My swinging sixties

7 06 2010

As with all children, one of my favourite places as a child was the playground. It was nice that I had access to a very large and interesting one that was right at my doorstep – so to speak Right at the foot of the block of flats in Toa Payoh that I lived in, there was a playground like no other in Singapore. It was large (in terms of the space it occupied) for a playground, especially one that was in a HDB estate. Set in a large oval shaped area that was bounded by a wide red brick path that for me later doubled up as the cycling track on which I made my first shaky attempts at riding a bicycle, the playground had all a child of those days could have wished for in a playground. There were the set of swings which had very long chains that allowed me to swing up to a height that many fear to go to, a very tall slide (and a shorter one for the faint hearted), three see-saws, two wonderful climbers made of steel, a merry-go-round, and a set of monkey bars, all of which seemed to be able to keep a five year old occupied for hours.

The climbers and slides were lots of fun!

The playground was were I could escape the confines of the small three-room flat that I lived in, at a time when we as chlldren, did not have access to the distractions that occupy the children of today. Television only came on in the late afternoons and evenings and there was only so much fun that one could have with the toys we had in those days. So, the playground was wonderland for me, as it was for the children of my day, where I could expand my energy and pass the otherwise long boring hours away.

The wide red brick path around the playground and the merry-go-round.

The swings for me were particularly enjoyable. High and fast I could go, especially standing on the wooden seat of the swing, or maybe induce a dizzying spell of nausea by twisting the chains for that rush of adrenaline that came from sitting on the seat as the chains untwisted really fast. I had many hours of fun that I always ranked the swing as my favourite item in any playground. The climbers that were there were a whole lot of fun too. I had not seen anything like them before I moved into Toa Payoh – there was a really high one in the shape of a globe, the summit of which many dared not venture to, and there was another shaped like a wave. It was perched at the top of them where I could imagine that I had scaled Mount Everest, as one of the heroes I had in my boyhood, Sir Edmund Hilary had done. It was where I could sometimes sit and dream the hours away.

Then and now. The photo on the left shows part of the playground in 1969. The one on the right is how the area looks today.

The playgrounds were certainly a very different experience from the ones we see today. Plastic and synthetic materials have replaced the wood and concrete we had back then. Our children hit the safer and softer flooring where we landed hard on concrete or a pit of sand sliding down a metal or wooden slide that always gave a familiar smell of rust on our clothes and the occasional splinter in our shorts. Who could forget the rust stained hands we got holding on to the chains of the swings, standing on the wooden see-saws that thought us much about the principle of levers and balances. The playground at Block 53 that holds so many memories for me is now gone, along with the many things I identified with growing up, replaced by the modular plastic ones that are so common today. The wonderful space at which I found some much to do in, has also gone, only a small part of that large play area that I looked forward to visiting everyday in my pre-school days used to house that modular playground. The rest is sadly occupied by structures that seem to be of little value or use that have somehow risen in the wonderful open spaces that no longer seem to be of value to the modern country that we live in.

The playground with Lorong 4, the Lorong 4 market, and Lorong 3 in the background (scan of a postcard courtesy of David Jess James - On a Little Street in Singapore).


Actions

Information

4 responses

11 06 2010
Eileen

do u know that there is still one of those old playground with that mosaic slide and sand in toa payoh? i think it’s block 20something 😛 i miss those old playgrounds! I used to bring my pet rabbits to one of them near my grandma’s place in upper boon keng.. i am a big fan of swings too.. i love going up up in the sky 😛 but i hated the smell of my hand after my flying coz of the rust from the chains 😛

11 06 2010
The wondering wanderer

Yes, Eileen – I know which one you mean – its the one with the mosaic dragon at Block 28 – that was where a cousin lived. That would have been up in the late 70s … and it’s good that there are still some of these playgrounds left. Thanks for sharing your memories of the old playgrounds – by the way the smell the rust always comes to me whenever I see a swing! 🙂

29 09 2010
Going up 40 years back in time … « The Long and Winding Road

[…] provision shops from which I got my supply of ice lollies from. The huge open space which held the expansive playground where I had countless hours of enjoyment at around which there had been an elliptical red brick […]

7 10 2010

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.