The playground, one of the joys of being a child. Monkey bars, teeter-totters, swings, and maybe even a sandbox; when I was young, these were the staples of the park playground. The playground was a place to socialize, have fun, and use “outside” voices. It was at the playground that we, as kids, also learned valuable lessons. Always let the kid bigger than you skip the line so he can go down the slide first. Never wear a dress while hanging upside down on the monkey bars. Don’t take your shoes off to go barefoot on hot asphalt – OUCH!
McGovern Park seemed so far from our house in Glendale but really it was just a short distance west on Silver Spring Drive. This park was my parent’s park of choice, that is when we went to the park. Being that my Dad didn’t like crowds, we didn’t go to the park often, but when we did, it was an event. In the green Coleman cooler, my Mom would pack sandwiches along with chips, and fruit cut into slices that turned brown from the summer heat. Kool-Aid was poured from a harvest gold insulated jug. After we ate, my brother and I had all afternoon to play on the playground.
Even though we didn’t often go to the park playground, my brother and I had our own playground, the backyard. In our backyard we had a metal playset. It was metal painted white with accents of red, blue, yellow, and rust from too many Wisconsin winters. In the center of the playset were two swings, one with a red plastic seat and one with a blue plastic seat. Both hung from rusted chain links. On the right side was a teeter-totter with yellow plastic seats and on the left side, a shiny silver metal slide.
It was on our playground that we spent many summer days. It was on our playground that we learned valuable lessons. Holding onto rusted chain links while on the swings will turn your hands orange. Sitting on a teeter-totter when one person (me) weighs much more than the other doesn’t make for a fun teeter-totter experience. Wearing a bathing suit while sliding down a shiny silver slide that has been in the direct path of the sun is very painful – OUCH!
Today’s park playgrounds are much different. The shiny silver metal slide has been replaced by an enclosed yellow plastic twisting slide. The rusted metal playset has given way to weather resistant wood, and the traditional chain links are now coated in yellow plastic. No doubt, the play structures of today with their red, yellow, and blue canopied forts, mini zip lines, and psuedo rock climbing walls only enhance the playground fun.
Driving throughout the North Shore you can see backyards taken up by smaller versions of the wooden park playset. Kids with these wooden playsets have a playground right in their backyards.
Our Glendale backyard isn’t big enough to accommodate a wooden playset. That is unless I want kids jumping from the fort trying to land on our deck or if I want to see kids attempting to jump up to use the power lines as a zip line. So for our daughter, it’s the park playground.
The North Shore is full of wonderful park playgrounds. Ellsworth Park in Bayside has a great new playground. Kletzsch Park in Glendale is a Milwaukee County park. It's a much larger park but it has a nice small playground. Both parks have picnic facilities and plenty of fun to keep the kids busy.
However, my daughter’s playground of choice is Klode Park in Whitefish Bay. This large picturesque park overlooking Lake Michigan combines the new and old. A big sandbox and a teeter-totter sit along side a massive wooden play structure complete with a plastic slide and mini zip line. Next to the sandbox stands a large metal frame which holds four swings that hang from traditional chain links. With plenty of picnic tables, immense open green space, and restrooms, it’s the perfect place for a family outing.
Whether it’s a Milwaukee County Park or a municipal park, enjoy your park of choice. Our North Shore community as well as Milwaukee County is filled with wonderful green spaces. Spend a nice warm summer day taking advantage of these parks and their playgrounds. Who knows, maybe you will even see someone pulling a sandwich from a green Coleman cooler or pouring Kool-Aid from a harvest insulated gold jug. It might just remind you of your childhood.I’ll see you at Klode Park. Not on the teeter-totter or going down the slide. I’ll be sitting next to my daughter on a swing. We will be holding onto those old traditional chain links as we race to see who can swing the highest. Together we will link the memories that she is creating with my playground memories of rusty orange hands.