Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Walk Down Memory Lane - To The Dangerous Playground

Ahh, playgrounds.

No; I'm not talking about those sterile plastic lysol-sprayed hunks of crap nestled in a bed of rubbery soft nerfy flooring. I'm talking about real playgrounds. The kind we grew up with, the kind that mangled us and taught us life lessons. Playgrounds deemed too dangerous for today's wussy youth, which sadly have become a thing of the past.

This is what fun looks like today?!??!? Pffft.

Today the Bitter Old Bitch gladly takes you on a stroll down memory lane, to the playground equipment you loved and miss - and probably have a few scars to show from.

First Stop: The METAL slide of doom:

That's right bitches, take a look at that. The metal slide in all its dangerous sharp glory. Just sitting there in the sun, waiting to scorch any thighs that dare touch it. Who needs rounded sides or tubes? Part of the excitement about riding the slide of doom is knowing that at any moment, your shoes may catch on the metal and you're taking a one-way-trip over the side, possibly in sand - but likely in gravel tinged with bottlecaps and cigarette butts. YESSS!

Second Stop: The Merry-Go-Round:

If you haven't gotten 10 of your friends together and spun one of these until you vomited, I pity you. I was that one kid who was one hell of a spinner, I'd stand on the side and just whip the crap out of it, giving everyone a hell of a ride. Naturally, I would then try to hop on once it hit Mach 5. Of course, I never made it, but instead hung on for dear life, dragging my brand new jeans through the dirt, allowing my legs to dangle and drag on the ground until it finally came to a halt. After putting holes in the knees of my pants and filling my shoes full of gravel, I'd head home victorious. Good times, good times...

Third Stop: Those Springy Things of Death:

"Hello, I'm the Death Duck. Wanna ride?"

Obviously meant for the little ones, these creatures were also favorites of us bigger kids. They would rock back and forth, hitting the ground until they had enough of us - either bucking us off 5 feet away or popping us in the face knocking out a tooth. Either way, we learned a valuable lesson - sometimes you really are just too big to play with that.

Fourth Stop: The Teeter-Totter a.k.a. See-Saw:

More than just a staple of the playground, the teeter-totter was also an important lesson in physics. With the right amount of force on one side, you too can achieve this (Tip: wait for the slo-mo fun!):

Fifth Stop: The Jungle Gym / Monkey Bars:

Face it, besides teaching us upper body coordination and strength; jungle gyms and monkey bars are responsible for making sure as a child we got regular tetanus boosters.

Sure...it looks like fun now, but wait till they get a taste of the rusty bolts and screws holding it together from the inside. Heh.

Sixth Stop: The Rocket:

Extremely popular in the late sixties/early seventies the playground rocket was amazing. You could climb inside for one hell of a view over the whole area, or as a remote refuge to get your drug fix in private (i.e.: snorting pixie sticks). Do note that a slide-o-doom was almost always attached to these babies.

Seventh Stop: The "Barrel Of Fun" a.k.a. the "Hamster Wheel":

Now this is one of my fondest pieces of equipment at the playground. One particular playground near the community pool had one of these and it was always packed full of kids. They were hard to get started, but with a little help the wheel inside would start spinning. Of course, sometimes the wood planks were loose and caused you to pinch your fingers, and splinters were not only accepted, but anticipated. Lesson learned: No matter what, keep going! Because if you fall down when it is at full speed nobody is going to stop, instead - they all get to laugh at you as you receive concussion after concussion from flopping around in the wheel like a lone sock in the dryer. :D

Eighth Stop: The "Swinging Gates":

Our school playground had one of these puppies, but in the "single" gate version, not the double that is shown here. Much like the Merry-Go-Round you could really get one of these puppies going if you had a little help. We used to enjoy sitting in it towards the outside with our legs and arms wrapped around the bar to get the maximum amount of centrifugal force. YAY!

Ninth Stop: The "Witch's Hat":

The idea behind these were simple - you and a friend (or multiple friends) grabbed opposite ends of the ring and ran in the same direction until you got whipped off the ground. Of course, that would be too easy; so instead you always tried to pair up people of very different sizes for each side, so it would be off balance and one side would be flown up in the air from the other people's weight. Another important lesson in physics; often followed by a lesson in first aid. ;)

Tenth Stop: Teatherball:

Yes kids, once upon a time we actually had Teather Ball stations at parks and at school. Yes, you often got the ball smacked right in your face, but you liked it, dammit. These days the closest most kids get to one of these is by downloading Napoleon Dynamite. :( The world needs more tetherball.

R.I.P Teatherball court....R.I.P.

Last Stop: "The Octopus" a.k.a "The Maypole" a.k.a "The Big Strike":

Here's one you won't see these days. Much like the Witch's Hat above, the Octopus was a simple design. Slap a huge metal pole in the ground, attach a buttload of chains, and allow the chains to swivel from the pole. Add kids, and you're done. Simply put, everyone grabbed on, you ran around as fast as you could until...LIFTOFF! Of course, half the time the sucker would throw you ten feet if you couldn't hang on, and you could be certain that sometime or another a chain next to you was going to slap you in the face, and you were possibly going to slam right into the pole itself. With excitement and danger like that - it really is little wonder why we played all day long. And considering today's lame nerfed playgrounds, can we really be shocked that today's kids don't?

Bring back the danger....bring back the fun.

....thus sayeth the Bitter Old Bitch.


Bad Cop Tugga Thugga said...

The Bitch is back! Finally! Missed your crotchey ass!

I noticed the lack of McDonald's themed playground equiptment. The Mayor McCheese Jail was the site of many smacked heads and minor concussions in my day.

The tire jungle gym is another favorite from back in the day. These structures were usually put together by "shop kids" as part of their end of the year project. Tire playground equiptment assembled by stoners and slackers is always a great idea! Not only is it free/cheap and "safe" it is also a free source of malaria in the summers.

nikkinikkinikki72 said...

Oh so missed you. I stumbled upon you sometime ago and then not a single word for months.
I so love your moaning and please do lots more.
I rememeber some of the playground equipment showing here, and they were much more fun than todays boring ones.
I know a girl who ripped all her leg skin off one the roundabout, with blood everywhere and kids in amazement claiming to see bone. lol.

Penny said...

hahahahahaha It's like Christmas early! I was so excited to see you back today!
What a great post! I remember all of those playground toys. My favourite was the Merry Go Round..although my Ma told me horror stories to try to keep me from running with it to get it going and then jumping on. She said some kid from our neighborhood did this and he ended up falling down and getting sucked under the Merry Go Round and his legs were chopped off.
I was terrified after that.

Also the Teeter-Totter..hours of fun...although I look at most of that stuff and shudder with fear.
Our school used to have the balance beam as well..basically just a few beams of wood on the ground that you walked on or tried to do cart wheels off of.

I also agree with tetherball. :(


@ Bad Cop - Ahh, the McDonald playland items really deserve their own article, don't they? Mayor Mc Cheese jail was also my favorite, followed closely by the Grimace cage bouncer and the springy things of death (much like the duck one in the article). My fave was the "Filet o' Fish" springer of death...it was basically a burger with a fish body. Happy memories!

@ nikki : Nice to see you! :) Hahaha, we all have some sort of story we heard where someone was maimed or murdered by playground equipment. The roundabout/merry-go-rounds were a common fixture in such tales, almost as common as that kid that everyone had heard managed to completely swing over the swing-set successfully. :P

@ Penny: Funny enough, I remember hearing a very similar story concerning the merry-go-round too! I wonder if they actually did suck kids in or if it was a common urban myth? :o

And yes, teatherball. :( Poor teatherball.

Gilsner said...

Good Lord I've missed you! This truly is the best. day. ever. So glad you're back!

John said...

why do so many of these instruments of death involve going around in circles and getting dizzy? to increase the chance of injury?

those fucking slides sucked!

Onewithwings said...

Ah, the memories. And to think, I almost missed it! Being born in 86, I was at the tail end of this, most of these things left the playground as I was growing out of that particular age group. I have vivid memories of heading down the metal slide of doom a bit too fast and damn near breaking my tailbone. Good times, good times...

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Anonymous said...

I love this blog, your writing is hilarious. This article speaks to me in particular. I'm just the right age to have enjoyed the tall, sharp, metal playgrounds
and lightning fast, sun baked slides... while withing a few years witnessing their disappearance, and subsequent replacement with lame rounded plastic lumps. :(

Where do you keep going?
Updates woman!!!

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Anonymous said...

Ah, memories.

My 1st concussion... thanks to one of those jungle gyms over concrete.

Nowadays, they would've called the paramedics as I was knocked unconscious... then; they just picked me up and carried me into the school room.

No C-collar, no worries!

Tough!! =)

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T said...

The rocket... ahh, the stories my scars could tell of that monstrosity...

We have a local park that my kids affectionately call "The Swirly Whirly Death Wish Park" - because of its dangerous "euro style" playground...

still wussy in comparison to what we grew up with, but much cooler than recycled tire mats under a 2 MPH merry go round.

Randy Deaver said...

Dangerous playgrounds! Yeah! I suddenly miss my childhood days. I remember one time when I had an accident in the playground when I was in third grade. I had to go to the dentist. Lexington's the place where I stay now. I miss California. Haha! I do hope that I can find a Lexington dentist that can help me take care of my teeth this time. I'm sure there are a lot of great dentists here in this area.

Anonymous said...

The Witch's Hat! The bestest, funnest, most dangerous piece of playground equipment EVER! There was one of these at a city park in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, back in the 1960s, and my cousins and I used to have a BALL on it! If you were REALLY foolhardy, you'd jump inside and try to avoid being smooshed between the swinging part and the central pole!

It's too bad cool old playground equipment like slides and swings and teeter-totters and merry-go-rounds are vanishing for fear that some kid might get a bruise or chip a tooth. Eventually playgrounds are going to be little more than big piles of pillows ... which is pretty much what the kids of the future will be like also.

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Wess said...

The park I grew up in turned the "dangerous" curly-Q slide into a monument of sorts. Sad day.

Anonymous said...

Came across your site while trying to find a picture of the Maypole, aka Octupus, Johnnie, or Big Strike. I was telling a co-worker who is several years younger than me about the Maypole and wanted to show her a picture of one. She had never heard of or seen one made of metal. The children of today don't know what they are missing by not getting to play on the playground equipment we did back in the 50s and 60s. Kay in Oklahoma City

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Anonymous said...

What a great trip down memory lane! I remember most of these, though some were not around until I was, sadly, too old to ride them. I had a passionate love for the merry-go-round, even though I generally skinned one or more knees/elbows with every ride. We also had a "witch's hat" that was somewhat larger--it came down within about two feet of the ground and had a wooden board seat all around the bottom. You were supposed to sit with your legs to the outside, but of course to give it a really good rocking swing motion, somebody always thrust a foot against the center pole...can you say "crushed ankle"? And one of the finer points about those metal slides (oh, how I would love just one more trip down!)--we always saved the wrappers Mom put our lunch in--they were waxed paper--explain that to your kids--and we used them to slick up the slide real good, so you'd hit the ground at the bottom hard enough to bruise your feet right through the soles of your shoes.

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JBSCAR said...

Its so great to hear these stories! Playgrounds are just a foam bubble now adays. I always check them out now when I go with my son. Kids sit and throw the pebbles UP the slide to see how full they can make the bottom, because the shit is so lame now. I even saw one kid wearing a helmet on a foam padded playground.
If you were born in the 70's or early 80's like me, danger is your middle name. Getting a scrape, scar, bleeding or concussion was fuk all at schoolbplaying on this shit. I remeber a grade 7 kid (i was in grade 5) trying to see who could stand and balance on the top of a monkey bar maze and I fell like 10 feet head first into the ringed bike rack. Next thing I remeber was a circle of people around me asking if I was ok. I said i think so, then the bell rang and i went back to class!!! Lol.
Now everyone would be suing each other if that happened. Faaaaaak.
we all live in a pussyworld now...

Kevin Mullaney said...

seesaw thing good
rest not so much

Unknown said...

Great read! What about the tire swing, the rickety bridge, and all the tan bark you could eat when you landed on your face! This reminds me of a funhouse too dangerous by today's standards that had a huge record player where you were destined to fly off.

Tracy Saunders said...

My grandparents had one of the Octupuses--Octopi?--and I've been searching for years for a way to build one for my kids.

If you have a clue how to do this, please contact me!!

Anakin Sparky said...

Hi, may I say the rocket ship was always jammed up with kids so you couldn't fall,the witches hat was always fun as was the carousel and then there was the park that had 9 slippery dips with varying degrees of incline,from weee to oh shit hit the ground running. And the simple swing with such long ropes/chains that you could get some serious air. And the simple see-saw that you could play on without the need for another person. Nowdays see-saws are plastic tube with a plastic saucer placed between your upper thighs. The most fun on those is when the other person can't hold on any longer and falls off (good times) But now I have to ask you a serious question, I am trying to track down a ride that used to be in Doug Larson park (also referred to as duck park by the kids) in boundary rd beenleigh qld. I've contacted council and they've told me it was thrown to the tip! I cannot believe that as this was a spinning egg, that was approximately 7 feet high. Made of fiberglass had a wheel on a connecting rod to gears that spun the egg. Held 4/5 kids with an adult (me) spinning the egg. Usually the friends of my kids would just remark to my kids that their mum was crazy (fun) I digress sorry, then it was concreted into the ground. I'm sure that the guys that would have removed these (2) eggs more than likely took them home. If you or any of your readers remembers these and with a pinch of luck knows where one is I would love to buy it. These playground rides like anything in life were not all dangerous ,only the kids who didn't know their limits. No blood or broken bones, you got up and did it better,or never did it again. Nowdays kids are sooks, most don't even get on a swing /as they don't work on their own. No batteries included. Most helicopter parents won't let their kids play on park ground equipment anyway..too many germs. That's why there are so many allergies nowdays,kids aren't allowed to get dirty,playing in the dirt making mud pies,burying your brothers favourite cars ! But if you hear about the egg would love to know,they were removed in the mid 90's. Never know,one could still be alive,or maybe someone reading this could tell me who made them. So many questions,but the council won't tell me anything. Please help my inner child.

Tim said...

I never remember seeing or hearing about the Egg Ride, but since 1929 to
present, Game Time was/is a leader in playground equipment, and it wouldn't
surprise me if they were the manufacturer of the Egg. I recently contacted
them to ask about a Pull-a-Way merry-go-round that I plan on restoring this
year, and they actually were able to locate diagrams and different measurements
of the Pull-a-Way. It was the newer version of the one that I have (probably
from the 50's), but basically the same..
Throughout the years, I built a vintage type park and have playground equipment
from the 40s, 50s, and 60s, and the Kids of Friends of mine have the greatest
times during outings. I think the push Merry-go-Round and Metal Slide they
like best, and maybe also the Global Monkey Bars. This Monkey Bars are different.
I can't find a pic of another. It's an 8 ft. globe of bars, and what makes it
different, instead of the bars going straight down to the ground, they tuck under
in a circular form. I'm very pleased that I was able to acquire that piece.
Other playground equipment that I have set up is a large swing (chains and wooden
seats), 2 see-saws (side by side with wooden seats), a sit down stage coach, and
a very unique bench swing (probably from the 40s) that I haven't seen another..
I also have 6 spring toys that once I do a little expanding, I plan on having set
up. I also know where there's a Witches Hat which I may attempt to purchase or
make a trade. For the last 25 years, restoring these old rusty pieces of equipment
has been a very enjoyful Summertime hobby..

Rectoday said...

Great thanks for sharing! What about the tire swing? i love that one and the rickety bridge.

Anonymous said...

THIS IS SUCH A GREAT POST - thank you for providing such nostalgic memories! I was born in 1972, thus I missed the rocket slide. However, I remember the jungle gyms, monkey bars, see-saws and the very high metal sliding boards.....which I would totally ride today as an adult if only I could find one! I feel sorry for today's kids, they will never know the playground joys of generation X'ers and Baby Boomers. Now, I must saw that I do draw the line at 1920s playground slides - I have seen pictures and those ARE death traps! Lol!! :-)