Thursday, August 23, 2012

Slides 'n Slips.

So far, there's not much I would like to import from my son's childhood back into mine but he's only nine months old.  Those lovey-dovey rags with a head wouldn't survive time travel.  I have learned that there are some things my mother would have pined for back in the 80s had they existed.  Exersaucers, those strange mesh teething bags that look like condoms but safely entertain babies for minutes at a time, and babycenter make the short list.

Oh yes, and perhaps a playground or two that wasn't an episode of Wipeout waiting to happen.

Seriously, folks.  How are any of us who grew up swinging from the monkey bars of the 80s even alive?

While at my parents' house, I took the little boy for a stroll down memory lane to the playground from my childhood. 

Taking photos of him in the swing, I noticed wood chips underneath his little feet.  "They've mulched over the gravel or concrete that used to be here," I thought to myself followed by, "why were the swings over gravel or concrete?  That doesn't seem safe."

When I came up for air from the "baby on swing" photo session:

I noticed a wide open expanse of empty playground where slides and a jungle gym used to reside.  Looking at it 28 years ago, I'd seen only fun.  Now the one manning the stroller, my mind's eye saw a take-no-prisoners obstacle course of hot metal and three-story falls.  Had my parents been absolutely insane to let us romp around on what was once there?

Let's start with the old metal monkey bars, a metal igloo-shaped apparatus that I used to scale up and hang from.  This was the safest use of these bars.  Many more adventurous kids climbed the inside and clung to the top like Peter Parker post-bite.  I am certain I watched more than one classmate crash down to the compact dirt below.  Not even mulch chips could soften those blows. 

Since the equipment has been ripped down by zealous PTA moms, I can't provide pictures.  Instead, I've sketched the apparati out as I recall and am sharing my sixth or seventh attempt at each one. Were I writing an Individual Development Plan this year, I'd include "Drawing" under my "Area(s) of Opportunity."

I've digressed.  I give you The Monkey Bars.

 Up next is The Slide; a giant piece of erect metal glistening under the hot sun and beckoning innocent children.  I was more terrified of slide bum burn than the Wizard of Oz flying monkeys.  I would check my shorts half a dozen times before going down to be 100% confident my bum would not be exposed to the slides wily ways.  When open flesh meets a hot slide tilted at a precarious angle, it can really ruin a six year old's day.  This is my artist's rendering of it:

The final playground structure I recall is classified under the "so dangerous I think my childhood playground was a playground test market and this particular plaything never launched nationally because there were so many injuries and/or deaths" category.  I wouldn't be surprised if this was the only one in North America.

The Saucer.

"What is the saucer?" you ask because you don't recall one from your own childhood.  Let me tell and show.

The saucer was comprised of two ladders, one on the right and one on the left, each leading up to half of a giant dome or "saucer."

The children who climbed the caved in side were good to go.  They could have grand old safe time as long as they avoided the hole where the ladder came up.

The children on the other side were not so lucky.  They clung to the side for their dear little lives and either scrambled back up to the top to grab the ladder or closed their eyes and jumped down.  This is, of course, if the brown lead paint covering the saucer wasn't heated up to 114 degrees under the treeless sky.

I'm glad I grew up with ridiculously unsafe playgrounds!  They built character!  They taught our generation how to overcome challenges and scorching hot metal!  I wouldn't trade scabbed knees and tumbles for the perfectly plastic playgrounds of today.

I would, however, love to import this old playground into today and watch my reaction as my son approached the saucer.  Who's talking about character now?  Not me, I'm on the phone to the city planne rdemanding they rip that deathtrap down.  What?  They're busy.  Then that's me in the Home Depot rental bulldozer.


  1. I know the feeling! My kids are 4 and 5 and they still climb on bars in my in-laws yard that my husband played on 30 years ago. They are rickety, metal, a tetanus shot and broken arm waiting to happen. I just recently learned they aren't even cemented into the ground. But the kids play anyway, and so far noone has gone to the hospital. So far...

  2. LOL, I have such fond memories of our very unsafe elementary school playground, and I was so mad when they tore it down. It's funny how opinions change when you're the mom though!!

  3. I remember my unsafe, old playground from elementary school. I still cringe when my 4 yr old attempts to play on a playground in our neighbourhood. She has two left feet and always hurts herself. Heart attack waiting to get Mama!

  4. I think of the things we used to do on the monkey bars - lots of hanging by our knees, and one activity I remember where we lay down crosswise on top of the bars, reach under them to grab them, and then flipped over so we were hanging by our hands. And yet I never remember anyone getting hurt. I do miss that equipment sometimes, although I'm sure if I saw it as a parent I'd feel differently. Playgrounds these days all seem to be exactly the same, no matter where you go.

  5. I have often looked back on my 70s and early 80s childhood and wondered WHAT our parents were thinking back then? And were they not worried to death No seatbelts, no helmets, dangerous metal climbing and spinning equipment. My mother had a small compact car at one time with two bucket seats in the front and a little console in the middle where my little brother used to ride! He called it the hump. It's a wonder any of us survived! But ahh...the memories. :)

  6. I miss those playgrounds. They were the best. Remember when McDonalds had playgrounds? They had to take them out because they were deemed unsafe. It sucks.

    1. Do you remember the hamburger tower at the McD playground?? That was THE BEST. I miss those ricketynold playgrounds, too. Seems like a much more innocent time.

  7. My playground growing up had a balance beam 6-7 foot span, about 4-5 feet in the air. No other protection. Yea, that was safe.

    And yes, I fell off of that. The memories!

    Have a great week!

  8. It is funny how a few years can change our perspective!