By Trent Tibbitts

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I was talking with a coworker today about childhood playgrounds. That got me thinking about how we survived the playgrounds of the 1970’s and 1980’s.

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We will start with the playground at Dallas Elementary, where I attended K through 4th grade.  There were two separate playgrounds, K through 2nd grade and 3rd grade through 4th grade. Let’s explore the first one. There were the Monkey Bars. Constructed of galvanized steel pipes. If you don’t know what Monkey Bars are let me describe them for you.  Image two ladders about 6 feet high and 15 feet apart connected with another ladder across the top. The idea is to climb the ladder and cross over to the other side by hand over hand hanging from the top ladder. What made ours more interesting was the mud puddle under it. The sun would make the bars very hot. Next to the Monkey Bars were the Jungle Gym. Again made from steel pipes.  Think of a framework of three-foot square boxes stacked on one another, about 21 feet wide and 12 feet high.  Kind of a pyramid. Then we had a poll maybe 12 feet tall that had wedges cut in so you could climb up and then jump off.  Next were eight giant tires that were sunken a third of the way in the ground.  I would crawl inside the side walls of the tires and hang out.  Behind the tires was the tunnel.  The tunnel was a 30 inch concrete Pipe at ground level with dirt piled on top. It to had a mud puddle inside the whole length.  On the side of the playground were the swings. Again made from steel pipes and steal chains. The coolest thing on the playground was what we called the platform and was a long the rear  area. The platform was 4 or 5 feet high,  60 feet long with ramps on each end.  It had several slides coming off of each side that were made of sheet metal.  Very hot. You could hang out under the platform to keep cool but you had to watch out for the nails that were sticking out.  We had a few balance beams and see saws. The other supper cool structure was the cargo net. This one was not like the ones you may see today that are on an angle.  This one went straight up 10 or 12 feet. There were a lot hard surfaces for 5 to 8 year  olds to play on. The worst injury I can remember was someone cutting their head on a nail under the platform.

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The second playground was a lot more open.  There was a ball field where we played kick ball. A “baseball” style game where you drilled your friends with a rubber ball to get them out. We would play Red Rover Red Rover. A game where two teams would line up across from one another and a teammate would run across and try to break the grip of the other team.  We had a tether ball pole. That was not to dangerous but it was just a steel pipe concrete in an old tire. There was a huge concrete pad that had a basketball court on part of it. That was were I learned to shot baskets using the square on the backboard.  During one class out on the pad we  built ovens out of cardboard box’s and tinfoil that we cooked hot dogs in. We would also try to break dance out on the pad.  I remember one day some buddy’s were eating Cool Aid powder on the playground and the teachers though it was drugs.  I don’t think any of us had ever heard of drugs. This playground had Monkey Bars and Jungle Gym too. It also had swings.  These were big swings.  We would get as high as we could and jump off, lot of hang time. Once playing this game I got side ways and on the down swing I hit one of the pole square in the back. I thought I was dead. It knocked the breath out of me. I ran to get help from my teacher who was smoking.  That’s right,  smoking.

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The other regular playground of my youth was the McDonald’s.  Everything there was dangerous also.  There was the ride on Fry Guys that were mounted on a big spring. You would go as back and forth as fast as you could with your head just inches from hitting the ground. If you got going to fast you were slung off.  Then there was the Mary Go Round. You hung on as long as you could while your friends spun it around as fast as they could. Then there was the Hambugerler tree house. All metal.  It was a pipe that had a ladder inside it that you climbed up to get to the hamburger section.  It was alway super hot inside. I think that playground had a super high all steel slide. All the slides would burn you because they were so hot. Every kid in Dallas had their birthday party there.

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I think we stayed at a hotel once that had one of these.

Just some memories.

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