Picture a playground today: swings, climbing structures, slides. All the equipment is made of plastic. There are all kinds of protective items. On the ground are rubber mats in case someone falls, slides are plastic, swings have safety bars, slides have safety sides, you can't fall off the climbing structures because you are climbing inside it. This is nothing like I grew up with. How did we survive?
Our school playground in the 1950's was hard dirt, rocks, and sometimes broken glass. And there was no plastic equipment. Under the swings were scooped out holes that usually were little muddy ponds. The playground was hard as a rock or muddy, and often both.
Picture metal swings that were at least 12 feet tall. To adjust the height of the swings one of the big kids would throw the swing over the top to raise the height of the swing. We would have orange hands from holding onto the rusty chains that held the wooden or metal seats. We would push off with our feet to get moving, thus digging out the above muddy ponds. Or we stood up and pumped like mad. When as high as we dared, we jumped off, onto the rock hard ground. Don't know how we didn't kill ourselves. Now some of the really brave kids would loop the top bar and if lucky, not fall off as they went over.
But that was just one of the killer pieces we played on. We had monkey bars, again metal. (imagine a sunny day and metal, ow! You swung by your hands from bar to bar. The really dangerous part, people would start from opposite ends. The point being to meet in the middle and knock the other person off.
See-saws. probably the most dangerous thing on the playground. If you have ever been on the up side and your "friend" on the low side jumped off, you know exactly what I mean.
Now we come to the big metal slides, with a ladder going up and very short sides going down. In the 1950's most little girls wore dresses to school. The dresses had puff sleeves and sashes that tied in the back. The sash regularly would catch at the top of the slide but you would continue down. I can't tell you how many times I went home with a hole where the sash should have been.
Imagine wearing the cute dress and going down a metal slide on a hot sunny day. You could get burns on your legs. Plus at the bottom you had to jump because the slide also had a muddy pond. Landed in it many times.
If you know where to find one of these metal slides be sure to take some wax paper. If you rub down the slide with the wax paper, you will get a faster ride.
Now we come to my favorite equipment, the Giant Stride. Marty had never heard of them so many of you probably haven't either. I loved the Giant Stride. If you go here , number 6 is a picture of one. The whole article is interesting as it explains the dangers of old time playground equipment. For those who don't go to links, picture a May pole with handles on chains hanging down. You ran around and would swing off your feet. Also one person would wrap their chain over all the others and then get the ride of their life.
We played on other dangerous thing: merry go rounds (I caught my foot under one and still have a large bone like knot 60 years later), grapevines were not trustworthy especially over a creek, trees were made to fall out of, garage roofs made a great fort, clamp on roller skates, just to name a few.
Were we tougher than the kids today? Probably not, we just played on what was there.