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BFtP — The Monkey Bars

Today’s, Blast From the Past, brought to you by: The Grownups Wanted Us Dead

The Monkey Bars

The same demented parent who designed the teeter-totter likely invented the monkey bars. I am certain his thought process was something like this: “What can I design that will make kids drop themselves onto the blacktop head-first?”

Our monkey bars were quite simple, think ladder: two parallel metal pipes with rungs came out of the ground vertically, after about seven feet they made a ninety-degree bend, stretched horizontally for six feet or so, then made another ninety-degree bend back to the ground. The rungs went half way up each vertical side and all the way across the horizontal side. The vertical rungs were there to help the kids climb up to the horizontal rungs, where they hung upside down until their legs grew completely numb – at which point they would fall off and crash head first onto the blacktop.

For the most part it was the girls who liked hanging from the monkey bars, while the boys preferred swinging Tarzan style. Now, most of the girls figured out from watching other kids fall that there was a limit to how long one should hang upside down. Most of the girls learned that we needed a friend on the ground to help us down if we did let our legs get too numb -– landing on another person is much less painful (for the faller) than landing on the pavement. Most of us also learned that if we were wearing a dress the monkey bars were not the place to play. Dee Dee was slow picking up that last lesson – which explained the presence of all those Tarzans.

I truly do not understand how Carman survived the monkey bars. She really wanted to hang upside down with the rest of us Jungle Janes, but she was afraid to venture into the middle of the monkey bars. She chose instead to stay safely at the very end of the bars, handing from the first rung on the horizontal span – with her head directly over the ladder. She didn’t need a spotter – after all she had five steel rungs to slow her fall to the blacktop.

Of course, fall she did.

Now, when I was a kid playground teachers did not yell, “Don’t touch her! Don’t touch her!” They yelled, “Well, pick her up and bring her here, you morons!” So we scraped Carmen from the blacktop. Her lip was split, her two shiny-white, brand new front teeth were gone and her nose was kind of smushed to one side. There was also a tad-bit of blood. It gushed from her nose, poured from her scalp, oozed from her hands and spurted from the spot where her right front tooth should have been. It was a wonderfully gruesome sight, we talked about it for weeks after – just about the amount of time it took for all of Carmen’s stitches to come out. The retainer holding her two front teeth remained a bit longer.

The monkey bars were not blamed for Carmen’s accident – Carmen was. “Maybe it’ll knock some sense into her,” an adult would respond when told Carman’s sad story. That summer we had a dozen or more sprains, eight times as many bruises, two broken legs, several broken arms and one dislocated shoulder. In every instance the kids were condemned, not the monkey bars.

You know, I kind of understand why we didn’t realize the grownups were trying to kill us. I mean — we were kids. Kids love and trust their parents far beyond what is rational or fair. What I don’t understand is why the parents didn’t figure out it wasn’t working. We were racking up hospital bills, but we stubbornly refused to die. However, that didn’t stop the grown ups from trying.

Dad: “Here’s a Band-Aid, kid. Shut up, paste it on and go outside and play.”

Mom: “Why don’t you have a nice ride on the merry-go-round, Cupcake? That’ll cheer you up.”


    1. Ah, Tony! I am so glad someone understands the spirit in which these were all written. I think I had the greatest childhood ever — which in a way is funny because there was some major bad stuff, too.

        1. Well, I am a bit too Pollyanna, I know, but those folks who like to dwell on the bad stuff, can contemplate my share if they want. I have other things to do.

  1. Another good story Quilly, how we survived childhood I don’t really know.

    Dad: “Here’s a Band-Aid, kid. Shut up, paste it on and go outside and play.”

    Mom: “Why don’t you have a nice ride on the merry-go-round, Cupcake? That’ll cheer you up.”

    Parent’s say the Darndest Things. 🙂

    Bill’s last blog post..The Sign Up

    1. Bill — my dad used to ask me, if he gave me a quarter, would I go play in traffic? I always answered. “Gee, Dad, I love you, too.” Of course, we never had that conversation until I was a teen and knew it was a joke. Uhm, I think it was a joke. Probably.

  2. Once gain, Quilly you have made me chuckle today. I never really thought about playgrounds in the way you have described them in your series. It really sheds a new light on my past. Hee hee!

    Church Lady’s last blog post..A Crab Feast

    1. CL — a commenter — the only commenter — on my original posting of this said, “I used to have bandages through all my childhood and blamed myself for being careless. Thank you for opening my eyes and helping me face the truth. It’s time I called my mam to ask for explanations.”

  3. I don’t remember as a kid this many problems with the monkey bars They just seemed like another item for us to play on during recess. So I guess I don’t think that our parents were trying to kill us at that age by being on the monkey bars…I guess it has to do with the altitude of where the monkey bars were placed 🙂

    Thom’s last blog post..Friday’s Fave Five – #41

  4. This has always been one of my favorite stories. Do Marlene ad the others ever see them? Reminds me so of home!!! XOXOXO Love you

    1. Caryl — if any of my old friends have ever seen them, they’ve never commented. However, remember the Jones kids who used to live across the street from Gram? I didn’t know them, they were older than I, but one of them found my blog and enjoyed it for awhile.

  5. Well DANG! They really were growin’ MORONS in your neck o’ the woods! On OUR monkey bars we strengthened our tummy muscles by pulling ourselves back UP to hang on to the BARS and let our legs down first before we fell. And the boys never wanted to hang because they always had on long pants – which did not GRIP well onto the bar – which would make THEM fall on their heads! But the girls – we smart ones anyway – wore shorts under our dresses so that we could hang with no problems! However… if your mother made you wear TIGHTS you did NOT play on the monkey bars!!! We all HATED tights!

    Melli’s last blog post..Feels Like An Old Friend…

    1. Melli — that was what MOST of us did on ours, too, but one season there was a rash of stupidity. As to tights — I think I was in 4th grade before I realized I didn’t HAVE to wear them!

  6. We had the exact same monkey bars…although the girls didn’t hang upside-down…we weren’t allowed to wear pants to our little private parochial school until the changed the rules when I was in junior high.
    So…how long in FH? I sure hope we can get together IRL!
    I left you a response to your comment over at my place.
    Have a great weekend!

    Shelly’s last blog post..Winter / Summer

  7. There was something very wrong with the kids in your school. We never had a kid in my school break anything. Of course, we didn’t have blacktop under the monkey bars we had plain old dirt. If somebody fell the only thing hurt was pride and that was not easy to repair.

    fandango’s last blog post..Flash 55

  8. These days they have that woody stuff under monkey bars, which seems to me like it would add splinters to the mix.

    I do remember those kinds of responses fro adults, designed to “toughen” us up. My dad’s favorite: “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” 🙄

    Barbara H.’s last blog post..Friday’s Fave Five

    1. The bark under the moneky bars is actually better than the rubber matting, which makes a great skin removal abrasive.

      My dad used that one, too. And my all time favorite, “Shut up and answer me!” Huh?

  9. You’re going AWAY??? For FIVE weeks??? And you haven’t TOLD us??? What’s up with THAT??? I’m going to misssssssssssssssss you… 5 weeks… 5 weeks??? What am I gonna do without Quilly for 5 weeks???

    Melli’s last blog post..Feels Like An Old Friend…

    1. Melli — I’ve been to Friday Harbor before and you were right there with me. They have internet you know. Relax.

  10. The monkey bars were better for me than the slide. Still afraid of heights I learned to climb to the top, I learned to slide down the pole[we had circular monkey bars}, and I played tag on them. We had dirt on the bottom. I did not break anything, and i broke a lot of limbs but not on the monkey bars.

    bettygram’s last blog post..Quilly Three Word Challenge#18

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