Called a sliding pond in queens too.Also we had big kid swings, they had slippery stainless steel seats and no chains,just long bars with loops on them,hooked together,and these where really long swings ,very high. They were on cement,and remember kids slipping off them all the time. And kids walking past and getting clobbered when a swing came down on them. Monkey bars on cement too!Thank god city parks had first aid then.Cement pools with sprinklers in them,the pool never filled up,you ran into each other,everyone closed there eyes running into the strong water spraying.When the water wasnt on it was a dodgeball area,more first aid!!!!We all made it through these cement parks.
OK, well, I’ll stand up for West Oak Lane and for girls, ’cause we played chink (OMG–I shudder at that name now!), wallball, pimpleball (broomstick and whole ball), halfball, and, oh Lord, who could forget Buck, Buck–a totally terrifying game if you were a girl. Also dodgeball, baby in the air, kickball. If anybody still plays any of these or other “playground” games as an adult, anywhere in the U.S., please let me know ’cause I’m writing an article on the subject (deadline: Dec. 31, 2008) We played in the streets of West Oak Lane(Tulpehocken, Rodney, Thouron, Wynsam), at the corner store, in the rowhouse driveways, in the schoolyard (Pennypacker) and at Simons Playground (where we also ice skated). The owner of the Flyers (Ed Snider) just saved Simons and 2 other rinks that were gonna close due to budget cuts. The smell of a pimpleball is like the smell of bright yellow mustard and a fresh pretzel–you can never get it out of your soul!
Had an interesting conversation at lunch the other day about whether or not playgrounds were sexist… Some folks said that while the boys will be all over the playspace, the girls often times huddle under a slide or off to the side and talk, or use their imagination to play different sorts of games on the playground, not necessarily climbing and sliding on the equipment. Does this mean most playgrounds are not girl-friendly? Is there such a thing? I see some truth in this, but also remember that some of the best at play, dodgeball, swings etc. at my elementary school were the ladies. Would love to hear what you think –
A HOLE IN THE FENCE The Bronx in the late 50’s and early 60’s had much to offer a pre-teen boy with energy to burn. Aside from endless miles of sidewalks to ride one’s bike on at the risk of being yelled at by old ladies sitting out, there were acres of asphalt paved and bordered and subdivided by chain link fence. We called it “the park,” but there weren’t any trees, there was no grass. The playground attached to Public School 121 was my place, my world. Just three short blocks from our brick twin house on Tenbroeck Avenue was a world where structure met exploration. As the school buildings themselves were locked after class time, public school playgrounds also had scheduled operating hours. Each was staffed with someone we called “Parkie” whose job it was to dole out sports equipment and supervise the bathrooms. Parkie babysat the neighborhood and cleaned up the occasional but rare mess or spill. He was the local law with a set of keys as his only weapon. He was after school daycare while mom was home cooking dinner. The sign on the front entry gate in the fence was a classic: It read “NO Skating, NO Running, NO Jumping, NO Bike Riding, NO Ball Playing. This is YOUR playground, enjoy it!” Perhaps the wording isn’t exact, but it’s pretty darn close. It seemed to strangers that our playground was officially off limits to all fun. But unofficially it was the center of our social world. We had a blast! Interior chain link fencing subdivided the whole place. Basketball courts and a towering concrete handball wall each had their own “room.” Just inside the main gate was the playground itself. Here was the bathroom building with a place for Parkie to sit out of the sun and a room for the spongy red dodge balls and checkerboards that he gave out. Word would quickly spread through the neighborhood for blocks in every direction whenever Parkie would turn on the sprinkler fountain head that stood dry for most of its life in the center of a sea of blacktop. Such simple wet fun on a hot city day! A wading-pool sized depression ringed with cast iron fencing held a ton or two of sand to scoop and plow and dig. To the left was a bank of wooden see-saws next to an impossibly high–at least to a nine year old–ladder and slide. The “baby swings” were set off with a low chain link fence just beyond the stacked open cubes of the one-inch pipe monkey bars. Then up a cement ramp into the next room were the real swings. Thick chains that could have come from the docks held up a fat, wooden slab form-fitted with stiff and tough aluminum. Those swings demanded a room of their own and they begged to be abused: stood upon, twisted and released, straddled and hit from side to side to side. And no where to be seen was anything rubber, soft, or shock absorbent. No colors at all other than the silver and gray of metal and concrete and the occasional blood-red of skinned knees. By today’s standards our playground could have been the most dangerous place for children ever built. Dozens of kids with not a cartoon character ride or blanket of soft mulch in sight spent hours each day happily running around. The only supervision–a lone male who had the keys to the bathrooms. And yet somehow both the playground and the kids survived the mutual abuse. Until one day someone cut a hole in the fence. A four foot rip in the chain link through which anyone could enter after hours. Parkie’s locked gate was now useless. Repeated attempts at repair resulted in repeated breaches cut yet again. And eventually the City of New York gave in. One night a crew came and squared up the hole in the fence making it a permanent shortcut entrance to the basketball courts. The main gate that stood locked after dark was now locked in the open position. After a time, broken beer bottle glass was found in the sandbox and it was emptied down to its cement floor. The benches that lined the play area where the occasional young mother sat watching her children run and play had their wooden slats carved deep with endless graffiti and were eventually dismantled. The hard aluminum swings were replaced by rubber slings that could neither be stood upon nor comfortably sat upon. Parkie’s job was lost in a budget cut. The sign posted whose listed rules we loosely obeyed was obliterated with paint from a spray can. That fence had kept the social order of the day. Its detailed, posted rules were the unseen boundries that we all lived by and sometimes tested. It kept the structure that young people need as they explore their limits. But now, the happy and trusting world we knew was gone. There was a hole in the fence. read my stories: www.johnzinzi.com
I went there for 2 or 3 summers in the mid 60’s. I do remember the Green Coke Bottles, I believe for a dime. I remember taking fencing class there, and playing dodgeball. The younger kids were in Indian tribes, I was in Iriquois and in Comanche, and then my last year I was in a Cowboy Group, Dodge City if I remember,but not sure of that. Fun time.
I remember fondly playing dodgeball in the front yard. We’d divide the front yard in half with a long handle of a rake or push broom. Divide into 2 teams. We’d get 2 nerf balls (you gotta love nerf balls), and give 1 to each team. Teams were like 3 per side, so we did the 3 hit rule. You had 3 hits before you were out. Out was the front steps where you waited to get back in. If someone on your team caught the ball you’d go back in. The winner was the first to force all the other players out on the other team. That’s how we played it in Rochester, NY.
Hello to ALL- God This is a great website! I can remember playing Skelly in my great childhood days in the Bayview Projects in Brooklyn. Rainbow Clay from StarValue, pennies in the middle of Sunnydale milk caps, “kicksies” and those cheap little Ballantine Ale caps with the wax melted in. These are all fond memories of a game I will teach my kids to play, as well as other greats like Ring-a-Leevio, Building Tag, Poison Ball and Off the Wall…
I grew up in South Philly, in the 70s/early 80s … I STILL HAVE A PIMPLE BALL !!! I kept it knowing that one day, people all over would be looking for one — wish we could still buy em. I remember learning ‘Chink’ on the corners. We simply called it ‘Chink’ and it was the most simple, fun, yet competitive games ANYWHERE !! We played it on the corner, and we played to 11, or 21 if you played doubles and allowed ‘slams’ – meaning the ball could go PAST the curb and into the street, provided there wasn’t a parked car in front of that curb. My memories from the neighborhood also included: – Halfball (of course) – Handball – Running the Bases – ‘Atlantic City’ — which was a variation of Chink AND Running the Bases – very fun game – Jailbreak (surprised I haven’t seen this mentioned elsewhere – you had teams of people and you had to ‘free’ the person in ‘jail’ — which was someone’s front step – you would grab the railing, yell ‘jailbreak’ and all your teammates could leave jail. If you got caught by the other team, you were ‘dragged’ into jail. We usually had a member from each team ‘guarding’ the jail area!) – Wireball – Stepball – Fastball (a variation of stickball/halfball where you pitched a tennis ball into a ‘strike box’ painted on a wall and played with out and runs rules similar to halfball) – Wall/Suicide (simply throwing the ball against the wall, and having someone catch it – if you missed it you had to run to the wall and touch it and yell ‘Wall/Suicide’ before someone picked up your missed ball and BEANED it at your ass! – Dodge ball (played with the big red ball!) – Street football (we actually had an entire street block spray painted with yard line markers, logos, out of bounds markers, end zones, etc!) I’m sure there were plenty of others but this is all I can think of right now !!!