Ever Monkey Around?
Aug 06, 2013 | 1895 views | 0 0 comments | 42 42 recommendations | email to a friend | print
There used to be an assemblage of metal bars called the Monkey Bars on playgrounds in America.  Sometimes they bore the name Jungle Gym.  It was a set of steel bars with numerous connected rectangles which rose to a rounded top six to eight feet above the ground.  It sat in the middle of the playground and was a place where many a young boy in the mid 1900s climbed his way to the sky.

We climbed routinely on those years.  We climbed all manner of tree.  I could shimmy up a straight pine tree, even if it didn't have a limb the first ten feet.  And let me tell you, pine has bark that is not cooperative for climbing.  That means it peels off too easily when shimmed up.  Hardwoods tend to have bark that is more easily gripped by the legs, arms and hands while climbing.

The Monkey Bars was a special piece of equipment, because it was made for being climbed.  And it was made for being climbed like a monkey or chimp might climb it.  Going from rectangle to rectangle, climbing sideways, climbing up, and climbing down. Swinging by the legs and hanging upside down.

There was a peak, a top of the Monkey Bars, where a lone bar or two stood taller than all others.  That was the place to be.  Sitting up there was being on top of the world in grade school.  It gave a commanding view of the park or school grounds.

Boys loved the monkey bars.  Girls did not use them nearly as much.  It was mainly a place where boys hung out.  If you were at a park and didn't know anyone, the Monkey Bars might be a place where you could socialize unobtrusively with others.  Everyone on the Monkey Bars respected good climbing skills.  If you could show that, you could hang with the best of them.

If you went to the park with a friend, cousin or brother, you might break into a dead run upon getting out of the car, racing to see which could get to the top of the Monkey Bars first.  Run as fast as possible, then on a dead run, leap up on the hard, metal framework and climb to the top, with abandon.

It was exhilarating and exciting.  It was kid fun at the highest level.  It was getting in touch with my inner monkey.  I still love acting like and mimicking a chimpanzee, on occasion.

The traditional Monkey Bars went the way of all playground products which were unfortunately associated with serious and sometimes tragic injuries.  While I understand the rationales for imposing liability and requiring children's playgrounds to be safer, I lament the passing of one of the most fun and beneficial pieces of playground equipment.  The Monkey Bars of today provide better safety for children, but they are not nearly as simian friendly.

The Monkey Bars stand tall in my memory.  Ask the men in your life if they have any memories of climbing the Monkey Bars.  I'll bet they do.
For those who have never seen a real Jungle Gym aka Monkey Bars, here's two photographs: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jungle-gym.jpg


© 2013, Jim “Pappy” Moore, All Rights Reserved. Jim “Pappy” Moore is a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home. oaktreefm58@juno.com

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