“I can’t sing, and I can’t write anybody a big check,” he adds.
But the couple, along with their sons, 11-year-old Drew and 9-year-old Jacob, figured they could do enough little things to make a difference.
They established a website — one small thing — and decided to scout out, buy or take in used bicycles, tricycles and wagons.
They break down the vehicles, replace and repair parts and donate them in like-new condition to the Nazareth Children’s Home. The refurbished items also might go to the home’s retail store for sale to the general public, if no child needs one.
Since March, the Kisamores have donated about 10 bicycles to Nazareth Children’s Home.
Now to Kevin Kisamore’s “Little Red Wagon,” which took on a life of its own.
Over the past three months, Kevin has built a 1/4-scale model of the original wheelstander and made it a child’s pull wagon. Excuse the repeated words here, but it’s a Little Red Wagon wagon.
The Kisamores are selling raffle tickets for the wagon, and the winner will be chosen at Saturday’s annual Fun Fest at Nazareth Children’s Home. Proceeds from the raffle go to the home.
“I’ll be glad to see someone win it,” Kisamore says.
The Fun Fest includes a solid car show attracting many hot rodders who grew up loving the Little Red Wagon.
A metal fabricator by trade and “a hot-rodder all my life,” Kevin Kisamore went off photographs and his own working dimensions in hand-crafting the entire wagon. His father, Chuck Kisamore, assisted and at every turn the men found businesses willing to donate materials or give them sharply discounted prices.
Ray Hester of Hester Upholstery in Lexington covered the bench seat.
The tires and wheels come from CKI in Welcome.
Stock Car Steel donated the aluminum and steel for the wagon’s frame.
The paint, powder-coating and authentic decals also were donated.
“It still blows me away, looking at it,” Kevin says of the wagon. On the back, he has attached wheels from a skateboard to accommodate any urge to wheelstand in the wagon.
It also has room in front for a cooler.
Chuck Kisamore emphasizes that his son’s building of the Little Red Wagon is a one-time thing, which should encourage the sale of more tickets.
“We would have liked a little more time, but we got it done,” Chuck says.
The unique Little Red Wagon (wagon) owes its creation to a love for hot-rodding, a family’s mission to make a difference and, above all, country singer Jimmy Wayne, whose music emerged from a hard life.
“His story and what he’s been through — he just got us inspired to do something,” Kevin Kisamore says. “And it doesn’t have to be a big thing.”
Raffle tickets for the Little Red Wagon are $1 each, six for $5 and 20 for $10. They will be sold at the Nazareth Children’s Home Fun Fest, held from 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday (June 4) at the home on Crescent Road. The wagon will be on display at the children’s home’s retail store from 1-6 p.m. Friday and during the Fun Fest.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or