Surviving the 1970's! Chapter 1: Metal Swing Sets!


Do you remember swinging on your metal swing set in the ‘70s and early ‘80s? You know in the days when you could still swing and not become nauseous after 2 foot pumps back and forth. Not sure what happens to our equilibrium as we get older, but the struggle is real.

Now as I’m driving and I look at backyards, I see the gigantic wooden swing sets that must require a second mortgage. We had a medium sized one that came with our current house so thankfully I never had to price one. These new sets have drapes, steering wheels, telescopes, safety mechanisms and padded grounds beneath them. Seeing these sets recently made me think about our swing set growing up that I’m guessing came from Sears. I guess Sears because there really wasn’t any other place that it could have come from in 1970, Joliet, Illinois.

Ours was metal, white and green from what I can remember. It actually was never “fully” installed, (maybe it was initially). If you were swinging forward there was always a leg on the backside that popped up and if you were swinging back, a front leg popped out of the grass. It actually added to the ride as you never knew if you were going to keep swinging or ground the entire set forward or backward.

The swing itself was a long rectangle plastic seat, that may have had a crack in it, didn’t matter though because it still swung. The seat was attached to the metal unstable frame by rusty chains that always worked. They were rusty because the swing set was never moved or covered through the Midwest winters, so they were rusty but provided the same service year after year. As you grew you were able to move the chain up to provide more leg room.

When it was time to dismount the swing, it was usually done at full velocity and somewhat parallel with the top support bar of the swing set. You would jump at the highest point nearing what felt like 100 MPH into a patch of land that was hard and bare. The patch of land was at one point fluffy grass but now it was ground down into what can only be described as “Buster Browned Down” ground. There was no mulch or recycle rubber padded ground, just real…hard ground if you were lucky there were no pebbles transferred from the alley.

One side of the swing set had a swinging basket where four small people could sit together and swing. This basket was generally abused by a fifth person who would jump on and sit in the middle or stood on the sides as the weight limit was constantly being tested. On the other end was the two person “glide ride” that was also usually pushed to the maximum weight limit. As you grew you would generally smack your forehead on the inward glide.

The metal frame at one point or another would likely be home to a bee’s nest. Swinging surely wasn’t on the bees’ radar when they scouted out the area to set up shop. So, when the swinging started they would let loose and you spent some summer days, either being bit or swatting away the pests.

In some neighborhoods the detached garages were close enough and full of an arsenal of weapons to tick the bees off more fully. A whiffle bat to smack at the metal frame pole to “calm” the bees down. Maybe some WD-40, this was mostly because it was the only thing aerosol in the garage that you could get your hands on quickly.

My favorite bee hive removal attempt was the time we shimmied up the metal pole, removed the cap at the top and filled the hollow pole with dirt, rocks and maybe a few pine cones. This was during the time of life when engaging your core to get to the top of that pole was done with ease.

We then danced around the swing set laughing maniacally at our master dirt, rock and cone plan. However, we forgot one tiny and very important detail, the loose poles. As we swung backward the pole would come up just enough for some mighty ticked off, once trapped bees to escape.

Our adolescent thought process was that any of these highly engineered choices would make the bees think twice about their location so we could swing bee free! Maybe they would get together and say to each other, “Hey, these kids have a point it is their swing set let’s find another place to live!”

However, all of these plans, as you might imagine, failed quite miserably and usually ended up with someone running for ice. Ice always made things better and we all lived to swing another day.

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