I’ve been a playground lover for a long time! I can still map out my elementary school playground and the games I played there. This photo was from the side/back of the school. On the other side of the fence is a horse trail and creek. We used to walk the trail and catch tadpoles in the creek. See that jungle gym near me? A friend fell through and got a bloody nose there. I know there was a sandbox nearby, too. Then the blacktop with rings! My favorite! We’d put our skinny little legs through and hang upside down, swinging. There were rubber pads under the equipment, but we’d still get burns when we fell or skidded to a stop on them. Then there were all sorts of monkey bar stations leading to the big field. A very tall rope climbing station at the entrance to the wide expanse of lawn and backstops.
We’d pretend to ice skate on the lawn on frosty mornings when the field turned white. We ran cross-country on the horse trail outside the fence. I earned my nickname of “Hoover” from rolling down one of the shortcuts and coming back to the playground with a cloud of dust trailing behind me and weeds in my hair, looking something like “Pig Pen” from Peanuts. A scary Flasher dropped his pants one day while watching us kids from the hill above. We were playing kickball during recess. We ran! I can see the whole group of kids dropping and running in a panic to the noon aids. The police came to our house after and we had to describe the guy. I didn’t really know what I’d seen. I just knew he was a bad guy, even before he dropped his pants.
Now we come back to the blacktop where there were basketball courts. “Nation” was my favorite game. We’d split the class in half and each team would take their place on half the court. We’d take a volleyball and “huck” it at each other to try to get people OUT. If you caught the ball, you weren’t OUT and it was likely you could get someone else OUT because you could just “huck” it right back at your assailant who wasn’t prepared to catch it. Dodgeball was okay, too. But Nation was more fun. There was jump roping and Four Square for the tamer set. I liked handball on the two handball courts (skidzies and do over’s) are the only terms I remember from that time. Tetherball was hypnotizingly addictive.
I would shoot hoops before school started. There was a 6th grade bully who used to terrorize me. The solution? My parents coached me to tell him “Thank you very much!” every time he insulted me and then ignore him. Before long, he was shooting baskets with me and we had a grand old time before school started. His name was Danny.
Sometimes I think we forget that the playground was not always perfect or safe. But I’d argue that we learned about the world on the playground — and how to deal with things that came spinning at us out of nowhere.
This is my contribution to Suz Lipman’s Photo Friday on SlowFamilyOnline.com (just for fun!). She had a great post about Groundhog Day this week!