It seems that the only time you can see monkey bars these days are in al qaeda training films. How come the terrorists seem to have all the fun? Think back to those great days and about all the items in the park you survived. Let’s go down memory lane, shall we:
1) Monkey Bars
This is an item that is apparently found mostly in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but back in the day they were in every playground. This all metal structure, which was probably covered in a lead based paint, was merely two sets of vertical ladder rungs attached to a horizontal ladder rung on the top. How well you did on these depended on one’s upper body strength, and since it was all metal, how hot or cold the day was. Extremely daring children would also hang from it upside down or even climb up and walk across the top. Today those daring ones are either cast members of Cirque du Soleil or they’re in a home eating only soft food.
Also known as the Teeter-Totter, this long, narrow board was pivoted in the middle so that, as one end goes up, the other goes down. This was a wonderful opportunity for fat kids to unwittingly launch their scrawnier bullying friends into a low orbit. If said scrawny friend managed to hold on, they were sure to receive either a sprained wrist, a bruise inducing wooden butt slap, or both. This item was also a great physics lesson that taught you to pay attention, since you were at the mercy of the person who was sitting on the low end. If your mind wondered while you were up there, all the other person had to do was roll off of the see-saw and you would be quickly reintroduced to gravity.
Also known as the roundabout, this dizzying joy was another way to launch children. Several youngsters, many of whom may have just eaten, climb on board a giant circular Lazy Susan made of wood with metal bars to hold on to. The idea is to spin this thing as fast as you can, going around and around in a circle until your brain yelled “Jane, stop this crazy thing!” As you rode it, you were also ducking food particles that were coming to you via centrifugal force (another physics lesson) from those in front of you who were losing their lunch. You would then jump off and attempt to merely stand up without walking like a drunken wino (I’m convinced that for some, this sensation was the gateway to drugs). Meanwhile your less co-ordinated, less brave friends, who were merely on the sidelines trying to build up the courage to jump on this giant moving top, have now mustered the gumption to take a stab at it. These are the ones who usually lost teeth as they made a feeble grab for that metal handle and were then ricocheted, face planting into the turf.
4) Swing Set
Nothing can be sweeter than young love as a boy and a girl swing side by side gazing into each other's eyes, or a boy gently pushing the girl on a swing in a loving way. It’s the stuff of many a great teen romance novel or film of yesteryear. However, nothing can be more deadly than two eight year old boys daring each other to see how high they can swing, either sitting or standing, and how far they can launch themselves off the seat. Another vital physics lesson is learned here should one of the participants manage to swing beyond the parallel line of the upper bar. At this point an ambulance is usually required.
This was the item that was always fun to watch when a child discovers for the first time that they have vertigo. Today’s slides don’t go nearly as high as in days gone by and many of them are basically a shielded tube that you can’t really fall off of. But in the Baby Boomer heyday these items were high with low railings surrounding a practically greased wooden base that was as smooth as an incline bowling alley. And if it was a hot summer day and a child was in shorts, their wailing was usually a combination of fear and the first degree burn they were receiving on the way down.
Admit it. Aren’t you getting nostalgic for some of the everyday childhood dangers that we managed to live through? In my previous Baby Boomer blog piece, a reader named Susan commented: “I can’t believe how today’s kids are almost wrapped in bubble wrap to protect them. We had so much more liberty and freedom of movement, and the consequences were not that stirring.”
But alas, those days are long gone. For Baby Boomers all we can do is look back with a sigh and smile at some of the everyday things we did. If kids today want to have similar experiences, then they’ll just have to book a midnight flight to North Waziristan.
That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.