Preservation Photos #25

One of the best parts of my semester is researching playground layout and equipment for my HP201: History on the Land course using periodicals. This advertisement above is found in many issues of The American City during 1909-1914 (and later, but those are the years of my research). Have you ever seen such a piece of equipment? The Giant Stride – basically you hold on and run around really fast to where you feel like you’re flying. I’ve seen it referred to as the Flying Steps for that reason. Sounds like fun to me!

I’m intrigued the Giant Stride and am trying to find out more information about it, particularly its evolution of construction. Do any of you readers happen to know about the Giant Stride? Do you have pictures, stories, or perhaps an AG Spalding & Bros. catalog? Or any other playground catalog? The early 20th century versions are hard to find, but would be a great help to my research! Thank you!

51 thoughts on “Preservation Photos #25

  1. Erin says:

    This seems like such an awesome piece of playground equipment. I wish they still had things like this to play on. This is such a great topic to research, it sounds really interesting. If you find anymore crazy playground equipment please share. 🙂

  2. Ellen Detlefsen says:

    OMG—there is actually one of these contraptions in the Playground at Thousand Island Park! I remember being terrified of it when I was six years old (in the Dark Ages–i.e. the 1950s), and then being thrilled when my own children mastered it. Now I will wait until my grandson can take his first spin on it…’s alive and well and I will try to get a picture of it when I get back to the Park and the River this spring. Wow.

    • Janice Krehbiel says:

      This was a fun but scary piece of playground equipment. However, one didn’t want to fall off, to be trampled, or be hit with a flying step chain!

  3. Kaitlin says:

    Ellen, that is amazing! I would absolutely love to see a picture (lots of pictures). If only I had known to look for it when I was in Thousand Island Park. I’ll have to ask Ali about it, too.

    • Ed Sims says:

      I played on one of those at Washington School in Springfield Ohio.. I was about 7 yrs old I guess and the bigger boys would wrap me around all the others and boy what a ride..
      Like to do it again but at 89 yrs seems like it will be unlikely.. Ha Ha

  4. Ellen Detlefsen says:

    Kaitlyn, the pictures will come, probably in May when I get up to the Park for the summer season of 2010 (!)….a friend from the Park and the River is here in Pittsburgh right now, and we were trading stories of the playground over dinner tonight. Our only fear is that somehow someone will want to get rid of the old playground equipment in the Park (for “safety” reasons, no doubt!) and that the next generations of Park kids won’t have the “merry go round” and the teeter-totter and the swings and the slide! We (now fifty and sixty year olds!) cannot imagine a Park playground without the “old” stuff….does anyone do historic preservation of old playground equipment?


  5. Trude Fitelson says:

    Dear Kaitlyn,
    As we speak the original playground equipment at Thousand Island Park circa 1928, will be refurbished and in use for the summer of 2010. Now that I have 3 wee grands and spend time almost as much time at the playground as I did as a child, it needed to be done. So many memories for so many children through the years. Luckily one of the Directors is a very active grandfather and wants the playground spruced up and ready for new generations.


    Trude Brown Fitelson
    Founder & Director Emeritus, 1000 Island Park Landmark Society
    PS. The quirky 2 cars per lot is that we really do not like cars!


    • Kaitlin says:

      Trude, That is so great to hear about playground equipment being refurbished. I’ll be so excited to see pictures of it. Thanks for sharing! Would you happen to have any historic images of the TIP playground?

  6. Kevin says:

    One note about the Giant Stride – It was the first piece of playground equipment ever removed from use due to safety concerns. Could never pass any of today’s standards.

    • Kaitlin says:

      Kevin, I had tried to find a reference for a similar fact. Do you have a citation to share? I had trouble looking up playground safety history. Thanks! (And while the giant stride fails terribly, I would still love one in my yard!)

  7. Bruce says:

    Interesting topic . Go to the link I’m providing to see a very early version. The image is circa 1810from a broadside soliciting students for the Lower Dublin Academy, The structure is still standing. The ‘gaiant stride’ – long gone ;-(

  8. Nancy says:

    When I was a child–1940s and early 1950s–my grandparents lived next to a rural school–District #18, Burke School–here in Merrick County, Nebraska. There was a piece of equipment on the playground which was one of these you show as a “Giant Stride.” However, we never had a name for it. It seems to me the pole of the one I remember was taller than the one you picture; otherwise, I remember it as looking the same. We could really fly on that thing; and yes, it was scary for a little kid. The school building and playground are long gone.

  9. Mary Ann says:

    We had Giant Strides at my elementary school in Somerset, Pa. Everyone loved them They were dangerous. You could fall while running to get airborne and you sometimes got conked in the head by a flying bar. Your hands were a mess of blisters and smelled like rust. We loved them………

  10. Marian says:

    We had a giant stride at my grade school in the 1960’s it was a blast and I wish I had it in my yard today.

  11. L. Herigstad says:

    My Elementary school had one of these in the 70’s. It was a lot of fun but very dangerous. If one kid let go or fell off their chain would swing around and often hit some kid in the head. They removed it from the playground sometime between 75 and 80

  12. David Logerstedt says:

    We had one in Three Forks, MT when I was in grade school (in the 70’s). I remember some of the girls would hold onto two of the rails and then as they were swinging, they would turn and hang upside down. Great training for the vestibular system.

  13. caroline hoyt says:

    There’s a Giant Stride at Moulton Ranch Cabins in Jackson Hole WY. The kids vacationing there love it nd play on it endlessly. Parents are warned that it IS dangerous…..but so is life!

  14. norma miller says:

    There was a Giant Stride at Emerson Grade School in Seymour, Indiana in the 40’s and 50’s. Kids referred to it as the “gianny stride”, and I wasn’t aware of the correct name until I ran across this site. It was a favorite on the playground but was removed in the 60’s along with a slide that was 10 to 12 feet tall. I’m sure both were considered too dangerous for children despite the fact that both had been enjoyed by Emerson students for several decades.

  15. john sutterby says:

    if you want to know about the history of play and playgrounds contact Joe Frost as the expert in this area.

    A History of Children’s Play and Play Environments: Toward a Contemporary Child-Saving Movement by Joe L. Frost (Oct 29, 2009)

  16. kristayyc says:

    My elementary school playground had a Giant Stride – and it was the early 1980s! It was a lot of fun, but very deadly if somebody jumped off and let their handle go. This was in Bonnyville, Alberta, Canada, a small town of about 5,000. It has since been removed, although I think the main pole is still there (they just took out the handles).

  17. Vernon A Wuensche says:

    We had one at the school in El Indio, Texas. It was so fun. We would wrap one of the chains around the others. With all chains being occupied, the person lucky enoughh to get the wrapped chain would fly around the pole at an elevation almost equal to the height of the pole. WoW! It would too good to last. As we moved into the nanny state of today Items such as this are no longer used.

  18. Mark B. says:

    We had one at my elementary school in Provo, Utah, in the early 1960s. It was terrific fun–especially for the smaller kids because they’d start flying while the bigger kids were still on the ground, running to keep the thing spinning.

  19. Mike says:

    When I was in 4th grade (45 years ago), my front tooth was knocked out by a loose chain on a rusting, old giant stride in a small town in SD. I’ve had a bridge ever since and it causes problems periodically. Just got back from the dentist which prompted me to search and I ended up on this webpage.


  20. Rose Broers says:

    We had one in our backyard in California in the 60’s our yard was the most fun. Just yesterday I was able to give my grandkids this same thrill as there is still a Giant Stride in the yard of a one room school house near Ottawa,KS. We had the most fun, as you see I said we because I could not resist. We will diffently go back again.

  21. Juanell says:

    Today, I happened by an old school and thought of the giant slide we used when I was in elementary school in the 60s at Hamby, Texas. We called it the “johnny”. It must have come from the name above “gianny” since I never heard it referred to as the giant slide. My experience with the giant slide was much the same as those mentioned above. Running and/or jumping high in the air as you circled the pole or wrapping one chain around the others to let that person fly high in the opposite direction as we ran around the pole. Sometimes we held on to the metal bars and swung our legs around and hit the ground with our feet to spring off and repeat as we went around the bar instead of running. Yes, there were plenty of blisters until your hands got used to holding on to the bar and you had built up callouses. Also, hits in the head by flying bars when someone let go of the bar during the run and letting go to soon which resulted in you flying through the air were typical mishaps. Loads of fun! Never thought about how dangerous it could be. A really good workout though and a fond memory! Probably the reason we were in better shape as children. I’m not sure if the “johnny” is still there. I’ll check the next time I’m out that way.

  22. Juliet Wilhelm says:

    I’ve just acquired the giant strides from the school I went to in Vernon, AZ in the 80’s. I plan on putting it up in my field, also in Vernon. It only has four handles currently and is in need of a little tlc. Might have to have a few pieces fabricated-looking for old pictures when I cam across your article. There is also a functioning one in Linden, AZ as well as Warren, ID. I was so excited to see the one in Warren. I made my crew partner get out and go a few rounds with me. He wasn’t very good, he couldn’t get the rhythm of it, but it was still so much fun. That is when I decided to track down the old one. We live in a very windy area and you could hear the giant strides clanging in the wind-my new wind chime. Great memories! Thanks for the info!

  23. Caroline says:

    Wonderful memories of growing up in the 1950s. There was a Giant Stride in one of the city parks. i remember holding on for dear life while someone ran around and pushed you. Then you would go flying through the air. This park also had a piece of equipment that was basically round with railings to hold on to. Kids would run around and get it going very fast and then jump on and go round and round. Does anyone know the name of this? Back then no one thought that we might get hurt. These parks provided hours of fun. So sad that kids of today are so protected from everything deemed dangerous that they cannot experience childhood activities.

  24. Lorrie says:

    We called it the “John-Stride” at my elementary school in Kansas. My dad was stationed at Ft. Leavenworth in 1970 and my brother and I attended Howard Wilson Elementary, which is gone now. We had one of these in the playground area and it was really popular. There were some girls in my class who killed it on the JS. They were able to kick off the ground and launch themselves into the air, come back down and kick right back off again — it was amazing. I sucked at it. 😉

  25. Marsha says:

    We had one on our playground
    (60’s) and we loved it. We would get someone to push us sometimes so we would go higher. If you were really daring you would take your chain and go over everyone else so you would get whipped around as everyone else started going. Too many kids got really hurt on it so they eventually took it down but it was by far the most popular piece of equipment out on the playground. We called them “giants.”

  26. Michael (Mike) Ross says:

    I’m Mike. I am the owner of a one-room schoolhouse here in Michigan. The school house was built in 1889. My grandmother and several relatives attended the school as well as my brother and myself. I attended school there in the early 50’s. Our playground equipment consisted of swings, teeter/todders, a slide and a Giant Stride. Like others have stated, we never knew the actual name for the Giant Stride. The school house is still in good shape, however I am in the process of “fixing it up” a bit. All the playground equipment is still there. The Giant Stride is still in working order. I can still remember the “big kids” pushing us outward and upward and then running and giving us a toss. Yes, there were a few bumps and bruises along the way, but I’d never trade that experience for anything. If you ever get to Michigan, look me up. I’ll let you have a SPIN. Ha!

    • Kaitlin says:

      Hi Mike. Thanks for commenting. I would love to see photographs of the giant stride and the rest of the playground, if you’d be kind enough to send some. And I’ll totally visit the schoolhouse when I’m in Michigan sometime.

  27. Sonja says:

    I loved reading all about this piece of playground equipment….I LOVED the Giants….which is what we named The Giant Stride…

  28. Roe says:

    I remember the Giant Stride from the early 1950s. It was in our playground at school. My aunt, only 4yrs. older than I am, slipped off and split her tongue. I never was brave enough to try it after that! I don’t think she ever rode it again either. Can you imagine suggesting something like for a playground now? You’d be locked up for insanity.

  29. Jim Bob says:

    Still had one at my elementary school (Creston, MT) around 1990…definitely took the handle to the head at least once. This is one of those playground toys where you have to wonder what the designer was thinking…on the other hand, we all survived.

    It was removed a few years later, along with most of the other “dangerous” stuff on the playground.

  30. Shirley White says:

    We had this on our school play area in Roll, AZ. We called it the “Johnny Strike or Slide”. When we got brave we put one leg through the bottom and flew up and down; pumping with one leg as it touched the ground. We also hung on with our hands, flying between hitting the ground with our feet.

  31. Alia Shirley Ahmed says:

    We had one in the 60’s in Logan, IS. Sorry, no photos, but lots of good memories and probably still some gravel in my knee from a mishap in it.

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