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THE TRAGIC DEATH OF THE COOLEST PLAYGROUND EVER

I'm in mourning.

A few years ago, I was at Golden Gate Park visiting the Mary B. Connolly Children's Playground with my kids, and came across this wonderful place. Here's an article I wrote it about it at the time.

THE MOST DANGEROUS COOLEST PLAYGROUND EVER MADE!
SAN FRANCISCO'S GOLDEN GATE PARK
FEATURES A RETRO STYLE PLAYGROUND
THAT SKIMPS ON SAFETY BUT HEAPS ON THE FUN!

Old playgrounds have been a passion of mine for quite sometimes.  With 2 kids of my own, I'm frustrated at the safe blue plastic, perfectly rounded barely elevated antiseptic diversions just sitting there in a sea of sterilized tanbark that pass for play structures these days.  Playgrounds used to be fun because there was an element of danger to them that added to the pleasure.  Once parents started suing because their kids were stupid, it took all the magic from these once adventuresome playgrounds.  I wrote about the "deadly" playgrounds of yesteryear some time ago, but was thrilled when visiting Golden Gate Park in San Francisco this week to find a playground that recalls a time when playgrounds were all about about fun.

The first thing that made my jaw drop was this wonderful twin concrete slide!  Yep, it's 60 feet of solid concrete.  Kids (and adults!) can grab a piece of torn cardboard then jet down to the bottom at a pretty decent speed.  Even my fat ass wasn't too big to enjoy this awesome slide.

And if old school slides are more your style, check out these babies, which are ready to scorch many a young ass with their 300 degree blazing hot surface!

One thing that sticks out about this playground is that there's nice clean sand everywhere.  Most playgrounds these days have nasty tanbark or cheap, splinter-inducing shreds of wood that really suck.  The sand complements this fun equipment nicely.  I'm not sure what its official name is but I've called it, "The Death Ramp of Terror!"  Watching kids just run up and vault themselves into oblivion is a thing of beauty.  Broken legs be damned!  Word has it, Evel Knievel got his star on a play structure just like this.

This log rolling thing is awesome, too!  Sure, a stronger kid is just going to send the weaker one spinning down, only to get smashed beneath the sand and an 800 pound hunk of wood, but that's all a part of growing up, isn't it?

Next we have the exciting "Modular Medal Space Pod Climby Thing".  I found a crazy homeless man inside of it that has been stuck there when he first climbed in as a kid back in 1972.  I lost track of my kids about 3 times when they were playing in this, but that may have also had something do with the fact that I was passed out drunk on the bench.

Look how wonderfully rusty and corroded this thing is, too!  Now the vending machine full of tetanus shot hypos at the park's exit makes sense!

Of course, no old school playground is complete without the requisite high speed Merry Go Round.  Who can forget those glorious days of youth spent hanging to an outside bar with one arm as your feet flailed in mid-air while your body spun in circles at 60 MPH?  Of course, the trick if you started getting sick was to move to center like these kids, so it would minimize the G-forces.  I'm not sure why that works, exactly, but it has something to do with science.

And finally, we have these great swings, straight from the set of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome!  You can fit about 8 people on these if they hang on the outside, and as you can see from the animated version on the side, you can swing them up pretty damn high! 

So if you're ever in San Francisco, check this "Children's Playground" in Golden Gate Park, right off Bowling Green Drive.  They also have a great carousel that was built in 1912 that only costs 50 cents to ride, and as luck would have it, the rest of the park is FREE!


So we went back there today, eagerly awaiting more retro playground goodness.

My kids ran in at a full sprint after we got to the parking lot.

But then they slowed down.

The entire place was...

fenced off...

Oh shit...this can't be good



NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

You can see the concrete slide to the right, too hard to destroy...I'm sure they'll find a way to fuck with it and make it unusable, too.

Adios, coolest playground in the world! There's not too many more like you.

I have a friend who works for the state and part of their job is improving playground safety. They mentioned that when new playgrounds go up, there hardly even putting SWINGS in anymore, because of the choking, falling, injury potential.

This next generation is going to be the biggest bunch of pussies in the world.

I'm going to find one of those old Merry Go Rounds on eBay and put in my backyard.

Someone has to keep the dream alive...

In the meantime, I suppose the optimist has to make me hope that the fine folks will put something extra fun and great in its place.  But you know it's gonna be some super smooth super safe impossible to skin you knee on Wuss-Factory that may reduce lawsuits, but will just increase the hole in our hearts.

-Robert Berry
rberry@retrocrush.com