I took my younger brother to the playground the other day. It was quite an interesting experience going back because it had changed so much from when I was a kid. Gone were the haphazardly shaped metal climbing frames and swings, replaced by brightly coloured plastic structures. What struck me the most was the removal of the playground’s defining feature, the thing that made me stay at the park for hours and hours and risk telling-offs from my parents; gone was the massive steel slide!
Memory of Steel Slide Childhood
The memory of these long, sloping steel slides are still engraved in my mind. They were a childhood staple. I remember the feeling of climbing to the top of that slide where I would peek over the edge, feeling excitement and slight dread. I remember my heart would be pumping as I positioned myself at the top, then pushed myself off. Accelerating towards the bottom, the hot steel heated by the summer sun scorched the back of my legs, as the wind rushed through my hair and adrenaline pumped through my veins; I felt like I could fly! Now that’s what slides should feel like!
Unfortunately, these steel slides are slowly becoming harder to find in Hong Kong. Due to concerns over children’s safety, they have been removed in favour of more gently sloped, shorter plastic slides. The three most common styles of old-fashioned slides were straight, spiral, and tubular. The most special features of the steel slide were its height, slope, and length. It’d normally be quite a long climb to the top of the slide and many kids got excited by how high and steep they were. It’s no wonder why these slides were so popular and the memories of them still stick in people’s minds.
From the 1950s to 1980s, although the economy developed rapidly, electronic products were not widely available, so kids would always be playing outside on the playground. Though swings, rocking horses, and monkey bars were very popular, slides were definitely my favourite.
Back in the day, as most slides were made of steel, they would get boiling hot during the summer, having been out in the sun all day. I remember frequently feeling slight burning sensations whenever I would slide down one, however, I didn’t care. In addition, most of the old steel slides were not built on soft, crash-resistant mats, but on sand or even concrete. Even though you would sometimes get a bit bruised playing on these slides, no lasting damage was done, and I definitely felt a sense of achievement at having conquered it.
Disappearing of Steel Slide
Since the 1990s, the playgrounds introduced by the Hong Kong government have been predominantly made of plastic, with the entire playground covered in soft crash mats. The playgrounds have also become more standardised, with many having the exact same structures. Though this has increased playground safety, at the same time, the speed of plastic slides is nothing compared to the steel ones, making the experience a little less thrilling than before.
Looking at playgrounds now, most of Hong Kong’s steel slides have just become a part of history, living on in the memories of older generations. However, if you do happen to ever come across a steel slide like this again, it is guaranteed to bring back happy memories for many!
*This article is brought to you by Capture HK.
Capture HK is the premier analogue media digitisation company in Hong Kong.
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