Folk Song – Westlake Village, California

Little Red Wagon

You can’t ride in my little red wagon

Front seat’s broken

And the axel’s draggin


Next verse, same as the first

But a whole lot louder and a whole lot worse!

Nicole Ross is the camp director of First Neighborhood Day Camp in Westlake Village, CA. Over 200 kids attend camp every week, and throughout the day the counselors lead multiple song medleys. Generally, Nicole selects a counselor to come on stage with his/her group of campers and pick a song, which they will sing on stage in front of the entire camp. I attended the camp from ages 7-13, but when I arrived to work as a head counselor in the summer of 2006 I noticed that many of the songs had changed. Since the camp has been around for more than twenty years, many of the songs have been modified, and Nicole brought many new songs to the camp’s tradition. She claims to have learned “Little Red Wagon” back when she was a camper around 1993.

“Little Red Wagon” is one of the most energetic songs that the campers sing, as it progressively gets louder for about five verses until everyone is screaming at the top of their lungs. Naturally, the clamor makes it a camp favorite, but it also presents an anti-materialistic message. Although the wagon has a broken seat and a faulty axel, the singers are proud to own it and are unwilling to part with it. The wagon is described as shoddy and small, but yet its sentimental value is indispensable. Surprisingly, the song seems to discourage sharing, which is a primary value of the camp, but the central message conveyed is that value is not measured in monetary standards. Instead, it encourages the children, rich or poor, to take pride in their interests, regardless of how they are perceived by others. Although most campers come from relatively wealthy families, Nicole has established a rule that prevents campers from bringing their personal gadgets to the camp (such as cell phones and portable video games) in order to prevent jealousy and class-consciousness amongst the campers.