The Superior Express -

Editor's Notebook


Richard Schmeling is a frequent contributor to this newspaper. The 1958 graduate of Superior High School and retired attorney now living in Lincoln, Neb., likes to recall what it was like to grow in Superior.

Nearly as often as he submits a column, he telephones this editor and talks about current Superior events.

This week, he submitted a column about waxed paper and Lincoln Park's big slide. He noted in a personal message he had checked the dictionary and waxed paper was the correct term for the paper he grew up calling waxpaper.

I also grew up using the apparently improper term of waxpaper. But whatever it was called, I treasured waxed paper for what it did to a slipper slide.

Yes, that isn't a typographically error. What Richard is calling a slippery slide, I grew up calling a slipper slide.

I went to my references in an attempt to determine the proper name for my favorite piece of playground equipment, the inclined plane.

I learned playground slides have different names. In Australia and New Zealand, the toys may be called a slide, slippery slide, slipper slide or slippery dip. Sliding pond or sliding pan is a term used in New York City and sliding board is used in Philadelphia. I didn't learn the proper name for Lincoln Park's big slide. I called it the big slide and for this column that will be an adequate name.

When I was youngster, Lincoln Park had four slides. A medium-size slide near the scout cabin that I never played on. In the main playground near the park caretaker's home, there was a small slide I never considered using and two larger slides which I enjoyed, The choice of those two slides was determined by how large the water puddle at the end and who else was playing on the slides.

What is now considered the big slide I described as the medium slide. The big slide was old and had wooden sides which I was afraid to touch for fear I might get a sliver.

It isn't known for sure when the world's first slide was erected. Some sources indicated the first slide was erected on a Washington D.C., playground in the 1902-1903 time frame. The first bamboo slide was opened at Coney Island in 1903. Most likely the first slide title should be affixed to one of those.

The Wicksteed company claims the first playground slide was invented by Johnny McSlide and installed in 1922. However, a 45-foot slide was installed in a Philadelphia playground in 1904. A book published in 1909 gives instructions on how to build a slide.

I suspect Lincoln Park's big slide was locally made as contrasted with the current factory-made slides.

There are many slide styles including spiral slides which wrap around a central pole, and tube slides. Both of those slide types are often used as school fire escapes.

As a youngster, I envied youngsters who got to attend schools that had fire escape slides.

As a college student I sometimes went with friends to play on the spiral slides which had been moved from the college campus after a fire destroyed the building they were associated with.

I remember a hot summer evening when we combined sliding down the spiral slides with after hours splashing in the kiddie pool.

All of this caused me to think about what appears to be a hot summer this year with few public swimming pools open.

This may be the summer local residents will want to construct their own slip-n-slides. Often store bought slip-n-slides are poorly made, small and don't last long. But I've seen the giant slides used at the Courtland and Lovewell State Park Fun Days. Both look like tons of fun and relatively easy to make. Their worst draw back is if left in place they will kill the grass underneath.

I found the following plan on the internet.

Pretty much anybody can build a massive slip-and-slide that dwarfs almost any other off-the-shelf slip-n-slide. All that's needed is a roll of thick plastic, a few tent stakes or garden staples and a water hose. It takes about 30 minutes to an hour and, depending on the size, should cost around $50 to $60. Here's how you do it. Step... by step. (Do these steps in order! Don't slip or slide ahead of yourself!)

You'll need:

A 10-foot by 100-foot roll of heavy 6 mil plastic. Obviously, you can go smaller in size but the amount of fun is directly proportional to the length and width of the plastic, remember that. Whatever you do, though, don't buy thinner plastic it tears more easily and that defeats the entire purpose of building your own slide. Also, black plastic gets hot. White is more expensive. And clear may kill your lawn.

One 10- to 12-foot long 2-by-4 board

Garden staples or tent stakes

Garden hose or lawn sprinkler

Bottle of baby shampoo

Optional: Drill, hammer and a large pool noodle

Obviously, the size of the slide depends on the size of the yard. A 100-foot piece of plastic makes for a long, fun glide but if a plastic sheet that long cuts across three neighbor's lawns, go smaller (or roll it up). Nonetheless, looking for the longest stretch of open grass. The steeper the incline, the wilder the ride. That said, a flat surface usually works just fine even better when you add a little baby shampoo to the water.

No matter the spot, though, the most important thing is to remove any rocks, sticks or obstructions from the full length of the glide path. Walk it once, twice, three times, whatever it takes to ensure nobody smashes mid-slide into a tree root hidden underneath.

After picking a spot, unfurl the plastic sheet and straighten. Make sure it's stretched taut and the wrinkles are smoothed out. There are least two options for securing the slide.

The easiest is simply to stake down all four corners with tent stakes or garden staples, bunching the plastic a little to keep it from tearing every time somebody hits the slide. Garden staples are nice because they have slightly rounded tops and leave no exposed metal. Tent stakes extend deeper and may provide a more secure hold just make sure they're hammered all the way down so that nobody accidentally gets cut. I've seen sucker rod used but I would hate to crack my head on one of the rods.

Another way to secure the slide is to roll the end of the plastic around a two-by-four board, which is then secured into the ground with two metal tent stakes. This method provides the most secure hold for the top of the slide. Simply lay a 10- to 12-foot board along the edge of the plastic sheet. Wrap the plastic around the board several times and pull tight. Now drill a hole on each side of the board and hammer a tent stake through each so it doesn't move. Similarly, some people like to wrap the bottom of the slide in a giant pool noodle to help slow down the sliders when they hit the end. I've not seen it done but I have thought rubber tires placed along the edge might both hold the plastic down and act as a cushion if hit.

With the slide in place, you're just about ready to go. Either set up sprinkler(s) along the runway or turn the hose on at the top of the slide and run the water until it's completely soaked. Depending on the desired speed of the slide, have the youngsters do a couple of test runs to see how fast the surface is. If it's too slow, pour some baby shampoo the length of the plastic. Not only is the shampoo an effective lubricant, it's better for the environment than, say dish soap, and it won't burn the eyes.

One all is ready, the last internet tip was "Go Nuts."

Seriously, that's it. Line the participants up and let them go wild. Just remember: One rider at a time and no standing.

The slide can be fun for both the youngsters and their parents. If you don't believe me, take a look at the Youtube video about the Bridesmaids Water Slide. And for those of us with space in the country, there is the Farmers Create Huge Redneck Slip 'N Slide video which even shows an old man like me having fun on the slide. Wish we would have a slide like that when I lived on Blauvelt's Hill. It could have been placed so the riders splashed down in a pond.

If our readers are inspired by this column to build their own slip-n-slide, I hope they invite The Express over to see it and take pictures. But just because we suggested building a slip-n-slide, don't think we want to take a ride and don't hold us responsible if all doesn't go as planned. Be warned, we have tested our plans and I know from first hand experience our plans sometimes have flaws.


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