Low Tech Exercise Equipment

Back before the advent of the fitness craze and the marketing of the numerous exercise equipment like StairClimber, StairStepper, StairMaster, StepWalker, SlowWalker and other such sophisticated exercise gadgets, pickings were pretty slim on the playgrounds of our Baltimore neighborhood. Up at 68 schoolyard, we had a Jungle Jim, Monkey Bars and a Sliding Board.

The ‘Jungle Jim’ consisted of a bunch of metal pipes constructed into square shapes that looked as if they could have been put together by Mack and Meyer or perhaps a half dozen of the neighborhood guys while consuming several cases of ‘Natty Bo’. It was about 20 feet tall and really had no rhyme or reason other than it somehow held together, and allowed a lot of kids to climb on it at the same time.. Not pretty but functional. Next to that you had the Monkey Bars that consisted of horizontal bars in which you could go from one end to the other by alternating hands, sort of like a monkey in a tree, hence the name ‘Monkey Bars’. Lastly, you had the ‘Sliding Board’. The sliding board(wasn’t really a board)could be a lot of fun especially by greasing down the metal slide with the inside of Mrs. Ihries potato chip bags. By doing this you would sometimes get more than you bargained for as there was no sandbox to catch you and many unsuspecting kids wound up with bruised and bleeding elbows. Ahhh, just a small price to pay for the thrill of the slide.

If you ventured down to Wilkens playground on Ashton Street, the options were much greater. Down there you had swings, seesaws, sliding board(with sandbox) and some other pieces of play equipment. They also had a concrete pool that was about 30 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 1 foot deep. You couldn’t get wet above your ankles unless you lay down completely on your back and since the bottom was made of concrete, that wasn’t ideal. The Wilkens playground also had a mini basketball court with two baskets that were well used until later some neighbors upset at the constant crew coming over from the other side of Frederick Avenue put an end to it by placing M-80’s or some other explosive device on the poles consequently causing the poles to bend over and therefore be unusable. I wasn’t there when it happened but I can just imagine the look on the faces of the ‘brothers’ coming over to play a five on five game of B-ball only to see their baskets and poles lying over on their sides.

It’s a long way from today where you now have devices that tell you if you’ve walked enough, what your blood pressure is at any moment, what your pulse rate is, etc. You even have little T.V. screens mounted at the front of your $10,000 exercise bike urging you to pedal faster. Thanks, but I think I’ll stick with my very primitive and low cost piece of exercise equipment….my two feet.

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