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“King of the Jungle” (Metal Jungle Gym, Kimball-Haskell Park) Playground Series (#6), Nikon D300, 35mm, F/6.3, 1/500s, +0.3EV, ISO 200 , ‘Old West’ Toning Action

I was fortunate enough to get to this playground before the old structures are replaced with one of those enormous, gaudy, brightly colored, ϋber-safe play systems. A large, hand-painted sign at the front of the park, complete with website url and $$ tracker, confirmed the inevitable. Sigh.

When I started this series, I never once suspected the process would conjure up such nostalgia. I earned my stripes on similar equipment and all I remember are the hours of summer fun spent climbing, swinging, jumping and sliding.So many lessons learnt on boards of splintered wood and bars of hard steel, where what laid below was concrete, gravel or hand-packed dirt.   

No plastic, no landing mats, no cushy layers of rubber mulch, no safety rails. Gee, how did I survive?   

Today’s children will never know why you avoid the metal slide in the heat of the afternoon. They won’t learn to react quickly when your see-saw partner decides to abruptly jump off. They won’t conquer the fear of climbing down after victoriously reaching the very top of the jungle gym. And, they will never know the joy of spinning on the merry-go-round to the point of euphoric dizziness.    

Man, when did we become a nation of wimps?



  1. Boyo boy …. is Rupe ever in agreement with you.
    Chipped teeth while riding the back of that concrete turtle? You bet, Bobo. (While I never chipped my own teeth frolicking on such, Brad Paisley certainly did. He cried, sure … but he’s got character to boot from having experienced the fall. He’s still alive today … no therapy sessions.)
    I can’t see the backs of my legs that well, but you can bet there are still friction burns on’em from shooting down that three-story slide at Edison Park, oh those many years ago. Another character builder. I’m all the better for it.
    That rusty, squeaky carousel of old? You betcha. (You can still find these around here and there.) A gang of us would climb aboard and several would hang out to spin us silly with three Gs of force (sometimes 4 Gs), trying to get us to either puke or fall off. Laughter abounded when Jimmy Johnson went flying off one day screaming, unable to hold on … ending up about 15 feet from where he originally landed. His momentum carried him that extra distance, but not before his open mouth filled with a goodly amount of “cushioning sand” surrounding the carousel as he eventually skidded to a halt, mostly on his head. He coughed and cried and spit sand for 10 minutes while we rushed him over to the drinking fountain to bathe him off. Afterward, he was good to go for more, back up on the carousel to “try and stay on this time”. What a rush and a laugh that was. Good times.
    And more character building.
    “When did we become a nation of wimps?”
    Lemme tell you something: “We” didn’t. Those damned weenies and their safe and sane ways became the wimps. The protesting parents of Hoidy-ToidyVille who continually put up the signs and protest the dangers of fun – they’re the ones who are the wimps. The “let-the-other-guys” contingent who bemoan childhood wonder and experiences are the ones who are the wimps.
    Me? No dice. I’m not a wimp. “Mr. Adventure”: That’s what you can call me.
    You may not know this, but this isn’t just a series of photographs, Milky. This is history. Our history. Our childhood. And the memories we have we live with this very day.
    I’ll say it again: I’m digging this series of yours like there’s no tomorrow.

    …………………. Ruprecht

    • Wow! What a comment! or, novella I should say. 😉 LOVE it! Yep, I’m right with ya there on all the fun, right down to the mouthful of sand. Sure, we all went home with our share of skinned knees/elbows, friction burns and bruises, tears in clothing, the occasional splinter, along with the definite need for a bath. But, we had FUN. And get this – most of the times, no parents were ever with us! Yep, built character indeed. Hey do you also remember the swing seats that had embossed writing on them that would inevitably get seared into your thighs?? You can’t get more Americana than that. Thanks for the memories, Rupe. The series will go on… 🙂

    • AMEN and HALLELUJAH!!!!!!! 🙂

      I actually DID puke on one of those great squeaky carousels thanks to my fun uncle…got a drink of “coke” from my Mom, and climbed right back on for more!!!

      And how about sliding so fast down the straight, twenty step high metal slide, that you flew right off the end onto your poor tailbone? But what did we do? We whined, and moaned, and laughed, and climbed right back for more. 🙂

      • HA! Hilarious! You BET we did! And how about this… many of you knew to rub dirt on the metal slide so that you would go even faster?? Those were the days!! 🙂

  2. Great shot and lovely colours, again. Nice work, Tracy.

    • Thanks, Dave! Curious…what are playgrounds like in Canada?

      • Very much like you described in your post. All the wooden structures with sharp corners and hard steel have been replaced by these colourful, plastic monstrosities. They are so ugly I don’t even bother playing on them anymore. 🙂

  3. Yup, another great addition to your playground series.

    And yup, I played on those old metal playgrounds, too (all they had in the 70’s!) and I’m still alive. There WAS a plasic slide at the playground where I used to hang out as a kid, and I remember my sister breaking a finger, going down that slide, so you could say that plastic isn’t necessarily safer.
    And btw. here in TX you avoid ALL slides in the summer, they all get ridiculously hot, even the plastic ones.

    • Thanks, Michaela! And, you survived, too! Hmmm, don’t all the playground structures in Texas melt in the summer?? 🙂

      • Hmm… surprisingly they don’t. Must be using a special kind of plastic that can withstand the Texas heat 😉

  4. Ruprecht would be willing to bet they have concrete turtles.


  5. Okay 4 & 6 are my favorites. I heard a DJ on the radio talking about how different childhood was in the 50s and 60s, when children would roam around until dark. He talked about being a six year old and going to the store to buy cigarettes for his mother. Can you imagine that these days? Back in the days before seat belts.

    • My husband and I have these conversations all the time! In the summer, you’d leave the house on your bike early in morning and most days, not return until the street lights came on. All the kids in the neighborhood met at the playground and the rights of passage would begin. There was definitely a pecking order and all you wanted to do was survive until the age where you’d be king of the hill. Yeah, back before bike helmets, too. Damn, I’m old. 😉

  6. I’ll tell you when we became a nation of wimps; when lawyers decided to take cases for idiots who don’t know enough to take responsibility for themselves. I’m fairly certain all of today’s “safety” stuff around children’s playthings came from companies having to “CYA” so they don’t get sued. Hence “contents are HOT” on the side of a McD’s coffee cup.

    Sorry, on soapbox, will step down now!

    • No need to apologize! Honey, you are preachin’ to the choir! 🙂

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