Thursday, October 5, 2017

Wooden Playground Swings

Playground swings are found in a variety of materials and styles which I suppose are based on what's available and what the community believes it needs at the time. While some playground equipment has been deemed unsafe, swings are still around despite the danger because they can't be outlawed. The public won't stand for it and although I am not a protester by nature, I will be one of the first in line to protest the removal of the simple swing.

My grandfather built my grandmother a swing when they immigrated from Finland in 1930 and I remember summer visits watching her swing. Mamma was the only adult I ever saw who enjoyed such a pleasure and the sight of her smile as she swung taught me the lesson of finding joy in the little things of life.

As you can see from the above photo, Mamma's swing was BIG and it lasted for years. Not only did I enjoy it while growing up, but I used it whenever I visited with my own growing family. I never asked my husband for a swing, yet one day after we'd been married a dozen or so years he built one using the same principle of Mamma's and that is attaching it to the clothesline pole. As you can see from this next photo taken in the mid-80's, my husband and daughter had as much fun swinging as I did. It was the perfect way to relax after spending hours working in our garden.

We moved a few years later and I had to do my swinging with the kids in playgrounds after that. But you see in the photo how my husband is standing up? That's a lot easier to do on the wooden plank swings than on the newer plastic ones, or even those rubber ones that turn your clothes black. 

My research into old style swings dug up some amusing photos of mothers and their kids, including this one taken in 1910 with, "Mrs. Turner, holding daughter, who is standing in a swing, while looking down at her son holding a kitten." The image is from A Study of Mrs. Turner and her Children, Waban, Mass. and seems to show the mother teaching her daughter how to swing while standing. 

The swing, a study of Mrs. Turner and her children. Made at Waban, Mass., 1910. Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

I found a similar photo in Virginia showing the Art Brown Family at the swings. This one clearly shows that this mother didn't see the danger of her son falling on his head, or if she did, didn't think it was serious enough to stop him from doing it. 

For younger children I found this undated glass negative of children in chair-like wooden swings taken at Hamilton Fish Park, New York. Does anyone want to take a guess at the year?

Children in swings, Hamilton Fish Park, New York, undated. Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Going back to 1910 is another glass negative showing wooden children's swings in an open-walled shelter from a N.Y. playground.

N.Y. Playground, between ca. 1910 and ca. 1915. Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

But the joy of swinging isn't always a solitary pastime as the above image shows. If the saying, the more the merrier is any indication, then the wooden circular swing in the next image from San Augustine, Texas, should be loads of fun.

Schoolchildren on circular swing, San Augustine, Texas, Aug 1939. Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, DC

Or would it? Does a circular swing have the same back-and-forth motion like a regular pendulum-type swing? Surely you can't pump your legs for more motion--or can you? Does it turn in a circle as it swings? Has anyone memories of a circular swing that they'd like to share?

When was the last time you had a good swing? Care to share your thoughts and memories of swinging? 

For the record, my next posts (on the fifth day of each month) will be on tire-type and character swings, lawn swings, porch swings, etc, in no particular order. 


Anita Mae Draper's historical romances are written under the western skies of the Saskatchewan prairie where her love of research and genealogy yield fascinating truths that layer her stories with rich historical details. Anita's short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, was a finalist for the Word Guild's 2015 Word Awards. Her novellas are included in Austen in Austin Volume 1, The American Heiress Brides Collection, and The Secret Admirer Romance Collection. Readers can check out Anita's Pinterest boards for a visual idea of her stories to enrich their reading experience. Discover more at: 
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  1. Anita, I love swings of all kinds.I always felt like I was flying and the sky was no limit. I'd pump and pump until I thought my toes would reach that sky. We made sure we had a swing in the back yard at every house while our boys were growing up. We had to finally tear down the swing set in our backyard a number of years ago, and I do miss it. Even at age 81, I still wish I could go out and just sit and swing. My grandmother's porch swing was a favorite place to sit and do nothing but swing back and forth. I have a picture from the 1930's of my grandmother and her sisters with my great-granny on a swing at her house. So, swings have been a big part of my life. However, I'd never seen a circular swing until this picture. Soon as I saw it, I wondered how it worked. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    1. It sounds lovely, Martha. Wow, could I ever relate to the way you described swinging. Thank you for sharing with us today.

      I always wanted a porch swing on a veranda which is why I'm including a post on them in the near future. I hope you'll stop by at that time and share more of your memories.

  2. The circular swing was still a playground favorite when I was in elementary school in the late 50s and early 60s. We sat facing away from the pole because it not only rotated but rocked and bumped the pole. I still get a queasy stomach thinking about it. We managed to stay accident free.

    1. Okay, now that one sounds dangerous! I would have fallen off for sure. Thanks for stopping by and sharing that.

  3. What a great post! I love swings, even though now I get a bit of motion sickness even watching them. We had a great swing at a place we owned where you would swing over a bit of a bank so it felt even higher. But the old maple had to be cut down. My grandies still miss that swing.

    1. Thank you, Connie. I was hesitant and even doubtful about sharing the modern pics on this post, but wanted to show that this playground staple isn't just for kids and the best way was to show it. I appreciate the nod of confidence in that respect. :)

      My hubby would have gotten motion sickness on the circular swing, but on a regular swing you'd think he was trying to go high enough to flip it over the other side.

      I freeze at some heights, even small ones if there's a sensation of falling, so your swing over an embankment would have done me in. I appreciate you sharing it though as that's similar to the Maori one I showed in my last post. Thank you.

  4. I love your post and I love swings. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you, Melanie. I'm glad you stopped in today. :)

  5. I love these photos! What treasures!

    1. They are, aren't they? I sure enjoy digging through photo files looking for ones I hope will entertain you all. Thank you for stepping up and saying it. :)