Category Archives: Slides

One Weekend, Two American Classics

It’s a glorious end-of-summer. On deck, steaming through the Bay of Fundy’s gulf of plenty, we keep the wind’s nip in check with sweaters and light jackets. Hands shade squinting eyes from rippling light as we scan for sea life. It’s our last hurrah adventure before the regimented schedule of school begins again.

Approaching Grand Manan, minke whales in groups of two and three briefly break the surface, their dorsal fins slipping below before rhythmically rising, then dipping, rising and dipping until they deep dive beyond our vision. It’s a wonderful welcome as we enter the island’s waters and skirt the shore’s sheer cliffs.

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We are nearing the tail end of hot sun drenched days. The air temp is still warm enough to plunge into the take-your-breath-away water. Its salty buoyancy almost makes amends for the chill factor. Moored about 100 feet from the beach, is a floating home-made slide that until now we had only seen in photos. It’s a doozy, towering 15 feet above the water’s surface. And, for the coup de grâce, a tarzan rope dangles off the structure’s high point.

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Among the bunch of kids swimming, sliding, splashing and swinging, we meet the nephew of the man who created this wonder-thrill, fun zone. The kids tell us they come here frequently and they’re visibly proud of this singular attraction. One of the moms guesses it’s been here for six or seven years. Our next trip to Grand Manan we’ll be making a beeline to the beach.

Back at hole-in-the-wall campground we hike a trail skirting the cliffs. No kids in the lead, they’re tucked in between adults. There are lots of roots on the ground, some brush and precipitous drops.

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Then right in front of us is the ‘hole’. Our adventure rambles on hugging the coastal cliffs then zigging inland. Sometimes we wonder if we’re on the right path. Crossing a plank bridge we come into a clearing and a hand drawn map tells us we’re close to our temporary home. We’re tuckered from the heat and exertion and looking forward to some cold beverages and a tasty meal.

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But first there is another new experience that just can’t be missed. Again, it’s one of those magnetic simple pleasures – a small pond, rafts and poles. The kids’ first instinct is to race from the dock to the far shore. This ain’t the mighty Mississippi and it turns out that following a dry summer the water is very shallow in places and the rafts get snagged on rocks.

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Without any parental prodding, repeated groundings transform a competitive dynamic into a cooperative venture. It’s not long before all three kids are barefooting and slipping off the rafts to push, pull and cajole them along their journeys. They work together as a team, problem solving, assessing changing circumstances and experimenting with possible solutions. They are consumed with the space and their actions and all the while they’re immersed in deep, playful moments.

Nearly an hour passes and the fun maintains its quiet intensity. Finally, I have to call the kids’ armada back to dock. There’s nearly a mutiny but civility triumphs and we all march up the road for supper.

In too short a time we’re back aboard the ferry on a calm Bay of Fundy morning. About two-thirds of the way to Blacks Harbour a pod of three finbacks is spotted tails high fiving the sky and misty spouts of breath billowing from their blowholes. I can almost hear a cry, “thar she blows”.

It’s a weekend to remember. We’ll be back.

Leave a comment if you know the two American Classics I am referring to in the title.

Twelve Days of Christmas Play

On the first day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
A tire swing in an oak tree

5344851996_2d6c899585_bPhoto credit – Derek Buff. License – CC BY-NC 2.0

On the second day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Two spring riders
And a tire swing in an oak tree

On the third day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Three monkey bars
Two spring riders
And a tire swing in an oak tree

On the fourth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Four splashing pads
Three monkey bars
Two spring riders
And a tire swing in an oak tree

On the fifth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Five hollow logs
Four splashing pads
Three monkey bars
Two spring riders
And a tire swing in an oak tree

On the sixth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Six slides a slipping
Five hollow logs
Four splashing pads
Three monkey bars
Two spring riders
And a tire swing in an oak tree

On the seventh day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Seven roundabouts a rounding
Six slides a slipping
Five hollow logs
Four splashing pads
Three monkey bars
Two spring riders
And a tire swing in an oak tree

On the eighth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Eight trees for climbing
Seven roundabouts a rounding
Six slides a slipping
Five hollow logs
Four splashing pads
Three monkey bars
Two spring riders
And a tire swing in an oak tree

Photo credit – Oliver Hammond. License – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

On the ninth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Nine fields for running
Eight trees for climbing
Seven roundabouts a rounding
Six slides a slipping
Five hollow logs
Four splashing pads
Three monkey bars
Two spring riders
And a tire swing in an oak tree

On the tenth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Ten rocks for scaling
Nine fields for running
Eight trees for climbing
Seven roundabouts a rounding
Six slides a slipping
Five hollow logs
Four splashing pads
Three monkey bars
Two spring riders
And a tire swing in an oak tree

On the eleventh day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Eleven see-saws sawing
Ten rocks for scaling
Nine fields for running
Eight trees for climbing
Seven roundabouts a rounding
Six slides a slipping
Five hollow logs
Four splashing pads
Three monkey bars
Two spring riders
And a tire swing in an oak tree

Photo credit – Vaughn Hannon. License – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

On the twelfth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Twelve messy mudholes
Eleven see-saws sawing
Ten rocks for scaling
Nine fields for running
Eight trees for climbing
Seven roundabouts a rounding
Six slides a slipping
Five hollow logs
Four splashing pads
Three monkey bars
Two spring riders
And a tire swing in an oak tree

Experience the SuperSlide at Carsten Höller’s New Museum Exhibition

There’s a new slide in town on Bowery St. in Manhattan. It’s an integral component of Carsten Höller’s Experience exhibition at the New Museum running from October 26 through January 16.

Source: New Museum website

The exhibition’s online promo describes the slide as follows:

Functioning as an alternative transportation system within the Museum, one of Höller’s signature slide installations will run from the fourth floor to the second, perforating ceilings and floors, to shuttle viewers through the exhibition as a giant 102-foot-long pneumatic mailing system.

Höller is a connoisseur of the slide experience and speaks here about his love of slides.

It’s no small feat to install a SuperSlide in the interior of a multi-storey structure. This flickr slideshow captures how it was done at the New Museum.

There’s some slide action as well as a short interview with Höller on this Associated Press YouTube clip.

Here’s a 360 degree view of an earlier Höller slide installation in the Tate Museum’s Turbine Hall in London.

Finally, as we slip, slide out of this post, a little video from the Tate exhibition.

Have you had a chance to ride a Höller slide? Share your experience with PlayGroundology.

The Amazing Two-Slided House

Not far from where we live in Halifax on Canada’s Atlantic coast is the amazing two-slided house.
A rare, yellow twist two-slided house

Now I know you’re thinking that there is only one slide in this photo. But look below, from front on you’ll see that there are two. As my almost four-year-old Nellie-Rose is wont to say, “it’s true, it’s really, really true”.
Facade – Slides or Handles

This is not photoshop trickery or sleight of hand as you may appreciate from the daylight photos.
This is a day care and after school play area

Not sure why the structure is boarded up, or if the slides are still functional. Very curious to see what’s inside. Hopefully the creativity that led to slides popping out of the gables is also on display in the interior.

Close up

Could this possibly catch on in day cares across the nation, or perhaps even in residential homes?

A Brief History of Slides

Thanks to Stephen Hawking, a great theoretical physicist and author of A Brief History of Time, for inspiring the title of this post. My knowledge of physics is less than rudimentary but I do know that there are underlying principles at play each time kids launch themselves over the precipice and into the descent. We’re talking about the speed demons, acceleration and velocity getting out of the gate with a little pull from gravity.

Now in more simplified terms that the mathematically disinclined like myself can grab hold of, this is what we’re really saying when we try and quantify the slide experience. It’s pretty much whee to the power of three when screaming down the slide at whoosh factor nine, or in unorthodox mathematical notation
where ‘whee’ is the squeal of unbridled release and ‘whoosh’ is the air flow required to have a full head of hair pluming up from the nape of the neck.

I’ve done some wondering about the antecedents of the slide family. More specifically, I have tried to trace its origins. Not much luck using my standard research tools – Google and interviews with primary sources.

There does not appear to be anything in the ancient visual record that can pinpoint the slide’s birth. There are no paintings on the Lascaux caves, no hieroglyphic whisperings from the Nile delta. I have not come across any evidence-based materials that go back earlier than the beginning of the 20th century. Consequently I have had to rely on broad speculation which I introduce to you the readers as theoretical surmise.

I believe the slide originated in the northern hemisphere, in areas with hilly terrain. Long, cold winters were the norm. Sliding down snowy embankments was great organic entertainment. In North America, this was happening before the Europeans ever arrived on the scene. However, with the introduction of the horse, it’s entirely possible that aboriginal peoples of the northern plains tried to replicate sliding fun in warmer weather. When the family was taking a rest on the trail or setting up camp, it’s plausible that the younger kids would get to zip down a makeshift slide constructed with travois poles.

Before dismissing this musing as completely out of hand, listen to Corn and Potato a wonderful song by singer David Campbell that speaks to a few things that came about via the ‘Indians’. David, an Arawak from Guyana, was world beat in the late 70s and early 80s before the term was coined. He incorporates Caribbean and aboriginal rhythms in his compositions. This was one of the artist’s most requested tunes when he toured schools.

Of course, it may not have happened like this. However, in the absence of empirical evidence to the contrary, I’m sticking with the northern plains Aboriginal Nations as the innovators who brought us what we now know as the slide. If you have other theories, please send them in as comments.

Thanks to the US Patent Office for archival materials dating back to the early 20th century. A few of the illustrations below are from this period. Click here for the photo gallery. There is no indication as to how many of these patents actually went into production. Some are fanciful, some outright funny. All were designed with the intent to elicit squeals of laughter in kids and, after a second look at selected drawings, maybe some mild terror tremors.

Once experienced, whoosh factor 9 is addictive. That’s why we see kids climbing up, zipping down, climbing up the ladders, zipping down again, trying to catch that ephemeral boost. They will even wait in line for minutes on end to slide away in a burst of whoosh.

Size isn’t everything where the thrill of the descent is concerned but it can add a certain cachet. Each of us has our own particular preferences. I’m more a fan of the steep incline than the interminable ride. I want to know is my heart stopping as I look over the precipice anticipating a roller coaster scream?

The Around the World in 18 Slides gallery is a sampling of the ordinary and extraordinary. There isn’t one slide among them that I wouldn’t want to try myself (the dump truck might be a little outré). There is a little bit of everything here including a selection of animal slides – giraffe, elephant, dinosaur… Thanks to all you flickr photogs.

Around the world, 18 photos – a bit of exaggeration on my part. The math just doesn’t add up. I have noted though that Japan seems to have a love affair with slides. Octopus slides and roller slides have captured the popular imagination. Take a look at this Octopus’ Garden and the journey down Japan’s longest slide in western Kyushu.

As it turns out, there is still ample room for scholarly work on the origins of the slide following this minor dalliance with the subject. Will a true historian or anthropologist be able to unravel the mysteries of the slide’s origin, or perhaps confirm the conjecture offered here? Only time and research will tell. In the interim, just keep on slip, slidin’ away…

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Image Credits

1. Sharon K – Teardrop Park Slide, NYC

2. Veronica Gomez Castaneda – Sea Serpent Slide at La Laguna, San Gabriel, California

3. US Patent Office

4. maureenld

5. unknown Japanese photograper