Mortal Kombat: Battle For The Monkey Bars

Do you feel lucky?  Well do you...punk?

Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?

Ask anybody over 40 about their childhood and they’re sure to blather on about “the good old days.”

Bull-doodies.

Early-onset dementia, coupled with a tendency to view the past through rose-colored glasses, means most old people can’t tell fantasy from reality.  Childhood was dangerous.  It’s a wonder most of us lived to tell about it.

The most dangerous place for a kid was the playground.

Playgrounds nowadays are sanitized “learning zones.”  Equipment is made of rounded, friendly plastic that rests lovingly on artificial ground-cover as soft and springy as a pillow-top mattress.  Playing is like jumping on your parents’ bed.

In my day, playgrounds were gladiator proving grounds.  They were secretly funded by the local hospital to ensure a steady stream of patients for their emergency room.

The playground was a concrete jungle.  Literally.  Even if it wasn’t concrete, the dirt was packed down so hard by the pitter-patter of little Keds, it might as well have been.  Playgrounds featured such Large Instruments of Bodily Destruction as:

Geodesic Dome Monkey Bars:  This was a half-circle of rusted metal that crested 6-feet off the ground.  You scrambled to the top and then hung upside-down by your knees from the top rung.  If you were lucky you had about 1 minute to enjoy that blood-rushing-to-your-head feeling of triumph.  Then a bigger kid would knock you off to become the new King of The Hill.

It was a marvel if you escaped playing on this without getting your head bashed in.

Slides:  Climbing up the tall, rickety ladder was daunting, but he who hesitates was lost.  There were 5 kids climbing up right behind you, face to butt all the way.  If you didn’t sit down and slide immediately, they’d climb over the top of you.

Slides used to be all metal. In the summer it was like playing in a frying pan.  Kids knew to either lift their legs up or scootch their shorts down to avoid 3rd degree burns on their thighs.

image

Try to get past me..I double-dog dare you!

9 times out of 10, you’d have to try to stop halfway down the slide because some bully had decided to climb up the slidey part, rather than wait his turn. You’d be wedged midway, grabbing the burning metal with your hands, sneakers braced against the sides while you tried to stare down Scott Farkus.  You could only hope you weren’t TOO high up when you inevitably gave in and jumped over the side to escape a vicious slug to the arm.

Slides could kill you.  We once stopped to visit our grandmother on the way to the zoo and our parents exiled us kids to the park a couple of blocks from her house.  They had a slide that was 10-foot-tall, honest to God!  My little brother Billy, about 8 at the time, was goofing around at the top and he fell off.  I can still see him in slow motion, plummeting off the side.  It made a dull thud when he hit the hard-as-iron ground below and he was knocked out, cold.  We thought he was dead.  My sister Mary Kay was about 12 then and she struggled to carry him back to grandma’s house with the rest of us trying to help hoist an arm or a leg.

Billy turned out not to be dead, but he insisted on having a concussion or some such little thing so we didn’t get to go to the zoo.  What a wuss.

Swings: There were 2 kinds of swings.

Rubber slings:  When you sat in one of these, the space narrowed so your arms were trapped at your sides and your butt popped out the back.  The thick rubber sling squeezed your thighs together so tightly you lost all feeling in your feet.

Wood:  These were straight slabs of hardened oak, suspended by metal chains as thick as your wrist.  They were tough to get going, but once you did, you could really get some height on them.  The biggest risk with a hundred kids running through the playground is that one would get too close to a swing in mid-flight.

My sister Carolyn walked behind one and nearly lost an eye.  She bears the scar from the stitches under her eyebrow to this day.

Random adorable tyke on a springy animal

Random adorable tyke on a springy animal

Springy Animals: Painted, cast metal figures of tigers, sheep and other exotic creatures were mounted on giant, coiled metal springs.  When they were new, they were coiled so tight they would barely move, which was no fun at all.  When they got old, however, the springs got so loose you had to be careful you didn’t smack your head on the ground on the back-swing.

If you managed to avoid back-swing head trauma, you’d probably still wind up with long-term brain damage due to lead poisoning from the flaking paint.

Swing Across Monkey Bars: How I envied the kids who could swing across these, kicking their legs and reaching hand over hand like, well, monkeys. I lacked the upper body strength to make it across.  I’d get only a few rungs out and then hang there like a slab of meat on a hook as I could feel my hold weakening.   In the 30 seconds I spent debating whether I should try to turn around, or risk a broken ankle by dropping 6 feet to the ground, my weak, sweaty hands would uncurl from the bar and make the decision for me.  Down I went with a thump.

The only good thing about being a weakling was I was spared the inevitable mid-monkey-bar jousting tournament.  As soon as one kid started swinging across from one end, another would start out from the other end so they met in the middle.  Each would swing their legs out wildly to try to get them wrapped around the other kid’s waist.  The intent was to knock the competition to the ground.  Then the triumphant combatant would continue their Victory Lap Of Monkey Bar Supremacy over the body of their fallen enemy, swinging unimpeded to the end.  It was a game of chicken to the death.

Teeter-Totters:  Mounting a teeter-totter was a suicide mission unless you were wearing a mouth guard and padded Depends.

The temptation for your teeter-mate to hop off mid-totter was usually too much for them to resist.   They jumped off when you were at your zenith and you plummeted to earth with such a crash you were in danger of breaking both your teeth and your tailbone.  The only way to avoid this fate was to do unto them before they did unto you, and jump off first.

You rarely see teeter-totters anymore.  The UN outlawed them along with mustard gas.

The next time you go to the playground, by all means enjoy yourself.  But take a moment to bow your head in silent homage to the children of yesteryear.  The modern playground rests on a foundation cemented with our blood, sweat and tears.

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About pegoleg

R-A-M-B-L-I-N-G-S, Ram...Blin!
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179 Responses to Mortal Kombat: Battle For The Monkey Bars

  1. Omigosh! When I read about that part about Billy! I almost crapped. In 3rd grade, there was a kid named Bobby Biggs (I think it was something like that). He was at the top of the slide when, apparently, someone jostled/pushed him and he fell down the fireman’s pole that was behind him. He cracked his head open right on the backtop. I still have nightmares about this.

    So yes.

    Playgrounds were dangerous places when we were kids. Pinched fingers and cracked skulls. On the flip side, now everything is so safe, is it any wonder that kids don’t play outside anymore? Part of the appeal of playgrounds back then was that feeling that you *could* fall and hurt yourself.

    Man, I’d really like to know what happened to Billy. I’m going to believe he is okay.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Billy went on to lead a full and productive life. Bobby, however…

      Like

      • BillThePraiseAndWorshipGuy says:

        I’m Billy and I, um, er, am just, well, look a bird, just fine, really… Actually, what happened was that we found a bike innertube and discovered that we could tie it to the top of the slide and lean back in mid-air — darned thing broke on MY turn!!!! And you, Peg, and Mary Kay and Terry were ready to kill me (IF I wasn’t already passed) because we had to go to the zoo, rather than going to Boblo Island Amusement Park!!!! Probably a good decision, as I remember throwing up big-time in the parking lot at the zoo from the concussion….
        Response to said accidents have changed over the years:

        2013: we go to the hospital and sue the makers of slides and bike innertubes.

        1969: “Billy do you want a popsickle to make it all better?”

        Like

        • pegoleg says:

          I THOUGHT that a trip to Boblo was forfeited, but Terry said no, it was the zoo. I guess your brain wasn’t TOO fried from the ordeal if you can still remember the details.

          Like

  2. *blackcktop* — will you fix that. That’s going to bum me out.

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  3. mistyslaws says:

    Our kids have it too easy these days with their safe and secure playing apperatus. We grew up on the ‘Nam of playgrounds. I know every single sensation you just described. My teeth are still vibrating from some of those See Saw (that’s what we called them) drops.

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  4. Misty says:

    When I was in second grade, Cherry (who’s name I will never ever forget) slid down the huge metal slide on the side rail. She didn’t get very far before she toppled over the side and ended up in a body cast for a good portion of the year. She was Queen of the Play Ground after that (well once she got back to playing on the play ground). I guess we figured if she survived the fall, she deserved elevated status.

    Like

  5. Al says:

    Absolutely dead-on correct, Peg. It’s where they got the idea for the Purple Heart medal. Any kid who didn’t come home with a body full of purple bruises was a real wuss.

    And where did all the good put down phrases go?…..like “bull-doodies.”

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  6. momshieb says:

    Oh, how well I remember being five years old and terrified to go down the “curly slide”. It was at least 200 feet off the ground (I swear) and made of metal, with visible bolts all the way down. I’d probably still be up there except that my older brother got tired of waiting and shoved me so hard that my head hit the slide on the way down.
    Ah, good times, good times……

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      You could always count on a sibling to make your life hell, couldn’t you? I didn’t mind the curly slides so much because you couldn’t see straight down how loooooong it was to the bottom. Only problem was you had no advance warning if a big kid was climbing up while you were on the way down.

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      • momshieb says:

        EXACTLY my fear that morning, so long ago! Except I wasn’t worried that I big kid was coming up. I was convinced that a troll was down there, waiting for me.
        There could be another blog post in there, just thinking about the terrifying kids’ books we used to read. “Three Billy Goats Gruff” scared the crap out of me….

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        • pegoleg says:

          My 21-year-old is still afraid of squids after seeing Ursula in The Little Mermaid. I was a stickler about movie ratings when they were little – kids’ imaginations are so vivid they can scare themselves to pieces.

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  7. Ha, I just had my boys at the playground the other day and the surface was sort of a soft, forgiving foam, and it was an outdoor playground! We also use to love the, oh hell, what was it called? A merry go round maybe? That thing with the metal bars on a metal circle that 4 kids would push around in a circle as fast as it would go until the kids on the ride all got sick or tossed off onto the concrete? Good times! You know what else I notice we don’t have around my parts? High dives at the local pools. Boo safety!!

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    • pegoleg says:

      Merry go round- yes! This post was getting kind of long so I edited that one out. They usually had a thin trench worn into the ground around the edge and you had to be careful when you were pushing that your foot didn’t get stuck in the trench -wrenched ankle time, for sure!

      Like

    • Le Clown says:

      Don,
      Seems like everyone I know is here… I hadn’t made it here yet because:
      1) I have ADHD and SQUIRREL;
      2) My daughter chooses what I read;
      3) Where am I?
      4) is such a lovely number;
      5) a needle pulling thread…
      Le Clown
      Ps: Hi, Peg.

      Like

      • pegoleg says:

        Hi yourself, LC. As you no doubt planned, I had to go through that whole song in my head so I could figure out if 5 was a needle pulling thread.

        Like

      • For as big as the internet supposedly is, I sure do run into a lot of the same people on these blog commenting threads! Thank god they’re mostly pretty kickass folks. Your comment did make my face hurt a little bit though, Msr. Le Clown.

        Peg, way to be FP again! I’m totally not bitter or resentful or feeling worthless or anything by my lack of any such distinguishment in my life. Is distinguishment a word? Well, my 2 year old just told me that he pooped, so I do have this Freshly Pooped diaper to look forward to! Ha, that’s pretty lame…sorry.

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  8. List of X says:

    I remember some of those things. They were probably built that way intentionally, to make strong kids stronger, and to weed out the wealklings. Sort of natural selection for kids.
    Oh, and by the way, those slides weren’t always made of iron. I’ve seen at least one made of concrete, which means sliding down would feel like getting dragged over sandpaper, unless you sit on a piece of cardboard and keep your elbows in.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Concrete slides???? Damn, you were from a TOUGH neighborhood.

      You’re so right, it was survival of the fittest and we were better for it. (what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…)

      Like

      • List of X says:

        Oh no, that wasn’t in my neighborhood, just something I saw a few years ago in California. In my neighborhood, I think the slide was made of wood and could only be used in the winter when it was covered in ice.

        Like

    • Laura says:

      When I was house-shopping, I saw a bathtub made of brick. I mean, the actual tub, the part you fill with water and sit in. The owner built it himself and was very proud of it.

      Like

  9. dorannrule says:

    I forgot about the hazards in the good old days. Thanks for reminding me that when hanging by my legs from the top bar of a backyard swing set, I fell and landed on my nose. Fortunately, it is still straight – my nose that is. The swing set is long gone. 🙂 Good post.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I was too much of a scaredy-cat to ever get up there and hang upside down. Isn’t it funny that our personalities are set from birth; careful, daredevil, etc.

      Like

  10. Terry says:

    I laughed all the way through this. Partly due to the fact I remembered things of my own playground as you talked about them. I also laughed because when I was young we girls wore a lot of skirts and dresses. One time my Mom stopped by the school and yelled at me through the wire fence saying, Terry, get off those bars, you are showing your business.!!!! I still get a kick out of the tigers on the springs. I was on some just last summer and I still love to swing in the rubber swings! Thanks for great memories, a good laugh and an excellent post!

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      “you’re showing your business” ha haha! That’s right – we used to wear dresses when I was little. And at school we wore uniforms but we always wore shorts underneath, year round, to avoid just such a horror, you exhibitionist. Also because the boys would come by and flip up your skirt and shout, “dress up day!”

      Like

  11. I, too, lacked the arm strength for the monkey bars. It scarred me for life. I’ve spent years building some arm muscles, and now I’m too tall. My feet touch the ground.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      You just need to find taller monkey bars. I swear the ones from my childhood were 30 feet tall! At least it looked that way to terrified me. And now I’d be luck y to be able to hang for 5 seconds. More strength in the arms, but wa-a-a-a-y more junk to hang.

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  12. bigsheepcommunications says:

    Oh, and don’t forget the merry-go-round thing where you’d hold on to the bar, run in vicious circles to get it going, then hop on and spin in circles until you were so dizzy you wanted to puke. Good days….

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      There was a real trick to that. You had to pick a place to look that wasn’t spinning around as fast – like a kid on the far side of the merry-go-round. I hated when it was my turn to run it around; I would usually wipe out in the foot-trench around the perimeter.

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  13. Shannon says:

    Teeter totters are the stuff of nightmares. I too stay off them. Spring animals? I watched once as a drunken grown man, riding wrecklessly on one, snapped it off at the concrete. I still laugh when I think about it. I don’t recall that he ever got back up…

    I prefer the wood swing myself as it spreads my butt and thigh fat into a slightly prettier (less gross?) fashion.

    Hope you’re having a great summer, Peg.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      A grown adult person? Irresponsibly riding on a child’s springy animal? Bah! The guy only got what he deserved.

      Great summer right back atcha! I’m sure yours will be filled with bugs and worms and lots of lovely green and growing things.

      Like

      • Shannon says:

        Alas, no, we are displaced for the summer. 😦 However we ARE enjoying little barn swallow fledges at the apartment that seem to know the kids and I we need their joy! Too hot for parks outdoors. Slides and springy animals are sure hiney-burners with triple-digit temps. The apartment pool it is — daily. Cheers!

        Like

  14. It is a miracle we made it, isn’t it? I’ve got stitches on my chin to prove it. Oh the memories…perfect post not missing a detail I haven’t thought of in years! Good job, Peg… How about the trees we climbed as high as we could go? It’s amazing that my brothers or me never ran into the house screaming “X fell out of the Johnson’s tree higher than their house.” And what about the whirling merry-go-round?

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I was never much of a tree-climber. Actually, I was a scaredy-cat wuss as a child and I still won’t go on anything that spins around too fast, goes backwards or upside down. I was scarred for life by observing the effects of centrifugal force on barf hurled from a spinning merry-go-round too many times as a child.

      Like

  15. Tar-Buns says:

    Oh, the memories! You didn’t mention the time your noggin got cracked with the tent-like center pole merry go round at Carroll Park. I thought you were going to die, and me, too, since we went to the park before the park directors were back from lunch.

    Remember? We started walking home with your head bleeding and someone came by who knew us and could see we were in distress (bawling) and drove you home. Dad came and fixed you up, I believe. I was so scared, and so in trouble.

    Thankfully, you were good to go, and no internal damage. Being the older sister, I’m sure I was punished, although I did a good job punishing myself with guilt!

    Yes, I remember those scarey contraptions, sold to us under the guise of “fun sport equipment”.
    Kids these days got it way too easy!

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Tar, that story is what started this post. But the post got so long I decided to save it for a separate one. Stay tuned to relive that fine day in all its glory…

      Do you remember when Billy fell off the slide? That was terrifying. And the more I think about it, I think Carolyn got cold-cocked by the teeter=totter in our own backyard, didn’t she?

      Like

  16. JM Randolph says:

    Oh Peg, this is badass! Me too, to all of it! The metal slides in the summer actually prepped me for my stagehand gig years later pushing road boxes with metal trim outside in the summer in Arizona.

    Our playground in town still has some of the semi-dangerous equipment, but it is tempered by the fact that there’s an itty-bitty-kiddie area that is self-policed by neurotic mothers with only one child. They keep the trouble makers out. Plus, they installed that springy floor everywhere so the only place you can really get hurt is in the woods. Which is where my kids play. Unless they’re at my house.

    Just yesterday I was outside on the phone and saw #5 and his friend run out of our shed with a shovel and a pickaxe. I said to my mom “I’m probably going to check that out in a minute.” But in a minute, they came running back around, the friend having rammed the pickaxe in between his toes, as he was wearing sandals. It was a great way to first meet his parents. Thank god they have four other children older than him, two of whom are in the military.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      “I’m probably going to check that out in a minute.” bwa haha! THAT’s the kind of attitude that raises up kids able to fend for themselves.

      Although I must admit to being more of the “hover-craft” guardian mom when my own kids were little. I’m so ashamed.

      Like

  17. sarah9188 says:

    Yes! I remember a girl breaking her wrist because we would pile about ten people on a teeter-totter and then one side would jump off plummeting the others to the ground. We also had the wood swings and would play games like seeing if you could run under the swings without getting hit and make it to the other side. We were morons, but it was a rush. Lol.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I forgot that run-under-swing move. You had to have pretty good upper body strength (and a tiny kid on the swing) to avoid getting feet to the head.

      Like

  18. So this explains why we are all so messed up! It wasn’t that our parents neglected us or did not praise us enough as kids… It was all the head injuries and coccyx bone fractures from playgrounds!! It is a miracle that we are alive to tell about it. Great post, Peg! 🙂

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      It didn’t mess us up – it MADE us as strong, capable adults. Able to take our rightful place as either bully or victim in any society.

      “coccyx bone” sounds funny. Tee hee.

      Like

  19. pfstare says:

    We had these things called a Witches Hat over here. They were lethal and are banned now. My children found one in a park in France last year though. Obviously they loved it 🙂

    Like

  20. Ha, yes, this post brought back lots of memories of the playgrounds I used to frequent as a child in the 70s! It does make you wonder why parents didn’t worry about us more playing in those places!

    Like

  21. No slides in the summer! (wax paper to “polish” them and remove rust so your mom would let you go on the slide – those complaints about rusty shorts)
    Moving swings were great for that “run under without getting hit game”. You had to launch them really high and run at the right time.
    There’s actually a couple of research papers out in the past year that playgrounds are “too safe” and kids are not benefitting.
    Fun post

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Wax paper – great idea! I think you’re right about kids being too protected. Although I turned out to be an uber-protective mom. Kind of a product of our times.

      Like

  22. Pleun says:

    Oh, I remember all of that! It made me think of a playground we moved close to when I was 9. Everything seemed so much bigger or higher than all the playgrounds I’d been to before. They even had a cable-thingy that took you all the way to the end; if you could hang on long enough that is. I’m sure they removed it by now on the account of being too dangerous, but man we had some good times there (but pretty much in the way you described above 😉 )

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I don’t know what the problem is nowadays. You’d think kids would be able to handle MORE danger now that everybody has their own cell-phone and can call 911 in case of really serious injury.

      Like

  23. Slides have been torturing children for years, its true. I got stuck on the very top of a metal ‘rocket themed’ slide (in preschool, not recently). The ladder to climb to the top was completely enclosed. I freaked out. I was stuck in 100 degree heat for what seemed like hours. My mom had to come get me. I too…wussed out. No way in hell I was burning my ass all the way down. 😉 I enjoyed this post!!

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      We had one of those rockets! I don’t know which was scarier; going down the slide, or trying to climb down the ladder backwards if you changed your mom. I don’t blame you for calling for mommy. Unless you were 12 at the time…

      Like

  24. I can’t believe I didn’t require a new tetanus shot every month from those rusted out monkey bars.
    I think our playgrounds were Darwin’s theory in action: survival of the fittest.

    Like

  25. Jackie says:

    Hear, hear to not being able to enjoy the monkey bars due to having arms like, well, a little girl. Swings were also dangerous because on the games we used I make up on them. I remember there was a group of three together at my elementary school and we invented a version of bumper cars for them. It’s a wonder I made it to middle school alive.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      We used to lock legs around one another’s waist on the swings and try to get going together, sideways.
      I’m glad I’m not the only one who couldn’t swing across those bars. I’ve felt like a dismal failure my whole life because of that. Thanks for the affirmation of solidarity, sistah! Solid (raises fist in universal, power-to-the-people move.)

      Like

  26. I couldn’t even get through the “rubber sling” swing description without guffawing and spewing my iced tea all over my keyboard! What a great, hysterical post.

    My kids have the unique benefit of actually going down the VERY same hot rusty metal slide I once played on as a kid.

    They actually built a new-fangled playground but left this one relic from the 1970s standing. Just the climb to the top was treacherous! Tiny little metal steps with barely enough room for a kid’s toes. If you actually made it to the top without twisting your ankle, or plunging to your death, then the fun REALLY began when you’d flip yourself OVER the rusty metal bar on the very top of the slide…you know…so you could dismount and gain the correct amount of speed to shoot down the slide of death without feeling the skin being ripped off your legs from the 1,0000 degree metal.

    Like

  27. Elyse says:

    You always get inside of my memories, Peg. I was the tiny kid who got dropped from the top of the see-saw. I am sure that apparatus is responsible for my crappy GI system.

    When my son was a kid, our local playground had something we called “the Flintstones House”. Fred and Wilma would have been happy there. It was made of concrete, built on top of concrete. If you stood up inside you got a concussion. If you didn’t exit just right you got a plater cast. Designed, no doubt, by somebody who either didn’t like kids or who had too many of them.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I can just feel the concrete “rug burn” on the arm trying to get through the door of that place. Jeesh. They wanted to grow ’em up tough in your hometown, right?

      Like

  28. Oooo… sounds like your playground totally had the ‘fancy stuff’, Peg! We had, like… two sticks and a rock. The sticks were nice and pointy, though. So that was cool.
    🙂

    Like

  29. It is amazing when you think of it…how did we survive? We also had one of those things that looked like a gigantic wagon wheel, sort of like a ferris wheel on its side. You would hang onto one of the spokes/bars and run around until it started spinning round and then you would jump on. You could get a pretty good speed going if you you had enough kids on it. The fun was trying to hang on tight while centrifugal force tried to pull you off. If you lost your grip you went flying.

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  30. It’s all true. All of it. Except you forgot to mention the lead paint that coated any of the playthings found on the playground. Nowadays I sit on a rubber swing and I can’t take it because the chains cut into my hips – which, admittedly, are bigger than they were when I was a kid, but they’re not THAT big.

    Like

  31. PinotNinja says:

    Reading this made me incredibly nostalgic for my old elementary school playground (which has since been completely demolished and replaced by a boring, sanitized and safe “playscape of dreams”), until I remembered all of the epic injuries that I suffered at the hands of that evil temptress of fun. I lost my two front teeth prematurely in an epic monkey bars wipe out (3′ PinotNinja fell 6′ face first onto concrete covered with gravel). I had to get my lip stitched back together after I bit through it when I had a rough landing after being bounced off the teeter-totter approximately 10 feet in the air (what happens when the biggest kid in the class slams down on his end with me, the smallest kid in the class, on the end being rocketed up into the air). And I still carry a scar underneath my right eye where I tore my face open after falling off of a swing and onto the top metal bar of the swing set during the time that I learned that it actually is possible to get the swing to loop completely over the top bar if someone pushes you hard enough.

    But all of that built character and was good for me, right?

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Sorry for all your horrific character building incidents, of course, but did you REALLY go all the way over the top on the swings? I thought that was an urban legend – you’re my hero!

      Like

      • PinotNinja says:

        I went up directly over the top of the swings and then crashed down on the bar really hard, so I didn’t quite make it all the way over the top and was too afraid to ever try it again. As the smallest one in our class, I got put into the swing while all of the other kids tried to get the swing to go over the bar (we were the original Mythbusters). To accomplish the feat, we had one kid stand on another kid’s shoulders in order to pull me up so high on the swing that I was parallel to the ground before letting me go. That created enough momentum to rocket my 35 lbs of daredevil above the bar.

        This was around the time that my parents decided to sign me up for hours of gymnastics every afternoon — they realized that the only safe place for me was a fully padded and heavily supervised room.

        Like

  32. amelie88 says:

    I remember wooden playgrounds so they aren’t such a thing of the very distant past (if you count the 90s the distant past now then sure). I remember when nearly all of the playgrounds around me were replaced by plastic. I was past the age of playing in playgrounds by then but it did make me really sad. I know they are safer–no more splinters (the screams of fear of my sister and me when we would run away from our parents when they pulled out the tweezers and plastic doesn’t rot away like wood does when exposed to the elements.

    I also remember that giodesic dome thing, if it’s the same thing I’m thinking of. The metallic dome with bars you could climb up/jump into (we loved playing more inside the dome than on top of it) but then trying to figure out how the heck to get out of it! I never see those anymore.

    The playground by me also used to have dangerous swings–the chains were old and rusted and easily snagged on skin when you grasped them. I always came off them with battle wounds where the skin on my hands had been pinched by the metal. Nowadays playgrounds cover chains with that bright blue rubber material so this isn’t an issue anymore.

    And is teeter-totter another word for see saws? Because I remember those too.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I used to very carefully climb up those domes, then I was afraid to go down backwards. I’d be stuck sitting on the top for hours until I worked up the courage!

      Teeter totters ARE the same as see saws – we just talk different from all y’all where I come from in Michigan.

      Like

      • amelie88 says:

        Oh and congrats on being Freshly Pressed AGAIN! How many times has it been? I don’t check FP as much as I used to since they moved FP off the main page but I noticed “Mortal Kombat” in the title and I was thinking, “Didn’t I already read this?!?!” 😀

        Like

  33. Jennifer says:

    Love this. I remember all of those, and feel for our kids who missed out on most of the fun playgrounds.

    Like

  34. Laura says:

    I remember those burning-hot metal slides. And I, too, never had the arm strength to swing across the monkey bars.

    Like

  35. Go Jules Go says:

    “…half-circle of rusted metal…” Ha! YES. I don’t know how anyone has fun anymore without the very real chance of needing a Tetanus shot afterwards.

    Like

  36. Oh, dear Lord! The teeter totters! Our favorite game was to create enough force on the down that the other person was bounced off. Thank God I was a fat kid or I’d be dead by now!

    Congrats on FP!

    Like

  37. Sandy Sue says:

    Oh, the memories! We had high, parallel bars embedded in an asphalt hill. My friends and I skipped the head trauma and learned our pole dancing skills there. With a running start and a hook of the knee, you could whirl around that sucker three or four rotations. Good life skills!

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      See, this is what I’m talking about. In the old days, you could toughen up AND learn important job skills like pole dancing. It was a win-win situation!

      Like

  38. Hey! Just saw that you’ve been Freshly Pressed – again! Woo, hoo!
    Congrats, sister, and enjoy the ride! 🙂

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Thanks! I’m thrilled! Although it’s turning out to be a kiddy ride more than a roller coaster. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but is Freshly Pressed broke or something? Where is everybody?

      Like

    • Couldn’t be happier for you, Peg! But yeah, I’ve heard similar tales of FP being a bit of a ghost town lately…you can see the tumbleweeds blowin’ on by…(B-man was just FP’d)

      What…is this your sixth time? Not that I’m keeping track or anything…or have any hopes of ever catching up to you….

      Like

  39. danlives says:

    We had grass and concrete… and a line of trees we were’t allowed to go near. The earth was rock hard because since we had nothing to play on, we used to just piledrive and powerbomb each other instead and then get told off whenever one of us had a spinal injury.

    As for the concrete, I’m pretty sure it’s saturated with my dna from all the bleeding I did. Have to be honest, junior school was better than high school but in truth, dangerous playgrounds are better than no playgrounds. You have to learn to be smart on a playground. On a field or on gravel, if you get hurt, you fell and it was your own fault for not knowing how to stand straight (teachers’ excuses).

    Great little article!

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Somebody would yell at you for causing spinal injuries? What wimps!

      I was a pretty cautious kid, so not a lot of my blood was spilled. We didn’t have a playground at school, just concrete and a tether-ball – I was pretty darn good at that, I must say.

      Like

      • danlives says:

        We didnt even have a tether ball, i feel totally left out now 😦

        We did have a football however but I always hated footie. Especially when the damn ball hit me in the face and I wasnt even near the game!

        Like

  40. OLD people? Why, you little….

    I’ll have you know I still play on playground equipment whenever I can find the real thing. 43 years of painful learning experiences hasn’t dampened the thrill, it’s only raised the bar, if you’ll pardon the pun. If a person can go two minutes with their 40-year-old butt wedged tourniquet-style in one of those rubber swings, they’re alright with me. But I’m not buying the beer unless they can do a flip.

    Speaking of which, I’d like to add a few things. Those swings were merely launching apparatuses for small bodies. At my school, you could only set your rep if you were able to hurl your body at least five feet up and ten feet out. (Ten feet out was where the grass started, the non-kill zone). Extra points were awarded to those who could lean over backyards and do a flip out of the seat and not bleed. I was/am a legend.

    Merry-go-rounds: circles of death. Designed explicitly for hurtling ages 3 through 12 through the air like clay pigeons at a hillbilly wedding.and grinding legs caught underneath into bloody stumps. If you had decent quadriceps, you could lock your legs around the metal railing at the edge and let the upper half of your body flap around in the breeze like a wind sock. The truly brave ventured into the middle and did the shuffling I’m Standing Still While the Rest of You Spin Dance but one false step into the centrifugal force sent you screaming past your cohorts to be ejected onto the asphalt below. Only the strong survive.

    Tetherball. Noun. Pronounced “Ow! You did that on purpose! I’m telling!” Medieval throwback used solely for the purpose of bapping enemies in the back of the head as payback for something evil they did to you at lunch, like flinging peas dipped in ketchup. Front of the head: extra points. Bloody nose: win.

    The flagpole. Technically not a piece of playground equipment but a crucial proving ground at my school, nonetheless. The Olympic bravery of shimmying all the way to the top of this off-limits structure while disapproving teachers on hot flash medication roamed the schoolyard just looking for their next “example” earned you monster points, boy or girl. Did you know that the excruciatingly painful microscopic needles of fiberglass coating take weeks to work their way out of the skin on your hands and inner thighs? I do.

    Sigh. Now, if I want a rush, I’m left with espresso and dating.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Oh my, your playground was a proving ground indeed!

      I’m so with you on the merry-go-round, but I would never have dreamed of trying that locked-leg, over-the-edge move you described in ready-to-hurl-just-reading-about-it detail. I sat still and tried to focus on any point that might keep me from barfing.

      I LOVED tether-ball, though, and was pretty good at it. As long as you kept your eyes open and senses on full alert, there was no need to lose an eyeball from the force of a tether-ball to the back of the head.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

  41. Kami Tilby says:

    Phenomenal trip down memory lane! Thank you for the great laughs! The comments are as funny and memorable as the actual post. I look back on my experiences and think “I’m not sure if this is making me stronger or killing me.” I’m sure you could regale us with a Dodgeball post of equal hilarity.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Dodgeball. Shudder, shudder. Don’t even take me there. Whenever my “Best friend”, Katy, got on the other side, she’d hurl the Dodgeball of Doom at my shrinking, chubby self with the power of a piston. I think she went on to a career as guard in a women’s prison.

      Like

  42. segmation says:

    I know that they had to redesign the playgrounds that I used to play in because of safety concerns but I never got hurt and really had many great times in the old playgrounds and sorry to see them go for my daughters.

    Like

  43. Fascinating article, and incredibly accurate if I may say so. I read an article about the use of playgrounds to train military personnel, but then again that was on The Onion.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I saw some pictures like that when hunting for some for this post; guys in black ski masks and commando gear on the monkey bars. I KNEW it was a plot to toughen us up.

      Like

  44. The closest playground to us when my daughter was 2-3 years old was a playground built in the 1950s. My husband and I called it Tetanus Town. Among the other strange, archaic playground equipment like you describe above, it had a metal ladder that just went straight up the air into nothing. A very tall, metal ladder to the sky. What was it for? Lightning strikes? Broken necks? It’s a mystery.

    Like

  45. This piece is too funny! I’ve come across your page several times by reading people’s Freshly Pegged entries… always full of humor 🙂 And you’re so right about the playground… it’s a world filled with danger. Just when you think you’re giggling through a game of Red Rover, BOOM you’re being knocked into next Tuesday by the jerk in 4th grade. What a shame.

    Like

  46. muddledmom says:

    Every now and then I run across one of these old playgrounds. Ah, the glory days. I have to let my unsuspecting kids discover the dangers themselves just so they can see how easy they have it these days. They wouldn’t believe me if I told them. 😉 Great post.

    Like

  47. Love the nostalgia! Did anyone have the rocket monkey bars? It sat in a menacing 45 degree angle, as if about to take off – usually we just got to the little ‘bubble’ at the top and fell to earth with an air extracting thud.

    A few years ago, there was an outrage over the use of pressure-treated wood in the playgrounds from all the min-van driving soccer moms, who would chain smoke and feed their kids from the nearby take-out window, but OH NO! You’re not gonna subject my fat little Timmy to some carcinogenic lumber, that ironically, would have been more healthy to the little butter ball than anything else. They all got torn down and then the community found out it would cost tens of thousands of dollars to build new ‘safe’ play areas, so everyone had to look at this dry patch of dirt where kids used to get healthy.

    Where was I going with this? Anyway – even the tetanus inducing torture equipment of our era was better than all of this new stuff…break out the X-Box and Ding-Dongs kids! We’re doing a blood pressure check at 7.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Our rocket was a vertical slide, but with the same thud when you fell off it. I think you’re right – in our quest for safety for our kids, we’re raising generations of flabby, risk-adverse little people.

      Like

  48. flyingplatypi says:

    I was once stuck at the top of one of those domed climbers for hours. One of my friends had to go get my dad to get me down. He was drunk and dropped me. I still blame my fear of heights on this… And love of alcohol.

    Hugs!

    Valerie

    Like

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  50. I laughed all the way through this, trying to catch up my reading this morning and this is one of the first I get to read. I my I remember our playgrounds, they were full of awesomeness. I remember every single one of those deathtraps. The domes, they were my absolute favorites! I climbed to the top, pulled out a book and kicked anyone down who bothered me (weird kid I know).

    The one you forgot, I don’t know what the name was but the whirly-thing. You know get a bunch of kids on it and then spin it as fast as possible till all of them either tumble off or puke up their lunch.

    Like

  51. That really brought back memories!! Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! 🙂

    Like

  52. Hahahaha! What memories! I once slid down the metal slide, met a kid walking halfway up, and we both fell over the side. He smacked his head and I broke my right arm. Good times, indeed!

    Like

  53. Old days… Now that I think of it pretty scary if you ask me

    Like

  54. susielindau says:

    Freshly Pressage Gold! Weren’t we just “talking” about that?
    Congratulations

    I gotta believe I would be two inches taller if it weren’t for those dang teeter totters…
    Love this post and the memories it brought back. Well deserved FP Peg!

    Like

  55. kamal1231 says:

    Lol this was a very interesting read. It took be back to my childhood 🙂

    http://utruthkn.wordpress.com

    Like

  56. OMG! This is hilarious. We survived our own war zone and had no idea of how clueless we all were. I think we should re-install these items and harden up a few deadbeats. Might make them a little more ‘enlightened’ and thankful…take the bully out of the fight, so to speak.
    Thanks for the chuckle. Have a wonderful Fourth of July weekend!

    Like

  57. Great post! My wife and I were just looking at a playground the other day and commenting how sanitized it looks compared to the playground of our childhood some 40 years ago.

    One of our favorites was the Maypole. This contraption on our school playground had a dozen or so metal bars connected to a merry-go-round device. The goal was to spin it so fast that we would be swept off our feet, our bodies flying horizontal to the ground. Once you were airborne, hang on for dear life, because if you let go of the metal bar you would be catapulted into the neighbor’s yard. (At least they had soft grass to land on and not the cement-like dirt under the Maypole.) If you did happen to make a controlled dismount onto the ground below, then it was likely the metal bar behind you would hit you in the back of the head — as well as the half dozen or so bars after that.

    Like so much of the playground equipment of our youth, the Maypole disappeared from the playscape years ago.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I had a near_death experience on that one myself. In fact, I’m working on a post about it,, just to come to grips with the life-altering trauma.

      Like

  58. Ahhh good times despite various trips to the hospital. I’ll add one more to the list: The Tetherball pole. We had one that near us that was huge and would hang kids by their arms a foot off the ground like some sort of medieval torture device. Oh, a few broken noses as well.

    Like

  59. 0hMissFit says:

    You are hilariously spot on! There was a school playground in Dobbs Ferry,NY, and as kids we’d play there…the slide had what I remember as waaaay over a 10 foot ladder, and when you got to the top, there was the option to slide down the pole (like a pole at a fire station I guess) or go just slide down…well, if you avoided getting kicked in the chin by the person in front of you going up the ladder, because it was a race, after all, and you were rushed from behind as well, then you had to carefully slink around the hole where the pole went down or risk some bully or some impatient kid pushing you down it, which definitely knocked the breath out of you, if not a tooth or two as well…and the slide was bad news for little girls in twirly skirts, the backs of your legs had better not touch the burning metal slide, or you would be ridiculed for the noise it made, akin to a (gasp) fart, and not to mention burning the backs of your legs…it was truly an acquired skill to slide on the minimal back of your dress/skirt, and not get burned, make bad noises or get stuck halfway down…yeah, those were the days 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      IT WAS GOOD TRAINING FOR THE BRUTAL PLAYROUND that is adult life> (SEE? sEE HOW I turned that into a bumper-sticker-worthy saying?)

      Like

      • 0hMissFit says:

        Hats off to you!!! 😁 Yes, yes you DID make a bumper-sticker-worthy saying out of my tragic fall(s) down the fire pole hole and burnt bottom… yeah, compared to life on the playground, there’s NOTHING in adulthood that can’t be conquered!!

        Like

  60. sedrate says:

    Hilarious! I loved the monkey bars. I ended up building the upper body strength to win the jousts and be Queen of the Monkey Bars. Looking back fondly now, I guess I could paint the experience with “it taught me to work hard towards a goal”, but really, it was just plain fun. Where else but the playground could you be heralded and respected for being the most vicious Queen of the Monkey Bars?

    Like

  61. kelloggs77 says:

    You speak truth. The playgrounds my kids play on today are sissy-fied. Except for the g-damned merry-go-round. One of the parks by my house still has one, and it inspired me to write a post a few weeks ago, …so this post was cracking me up.

    Like

  62. Nagzilla says:

    Believe it or not, when I was my daughter was a toddler, the grad school I went to still had an old school swing set in the housing apartments. She was able to experience first hand the skin melting metal slides and the injury inducing springy animals. At one point, she got off rhythm with the duck she was riding and smacked her mouth on the duck’s head. Did you know that head wounds (and mouth injuries) tend to bleed more than regular injuries? I didn’t at the time. I had to keep checking through the blood pouring from her mouth to make sure she still had the teeth that had finally broken through her gums. Luckily, no stitches or lost teeth, but it bled excessively for quite a while. Wounded warriors indeed.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      How scary! Any time your child is bleeding it’s more traumatic for Mom. Although I talk about toughening up kids, I was very protective of my own.

      Like

  63. And and all this fun stuff was anchored in concrete. They loved kids back then… 🙂

    Like

  64. Dawn says:

    Brilliant! Thanks for humorous narrative.

    Like

  65. pattisj says:

    No fair! We didn’t have the rubber swings, or the springy animals. 😦 You are so right about the teeter-totter and slide burns.

    Like

  66. NoX says:

    Reblogged this on Life Applied.

    Like

  67. jcd kerwin says:

    A hysterically relatable post. It’s like playgrounds were meant to weed out the weak kids. Kinda like Legos…I somehow survived falling off a slide–14 stitches in my ear, but I survived, dammit.

    Like

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