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Ahhh, the Good Old Days: Dodgeball, Monkey Bars, and Other Long-lost Schoolyard Games

Last week, when I picked up my little kids from school, I started asking them questions about their day as usual. Clay complained that school is lame.

“Why is it lame?” I asked.

“Because we don’t do anything fun,” Clay answered in annoyance.  “We just have to do work and learn stuff.”

“Oh the horror!” I exclaimed in mock terror. “You have to (gasp) learn things?! In school?! I’ve never heard of such abuse!”

Unperturbed, Clay went on. “Whenever it’s raining, we have to stay inside and play dodgeball.”

“Ugh, I always hated dodgeball,” I admitted. “Nothing like getting a basketball thrown at your head. Ouch!”

“Basketball? We have to use these soft, squishy Nerf balls.”

“Seriously? You use Nerf balls? Ha ha, when I was a kid, we used those red playground balls the size of basketballs, like the kind you use for four square,” I informed my kids. “I bet you guys have never played Butt’s Up either,” I asked, even though I knew the answer.

“What’s Butt’s Up?” Clay asked, curiously.

“It’s a game where you get pelted with tennis balls while you stand against a brick wall. Good times, good times.” With the mention of Dodgeball and Butt’s Up, memories of other school games that are obsolete now came flooding back. Things are so different now. It’s all about safety, and no longer about fun and imagination. I remember being outside, running around the neighborhood with every other kid, all day long until the moms starting ringing the dinner bell and calling kids to come home. We rarely played store-bought games; instead we played at the park and around the neighborhood, making up our own games with nothing but our bikes, some sticks, and our imaginations. And it was GREAT!

So here’s a little walk down my gradeschool memory lane . . .

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  • Slide of Death 1 of 10
    Slide of Death
    Remember when all playgrounds had a Slide of Death? They were twice the height of the slides we have today and they were made of metal. More than once, I scorched the backs of my legs, leaving a layer of skin behind. But the second degree burns were so totally worth the thrill of the ride (even if I was always scared half to death I was going to fall off those metal steps!)
    photo: Dawn Meehan
  • Bamboo Poles 2 of 10
    Bamboo Poles
    Back when I was in gym class (before it was called P.E., it was known simply as "gym"), we played a game wherein two people tapped bamboo poles alternately on the floor and against each other. The kids would take turns jumping between the clicking poles. Our ankles were bloody, bruised stumps by the end of class. But we wore those bruises as a badge of honor even if we couldn't figure out the purpose of the game.
    photo: Anita
  • Hamster Wheel 3 of 10
    Hamster Wheel
    These things were the best! You'd run around the inside of the barrel like a hamster while getting splinters all over your hands. And heaven forbid you fall because you'd be trampled by your friends as they continued to turn the wheel!
    photo: Claire Amelia
  • Clackers 4 of 10
    Clackers
    Remember these? I had a pair of pink and green clackers that I got in my Easter basket one year. I LOVED these things! Of course, my arm was perpetually blue and purple for an entire year. The poor kids today don't get to experience the joy of toys that can double as dangerous weapons and/or shatter in your face.
    photo: Pinterest user Frank Chang
  • Gym Class Rope Climb 5 of 10
    Gym Class Rope Climb
    I still have nightmares about this. I never could climb to the top of the rope in gym class, much to the chagrin of Miss Yingst, the gym teacher. What can I say? I have the upper body strength of a gerbil.
    photo: morguefile
  • The Merry-Go-Round 6 of 10
    The Merry-Go-Round
    A bunch of kids sat on the merry-go-round and hung on for dear life while one or more kids grabbed hold and ran around with it until there was enough centrifugal force to fling a child overboard and/or make someone puke. After getting the merry-go-round up to maximum speed, the runner would oftentimes try to jump on and Lord help him if he didn't make it because he would be dragged through the dirt, holes being ripped in his Toughskins because, for some reason, the kid never thought to let go of the moving ride. Ahhh, the good ole days!
    photo: morguefile
  • Dodgeball 7 of 10
    Dodgeball
    The aforementioned Dodgeball played with a basketball or those red playground balls. I sucked at this game because I throw like a girl and have the aim of a blind person on an acid trip. Maybe that's why I was always chosen last for teams.
    photo: morguefile
  • Springy Things 8 of 10
    Springy Things
    I don't know if these things have an official name. Little kids would sit on these and shake their bodies until they had intracranial bleeding in an attempt to get it to rock back and forth. Big kids, on the other hand, would simply lean forward and the animal would dip so far down, the kid would be eating a mouthful of gravel.
    photo: morguefile
  • Metal Monkey Bars 9 of 10
    Metal Monkey Bars
    All parks had these play structures and they were always positioned over concrete, asphalt, or gravel (none of those safe wood chips or soft, squishy stuff they use these days, no siree). On metal play structures like these is where kids learned all their awesome gymnastics skills (and broke more than one bone).
    photo; morguefile
  • Scooter 10 of 10
    Scooter
    Once upon a time, this is what a scooter looked like and it was a good day when the gym teacher pulled these babies out! So what if a student suffered a broken finger every time we used them? It was totally worth the thrill of flying 0.4 miles an hour across the gym floor, powered by nothing but our Keds.
    photo: Duck, Duck, Gray Duck

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