by Linda White
Growing up on East Foster Avenue in the early 1960’s, I had the good fortune to be able to spend my days at Fairmount Avenue Playground, as it was called then. This was a wonderful place for the kids in the neighborhood.
State College Parks & Recreation ran programs every summer in playgrounds around State College. Ours ran Monday – Friday, 9:00-12:00 and 1:00-4:00. There was also an evening program once a week from 7:00-9:00. College age counselors were in charge of overseeing all the kids and activities. There was a large storage box that held all the toys and supplies, and the counselors held the keys to the padlock on the box. (I must admit, we did learn how to pick the lock and get out the supplies when we were a little older.) This box was filled with all the fun things at the beginning of summer and emptied right before Labor Day.
We had fun things to do like an arts & crafts activity each week. I remember making a gimp (plastic) string braided lanyard one week, and I had it for years as a prized possession. Once a week, we went swimming at the Welch pool for the morning session. Rides were provided by car-pooling mothers.
Some days we had box hockey tournaments. This was a game played with wooden hockey sticks and a ball in a 10’ x 4’ wooden rectangular box divided into 2 equal sides. The box sat on the ground. You had to get the ball into your opponent’s side of the box and through a hole at the end of the box. It was played fast and furious (like ice hockey) or calm and taking turns at hitting the ball. The current winner got to choose which way to play the game. Other times, we had a baseball game. There was a real baseball field, with real bases and a chicken wire backstop. The evening sessions unusually involved a game of capture the flag. Mostly we just played with all the neighborhood kids and had a great time.
The playground was well equipped for our good times. There was a covered pavilion with 2 wooden picnic tables, where we could do our crafts or take a break from the sun. If it rained, we could sit in there and play board games. We had two swing sets, one was bigger and was for the older kids. A good old metal sliding board was hot, hot, hot in the summer. We liked to get a sheet of waxed paper and slide down while sitting on it. Not only did it save our behinds, but also helped to wax the slide and make it faster. There was also a huge (to a child) round sandbox with a corrugated metal rim and a wooden teeter-totter, which had to be repainted every year. A later addition was a merry-go round–the kind with handles that you hang on to and run really fast and then jump onto the platform and spin until you get dizzy. The tether ball pole was there all the time, but the ball and string were gone after summer. The rest of the equipment was there all year, so we used the playground in all seasons.
Every season of the year, we could play in this wonderful place. Our parents never had to worry about where we were or what we were doing…We were at the playground!
About the Author
Linda White offered this remembrance as her bio:
“I was born in the Bellefonte Hospital and raised on East Foster Avenue in State College. My grandparents lived just 2 blocks away on Prospect Avenue. I attended State College schools through 11th grade. For my senior year I went to Grier School outside of Tyrone. Even though I didn’t actually graduate from State High, my class has graciously included me in the class of 1974 for all reunions. I moved to Boston in the late 1970’s and enjoyed 12 years in the city, working as an accountant for a commercial Real Estate development & management company. I decided to return to State College in 1991. My parents were still in town, although by then in a different neighborhood. I eventually ended up working at Penn State (as had my father and grandfather) and retired in 2017. I am now enjoying retirement and sharing a home with my sister in Toftrees.”
Linda’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.