Children’s Playgrounds of Michigan, 1900-1950
Playgrounds – like the old grey mare - sure ain't what they used to be. When I went to elementary school, the playground was actually FUN.
We, like all others in smalltown Michigan, had swingsets. We would get on these and try to swing as high as we could. We even had thoughts of swinging so high, we'd go completely over the top and back around. I don't know any kid who succeeded at doing this, as most of us chickened out when we got higher. But yeah, kids still got hurt...the ones who weren't watching where they were walking, stepped out in front of a kid on a swing and BAM! That kid was knocked to the ground.
Of course, there was a slide. If you wore shoes, it was difficult to slide down, as the soles kept gripping the metal. Best thing to do was to take your shoes off before going down a slide. Some of the old slides were made from two or three metal parts. Sometimes we'd cut our backs or legs open if these metal sheets weren't properly fitted together. Now, most slides are made from one hunk of plastic or some other material. Once you finished your slide, if you weren't quick enough in moving away, the next kid would smash into you as he/she came down. No warnings would be made.
Next up, the merry-go-round. Many schools have banned these, for many kids were injured on 'em. A group of kids would get on this round metal object and hold on, while one or more other kids would push it around in circles. Sometimes these 'pushers' would trip and fall, catching their leg underneath. Other kids who were riding wouldn't hang on very well and inertia would make them go flying off in all directions. Needless to say, most of these are gone.
Same with the jungle gyms (or 'jims'). This sculpture made of metal bars were tons o'fun for kids who climbed through, in, out, around, down, and up to the tippy top. Too many kids ended up falling through the bars, hitting their skulls on the way down, and breaking some part of their little bodies. Yep – most of these are gone, too.
Monkey bars were fun once you got the hang of 'em...going from rung to rung until you reached the other side.
Teeter-totters...seesaws...were a gas. And some of these are gone. Too many kids fell off when heavier kids on the other end would jump off, causing the seesaw to come crashing to the ground, and its rider with it. Many mommies complained until seesaws were taken away.
In the back field of our school there was a cool hill. Every winter, the maintenance guys would go out and squirt water up and down the hill, making a great ice slide for us kids. I loved that more than the playground rides. We'd slide down that hill on our feet, stomachs, butts...all the way down and even further if you had enough momentum. LOVED that. That was eliminated after too many kids fell and cracked their skulls on the ice.
Do kids have fun on playgrounds these days? I mean aside from just standing around looking at their phones?
Below is a gallery of Michigan playgrounds – school, beach, and park playgrounds that Michiganders have enjoyed for well over 100 years. I just hope somewhere they still do.