Thursday, August 02, 2007


That was our parents' Play Station

said one cartoon character to another in Salt and Pepper, the Wall Street Journal cartoon. They were walking past a playground with monkey bars, swings and a metal slide. Maybe it should read grandparents, because I don't think I've seen them in the last 35 years.

It may be a cartoon, but it might also explain the rise in childhood obesity. It's a drawing of the playgrounds of the 1940s and 1950s, not the 70s and 80s. By the time my kids could climb on to a swing in the mid-1970s, playgrounds had profoundly changed from my school days. More plastic and rubber, special ground covers of shredded mulch or wood chips, brightly painted little animals on springs that rocked with very little effort. Slides looked more like mystery mazes. Also, when I was a child, almost no one had playground equipment in their own yard--a few might have had a tire tied to a rope or a tree house. Usually we had to ride a bike or walk to a playground--our little towns didn't have parks so they were on the school property.

Yesterday I walked past the playground where my children played in the 1970s. It's still in the same place, but I think this is the third or fourth generation of equipment since then. The little rocking animals have been replaced with rocking race cars. It was a hot day, but only one mother was there with her children.

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