The Playground

by Bill Newman

Every neighborhood had a school, every school had a playground and every playground had a special program for the summer months. The programs were designed to give school children an alternative to being unsupervised. For the most part the programs were a success.

For the boys there were softball and handball leagues. For the girls there were volleyball and kick ball leagues. There was a male and a female playground director to oversee these activities.

Paddleball, carom and two-on-two basketball were some of the other activities. Children from five to ten years of age would come dressed in bathing suits. For them there were outdoor showers and sand boxes for them to play in. Under a certain age a parents presence was required.

Friday night at dusk the big event of the week started amateur hour. The amateur hour at the playground was very similar to the one held during the winter months at the neighborhood movie. Talent played no part in who won or lost. Winners were determined by who got the most applause in the opinion of a playground director, this turned amateur hour into a popularity contest.

The playground was closed on Sundays and this lead to my "arrest." One Sunday I, along with several others climbed over the playground fence to play a game of handball. Someone may have called the police or they may have just noticed us. In any event when they pulled up to the fence we all scattered. I was caught going out through a break in the fence.

The policemen put me in the back of the car and drove to the front of the house I lived in. They threatened me with all sorts of horrible things if I were again caught committing the horrible offense of breaking into the playground. I was the told to get out of the car.

How smart these policemen were. Before I got into the apartment both my mother and my father were aware of the fact that I was brought home in a police car. I caught more flak from them then the policemen could have handed out.

My friends wanted to know if I had "ratted on them." I told them that not only had I not "ratted" but that I was never asked who the others were. I was not believed. My friends thought I had spilled the beans and was afraid to tell them.

A few years had to pass for me to realize how easily the police accomplished their mission.

I guess about sixty years later, in other words today, this trivial incident would become, "Police Shootout At Local School Yard."


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