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History's Most Thrilling (and Dangerous) Piece of Playground Equipment

The playground staple known as the giant stride rose in popularity with playgrounds themselves around the turn of the 20th century. It was simply a sturdy pole with a wheel on top, from which hung ropes or chains for children to grab and ride. It was called the giant stride because the centripetal force of the circle allowed a child to take giant strides in their steps.   

It was the most thrilling thing that had ever existed on a playground, before or since. In the words of Canadian history writer Anita May Draper, “those who’ve taken a spin on this ride agree it’s the most exciting one of all.” Denver Post columnist Jack Kisling once eulogized the apparatus as “mad fun.” When Iowa’s Quad-City Times canvassed its older readers for memories of the thing in 1991, they received a torrent of positive mail, with one woman even citing it as evidence that growing up during the Great Depression was “more fun.”

But it came at a ghastly cost: cracked skulls, shattered limbs, horrific lacerations and dead or permanently maimed children. In an age of radium toothpaste, lead-paint baby toys and decorating Christmas trees with asbestos, even this pleasure was deemed too dangerous for the world’s children. This is the forgotten story of the giant stride, the most notorious piece of playground equipment in history.

The effort to remove giant strides from playgrounds began in the 1920s, but the structures lingered on for decades here and there. Read about the hazardous giant stride at the National Post. -via Fark

(Image source: Library of Congress)

We had giant strides at our school. It was my favorite. Especially when the taller, older kids were there. I would be flying! The playground on that end of the school property was on a grassy knoll. I don't remember anyone getting seriously hurt from the giant strides. Though, I did crack my tailbone on the teeter-totter. The covered playground at the other end had monkey and climbing bars with concrete floor! There was also a swing outside of the covered play area that I bare a scar on my knee from. I spent my elementary and junior high years (1975-84) there. Elementary, junior high, and high schools were all in one building and we averaged about 14 to 17 students per year in our class.
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This thing may well have been dangerous, but it's nowhere near the most dangerous playground ride...
That I believe I encountered at a game convention at Maryland's Towson State University in 1984. Off a parking area surrounded by classrooms, there were a couple "old-school" monkeybars and rocking horses, as well as what we dubbed "The Banger". It looked like an old spring see-saw, but instead of being anchored on the ground, it swiveled 360º atop a steel post over 7 feet' tall. It was challenging just to climb up onto the thing, in the absence of any rungs or handles, and more difficult still to get it rotating on the post while seated on it, but being a group of idle young men in their late teens and early 20s, we rose to the challenge. It was great fun, and somehow none of us were injured.
Just why it was there at all was unclear. I don't recall any obvious signs of a day care center in the area. Towson was and is primarily a teachers' college, so it's possible they ran some sort of daycare facility for training purposes, but I can't imagine it meeting any safety criteria... of course, most little kids interested in playground rides wouldn't have been able to actually reach the thing to ride it or get hurt.
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