Why you can't play on history's most thrilling piece of playground equipment

Originally published at: Why you can't play on history's most thrilling piece of playground equipment | Boing Boing


as a Gen-X child of the 70s, i don’t know why i remember these, since the article makes clear that they must’ve all been dismantled by the time i was around, but i swear i do. i don’t understand how these are really any more dangerous than slides, merry-go-rounds, or teeter-totters, and i really don’t understand how a kid could get hit in the head by an abandoned ring, if even the biggest people have to reach overhead to grab a ring. anyway, i want these to return to places of play. they look like a gas.


I was wondering the same thing. Were there still some remnants, or pieces thereof, perhaps with ropes removed? Are they like other things that were kept in playgrounds, like tether-ball poles?


I remember my older brother terrorizing me on a seesaw as well as the swings, the monkey bars were just mayhem, but this is a ride where at least you had some agency. I loved when they introduced the sand pit underneath… at least it would cushion the fall and soak up the blood… good times!


You’re not the only one. I’m on the cusp of boomer/gen-x, and I remember this contraption in the very late 60s or early 70s. I think that some communities were slower than others to remove it.

Note: my only injury was a hairline fracture in my wrist, which I got on that one bar that you spun around with one knee. (Or you can hang by both knees.)


The giant stride also came in a much more gruesome metallic version. Here, the ropes were replaced by chains anchored with heavy metal handles.

Yep, ours was like that. The best part was when you got all those chains going in one direction, then stopped it. All the chains would wrap around and the handles would crash back into the pole.

If you were the small kid, you had to be The Boy Who Hung On to avoid getting a scar.


I definitely remember playing on one of these in the mid- to late-70’s, although we called it a “witch’s hat”. I also definitely remember getting hurt by it on at least two occasions and I have a scar to prove it.


While it seems fairly straight forward in design I will be looking forward to accurate instructions on making our own backyard stride equipment on a blog dedicated to makers. A car or truck axel with the rim attached and the differential housing cut down might make a good start.


Sand pit? We played over asphalt. If you fell off the monkey bars and landed on your head, it would be game over! :grimacing:

All that metal equipment baking in the hot sun, burning our hands and legs as we played…good times indeed! Kids today don’t know what they’ve missed.


I recall in grade school, a tetherball pole in cement in a tire. 2nd or 3rd grade we showed up in the fall and the pole was broken in half, with a jagged torn end sticking up. It being the 70s, it was simply left there.

If tilted all the way over, the half-pole would lay down, but one time it wasn’t all the way down, and it came springing back and the torn metal end of the pole nailed me in the forehead. Earned myself a concussion! I’m sure to my mom it was just all in a day’s work but it’s funny because it’s hard to imagine that happening now without legal drama; at the time it wouldn’t have even crossed my parents’ mind to sue.


My childhood playground had one of these.

It lurched forward and up, then rocketed back again, sort of pausing in the middle to throw weak children onto the tarmac as it bucked back up.

Even more exciting was the boat version which you sat in, with hardwood seats and small metal handrails. If it got going fast enough smaller kids would rattle up and down inside it wishing for death or at least the big kids to stop.


I grew up in the early 70’s (born late 60’s) with these in every playground. As a piece of play equipment they were fantastic - everything I know about battering rams I learned in the playground.


Luxury! We had one of these unstoppable inertia death-wheels with thick steel tubing to bash our little skulls on, unless we were lucky enough to be thrown free on to the gravel and glass floor.


We had one of those weird chain maypole things too and a really high steel climbing frame that was like frozen scaffolding even in the summer.

If you don’t have gravel under the skin are you really Gen X? :grin:


Kids today, eh? You try telling 'em the local building site’s scaffolding was your playground! With an old lump of set concrete for a football, jumpers for goalposts…


We didn’t know how bad we had it!!

Wait… :grimacing:


I stick my head out’a the window while flying down the freeway, so I understand the attraction here.


Constructions sites were the bomb! Rather they were a source of dirt bombs (clods) that we used to throw at each other in our lovely games of war. (I grew up with Vietnam on the 6 o’clock news every night.)


In my hometown, there was a factory that employed many welders. The playground for our elementary school was a huge maze of interconnected jungle gyms designed and built by them. It was fantastic, but yes, there were many injuries because it was built to adult scale, not kid scale. The city park had one of these giant strides except that instead of a set of dangling handles, there was a large metal hoop suspended around the pole on chains. The tallest child among your group had to grab the hoop and run that part against the pole for the shorter children to grab, then everyone was lifted in the air as kids on the other sides of the hoop grabbed on. If you pulled down one side, the kids on the other side were lifted even higher, like hanging on the bottom edge of a suspended, rotating bell. Another local park had a central pole and a suspended tipi shape structure, braced to stay centered around the post (it wouldn’t swing, but it could rotate around the post like a pyramidal merry-go-round.) I remember falling off these things a lot!


I almost met my comeuppance on one of these when I was five. I got thrown, slammed head first into the ground. For the next few hours it was like I was in the sunken place. My parents bought me candy.