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Vintage playground

There used to be one exactly like this in City Park, in the 50s, says my friend Norm. He would know–he grew up right across the street.

Playground at Ayers' Bridge, Wyoming

Playground at Ayers

Today, you have to look hard to find retro playground equipment.  I’ve already seen City Park replace its heavy plastic sets 3 times in the past 12 years.

But before the plastics, before 1970s wood ladders and swinging rope bridges, before the heavy iron monkey bars of my childhood–kids played on frail metal with splintery wood. Like this merry-go-round/roundabout at a remote park 20 miles outside of Douglas, Wyoming.

That’s a couple hundred miles from here, but I know where there are some closer: Poudre Park Community Center still has one (and I hear the church there is about to get another). A few years ago I saw one decaying in the back of what’s left of the Buckeye Community Center, too.

You could go ride these, I suppose. But please, not without first reviewing with your child these 51 safety warnings for an accident-free outdoor romp.

12 comments to Vintage playground

  • Kip W

    I used to play at City Park a lot, and remember the old playground equipment there in the 60s. What’s a little odder is that I suspect the City Park we know might be the second location of the park, because in the green fields between the little train tracks and the golf course, there were some pieces of mostly decayed equipment — swing sets with maybe one whole swing and a swingless chain or two, a teeter totter fulcrum with nothing hanging on it, and possibly even a base for a merry-go-round (which I don’t remember offhand). These things had a strange, nostalgic feel to them and turned up in some of my dreams. I remember another playground in similar disrepair somewhere out in the general area of the grasslands, though I sometimes have tried to mentally place it out by the old Harmony School.

    Anyway, my sister Martha told me about this site, and as a hugely nostalgic old Fort Collins kid, I’m glad to see it. I’ll be digging my way back through your archives — thanks!

  • nisperos

    Well besides calling them turnabouts when I was a kid, they were also called suicide platforms because the larger kids would make you help run around with it to get it started and you had to try to jump on before those who were taller jumped on or the darn thing would be going too fast and you’d get dragged or fall when you tried to jump on.

    The long gone turnabout at City Park (were there more than one or was the original ever replaced?) was purchased from the Fred Medart Manufacturing Company in St. Louis, MO as a model 571 revolving platform on May 4, 1925 for a purchase price of $156.50 (from our local history archives at the FC museum).

    They make safer revolving platforms these days from plastic and other materials. Now, wouldn’t it be sweet if the CSU engineering department could rig up a turnabout with the power to draw water from a well? A great place for such a creation might be on the grounds of the new Fort Collins Museum/Discovery Science Center when we get it built near the Poudre.

  • I also remember a good merry-go-round (that’s what we called them in my circle) in the park by the lake in Loveland — which has its own Statue of Liberty as well. This one is probably past tense by now, so I’ll say it had a crank you turn so you can get going faster and faster while you’re on it.

    I remember City Park having the kind with tread-metal base and curved pipes you held onto. In fact, Fantasy Farm in Newport News still has two sizes of that sort, and I used to spin Sarah on them. I also learned that if I lie down on it while it’s going around, I’ll need to walk around for a long time before I stop feeling queasy. What a wimp I’ve turned into.

    60s City Park: Tall slide, short slide (both metal), three or four complete swing sets, some with baby swings like boxes with a wooden bar for a seat belt, possibly two merry-go-rounds, a line of teeter totters, a drinking fountain that was sometimes working, and the cannon. Plus the shelters with the picnic tables that I jumped around on, saying “Eeyurmp! Eeyurmp!” over and over, followed by several more boys my age.

  • John T

    Big slide brings back a lot of memories – especially on a hot summer day if I remember right it was 23 steps up and hot metal all the waY down – then when I was in high school we used to go over there after dancing at club Tico and get the turnabout going as fast as we could or swinging on the swings that were the farthest to the south because they went much higher I think the best thing about City Park though has to be the tradition of 4th of July – – I still brag to freinds about the best fireworks were there every year!

  • 60’s era City Park also had 1 (if not 2) Jungle Gyms for the climbing set.

  • captainbevo

    My memories of the city park revolve around the pool that high dive was about 2 miles high. I remember climbing that ladder and eating lunch along the way it was so high. When I got to edge and looked down I turned around and went down that ladder. They had wooden piers seperating the dive area from the swimming area and if you werent careful you would rip your suit by getting caught on a nail.

    One day my brother and I were at the pool and were on our way home and he said-Why dont we go through the lake it will save us time there is an old sidewalk that goes through it and we can do this. So because I was ever trusting of this great idea we began. About 20 feet in trying to push our bikes I lost a flip flop and dropped my bike-some how we managed to make it across but my flip flop didnt-we got home and mom wanted to know where my other shoe was and so we went back to the lake to try to retrive the shoe. I dont recall if we got the flip flop back or not but I did learn an important lesson short cuts arent always as short as they seem and my brother aint no daniel boone

  • One year we let a friend talk us into going to the Longmont fireworks display. We were trudging up a hill after walking forever, and I remarked that they were probably just about starting the 1812 Overture with cannons and fireworks in Fort Collins. The friend said “They’re doing THAT? Why are we here?” It was, indeed, a good question. I did enjoy the choral “OOH! AHH!” section, though.

    Club Tico. My sisters were old enough to go to that. By the time I was, it was gone. I still remember the ground-floor windows looking onto the wading pool, wondering what was behind them. There was a sign for Eskimo Pies.

    I also remember a golden day at City Park when Mom dropped me off with my little bike (we lived six miles out of town) and I ran into a friend and we rode around. The lake was just low enough that 90% of the path between the old swimming area and the rest of the lake was visible, and we rode along that, splashing mightily in the submerged part. It was heaven — a day I’ll always remember. I mentioned it to the friend a few years ago, and he had no recall of it soever.

  • I spent a lot of days hanging around there because Mom was a leader of girl scouts and brownies, so she was either preparing stuff in the Girl Scout House or leading events at Brownie Day Camp, leaving me to explore (see my first post — which was my first comment here — above). Many times I watched the train go around the little track. It cost 25 cents, so I never rode it until a visit to town in 2004 with my daughter.

    I also used to roam the golf course looking for stray balls. Never found a single one. I’m surprised I didn’t wander as far as the cemetery, but I didn’t get into that until high school.

  • (To unite a couple of threads, the Girl Scout House used to be part of a complex of tourist cabins. I think Mom said they might have stayed in one of the cabins on a trip out west in the 30s or 40s. Possibly even the 20s. They lived in a suburb of Chicago and loved to take drives. This love of long drives was passed on to the rest of the family, but my daughter hates any car trip of more than 20 minutes.)

  • catfc

    So you both are telling me there’s a sidewalk running under some part of Sheldon Lake? Where? And where is the old swimming area?

  • Not a sidewalk, more of a dike. One side starts (if memory isn’t entirely rotten by now) from the side where the ‘big’ pool was — now the water park — somewhere nearish to the chlorination building. Then it goes over to the general region of the steps that go down to the water. It’s not entirely straight, but bows out a little. As far as I’m aware, this defines and encloses the part of the lake that used to be used for swimming before the pool was built. It had the aspect of a dirt dam when I rode over it.

    No idea if it’s there now. It’s probably been longer since I was on it than it had been since they stopped using the lake as a public pool when I was there. If that makes sense.

  • John T

    If I remember right and I have not been out to the park in years the northeast corner of the lake had the dirt dam it was about 3 feet wide at the top so walking a bike over it was ok on most days! When we were in Jr high the trees at the east end of the walkway made a great place to hide out because there was a lot of overgrowth and no paths through the area