#980 Old, dangerous playground equipment

Tssssss!

Slides used to be dangerous.

After climbing up those sandy, metal crosstrax steps you got to the top and stared down at that steep ride below. The slide was burning hot to the touch, a stovetop set to high all day under the summer sun, just waiting to greet the underside of your legs with first-degree burns as you enjoyed the ride. It also smelled like hot pee, years of nervous children with leaky diapers permanently marking it as their territory. Lastly, to top it all off, there were no cute plastic siderails or encapsulated tube-slides, which meant that if you went too fast or aimed your legs poorly, your shoes would grip-skid on the metal, and you’d spill over the side, landing face down with a sickening thud in a bed of pebbles, cigarette butts, and milk thistles.

World of Unimaginable DizzinessIt wasn’t just slides, either. Everything in the playground was more dangerous. And they were different and unique, seemingly put together by the neighborhood handymen who in a burst of creative energy one Saturday morning emptied their garages of old tires, 2x4s, and chains and just nailed it all together.

There were wooden tightrope beams suspended high in the air, daring the confident, athletic kids to attempt a slow, heart-pounding highwire walk while other kids encouragingly showered them with handfuls of sand and pine cones.

There were fire poles two stories high — just a cheap, simple pole planted deep in the ground. It was popular, and educational too, quietly introducing children to concepts like gravity, friction, and badly sprained ankles. There was a certain Fire Pole Form too, a kind of arms-on, cross-legged-spider-wrap maneuver that was both awkward and majestic at the same time.

PerfectAnd of course, there was my favorite — the Big Spinner, also known as a Merry-Go-Round, but not the kind with lights and plastic horses going up and down. This was just a giant metal circle that laid about a foot off the ground and could be spun, usually by someone standing beside it. If you were lucky you’d get a pile of kids on there and somebody’s mom or dad would kindly whip you into a World of Unimaginable Dizziness. A couple kids would fly off from the G-forces but most would hang on, teeth gritted, eyes squinted, cheeks flapping wildly against the wind, until the Big Spinner reluctantly came to a slow stop and finally let you off. Then you’d all walk away in different directions, some kids hitting tree trunks head on, others falling down nearby hills.

These days those classic playgrounds sure are hard to come by.

Safe and aloneEverything is plastic now — unaffected by temperature, easy to disinfect, and bendable into all kinds of Safe-T-Shapes, the sharp, rusty nail heads of yesterday replaced with non-toxic washable adhesives poured from a cauldron of polymers and Purell. Now not only are our kids getting lame baby-approved fun, but just think what we’re doing to the tetanus shot industry.

Seriously though, new playgrounds sure are terrible. This guy agrees. They say that playgrounds have gotten too safe and become so sterile and boring that kids just walk away from them, preferring instead to hang out in the weeds by the railroad tracks or throw bottles in the alley behind the pizza place. Kids could actually be placed in more danger by these lame plastic netherworlds that encourage more video game time instead of fresh air and bruising. Another blow to childhood struck by overprotective parents and pesky lawsuits.

Going nowhereWell, we can’t change the world, so let’s just enjoy the good news: old, fun, dangerous playgrounds are not completely extinct. Yes, the Safety Conglomerate hasn’t killed all the buzz with their rocking horses two inches off the ground, pillowy-soft imitation sand, and stationary, bolted-on steering wheels. Old, dangerous playground equipment can still be found. They’re out there.

So please — when you find monkey bars taunting you from ten feet off the ground, extended see-saws that allow for maximum elevation, and rickety, sagging rope bridges with planks missing, please, run around like crazy, bump your head a few times, and twist your ankle. Because tell me something– is there anything quite like it?

AWESOME!

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504 Comments

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504 responses to “#980 Old, dangerous playground equipment

  1. Steve

    What about tetherball and the chance to wrap the rope around your neck?

    • Maryssa

      Teeter-totters anyone? Apperantly there not safe.

      • Rachel

        I was on one of the old – fashioned one that go 10 feet in the air and aren’t even connected to anything, just a board and a metal pole, and the guy i was on it with leaped into the air, full force, and we totally dislodged the entire see- saw, and flew we 5 feet off the ground. We both broke bones, but I think it was the most fun I’ve ever had at a park.

        • Erica

          Classic and wonderful. I wish I’d been there to watch you, him and the see-saw go flying. I SWEAR I wouldn’t have run to tattle!

      • MazRoz

        Teeter-totters? Known as a see-saw anywhere else in the non-American continent English-speaking world. Yes, they can be dangerous. In the early 70s I went forward on one when it went back. Knocked out my remaining front tooth and hurt like hell.

        • YouGotta'BeKiddingMe

          “Teeter-totters? Known as a see-saw anywhere else in the non-American continent English-speaking world.” Yeah–so? What’s your point? Got issues with the word “teeter-totter”? It’s known as “teeter-totter” here. Get over it.

    • logan

      u have a weird mind

    • Susan Gray

      Duh!….then unwrap it!…but then I was more worried about getting hit in the face……then remember to duck next time. Get a grip, everyone…and get out of this nanny state mentality.

    • SO VERY TRUE! LOL. THAT TETHER BALL SCARED THE CRAP OUT OF ME!

    • Ellen

      oh i loved tetherball- don’t tell me they took off that one too! Our poor grandkids!

    • evypeeps

      I know! tetherball is so much fun, despite being deemed unsafe.

  2. PJ

    Nothing like sliding down that frying pan chute wearing shorts. 3rd degree burns in then span of about 6 feet. Wouldn’t trade those memories for the plastic bore of today.

  3. Van

    Those old aluminum swingsets that pulled halfway out of the ground when you really got the swings going.

  4. Name (required)

    You westerners are soft. When I was kid, my playground was broken T64 tank and we play hopscotch around anti personel mines!

    • sara

      On the grand tour of east Germany with the family, we came across a rest area with a HUGE slide, the likes of which my young American backside had never slid. So we climbed up the two stories of rickety stairs, hit our heads a couple of times on splintery 2x4s and waited in line to go down a slide so curvy and steep 2 of us almost went over the side and one of us actually did. And then we all piled back in the rental car and drove on, never to see so awesome a slide again.

    • Bucky

      Besides the mines, sounds cool!!!

      • Hi Bucky,
        I’ve been googling for an hour now and just found your blurb. My brother and I (born in the 50′s) were discussing this exact playground piece of equipment, but I was unsuccessful finding much at all about the ‘flying merry-go-round’!!! I’ll keep researching the manufacturer (which I’m certain is out of business)!!! Let’s be glad we survived!!!

        • Jacob

          Hiya Julie…

          Those are called ” GIANT STRIDES ” and the best time a kid could have… for me at least… I would wrap my chain across the top of the other kids chains as many times as I could… put my elbow through the chains and hold on with my armpit on the bar and my hand on the chain… The other kids would take off running…and I would take off flying !! The only danger I had was coming back down into the chains and bars the other kids jumped off of… Sometimes a trip to the nurses office…But always … Back to the GIANT STRIDER !!

        • Jacob

          I do have photos of the giant strider… But now that you know what it is called…You can probably find it under old playground equipment…

        • Sara Joiner Eubanks

          Julie,
          What you’re calling the “flying merry-go-round” may be what’s called the “Giant Stride”. We had one on our elementary school playground, but we didn’t call it that. Can’t remember what we did call it, though. I hope you find what you’re looking for. Do check out the Giant Stride.
          Sara

    • Ann

      Man–I miss hopscotch even…Sorry about your playground!! War is awful—But your never too old to play! We can still!!

  5. Greg

    I guess I’m not the only one who hates the current crop of soccer mom approved playground equipment. I’m currently building a 200 foot long zip line from the top of my property to the bottom (large LARGE hill). It’ll also require climbing up a 30 foot ladder to get to said zip line as well. There’s also a tree house, standing 30 feet up as well.

    All dad approved. Fuck these fucking soccer mom pussies who think little Johnny is too fucking lame to play on “dangerous” playground equipment. WE SURVIVED THEM.

    Pussies.

    • Mike

      Amen to that!!

    • I bet you never experienced a severe head injury that almost took your life, the experience of seizures, never being able to play in sports, and having to learn so much over again in order to succeed in school. Spending too much time in and out of the hospital. Life long trauma experience of falling from a 12 foot slide on to the surface of cement!

      To those parents out their who lost their child because the equipment was designed poorly and stranguled to death or had several broken bones from falling in between monkey bars or having their jaw shoved up into their skull from this equipment. Recently, a 3 yr old climbed up on the horizontal ladder at a preschool and got his neck stuck in between the bars. How long did it take before some one noticed this? How about reading the daily injury reports that come across the director’s desk because improper use of equipment, risky behavior, or children not using age appropriate equipment causes emergency medical attention? There is over 200 thousand injuries a year. Highest rate from falling from obsolete equipment onto improper surfaces. Read up on this buddy!

      • Bucky

        Does anyone remember that suspended-ring contraption that you grabbed onto, ran, and pulled your legs up to send you flying in a circle? There was a pole with a metal cap that rotated and had chains radiating down from it that led to a large circular metal bar (Imagine a big umbrella without the canvas). When there was an imbalance of kids, those on the light side would be tilted high up (I remember actually going into tree branches one time). My friend lost his grip and flew off into a fence – he needed several stitches – but they kept the thing up (it may still be there). I cannot believe this thing was ever deemed acceptable! Does anyone know what it was called?

        • Jim

          I think it was called the Octopus. Just this summer we came across one in a little country park in North Central Montana located in the Sweet Grass Hills. My 87 year old father took pictures of his 50 something year old kids trying to hang on for dear life and ride it. It was great!

          • Jim,
            I would love to see the pictures! Do you know the name of the equipment? I grew up in the Midwest, but all of the playgrounds have been replaced.
            Julie

            • David

              Our elementary school in Kansas had two of those. On one, the center pole was only about 12 feet high; it was for the little kids. The second one had a center pole about 18 feet high, and nearly a foot in diameter. The chains hung down with two hand grips, one placed above the other.

              It was fun to ride alone on summer days, but all the loose chains would keep circling too, so you had to be sharp not to get hit in the head by five or six of them when you stopped.

              We always called them “Giant Strides” because that’s what you were doing.

            • Ann

              Julie–I grew up in the midwest too– do you know if the equipment in the park in Centralia, Salem, or any of those towns has been replaced?

          • jenerator

            yup it was called the octopus…..you had to have some strong arms to hang on as the centrifugal force pried your fingers off the hard metal handles..they had an octopus in the rich neighbourhood park….we had painted dump truck tires……sweet.

        • Marsha

          Can you or anyone, tell me the name of a piece of back yard play equipment…it was metal, had 4 “spokes” with seats attached and we would pump with our arms and feet and go around and around…this is driving me nuts…hope someone can answer:)

        • I don’t remember what this contraption was called but the 6th graders used to give the other kids what they called “high-rides” which Becky describes above.

          The ring was jammed up against the pole with a several of us hanging on for dear life on the other end while they spun the thing around at top speed. It was a process of elimination, they would keep going until only one of us remained. I think there was woodchips around the immediate base but of course by the time you were thrown off the top end of the ring, a good 15 feet up, the centrifugal force would throw you well beyond any soft landing onto the rough asphalt beyond.

          • Ian,
            Be thankful that you had wood chips!!! I remember asphalt! There are a group of us that want to know the ‘name’ of this playground equipment that I call the ‘flying merry-go-round’!!! Keep in touch!

          • Looking at another persons inquiry, she called it the ‘Octopus’. I’ll google the Octopus and see what I find.

        • Robin

          Here in NH, we had one of those many, many years ago and we called it the Witches Hat. We loved that thing!

        • It was wonderful. I’m looking to buy or build one. does anyone have a photo?

          • Leigh

            I googled it at google images – “witches hat” – that’s how I found photos of it – AND – there are some different models there; they look a little different than what I remember…some actually look VERY safe! and doable! Maybe I’ll build one too for my grandsons! (I thought it was called the Hurricane, all these years.)

          • Leigh

            google images. I thought it was called the Hurricane all these years.

        • Ann

          Yea–I remember!!Yea–it was fun!!! When I was too little to ride those–I didn’t…or any other playground equipment that was for the bigger kids. But you hold on tight!! And yea– I had afew band-aids on my knees!

        • Christie

          I remember those!!! I was standing next to it and my friend leaned her head back and her head slammed into mine…..ah, my first concussion….

        • reba holcomb

          Flying Ginny

          • Susan

            Yes….remember this playground “contraptiion” very well………I think it was called the Monkey Rings but not sure….been so long ago…like 60 years. It was fun but very challenging including not getting hit by the rings. I had forgotten all about that one……..thanks for the memory

        • I don’t remember what name it had but I remember it…. the chains would clink in the wind. It could be a lot of fun to do with people who liked to go around together, like a kind of dance. Wasn’t so much fun when someone just wanted to run into everybody else.

        • Brandy Pearson

          We called it the Giant Strides. In Nebraska.

        • Pam

          It was called Giant Strides.

      • Bearfoot

        Nope, not at all. I didn’t.

        Nor did the vast majority of us Stacey.

      • Mitch

        Well it’s all up to the parents, on where they take their children and such.

      • Ed

        Stacie needs to get the knot out of her panties and a date. Lighten up dipshit.

        • Diana Deanda

          Ed Your Loose lips and insults basically show your witts. ;-) To call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people! Good one buddy.

      • Bevin

        Sounds like the people who build a gigantic slide on top of cement should be responsible for those types of injuries…. not the slide manufacturers themselves or the children who enjoy them. Why don’t you just put your kid in a giant plastic ball for the rest of her/his life? Then they’ll be safe and we won’t have to listen to you bitch. People get hurt and *gasp* even DIE on a daily basis, possibly including you or your kids. So in the meantime, have some fun, eh?

        • Bevin

          And another thing: Don’t we pay people to watch kids at play in playgrounds? For instance, at school there are recess “aids”. and at parks/other the…uh, what do you call them…. Parents? Yeah parents… they’re in charge of making sure their 3 year old isn’t playing on playground equipment not suited for their age, and getting injured. In fact, since the dawn of man, I believe “parents” are what has kept kids in line and the species alive! Until now apparently. We’re just going to rely on our new cheap plastic playground equipment to do it for us.

          In my day, I ran around in the fucking FOREST all day long. You know what kind of carnivorous hazards lie in wait in the forest? Certainly not a slide or the monkey bars. Sheesh people.

        • Diana Deanda

          People like the schools where the teachers then and now don’t watch the children at preschool or elementary school.

        • Diana Deanda

          Of course people get hurt idiot. No one needs to put their kid in a bubble.

      • goo

        if those parents paid any attention to their children it wouldnt have been a problem. the big issue is that most parents prefer to dump their children in a pit of dirty balls to go eat a cheeseburger.

      • Jana S.

        Well, with all due respect, as for the 3 year old who got their head stuck at the preschool…don’t blame the equipment, blame the preschool staff that was not watching a 3 year old on such a piece of equipment. You know, any child could get hurt on playground equipment, plastic or metal or rubber or wood. My 2 year old was going down the slide (plastic) at the indoor playground of our church. I was standing right next to it. He came down out of the tower thing, and started down the 3 or 4 foot slide, and toppled right over the side. I went to his side, helped him up, kissed booboos and said to him “You fell right over that, didnt you! I’ll hold your arm going down next time…” and I did. Children of a certain age should be supervised, with someone who knows the child, determining whether or not the child is coordinated enough for a particular piece of equipment. If a 3 year old tried to ride a 10 speed and fell of and got hurt, would you blame the 10 speed? Or would you blame the person who SHOULD have been watching them, telling them “noooo, you’re not quite ready for THAT yet…”.You just mentioned the “children not using age appropriate equipment” There you have it! A child should not be allowed to go to the park, unattended by an adult, until that child is old enough to have sense enough, to know what they are and are not capable of doing. A 9 year old likely would not get their head stuck in a ladder, for example. If your 9 year old is prone to happenings such as this, perhaps he’d best be supervised. Accidents will happen, but a sterile event free environment is not the answer…why? Because as adults, the world is not going to cater to us and keep us from bumping our heads, or from backing into the garage door, or from slamming our thumbs with a hammer. You learn, as a child, with the help from a parent, there are times to be careful, and if you are not, bad things may happen. If that is not the world for you, maybe a nice, safe, padded piece of property would do for you. But even that could hurt you, if you fell over your property line. And that little sweet thing in Garanimals is one day going to be hanging out with their friends when you are not around… the government wont be padding and sanitizing that world for them. The problem is, new and improved things (they say) come out and there are so many parents who act like that is the ONLY way to go, not stopping to think about the fact that they, themselves, did just fine with the old and inferior…. and lived to whine about it.

      • John Cefalu

        shit happens…

      • rod

        and just exactly who was it that was supposed to be watching them to being with ?!?!?

      • Susan Gray

        Where were the so-called adults when the 3 year old got his “neck’ stuck between the bars……I assume it included his head. When I was a kid we suffered our lumps and bumps….they didn’t have to ban everything for everyone because of a careless few……….seems to be the trend now..even for adults. If parents were paying attention to their children they would know to what degree their child can go in playground activity. Probably have their faces in their Iphones.

    • Katy

      It wasn’t just “lame” moms that insisted playgrounds become safer, it was government and angry parents whose kids got hurt. You must be some kind of woman-hater (and soccer-hater) to assume playgrounds are boring now because of “soccer mom pussies.”
      The real tragedy is that there are kids out there with redneck dads that pass on such misogynistic views.
      but I agree, playgrounds are overly safe now. Too many people sued.

      • rod

        Me ? a woman-hater ? hardly!!! I was brought up and raised by my mother, grandmother and grandfather. Even my mother and grandmother told me if i got a skinned knee that it was NOT going to kill me, geesh !!!!

      • YouGotta'BeKiddingMe

        I’m a woman and I hate “soccer mommies” who are whiney, overbearing & overprotective pussies. You don’t have to be a misogynist to hate THAT. I hate EVERYONE who is trying to turn everything here into a frickin’ “nanny state”, or in this case, “mommy state”.

      • YouGotta'BeKiddingMe

        P.S. Nothing wrong with soccer. I like it. And the term “soccer mommy” doesn’t only pertain to actual soccer moms. Basically, it’s any overprotective, play-date obsessed helicopter parent that schedules every waking minute of their child’s life.

    • Ann

      Hey Greg–can I come n play? I’m serious!! Sounds like awesome fun!! And I agree–this playground equipment today is soo lame–kids hardly even play on them..

    • Ann

      We had a friend my brothers’ ,and he had the tallest tree house!!boards 4 stairs -nailed on to the tree!!

    • rod

      hell, we didn’t just survive them Greg, we savored them, now they’re all replaced by a bunch of plastic crap that is nothing but junk. It’s all pussified now !! One misses being able to drop sand down the metal slides. For those that do NOT like the metal slides, there are something that they can use to help out with that, it’s called a towel, or a pair of pants !!!!!

  6. Jordan

    I could not agree more.
    Some of my more fond memories from childhood involved injury on (and off) the playground. It was the worst thing in the world when it happened; however, today I am proud of every knick, scrap and bruise.

    One incident I will never forget was when I managed to get a 2″ splinter in my right leg while playing unattended and having to walk the block and a half to get home and help.

    • Ann

      I “rolled” down a slide—head first…somersault,after somersalt..maybe a scraped knee..at 5,or 6 yrs. old…mostly embarrassment….(kids at school laughing!)….(my mom liked to dress me in dresses alot at that age–so I “flashed” everyone my panties..( I cried…{being a dang girl}…..but the tears were mostly for big time embarrassment!!!).Oh..and the slide had a “hump ” in the middle of it too,if it matters.. P.S.Does anyone remember sitting on wax paper to make the slide faster?!LOL!!!

  7. jdurley

    Oh yeah. My local playground had one of those big spinners. It was definitely awesome. It’s gone now, but the 10 foot long old-school teeter totters and the seriously high bar swing set with thick metal chains are both still there! (You gotta love small towns!) We always used to stand on the swing seats and try to swing so high that we’d get horizontal. There were 6 swings, so it was a real competitive activity. Good times!

  8. kcvocals

    The best part of the merry go round was the kid (usually me) who would get the thing spinning, then try to jump on, miss, and just hang on for dear life getting dragged round and round getting dirty and destroying his clothes (and legs) because of the dirt, rocks, and hard mulch that made up the playground back then.

    And we’d get scolded by our parents…
    And we’d get bruised, cut, and scraped…
    And we’d cry when we got hurt…
    And the next day we’d do it all over again…

    And we had fun!

  9. My elementary school playground boasted metal jungle gyms, see-saws and rickety swings (on which the chains had all but broken off and were attached by a half-hearted wrap around the bar above us), all firmly sprouting from rock-hard cement.
    There was no padding except the little fat on our butts to protect us if we fell.
    Knees were scraped, ankles were sprained, heads were bumped, arms were broken, and not a single parent sued.
    Those were the days.

  10. Anon

    As a kid, I got the chance to play on both the wood and metal playgrounds, and those plastic pieces of shit. and all I have to say is shit sux.

    But what’s it matter? kids aren’t going outside anymore.

    • Bri

      Hey, so, all I have to say is THOSE PLASTIC THINGS STINK. I’m jealous, honestly. Oh, how to wish. The only thing that was any good that we had (we don’t even have swings at playgrounds any more…) was the bar that held the monkey bars up. We’d run as fast as we could toward that bar, turn to the side, grab on to the bar, and be swung around about 4 times. That’s it.

    • Steph

      Agreed – my cousin’s kids (from TEXAS mind you) wouldn’t play outside with my kids (IL) a couple summers ago because they said it was too hot.

  11. jdoug

    In my small Texas town growing up we had an older kid named Jerry who’d been kicked by a mule or something. A little touched, but big, friendly and tard-strong, like something out of John Steinbeck. He could make a Spinner full of first graders pull 4 Gs. And while I suspect that those early merry-go-round buzzes may have led me to seek out the harder stuff later on, I still die a little inside every time I see some poor kid spinning a faux steering wheel.

  12. Heather

    I was taking my nearly 2 year old to the playgrounds in our town and I found one that had the old merry-go-round, metal slides and sky high monkey bars. I never had so much fun in my life, and neither did he! I wish those parks of old were still around in more places.

  13. The kids in my neighborhood carry buckets full of water from the sprinkler to the top of the curvy slide. Then 3 at a time, they attempt to slide down the slide as one of them tosses the water, followed by the bucket, down the slide.

    They do not tire of this. Who cares the slide is almost dry by the time they make it to the bottom?? They don’t mind having to drag their butts on the hot metal the last couple of feet to get off the slide and repeat the entire process all over again.

    That’s the Ghetto Water Park.

  14. thegourmandandthepeasant

    I was on the “Playground Testing Committee” as a kid and got to travel around trying out the deathiest of the death traps and offering up my opinions.

    A recent trip home revealed that my playground has been replaced by a middle school, sans playground.

    Gone are the sharp-edge pea gravel pellets and metal bars suspended far over our heads on which the gymnastic girls made everyone feel inferior and require a trip to self-esteem camp.

  15. DebinCO

    What about homemade swings? Usually just an old tire attached to a tree with rope? Those were great. And dangerous! At least once a day you’d end up hitting the tree…LOL! Also, when I was kid, my older cousin set up a “tightrope” between the slide and swings on a backyard set and made me and my younger cousin “walk the tightrope.” When we refused to do it (after falling a few times) he twisted our ankles. Thanks, Cousin Howard!

    • andrew

      Hah! My neighbor had one of those for his kids. He suffered a serious concussion. It came down when he recovered.

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  17. Joe D

    You can fix those plastic slides. Just put some ArmorAll on them for EXTRA AWESOME VEOLCITY.

  18. Jerry

    I still remember going down that hot metal slide, putting my feet down and lifting up because it hurt so bad, then of course my shoes would grip and I’d fly face first down the slide and face-plant onto the gravel, usually still with half my body still on the slide.

    • kate

      the good old days, used to miss those metal slides. there used to be one around the corner of my house which my sister and i walked almost each day. the metal slide was HUGE! on the hot days we used to take our shoes off and walk up it. it was so grippy. and hot. just recently they replaced with a plastic bendy slide, and i have to admit. the old metal slide was safer, this one is just a 30cm by 4m tube thing. its horrible. there used to be a wood fort and sand and a smaller mustard yellow slide for the younger people. that soon went also, and was replaced by plastic. now theres 2 swings, the wierd slide, a metal fort with ropes going in any random direction ( we call spiderman ) and a hippo. i dont get the meaning of this hippo exactly. its a blue hippo about 1m long and 1m high, and has a cut out in the back, where you can go inside, on the bottom theres body parts and i guess its trying to make people learn. thing is. its in french. and this is in Australia. BRING OLD PLAYGROUNDS BACK.

    • Dusty

      We had one of those near our house, just up the road! I was scared of it until I was about six or seven because it was steep, and on hot days I usually steered clear of it.

      But I cannot describe to you the sadness I felt when that awesome slide was removed and replaced with plastic crap.

      RIP, my old playground. I miss you so.

  19. Lo

    I wholeheartedly agree with you. I’m 41 now and really miss the old playgrounds. Monkey bars, jungle gyms, tall tall slides, all made out of steel. The see saw! What fun! I played on all of it, I also climbed trees constantly, and you know, the only time I got injured enough to go the hospital, it was indoors (slipped in socks on a floor, fell and cut my head open). I learned to hang on tight when I was off the ground, and I learned how to fall, I learned how to prevent my butt from banging on the see saw, I learned to stay off things that I wasn’t capable of handling. And I played outdoors ALL THE TIME!

  20. Jim S

    When I grew up we had two GREAT pieces of extremely fun “dangerous” equipment not listed here so far: The Eggbeater and the Octopus. Sure we had the slides that caused 3rd degree burns, teeter totters that could hoist you up 7 feet in the air, metal monkey bars 10 feet high and Big Spinners.

    However, the Eggbeaters and Octopus were out of this world. The Eggbeater can best be described as a Big Spinner that is only 2.5′ in diameter and holds 3 people. All three kids would get the thing spinning as fast as they could and then pull themselves in to the center of the eggbeater to increase the centfical force. A good team of operators could get an eggbeater going fast enough that it was sure to cause vomitting and certain collapse from the dizziness…that is if you didn’t loose your grip and wind up chin-first on the cement surrounding.

    The octopus was even more frightening. It was basically a sturdy 12 foot tall pole with a pivot on the top. Attached to this pivot point was a octagonal framework that was approxoimately 10 feet in diameter. At each point of the octagon there was a chain hanging down with a hand grip at the end. 8 kids would grab a hand hold and start running in the same direction as fast as they could. Eventually when you got the thing going a proper speed the centrifical force would cause you to start to lift up off the ground as you started to become more horizontal than vertical in your orientation. I saw kids loose their grip while at full speed and fly a good ten feet before landing on a piece of cement, a patch of gravel, or hitting a swing set support beam. Throughout all of this I only remember there being one broken bone, no deaths, and numerous scrapes, cuts, and bruises.

    FUCK PLASTIC PLAYGROUND EQUIPMENT! Give our kids the good shit!

    • Judy

      Jim,

      Thank you for answering a question on my mind about 4 years — trying to identify the name of the Octopus. I lived in the suburbs but a playground near my grandparents on the west side of Chicago had one and it terrified me (in a good way!).

      • June

        I wonder if what you call the “octopus” was also referred to as “strides.” Boy, that was so dangerous. Half the thrill was missing the pole.

        In another elementary school I went to next to the big slide there was an equally tall “slide” but the whole middle was omitted and the sides were round steel poles that you were supposed to wrap your legs around and slide or whatever. Nothing between you and the ground beneath. And if you were a girl wearing a skirt it was murder because your skin was stuck.

        Ah, memories!

        Also, at the first school I was able to talk my tiny little friend into being my teeter totter partner and when I got my feet firmly planted on the ground I could take ahold of the board and cause her to flip over. She fell for it every time. Then she moved to Australia and I think I know one reason for her moving away.

        • Mitch

          Ah, June that’s so mean but cool, poor tiny friends!

          I think the best see saw ride I have ever had was when I went to Dominican Republic, and the see saw was several feet off the ground. Every time I went up I lifted my legs up and it was so thrilling, I could never forget that day, that was one awesome playground!

    • kate

      thats exactly like the ride occasionaly found at fares and themeparks. the octapus. holds around 15 people, has a pivot and is replaced with seats.

      • Mitch

        Yeah I’ve seen that, like in Play-land or something, but I was too terrified to ride it, having just got off a ride that made me so dizzy I dropped!

  21. Rhett

    I’ve got a couple of kids myself. My wife and I take them to parks all the time. My daughter thinks the plastic stuff is fun but is too little to get very daring. My 8 year old son, however, is hilarious. You know what the problem with “safe” playgrounds is? Kids get bored on them and will use them in ways they weren’t designed for. My son will climb up on top of the little playhouses on the swing sets around here. From what I’ve read elsewhere there are fewer injuries on playgrounds now than there used to be but the injuries that do happen are MUCH more severe. Kids will get bored on them and do stuff for excitement that the stuff was never designed for because that’s the only way they can have fun on them.

    • peg

      that’s exactly what I find my kids do too! kids want challenge. I live out in western canada, we have alot of “safe” playgrounds so what do the kids do?…they have come up with a game called grounders…this is where they basically play tag on the equipment but the person who is “it” has to keep their eyes closed!….

  22. nostalgic nao

    my elementary school playground had this huge jungle gym made of old tires bolted together. actually several of them in different shapes. these were fantastic on so many levels. first, the rubber got ridiculously hot in the sun. second, they were very high & a bit hard to get a good grip on. and third, they constantly had pools of standing water (warm & full on insects, generally) in the tires from the last rainfall. they also tended to leave black marks all over your clothes. and yet they were, by far, the best things on our playground. screw safe & sanitary!! bring on dangerous & dirty!

  23. Anne

    As a young girl, I was lucky enough to have dangerous playgrounds. I’ve crashed on metal bars, implanted many a gravel chunk in the knee and hidden in large, smelly tires, I even almost poked an eye out once! But one of my favorite memories was when this dumb kid got his head stuck in a half burried tractor tire. Priceless! He was there all afternoon. I loved that kid, and what a great lesson he was given. By the time I hit upper-elementary, it was all safety, all the time. LAME. So we tried to make the best of it by playing tag on the equipment and got yelled at. Grown-ups suck.

    • Mitch

      Oh god that kid would’ve made my day to, now that’s hilarious poor dude! I loved playing tag on the equipment, it was the only way you could actually have on the playground!

  24. MJ

    I completely agree! Playgrounds these days are so boring. My school playground has old metal swings, a metal slide, metal monkey bars, and some sort of contraption that I once fell off of and slammed the back of my head into the ground whilst trying to slide down its 4 metal poles simultaneously (one for each hand and foot!). All of these were over gravel, not namby pamby recycled tires. Kids these days are complete wusses. We survived and had a great effing time in the bargain!

  25. Susan

    The old playgrounds used to build character and parental bonding too!!! Remember when you would fall two stores and land hands first into the wood and end up with a 1000 slivers in your hands and knees? And you mom or dad would sit there and pull out the slivers one by one while you cried and after you got a freeze?
    Today’s play grounds suck. They are no fun; I have to bring toys with me to keep my friends children amused. the only good thing left is the swings, but I bet soon they will get rid of those as well.

    • Mitch

      I agree, I used to fall all the time ( I was a very clumsy child) , and then dad would come to the rescue and everything was soon better, after he got me ice cream first of course! ‘Safe’ playgrounds are just gonna make the “adults of the future” softer, bring back the danger!

  26. Kalika

    I remember my first school has this large wooden, chain and tire setup. The slide was long and had a bit or a hump in the middle that everyone ended up getting snagged on and falling off or like 5 kids would pile up in the middle of it. There was a 2 story high wall of chains that everyone would climb up and jump off or sit on the top beam. Somehow I survived this horror without any hospital trips…it has since been torn down.

  27. Warner

    Helecopter Parents, Once hippies turned yuppie. its imazing the difference two letters can make.

    Excuse me while my son beats the crap outta your video game expert who thinks that shoveling your 5 foot suburban hell sidewalk thats covered with an inch of snow is (with a tear in one eye and a guido pouty face) “Too much work”.

    I’ll stick to falling out of trees and having the time of my life…even at 25…:)

  28. Ghoster

    Our school playground also had sections of 4ft concrete pipes to squatwalk or crawl through. But when you tried to run through one and didn’t lower your head enough, goose egg city! Man that hurt! And we had a steel rung ladder, 6 feet high and parallel to the ground where you hung by your hands and swung from rung to rung. But if you were cool, you got on top and walked the rungs. But when you slipped, you could break any bone in your body, hooweee!

    • Mitch

      I’m sorry, but I was eating crackers while reading your comment and I almost choked on one whilst snorting with laughter. I know what you’re talking about (ya know goose egg city), it happened to me a lot when I would play tag, I would run looking back at my chaser instead of looking forward like I should have been. And then you look for one second, and BAM you smack your forehead on the slide’s steel ladder and you knock out for a second, stars and cookies in your eyes!

  29. Totally. Kids are so coddled these days. Ugh.

    Cool blog. :-)

  30. Old Fart

    During the 70′s, our elem. school purchased “new” playground equipment which were called “swinging gates.” They were brightly-painted gate-type structures made of tubular steel which revolved upon an off-center axis cemented into the ground.

    That lasted about a year, when the school deemed only 5th and 6th graders were allowed to use them, and some time over the next 4 years they were removed completely. They were the most exciting and popular equipment on the playground.

    During the same time period, at my home, my sibs and I rigged up my father’s old ARMY parachute harness to an old 2″ dia. spring we found in the garage and hung it from a tree branch about 6′ off the ground. We’d take turns climbing the tree, slipping into the harness and bouncing up & down like a big-kid version of a baby “Johhny Jump Up.”

    This went on for a while, with all the neighborhood kids having a go, until I bounced a little too much and/or the spring had had enough. The spring snapped and one part of it flew into the back of my neck, leaving a nice flesh wound. A few stitches later, and I was back in the garage, looking for two, much larger springs. :)

    My elem. school-aged children now have the lamest “structure” on their school playground, and they are only allowed on it one day per week (each grade takes turns). They are not allowed to play tag, touch football, or anything that necessitates coordination with running and something else (a ball, tagging, cartwheels, jumping…)

    Like another commenter above, I have also installed a zip line in my backyard running from the treehouse (an honest-to-goodness one which I helped my kids build 12″ up in a tree on the hill- not a “shed on stilts”) to the side of my house. Yes, sometimes they fall off into the compost heap. But that teaches them to wear gloves and wrap the handles with grippers tape.

    My husband and I lament the good old playgrounds from our youth, where kids learned from trial & error how far their experience and coordination could take them, and gradually honed those skills.

    Thanks for this blog and the other links!

    • Mitch

      Dude I always wanted to try those “Johnny Jump Up” things, they look soo cool! If I were a baby and my mom got me one of those, I would so be jumping all over the place!

  31. Heidi

    I remember those hot metal slides…and the tire swings that we would swing so hard to try and hit the wooden support beams. :) One complaint I have about those newer plastic slides is the amount of static electricity they generate…being able to shock someone to death just by touching them….and I do love those twisty slides. And I loved those ‘big spinners’, too.

  32. elle

    Ohh goodtimes! When I was 8, I was a huge fan of monkey bars (nice old school steel monkey bars)- albeit not very good at getting across them.

    We lived in Oklahoma, so it seriously hot during the summer. Once, I was going across, and my hand slipped off. The heat ripped off the skin on the heel of my hand. So, I had this awesome flap of skin just dangling over.

    …probably the proudest moment of my youth (aside from being valedictorian of my kindegarten class. obviously.)

  33. Mags

    God I miss real playgrounds! I think there’s still one at Fielding Park in Sudbury Ontario. Just in case anyone else needs to go scab up a knee.

  34. Gretch

    When I was growing up, there was this slide/tunnel apparatus at the park. The slide was made up of essentially metal rolling pins. It was a blast! It wasn’t too hot in the summer, given the fact that the things would roll, but it was a death trap for fingers and hair. The roller slide was on top of a big concrete tunnel system. The tunnels were about 4′ in diameter and completely dark. They always smelled a bit rancid (a bit like urine and alcohol), but it was fun to hide in the dark and scare your friends. They tore it down, I think primarily because homeless people started taking up residence in the tunnel and the slide was a finger breaker.

    However, I have been to a playground exhibition at a conference. Some of the new stuff is pretty freaking cool! Supposedly it’s all “completely safe.” I’m not entirely sure about that, but I think most of it was too expensive for community parks. Oh well. I guess I’ll just get my playtime in at conferences.

  35. Man, kids NEED danger. Just like adults. Don’t be wimps!

  36. Alli

    No no no. It’s not a merry-go-round. It’s a vomit-mobile. My brother got his first set of stitches when he flew off one and landed on his head in the gravel. And to hell with the rubbery, flexible swings they have now. Bring back the bar of metal swing that would concuss you as you walked by, while someone had else had pumped the swing horizontal to the bar and was jumping off.

  37. My grandfather showed me a toy of his once… was and old putt putt (pop pop) boat.

    All I could think of is.. “Why didn’t *I* get to play with that kind of toy when I was younger? So cool!”

    The putt putt boat (see link) is a toy where you actually have to pour vegetable oil in it and LIGHT IT ON FIRE! Yes, grandpa confirmed, he was allowed to light it himself and would use it mostly unsupervised (he said father would be “around” but wouldn’t be directly supervising him).

    His dad taught him responsibility… after teaching him how to work the toy and giving him some general rules he let him play. I remember that he was only allowed so many matches (they where the long wooden ones) and had to bring them all back even if spent… but that’s the only “protective” measure that was taken.

  38. The playground at my elementary school was the best. They had a mock wagon made of overarching steel tubes that could be used as monkey bars, wooden sides, and giant metal wagon wheels. They also had this small complex of concrete tubes you could run through set into a man-made dirt hill.

  39. yagi

    Tall metal slides, monkey bars, teeter-totters, merry-go-rounds, and geodesic dome jungle gyms were playground favorites growing up.

    Once a month at my elementary school, the playground aids would hand out wax paper so kids could buff the slide’s surface.

    I broke my scalp open once by falling off the monkey bars onto the concrete below. There was no talk of lawsuits – just some time in the nurse’s station followed by stiches at the hospital.

    I wonder if I can build one of those merry-go-rounds for my daughter…

    • Erica

      Yay, yagi! Hope you did. Where would we be without the physics-testing, courage-pushing, character-building role of the metal playground equipment?

  40. The one park i remember visiting as a kid had a huge (for me at the time) 2 1/2 story wood structure filled with fire poles and slides and moneky bars and random stairs and bridges. Local parents help built it and it was painted National Park Brown (who’s officical name is Picnic Brown).

    I remember standing at the stop platform, so high above the ground, with a gaggle of other kids rocking and swaying the whole thing. I would walk away from the park with burns on my legs from the slide and a ton of splinters from the old wood.

    It was the best.

  41. Aaron V.

    My school had the usual suspects – metal slides, monkey bars, and swings over cement, plus the boys all played *tackle* football on the field, no matter how many times the teachers or parent aides told us not to.

    We also played dodgeball, sometimes with basketballs or those crappy hard orange playground balls. Red four-square balls were better, though.

    Now, kids aren’t even allowed to play tag or *touch* football?

    • Lucky Eye

      Well, at my school you were allowed to play tag as long if you don’t go on the playground. But at the swing area we could play it.

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  43. jesseybean

    Some one I know when I was young was on one of those metal See-saws high in the air, when the person on the other side jumped off. When she came crashing down, her chin hit the metal handle, and her teeth went thru the skin between the lip and chin. All the way thru. Good times.

  44. EvieM

    I still live nearby my old Elementary school and I sigh heavily everytime I walk by.

    First it was the metal teeter-totters that went, then
    the long swings which we would back up as far as we could go, run at each other, then twist around until the chains would twist no longer (pinched fingers). Now they are all shortened and have sawdust below them.

    I believe the monkey bars were shortened twice. Some brave souls would walk across the top, many of us sat on the top and hung upside down, or we had WAR with one person on each side trying to make the other person let go by grasping them by their legs.

    The Octopus we referred to as strides or handstrides. The Metal jungle gym in the kinder-garten playground was shortened. Even the big rubber tire is gone.

    The worst injury I remember was someone hitting their head on the wood picnic table. Go figure, they replaced the wood table with a cement one.

    Our first metal swingset had one swing and what I called a Trapeze. I remember being 5 or 6 and swinging on the trapeze and the whole swingset collapsed and I hit the dirt. Fortunately it was nothing serious. I was a little leary of the swingset for awhile, but I got back on and eventually it was replaced with a new swingset.

    On the bright side, the big Cannon in our city park still remains.

    Somewhere in the boonies my Brother tells me of a place called Teeterville which had some big see-saws or teeter totters. Tried to go once, but winter was very wet and the road muddy. Someday Though.

  45. spriggig

    Mid-70′s, 4th grade. We had an 8 foot tall, football shaped monkey bar structure in our school playground. We gleefully jumped off the top of that thing into small piles of sand every recess without a peep from the teachers who pulled yard duty. Although I don’t recall any serious injuries during my stint there, it’s long since gone and replaced by the 4 foot high plastic stuff–some kid probably busted his leg.

    Somewhat ironically, the worst injury I ever witnessed at a playground occurred when a kid ran through a planter box, tripped and cut his temple open on a sprinkler head.

  46. tar

    As a lass, my elementary school had three playgrounds: one for the kindergarteners, one for the 1st-3rd graders, and one for the 4th and 5th graders. They were all of the splintery-wood-and-metal variety for the longest time, and they started replacing them when I was probably in 3rd or 4th grade. The kindergarteners got a plastic shitheap, followed by the 1st-3rds, and they replaced the third playground a year or so after I moved on to middle school. I liked the old playground – there was a high platform thing reachable by one of maybe two or three steel ladders of varying shapes, a metal slide, and two thick steel parallel bars set into the ground over some coarse wood mulch. I got my first detention ever on those parallel bars, after this mean girl and her friend pried my hands off of it while i was sitting on them and i, in response, punched her in the stomach. That might’ve actually been the worst thing to happen to anyone on that playground (falling face-first into what amounted to a pile of huge splinters and hitting my face on the opposite bar on the way down), and I lived. And that was only like seven or eight years ago.

    Good times.

  47. David

    I’m the “real” David that posted first. I would like to say I’m sorry for calling you a faggot. Let me explain why I did this. See, I am a recluse. I live with my mother and am afraid, petrafied of going into the outside world. I am 39 years old and dread social person to person contact except with my mother. I called the poster a faggot because I can not handle face to face confrontations, and I do it over the web to vent. I do not have the backbone to actually confront somebody, this is a healthy release for me. My mother seems to think so as well, as she is tired of having to deal with me and my “episodes” from time to time. I am really sorry for being a lowlife, but, please put up with me. My mother does.

  48. kenny

    I miss the good old days at elementary school. Our playground was old and rickety, but so much fun.

    We just had dirt as a base instead of gravel or those stupid little “rubber flecks” they use now. I enjoyed the dirt because my friends and I would grab small sticks or chunks of bark (which we aptly called “woodchucks”), and we would set away digging tunnels in the sand. We would start a few feet away from each other, dig about a foot down and then try to connect the tunnels without collapsing the surface. It was a great excercise in engineering. Also, sometimes we would make a pit in the corner and fill it with sticks pointing straight up, then put a plastic bag over it and cover it with a thin layer of dirt to camoflage it. As far as I know, no one ever fell into one, but that may have contributed to the removal of the sand.

    We also had a big wooden structure in the middle that we called “the blimp. It was amazing. Essentially a large empty keg (only about 25ft in diameter) it was propped up securely and had a tire ladder coming up one side and a chain ladder on the other side. On top there was a platform with a big slide (like 30ft) and a 2 storey fireman pole. Of course there were kids who would jump off the railings at the top (like 25-30ft up) and try to land in the dirt and do a ninja roll to avoid the sprained ankles that almost always ensued.

    The worst injury I witnessed on the playground was actually also incredibly entertaining (in a one-hand-over-your-mouth, “Oh sweet jesus” kind of way). One of my fellow students was getting ready to jump off the blimp mentionned above. After getting up the nerve and scanning the area below for potential hazards, he jumped. However, he failed to see the kids on the swingset about 15 ft away. Unfortunately for him (and the girl on the swing), they were the swings with the long chains and she was just coming backwards. They collided in midair. She got her hand caught in the swing chain and broke her wrist and got a huge bruise on her back from where his knee hit. He landed funny and snapped his lower leg and his forearm.

    Interestingly, there were no complaints from parents, and the playground remained the same for at least another 3 years.

    Those were the days.

  49. creatist

    oh lolz..your blog has me in splits.. :P but i have no childhood playground memories to share here, like others. :( oh hell :) how does it matter?

  50. rgoodchild

    I love that old playground stuff
    It’s all namby pamby stuff you can’t get splinters on, break arms off, and generally test your fears on
    our kids are growing up as king wusses
    BRING BACK METAL SLIDES WITHOUT SIDE RAILS!!!!!!

    • rod

      you hit the nail right on the head, not only that, it may toughen them up some . !!!!!

      • +1 lol, this is so true… wew ant the “slightly” dangerous playground back! helath and safety has been out of control for a long time now.

        • John Bayley

          Back in the day I was almost killed on the school grounds by a handmade giant hobby horse glider that carried a whole group of kids at a time. It had a foot rest that swung within inches of the ground. Think pit and the pendulum. I fell underneath it and was crushed across my shoulders. I spent a summer in a body cast and have suffered terrible pain, headaches and brain fog all my life.

          Thanks a lot for your sensitive and insightful comments.

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