Man, I'm sore. I spent all
Saturday putting together the swing set thing you see above for my kids in the
backyard. (And this is a photo from the company's site, there's no way in
hell I'd let my yard get that bad). It's all wood, with only a little bit of plastic and metal. The
edges are all smooth, and the whole thing is splinter free. Sure, it looks
fun to climb on, and the kids love it, but there's something just so
disgustingly...safe about it that makes me sad.
Remember those crappy lightweight metal ones that they had when we were kids? And you'd get those ones that the parents didn't bother bolting to the ground, so if you swung too high in them, they'd tip over? I used to always wonder about the physics of swinging. How hard would it really be to swing so high you'd flip all the way over the top? I'm not even sure if it's possible to generate the speed necessary to do it. I was always too afraid to try, for fear that I'd go 180 degrees, and drop right down on the top bar with my head, and kill myself. Now THAT would have made a great funny home video.
I wonder if anyone ever knew of a kid that could swing all the way around? Have you ever heard of or seen such a thing? Our biggest thrill was to swing really high, then jump out of the swing, flying through the air like someone from a Kung Fu movie. If there was sand in the ground, it was a bit more forgiving, but "tan-bark" would rough you up a bit if you landed wrong.
I remember falling through the bars of a jungle gym, hitting several bars on the way down. I didn't break anything (and to this day never have, amazingly), but it was like the playground was kicking my ass.
Bill Cosby used to have a great bit on one of his records about a deadly playground. It's true that many of the older playground equipments were pretty dangerous. Remember those giant merry go rounds that you'd get going real fast. You were pretty much guaranteed to either throw up or fly off into the air like some poor little rag doll.
Or how about those long giant slender metal slides? It's bad enough that they would burn your bare legs if you were stupid enough to wear shorts on them, but some of them were pretty damn high. If you fell off the top of one of those, you could easily snap your neck.
Check out this monstrous slide from a 1915 park in Tuckahoe. How much speed do you think you'd generate going down that baby? Just imagine how cool it'd be to roller-skate down that one!
Here's a crazy setup called "Bell-Buoys". Kids were invited do shimmy up these 18 foot metal poles, ring the bell at the top, then presumably fall to their death.
In the good old days, playgrounds were always dangerous, but it didn't stop the kids from enjoying them. In fact it seems like the safer they got, the less interested became in playing on them, began shooting each other in schools, and took more drugs. Kids will seek danger no matter how much you take it from them. The safteyfication of our nation's playgrounds is responsible for all of the world's evils, plain and simple.
The modern playgrounds are pretty safe. Seems like the only dangerous things you have to worry about now are the creepy weirdos that hang around them.