Category Archives: The Childhood Express

XXL Not Your Regular Design

Scattered very sparingly across the United States are a few exceptional pieces of playground equipment that dwarf both children and adults. The sheer size of these pieces makes them local landmarks and attractions for visitors with and without kids. Thanks to Rita at The Playground Encylopedia for drawing two of the giants to PlayGroundology’s attention.

The Red Wagon

I dreamed of having a red wagon when I was a kid, my own all terrain vehicle that I could load up with a couple of friends or miscellaneous freight. Then there was the thrill of bone rattling downhill rides. It wasn’t destined to be. I had a bike, a scooter and roller skates but no red wagon. Fortunately my friend Schultzie had one and let me play with it occasionally. As a result, there was no long term scarring linked to red wagon envy or deprivation.

In Spokane, Washington there is a humungous Radio Flyer wagon created by artist Ken Spiering. This sculpture attracts fun lovers like a magnet. John and Ben a couple of the lads from the James Blunt band gave it a Monkees’ like test ride.

The wagon, located in the city’s Riverfront Park, has been a source of merriment for kids and the occasional adult for over 20 years.

Source: Riverfront Park website

In a bit of a bizarre twist, the red wagon to beat all red wagons was vandalized in late 2011 with religious graffiti.

Source: Downtown Spokane click through for more photos. Photo credit – Mike Ellis

If you’re in Spokane, don’t forget to take a stroll along Riverfront Park. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Fire Chief’s Helmet

In Coeur d’Alene, Idaho there is another big red. This time it’s a fire chief’s helment that also doubles as a slide.

Photo courtesy – City of Coeur d’Alene

What fireman’s playscape would be complete without a sliding pole? The Cherry Hill Park 9/11 Memorial Playground has this and so much more.

Photo courtesy – Curtis Stoddard, Playground Professionals

Local landscape architect Fred Ogram designed the helmet, play area and memorial to 9/11. There’s more about the development of this community project in Spokane, Washington’s Spokesman Review.

Motu Viget

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, Mark Di Suvero’s Motu Viget is quite likely the largest tire swing in existence. The Latin term meaning strength in activity, is the Grand Rapids motto. Since 1977, activity at the swing has been pretty constant – at least tens of thousand of miles logged.

Source: The Rapidian. Photo credit – Steven Depolo. CC – Attribution; No Derivatives

Art song
“Motu Viget” apparently was a source of inspiration for Kimya Dawson, whose “Tire Swing” song mentions former Grand Rapidian Paul Baribeau. The song was part of the Academy Award-winning movie, “Juno.” Her lyrics include this passage:

i had a dream that i had to drive to madison
to deliver a painting for some silly reason
i took a wrong turn and ended up in michigan
paul baribeau took me to the giant tire swing
gave me a push and he started singing
i sang along while i was swinging
the sound of our voices made us forget everything
that had ever hurt our feelings

(Source: The Grand Rapids Press – read more here)

It’s a fine thing when art and play intersect. The act of creation and the subsequent lighthearted use of the finished piece are the one, two beat of fun and discovery.

Do you know of any other Bunyanesque playground pieces where Paul and Babe would have felt right at home? If so, drop me a line at playgroundology@gmail.com, or tweet me @PlayGroundology.