1988 Is Alive and Well at This Onset Playground
After telling friends I was on a mission to go to as many new playgrounds as possible, someone mentioned a “big wooden castle playground in Onset." After a bit of research, we found the Leonard C. Lopes Memorial Park Playground.
There are a few photos online so we knew what we were in for, but holy moly. I had no idea my jaw would hit the floor the same way the kids’ did. Was this the most sought-after piece of playground nostalgia of my generation with NO KIDS on it?
We were there for at least 30 minutes before we had finally seen most of the hidden nooks and crannies. Here are some of the 80’s playground pieces you’ve been missing:
The metal slides. It is so rare that you find a plastic double-wide slide but this park had it. It didn’t take long to realize why a slide so wide was cause for injury. It's really easy to just lean to the left and suddenly be sliding down sideways. It also had a tall metal curvy slide and a smaller metal toddler slide that started as a tunnel and opened at the bottom. It wasn't a hot day so we escaped without any burns.
The wiggly bridge. If it has a real name, I don't know it. Its a bridge that wiggles as soon as you step on it and the faster you cross it, the more it shakes and the more likely you are to fall on your face. Some new playgrounds have sort-of wiggly bridges but there is so much give on the old bridges that if you don’t feel like you just cheated death running across it, you’re doing it wrong.
The suspended balance beam. We almost missed this because it was hidden among a lot of stationary balance beams. The suspended balance beam is just a narrow piece of wood held in place by chains. It rocks, it sways, and it puts your core to the test in an all-new way. Trying to cross it successfully never got old.
The tunnels. If you remember wooden playgrounds and "had the best childhood ever" as the memes suggest, you remember the tunnels. It felt like hundreds of tunnel combos took you up, down, over and around the entire playground. Easy to hide from your mom in. But as an adult, it was the worst part because these tunnels are small. If you are tall, good luck. If you are round, good luck. If you have bad knees, don’t bother. No amount of warning will keep you from trying it though, it’s just too tempting.
The giant tires. Some playgrounds had entire areas made up of old, recycled tires. This playground was no different; it had a one giant tunnel system of tires that you could climb in and out of and inevitably, get wet from, because the water always pooled up on the tire's inside.
The park has seen better days and there are a few empty places where tire swings and other rope features once were. There was more trash on the ground than I expected (weird stuff like toothpaste tubes and dish soap bottles) but overall an hour and a half went by in the blink of an eye. We all loved it.
We’ll definitely be back again; us big kids know those castle playgrounds won’t be here forever.