When I started this series, I never once suspected the process would conjure up such nostalgia for me. However, as I delved deeper and deeper, I was both astonished and saddened to learn that what I remember a playground to be was rapidly being erased.
Over the years, nervous parents had worked themselves into such a frenzy to over-protect their children that they managed to strong-arm park officials into deeming the merry-go-rounds, see-saws and monkey bars of my youth ‘dangerous’.
Really? When did we become a nation of wimps?
I earned my stripes on similar play structures and what I remember most are the hours of fun spent climbing, swinging, spinning, jumping and sliding. So many life lessons learnt on boards of splintered wood and bars of cold steel, where what laid below was concrete, asphalt, gravel or hard-packed dirt.
No cushy layers of mulch, no shade roofs, no landing mats, no safety rails. Gee, how did I ever survive?
Thank goodness I had the kind of parents who took the time to teach me the ways of the world all the while allowing me the freedom to build the self-confidence that only comes from taking a little risk – even if meant getting a boo-boo.
Many of today’s children will never know why you avoid the metal slide in the heat of the afternoon. They won’t learn to react quickly when your see-saw partner decides to abruptly jump off. They won’t conquer their fear of climbing down after victoriously reaching the very top of the jungle gym. And, they will never experience the joy of spinning on the merry-go-round to the point of euphoric dizziness.
Yes, these are basic lessons for sure but they and more like them helped shaped generations of kids, myself included. I can’t help but wonder then, with all the over-regulation affecting today’s playgrounds, what will become of fun for future generations?
Welcome to my photographic tribute to the dinosaurs of the playground. By the time you read this, some of these structures will no longer exist as I caught them just in time before they vanished forever.
Tracy Milkay, 2010
Buy the book here
View photo collection here