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Swing Time: 1955

Swing Time: 1955

February 9, 1955. "PS 122 playground, Kingsbridge Road and Bailey Avenue, the Bronx, New York. Brown & Blauwelt, engineers." Subcontractors: Cheerless & Grimm. Large-format negative by Gottscho-Schleisner. View full size.


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Those monkeybars or Jungle Gyms could really be dangerous. I was stationed in the Navy with a guy that was only in his late teens or early 20's and he had a full set of dentures. I asked him what in the world happened to his teeth. He said that, when he was younger, he had been playing on the monkey bars and was hanging upside down. His legs slipped and he fell down through the middle of the bars. The last thing he remembered was smashing his mouth on one of the bars and hearing a loud "Chung". When he woke up he was in the hospital with all of his front teeth, upper and lower, smashed and broken off. I still cringe just thinking about it.

Play ...ground

My grade school had similar equipment, thankfully we had grass underneath us.

Re: The Swingset

LilyPondLane's link does indeed take you to the swingset in a Google map image from September 2007. But as soon as you navigate right or left, you're taken to June 2011, and the swing set -- magically, sadly -- disapppears.


In my lifetime we have become so litigious. Playground bruises, scrapes, cuts, chipped teeth, black eyes, etc. were part of a kid's life.

My childhood stomping ground was the Mount Penn (next to Reading) PA playground. Except for the ballfield and some elderly trees it was paved with asphalt.

The 3D grid structure to the left was called the jungle gym. The term was also and later applied to various climbing structures and even swingsets.

The monkey bars were a horizontal ladder structure 6-8 feet above the asphalt and accessed by a couple of vertical rungs and an upward stretch at each end. Besides traversing the length, it was fun to hang one-handed or by the upside down by the crooks of your legs.

Our swings, maybe (beat me daddy!) six to the bar, I recall as having chain and later rubber or plastic seats. You could have a buddy twist you around for a spinning, dizzying descent.

The sliding board was kind of tame but the more thrilling one was at nearby Pendora Park which was twice as long with a double dip and a use-pitted dirt landing. We also made bicycle pilgrimages to the Jacksonwald elementary school which featured a tubular steel fire escape from the second floor. A hazard on all of these was involuntary (from fright) or intentional (from spite?) urine puddles at the bottom lip of the slide.

The merry-go-round was a heavy lumber and strap steel affair that developed a fearsome momentum when shoved by two or three kids. You were safe on the inside of the steel perimeter bars but would hang on for dear life on the outside.

There were a couple of box hockey "arenas". You could play slow (like miniature golf) or fast (kid to kid), which featured stick-ball-stick slams or "frenches" i.e. back and forth sliding moves at each hole. You could also sail the ball over the center divider. I think we called one game "Cincinnati" for some obscure reason.

We also had a circular exposed aggregate concrete wading pool with a raised center around the water fountain.

Seesaws were very heavy duty. You had to avoid getting your ankles embossed by the bolts under the seats and also malevolent "friends" who might jump off and let you free fall.

A basketball court and a pavilion rounded out the scene. Craft sessions were held in the latter and I once made a wallet there for my girlfriend. She visited Mount Penn for two summers and hailed from Orange NJ.

Ahhh, sweet youth!!!

Vernacular design?

I heard of some city that didn't want someone to tear down a chain link fence because that was "vernacular architecture".

Play At Your Own Risk!

I grew up in Queens County, another borough of NYC. I played in a playground similar to this one, and remember them quite fondly.

However, you played at your own risk: playgrounds back in 1955, when I was seven years old were not designed to protect against spills and falls. There was no padding: the ground was concrete or ashphalt. If you fell off the monkey bars, you got hurt. If you came down the slide too fast, you skinned your butt.

The mother placing the child on the swing reminded me that the seats for young children were L-shaped, with a metal bar that slid up the chains to seat the child, then slid down in front to hold the child in place.

That was it! No soft ground padding anywhere....

My school had a playground like that, too.

I went to PS 46 on Staten Island 1961-64. It had a playground that looked like the one at PS 122. Lots of swings and slides, and they all looked very well built.

We were never allowed to play on them. The gates were always locked.

The Swingset

The swingset appears to have survived.
If you turn the image clockwise, you will see the view of the apartment buildings that is in the photo.

Ah yes! The Bronx.

Now we're getting into my neck of the woods. Didn't quite expect to see this! It certainly looks grim. I just can't believe I survived this style of playground growing up. Those are NY Housing Authority apartments now. School trailers sit where this park was.

Just to the north of this view sits Van Cortlandt Park, 1100+ acres of parkland which contains (possibly) the oldest house in the Borough, Van Cortlandt House, built in 1748.

The Albany Post Road (aka Broadway aka The Great White Way), begins its trip at the tip of Manhattan and heads north; crosses that unnatural bend in the Harlem River, continues through Marble Hill, alongside Van Cortlandt Park and on through Riverdale (my town), eventually crossing into Westchester at the Yonkers line and losing its famous designation. It becomes just plain Route 9.

I happened to grow up on a still existing portion of the Albany Post Road, just down from the other "oldest" house in the borough, Hadley House, which possibly predates Van Cortlandt House. So, while it looks grim here, it gets lovely, green and very historic quite soon.


It looks okay to me. Bright colors were a conceit of the late 50s. We played fine with boxes, wrecked cars and asphalt.


At some point this school was renumbered P.S. 310. The P.S. 122 designation is now used for a school in Queens.

Most NYC elementary schools have a name as well as a P.S. number. P.S. 310 is known as the Marble Hill School as it serves the Marble Hill neighborhood, though it is located just outside the neighborhood. Marble Hill is a geographic anomaly as it is legally part of Manhattan yet located on the Bronx mainland, the result of a 19th Century rechannelling of the Harlem River.

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