Wet ‘N Wild

When you grow up with one car and no phone, trips to water parks usually aren’t on the summer agenda.

Two reasons. Budgets were tight, and there were no water parks in Ashdown, Arkansas.

Unless you count one of the numerous livestock ponds in the area. And those weren’t typically recommended for snorkeling.

But that didn’t mean our moms didn’t see to it that we had a day or two for aquatic recreation. On the contrary. Fun in the sun was as close as the purchase of Slip ‘n Slide or Water Wiggle at the Ben Franklin or Western Auto.

If you had one or both of those toys, your yard became your destination.

I don’t know who the genius was at Wham-O, but they invented some of the most affordable water toys. Kids across 1960s America were able to do fun stuff because of them.

And moms were able to get a non-air conditioned respite from a houseful of screaming brats.

“I’m bored,” was replaced by, “Can we set up the Slip ‘N Slide?”

If you never had the pleasure of using a Slip ‘N Slide, it was a simple device. Think of a long, narrow piece of heavy duty plastic with a hose attached to create a continuous stream of water.

Kids would line up, taking a running dash at the plastic, and with arms thrust forward, would (hopefully) hit the strip in the center and slide all of the way to the end.

Some of the braver and more athletic kids would be able to hit the plastic and roll over and over between the beginning and end.

I was not one of those kids. My efforts in this area usually found me sliding off the plastic and into a tree.

Honestly, you could make your own Slip ‘N Slide if you had a carpenter’s roll of plastic. But what fun would that be?

There was a certain status to having that long, yellow Slip ‘N Slide set up in the yard. And it attracted every kid in the neighborhood.

If you were lucky, your mom also bought a Water Wiggle. Once again, the brain trust at Wham-O scored a home run. The Water Wiggle wouldn’t win any awards from OSHA, but it scored with the kids.

I’m not sure what they were smoking at Wham-O, but at some point someone asked the question, “Hey, I wonder what would happen if we put a cup-shaped plastic cover with a face on it over the end of a running water hose?”

What would happen is a sailing missile in the front yard.

No idea how many kids lost an eye or suffered a concussion by tripping over the Slip ‘N Slide while trying to not get hit by a Water Wiggle, but boy was it worth it.

I can still smell the chlorine in my sinuses from inhaling all of that fluoridated water on Beech Street.

Today, kids sit around all summer with their face in their phones. We wouldn’t have been allowed to do that even if we’d had phones.

Which we didn’t.

The telephone was a utility device. It wasn’t for kids. Children were told at sun up to, “Go outside and play, and make sure you’re back by dark.”

It was a different world then. A very different world.

A world where you could enjoy simple things; your kids could enjoy simple things; and you didn’t have to worry much.

That’s one of the things we’ve lost. A simple life that didn’t require much worrying.

Oh, sure, mom’s worried about the price of groceries and making ends meet on one salary, but by and large there was little worry about sending your kids outside for the day.

The worst that could happen was your children coming back in looking like a prune from the Slip ‘N Slide and Water Wiggle.

We’ve also lost talking and laughing with each other. Some of my fondest memories are of playing in the yard in swimsuits with the neighbor kids, coming inside for tuna sandwiches at lunch, and then watching the sun set.

After years of a booming economy, America once again finds itself struggling to pay for things. So, you’ll be glad to know that the Slip ‘N Slide and Water Wiggle are still available, although it’s no longer called a Water Wiggle. Look for, “Water Wigglers.”

Wal Mart even sells Water Wigglers in a 6-pack. Maybe they’re expecting all of the neighborhood kids to show up once you get one going.

Let’s hope so.


©2024 John Moore

John’s books, Puns for Groan People and Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, are available on his website TheCountryWriter.com, where you can also send him a message.

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