I remember, when I was a kid, playing on the playground at the McDonald’s on Whitlock Avenue in Marietta–before they replaced it with the “McNASA Shuttle”–when it was a haven of steel effigies molded after the principle characters in the Ronald McDonald universe. It was fantastic, and–in the summertime–hot enough to burn your skin.
I remember the “big slide” at Still Elementary School that took a solid 3 minutes to climb. The one that you could plainly see the entire roof of the school building from the top of. The one that launched you twelve feet off the end if you had a good tailwind (we used to compete for the best distance). I remember the parallel bars, the wooden climbing wall, and the old “spaceship” jungle gym that sat up on the hill.
I remember the playscape at McEachern church with its humongous cedar beams shaded beneath the oaks behind the fellowship hall. I remember the nooks and crannies beneath its towers that we would vehemently defend and the rickety cable bridge we would bounce on in efforts to knock each other down.
I remember the crow’s nest at Glover Park on the Marietta Square, and the oversized fireman’s pole that we used to burn our arms with from the friction of sliding down. I remember the model steam locomotive that we used to pretend to drive, chasing renegade locomotive thieves on and off the tracks–depending on the narrative of the day.
I remember the feeling of shock, betrayal, and horror when I had found that they were suddenly and unceremoniously removed in favor of “safer” equipment. Plastic equipment that generated enough static electricity to power a city block when you touched it. Brightly colored monstrosities that looked entirely alien and invited smaller children to clog their dirty, cramped tunnels and get in the way of real, rambunctious, childhood fun. Some of these playscapes were lost altogether, replaced with new buildings–a sign of “progress”, I suppose. The locomotive in Marietta was replaced thanks to public outcry, but the rest are lost to the annals of history.
In the spirit of honesty, though, the zip line on the newer Still Elementary playscapes was pretty cool, but I suppose even that is probably welded in place now.