Friday, March 16, 2007

The Call Of The Playground

I thought I'd do my part in aiding the playground picture-taking call to arms sounded over at Neato Coolville Unfortunately, it's way too late in the game to capture most of the good stuff. The playgrounds I remember from my childhood are still there, but hardly anything remains of the cool play-structures I used to crack my skull open on. Everything nowadays is low, wide plastic slides, rubber tire swings, and miniature rock-climbing walls... and the few bits and pieces that I remember have seen much better days...

The coolest thing around (and, at the same time, the most derelict) is a sad little UFO that sits in the Ruritan Community Park in my ancestral homeland of Mount Sidney, VA.

This park is relatively new, newer than the UFO itself, so this climbing toy must have been imported from somewhere else. It must also be the sentimental favorite of somebody in the upper levels of the Ruritan park-managing hierarchy 'cause it's the only remaining bit of rusted metal in a playground full of modern cedar climbing structures.

I admire this little fella's tenacity.

Purcell Park in Harrisonburg, Va was one of my favorite stomping grounds as a kid for three main reasons. First off, this park was the home of a real honest to goodness fighter jet! It set right at the entrance to the park and had one ladder at the front that took you up into the cockpit and one in the back that took you into the fuselage. So cool climbing around in that thing and shooting down enemy aircraft! Second cool thing about the place was a giant enclosed spiral slide that had to have been fifty feet tall if it was an inch! First two or three times I ever tried to go down that slide I froze at the top of the ladder and had to be carried down to the ground by accompanying adults. Awesome! Third cool thing about this park was some kind of crazy spinning merry-go-round slash seesaw thingie that spun in and out and around like an amusement park Scrambler, only mom-powered. And there was always somebody's mom present who was willing to spin you 'til bits of foam formed in the corners of your mouth! When it was time to go home you had to pry me off of that spinny thing kicking and screaming (and foaming.)

None of that stuff is there anymore. Purcell Park is a shadow of its former self. Purcell Park may not even be the park's name anymore. All the street signs pointing the way there disappeared a couple years ago and the only signs in the park itself refer to the place as "Park."

These seesaw horses were there when I was a kid, although I don't remember ever riding on them... far to tame compared to fighter jets and crazy spinny things!

The bouncy animals are an old school feature of the park as well. They were always good for at least one quick go round if for nothing else than to see if you could get them bouncing hard enough to hit the ground. Spine-jarring good fun!

And that's it for cool old local playground color. Kind of a sad showing, all told. There are still a few possible park locations outside of my regular roaming area that I'm planning to check out when time allows...

By the way, the UFO pictures were taken yesterday when it was in the 70's and I was relaxing in shorts and a tee. The Purcell Park pics were taken today when I was bundled up in my warmest winter coat, all hunched over to keep the chunks of ice that were falling from the sky from going down the back of my shirt... oh what a difference a day makes!


Todd Franklin said...

Wow, this is a great post! That U.F.O. is very cool and so glad it's now forever preserved in a photo!

Steven Altis said...

I'm glad you spurred me into going out and taking these pics... I only wish that I had done it years ago when there was so much more cool stuff still out there!