Giant Strides on the Playgrounds

The giant stride is a long-since-removed playground apparatus that dates from early 1900s. Simply put, it was a tall pole with ropes/ladders attached to it. Children could grab hold of the handles and run in circles, so fast that their feet would leave the ground. For safety reasons, it was mostly removed from playgrounds by the 1960s, though some remain.

Another Giant Stride - at a playground in New York City, ca. 1910-1915. Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division (click).

Another Giant Stride – at a playground in New York City, ca. 1910-1915. Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division (click).

In graduate school I researched the manufacturing and development of the giant stride, and was fortunate to find a few images of giant strides. I’m jumping back into that research. Readers, have you come across any giant strides or remnants of giant strides? If so, would be willing to share those photographs? If so, please let me know. Your help would be very much appreciated. Here’s what one might look like today:

A giant stride on a Colorado playground. Click for original source.

A giant stride on a Colorado playground. Click for original source.

Previous playground posts on PiP:Playgrounds of YesterdayPreservation Photos #25Woodford PlaygroundPlaygroundsPreservation Photos #57.


42 thoughts on “Giant Strides on the Playgrounds

  1. Ellen Detlefsen says:

    There is a ‘Giant Stride’ in the playground in good ol’ TIPark; I’ll send you a pic when I get up there for the summer in late May.. peace, Ellen

  2. Kelly says:

    It was even more fun than as described. You could give another kid “lifts” by reaching back, grabbing a free hand and then swinging him or her past yourself and on to higher heights! Oh the broken bones and wonderful thrills! We’re still talking about it (I’m 55)!

  3. rotsmom says:

    That was my favorite thing to play on from kindergarten – 6th grade. I’m 36 years old. I don’t know how many times I got bonked in the eye/head, but it worked your reflexes…learn how to do or get off.

  4. Les milacek says:

    I am 62 and I attended a rural school in Nebraska 1957-1964. We had a Giant Stride there.
    It was a lot of fun, but could be dangerous if you weren’t careful.

    • Kaitlin says:

      I love hearing from people who used a giant stride! What part of Nebraska? Is your school still there? Any photos? I’d love to see and hear about it.

        • Julie Strusz says:

          We had similar in Mankato, MN. I was born in 1952.
          There was one in the park near our home. And at our school.
          We never thought about it being dangerous. A couple of strong guys could really get it going! We would be flying , parallel to the ground!

  5. Barbara says:

    I had a giant stride at my elementary/middle school (multi-grade, small church school) growing up in the 80’s. It is gone now, but it was there until the 90’s I believe. This was in Fort Pierce, Florida. I also came across one in a park in Geneva, Switzerland when I was doing a semester abroad in 1997. I have since searched online and used google earth even to see if it is still there, and from what I can see, they have removed it. Sad, because as dangerous as they can be, I had an enormous amount of fun playing on it when I was young.

  6. sczorina says:

    Hi, I am 73 and I loved the giant stride. There was a way you could take one of the children and wind them around the others (this is done before starting the swing) then when everyone starts running around the pole, the one that is wound up would really fly! I am from Oklahoma

  7. Susan lantz says:

    We Had one of those relics on our playground in the 70s. Great fun until a classmate flew off (another, older kid had purposely jerked it to knock everyone off.) anyway, she flew off going at a high rate of speed, landed fce first onto a rock, and broke her nose do badly that she was hospitalized for several days. We are now 45 years old, and she still suffers terrible sinus problems as a result. The Giant Stride in our playground, while not disassembled, had the chains removed immediately thereafter…

  8. Jane Robinson says:

    We had a Giant Stride on the playground where I went to elementary school in a small Texas town called Beckville. We had so much fun on this. What would make us really fly is if someone heavy was directly across from you. I was probably 60-70 lbs. back then and I would always make sure there was someone a little overweight on the opposite side. And, omg, the blisters on our hands we suffered but did not stop us. Those were the days, my friend.

  9. j. creel says:

    This playground ride was not for the faint of heart, but taught collaboration skills needed for survival. Spacing was important and everyone needed to maintain a consistent speed both while accelerating the spin and again when coming to a stop. If anyone fell off or jumped off, the rider in front of the empty chain was at risk of a chain and handgrip to the back of the head. None of the posted photos are exactly like the strider I rode in the fifties at Ashburn Elementary in Virginia. Our strider had single hand grips at the end of the chain. Wonderful fun but definitely a team effort!

  10. lduhon says:

    We have a giant stride that my grandfather made for my mother and her siblings in the 1950s. Still being used (and still bonking kids in the face) by the third generation of children in my family. It is set on the family property between my mother’s and aunt’s house so all the great grandkids can share. My daughter introduced her bff to it today. We googled pictures to show her mom. That’s how I stumbled onto your website. Our giant stride is a cherished family tradition.

    • Kaitlin says:

      Thank you for visiting and sharing. I’m so glad to hear others use the giant stride. If you’d care to send pictures, I would love to see them. The giant stride remains one of my random interests. Cheers!

  11. rogerdhansen says:

    I found the remains of a giant stride in the northern Navajo Nation (Sweetwater). I will email a photo in a couple of weeks. Is there any way to make them safer? Shorten the stem (horizontal metal pole)?

  12. Elvira says:

    The giant stride was the stuff. It was awesome when you were finally old enough to get on it. I don’t remember anyone getting hurt. The bigger kids watched out for the smaller kids…or they had to hear from the Mama’s! It was the most exhilarating and frightening experience on the playground!

  13. J Kipps says:

    Our church-school still has one that was built at least 40 years ago. It’s slightly different, though, in that the chain forms a loop that comes nearly to the ground. A 1-foot long, 2″ diameter rubber hose encases the chain to form a seat. The rider puts one leg through the loop, sits on the hose, and grasps the chains at about head-height. The proper way to use it, is to take “giant strides”, swooping close to the post on every down swing. However, it’s often been used with pushers slinging the riders around in a circle, so they never touch the ground at all.

    The primary danger is mechanical failure, such as chains breaking. Other injuries would be rather slight by comparison. I’ve heard of at least one broken arm resulting from a broken chain.

    The ride is still very popular with anyone who uses it. The liability issue does concern me though.

  14. Doug says:

    Kaitlin we had one at our grade school in Portsmouth , Ohio, Harding Elementary. The entire playground was black top so coming down a slide or falling off a swing was dangerous, so you didn’t stand a chance falling off the Giant Stride in mid air. Why the school didn’t bust up the blacktop and make it dirt and gravel around the playground equipment I will never know. The equipment was all put in new around 1973 and within 3 to 4 years the Giant Stride chains were taken off the pole. I remember playground teachers jumping on the kids who would jump off in mid flight as that flying riderless chain became a danger for other riders.The teachers would say if you get on you must finish the ride.

  15. Tim Leicester says:

    Hi there is a working giants stride in the National Trust Glendurgan Gardens in Cornwall UK. Its a bit different to those in the USA pictures Ive seen as it has thick rope hangers, only one level handle and whilst great fun is not quite so hairy as I imagine the chain , multi level handle ones are. I think its is a bit more difficult to get going fast due to the weight of the rope and possible bearing type. But its great fun . Try googleing Giant stride Glendurgan gardens. There are some u tube clips you should find. Im trying to find someone to make one for a new play area , but lets see . This one was installed in 1913.

  16. Nonie Kubie says:

    Hi Kaitlin, I’m currently a graduate student in the UK and I work on early twentieth century spaces of childhood, including playgrounds. I’m looking at the moment at playground equipment and, as I’m sure you know, not many people have written on it. I’d love to read more of your stuff on giant strides and was wondering if you have published your grad school work anywhere?

  17. Adam says:

    Hi there!

    I found your blog entry about Giant Strides this evening and thought I’d offer you something. It’s two pages from a book, the pages that got me looking up Giant Strides online in the first place. The book, very interesting to me, is _Health and Physical Education for Elementary Schools_ (1928), by Alonzo Franklin Myers and Ossian Clinton Bird.

    On pages 160–161, in Chapter XIII, there are instructions (all words, no pictures) for building a Giant Stride, which is listed among basic equipment for a school playground. I’d never heard of such a thing, but found it easy to picture from the instructions—at least until I got to the word “felly”, which was new to me. The end of the instructions was doubly striking: (1) I still didn’t understand what one was to DO with a Giant Stride; and (2) the seeming acceptance of danger, and the blunt use of that word, were in such contrast to what would occur nowadays (I mean this sentence, which is the last: “The entire wheel may be used, and the ropes tied to the felly; the result is a lengthened stride, but an increase in danger”).

    Anyway, if you give me an address to write to, I’ll email you a photo or scan of the spread of pages in the book.

    Now that Web images and your entry have taught me more about Giant Strides, I want to build one!

    That’s all. Thanks for your time.

  18. Laurie E Hegstad says:

    I just drove by a school on Williams County North Dakota with a giant stride in perfect condition!

  19. Loretta Whitehead [Networking Services] says:

    There was one in Flagstaff AZ in 1962, it scared the hell out of me.
    Took only one time to know it was not for me, it was really tall, to fly off you had to be 5′ off the ground or more, very dangerous.

  20. Dorothy Jordan says:

    I was thinking about how much fun we had playing on this piece of schoolground equipment in the 1940’s. A one room school in southeastern Oklahoma in the Quachita mountains. It was in the Kiamichi Valley. Grades one through eight. After I was transferred to High School at Muse, OK. the school burned down and then the lower grades were sent by school bus to Muse and later Whitesboro, OK. I went to school at one time in Heavener, OK, also in Big Oak Flat and then Groveland, CA. I don’t remember ever seeing a Giant Stride anywhere except at Big Cedar, Oklahoma.

  21. Jacob says:

    I realize I’m late, but there is an example at the newly restored country school house near Bettendorf Iowa. Just google “Forest grove school house Bettendorf Iowa”. They have a website with photos and video of former students commenting on fond memories of the giant stride.

  22. Lori says:

    My aunt was killed on a giant stride when she was 12 years old back in 1936. She was playing with 2 other girls and they were all on the same side , my aunt being the heaviest. The pole snapped hitting her on the head killing her.

    • Kaitlin says:

      Lori, I am so sorry to hear this tragic story. So much of the vintage playground equipment was removed for tragic incidents such as the loss of your aunt.

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