Simple Sunday Playground Pleasures

by Barbara L. Rothschild


One of my fondest of Newark memories is experiencing the playground at Weequahic Park. No expensive theme parks then, just the unleashed glory and thrill of a day spent at the childrens' playground in the park.

As far as I can recall today, it was one of those very long ago special times, when many children, such as myself, hoped to experience on a warm and sunny afternoon. For me, it was the Sunday trips, especially those in the Springtime, when my parents would take me for a day in the park, to relax and enjoy the beauty of the surroundings: the lake, the wondrous and beauteous gardens, showing off the full peak bloom of their flora and fauna, in the warm months of May and June, into the later months of summer. The delightful fragrance of numerous flowers and plants, wafted and permeated the air, lasting through all the hot summer months, even until the late Autumn season. The gardens were amazing, some of which were hanging vines strung on trellises, varieties of flowers of every imaginable hue and shade of the prism spectrum. All this natural beauty offered visual and fragrant delights to any visitor fortunate enough to experience them. Many times today, I wish I had some photographic memories to recall the full effect of that seeming vision of Paradise, that the gardens had to offer its visiting public. I recall there were a few concrete benches spaced there along the paths throughout the gardens, where one might sit awhile and perhaps reflect in awe at the wonder of nature and all the surrounding beauty found within the gardens. Included in my memories, are also the many varieties of hummingbirds and butterflies one could find there, all going about the business of their daily lives, enjoying the plant nectars, pollinating the flowers, while the many (!) unavoidable bees flitted from flower to flower, seeking the ingredients to manufacture their honey at a later time. In recent years, I recall seeing some "penny" postcards in antique collections, from the 1930's and early 1940's, which showcased and extolled the full beauty of the gardens. It was truly a horticulturist's delight! As my memory recalls today, some sixty years later, the gardens were the immediate attraction, before arriving at the childrens' playground...and that is where I found my special childhood joy....and where memories thereof still linger and abound, even until these present times....shall we go there now?

It was at the playground, that my two and three year old childhood, found its own Paradise. As I scan the fond memories of those long past days, my mind's eye envisions the many enjoyments I discovered there. Perhaps you were there, too. Let me now take you down "Memory Lane", while I reminisce a bit of those happy and carefree childhood times:

I recall the sandy, dusty soil, as your feet scraped the earth, as you sat on the swings, "slowing down", pulling yourself to a stop, after you "reached for the sky"... an effort to go higher and higher,...the wind rushing past your face, and thrilling your soul. The swings were the first playground equipment encountered, once arrived at the playground area. It was the first place to run to, after arriving at the playground, and it was truly exciting to get there as fast as you could run!

The swings were divided into two sections; one, for babies, which consisted of a wooden chair swing, with an up/down "safety bar", which was set in place, securing the baby into the seat. Directly across from the baby swings, were the wooden seated, chain held swings of the older children, and for those "older kids", who had more "bravado."

After an enjoyable romp on the swings, one headed for the "merry-go-round", which in fact, was not a carousel. It was a circular wooden pivotal piece of equipment, where children sat in a round on it, holding on to a metal rail surrounding the structure, the children
happily spinning and whirling round and round, through the manual pushing efforts of "parent power."

And the wooden seesaws were an extra delight to enjoy,'s parents forming the "leverage" to cause the rise and fall of the seesaw. There was always a cautionary notice from parents to "look out" to avoid danger walking under the seesaw, while a child was in progress of enjoying the equipment. For most children, it was thrilling to eagerly run from one piece of equipment to the next , to anticipate the next adventure that the playground would provide.

Directly across from the "carousel", stood the long, high slide, at the back of which children formed a line to climb the steps to the top of the slide. Each child hoped to be "first" to go down the slide, with sometimes a bit of pushing and jostling, which an attentive parent immediately called to a halt. I recall my late father standing at the front of the slide, ready to "catch" me, before a possible fall/injury from the slide occurred. I can yet recall the glee I experienced going down this playground equipment, my favorite amusement there,... that is, except for a slide down in the heat of summer's effects on that hot metal slide, and my tender baby's backside!

Moving to the far left of the slide and the "carousel", was the sandbox, which was housed and enclosed under a marble-type, dome-like building structure, with arches and columns enclosing the sandbox play area. I still can recall the welcome coolness of the shade within the sandbox structure, especially on a very hot summer day. My bare feet ( my shoes and socks removed, of course), sifted through the play sand, while I played with other children, savoring the cool surroundings. It's funny, how back in those days, one never worried about the bacteria present on all those pieces of equipment...there were no "sanitary wipes" back in those times, just a whole lot of fun to be had! Today, as health conscious as many of us are, one can only wonder just how many colds and illnesses were passed along from child to child, back in those good old days!

With the arrival of Autumn and the colder weather, visits to the playground became less frequent. In the winter months, it was sad to see the playground so forlorn and bereft of the rollicking joy and laughter of the many children who came to play there, but there was always another springtime to look forward to. Such were the simple pleasures of youthful delight, looking forward to another day spent at Weequahic Park, having loads of fun at the playground! Hopefully, you can recall being there too, enjoying all those happy times!!


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