I went to elementary school 3,000 miles away from Fairfield, but we had the same type of playground equipment – swings, all-metal slides, teeter-totters and those merry-go-rounds with the metal bars.
In one of my favorite playgrounds in Virginia, an old fire engine was parked in a sand pit and we spent hours using our imaginations there. The monkey bars and other apparatus were sometimes situated over sand, but often it was asphalt. I don’t remember seeing wood chips, much less that foam stuff they use now.
If kids today played on that kind of equipment, they would be required to wear a helmet and so many pads they’d look like gladiators. They’d have to remove their Iron Man-like gloves to sign pre-play waivers. Instead of smiling neighbors, they would encounter personal injury attorneys distributing business cards.
Others shared playground memories:
Stephania Cheng: At Tolenas Elementary, the big kids’ playground had what we called fireman poles. We’d stand on top of the bars and jump toward the firemen poles, then slide down. One October morning, I positioned myself on top of the bars and carefully judged the distance. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and leaped. I flew through the air like an angel, grasped the pole in my outstretched hands . . . and kept going. The pole was still wet with dew. I plummeted like a rock, landing on the hard wooden edge of the bark box. I was unconscious for a short time and when I came to, I was surrounded by the other kids who were all staring at me in horror. My left hand was on sideways! I got the cast off four months later and tried it again. I made it that time.
Diana Lynn Paladin: Wearing shorts + metal slide + hot summer day = OWIE!
Deborah Arsich: We used to take our border collie, Freckles, down to David Weir to play on the merry-go-round. She would stand in the center of those metal bars on a wheel while the biggest kids would push it so hard that eventually someone would fall off – never the dog! Many mornings, my mom would get a call from the office to come get her dog from the playground. Mom would come and there was Freckles, waiting for recess on the merry-go-round!
Jean Taylor Hamilton: I used to jump out of wooden-seated swings at a park until one time when I didn’t jump far enough and the wooden seat hit me in the back of the head. I fell backward and cracked my head on a huge rock and needed stitches!
Gail E. King: I remember taking turns on the swings. You had a swing limit of 100, meaning forward-up one, backward-up two, etc. Boys always stood there counting. Loudly.
Gina Antonelli Conyers: My boys, Josh and Jake, were 3 and 4 when I put them on the merry-go-round at Allan Witt Park. Josh started yelling, “Faster, mommy!” So I pushed as hard as I could and Josh went flying off and rolled on the ground and then Jake also, who ended up with a mouthful of gravel. Fortunately they didn’t get really hurt, but I was laughing so hard while trying to apologize and console them.
William A. Bowen: Those playgrounds taught us the meaning of the words stupid, dumb, crazy, careful, ouch, bruised, broken. They taught us to be alert, adept, capable and confident.
Danny Cordova: At West Texas Street Park, we’d swing as high as we could; flip out of the seat backward, flying about 15 to 20 yards in the air and landing very close to the dome monkey bars. Proud to say, not one monkey was injured.
Tamara Beck Watson: I loved the swings as a kid. There was something magical about trying to reach for the sky then falling back to Earth. When I was about 19 I was at a Vallejo park with my dad. I said, “Dad, would you push me?” For those few moments, reaching for the sky, I was 8 years old again. That has become one of my most precious memories with my dad. He has been gone from this world for 20 years, but will never be gone from my heart.
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at email@example.com.