Beyond the Rocket

let us not forget that other notable slide o’ yore

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Serena Wagner

Yes, of course I liked The Rocket Slide. It was my everything. And by “it was my everything” I mean “whenever my mom took me to Carson Park between the ages of maybe 5 and 8, maybe five or six times each year, I really liked The Rocket Slide as long as it wasn’t too crowded with other kids, especially big, stupid, mean kids who smelled weird.”

So yeah, the rocket slide was the bomb.* It was three joyous stories of fake spaceship fun, and it was nearly impossible to get your head stuck between the safety rails, so that was a big plus. It was the highest point in the park, and it had a metal slide emerging from the second story – for emergency escapes.

It looked like a giant razor blade and I’d like to know what meth addict designed it. A giant triangle of super-polished metal propped up at an angle, capable of absorbing rays of dancing sunlight and converting them into brutal waves of knee-scorching heat energy.

Like any townie who came of age in Eau Claire during the 1970s or 1980s, Carson Park’s rocket slide (and, lest we forget, its twin rocket sibling over in Riverview Park) is iconic to me – one of the big, tall poles holding a carnival tent over my fondest memories. It was something I bragged about to my out-of-town relatives. It was my everything.

But that damn slide gets too much credit. Because another Carson Park slide rests in its metaphorical shadow. Heck, it may have rested in the Rocket’s actual shadow. I’m talking about The Triangle Slide.

AKA, The Nightmare Torture Slide.

Whereas The Rocket Slide was good, clean, imaginative fun – a relic of America’s Space Race era just too terrific to fade into obscurity – The Triangle Slide is where things got real. Real painful.

It looked like a giant razor blade, and I’d like to know what meth addict designed it. A giant triangle of super-polished metal propped up at an angle, capable of absorbing rays of dancing sunlight and converting them into brutal waves of knee-scorching heat energy. There was no ladder to get you up top, so you either a) ran up the thing extremely fast (American Ninja Warrior-style), b) scaled the edge of the slide using a tiny railing, or c) relied on the friction of your bare skin against the white hot, smoldering metal to assist in your ascent. It was the most frustrating, elbow-bruising, noggin-clunking, ego-crushing piece of “play” ground equipment ever created.

It was awesome.

This thing was forged (in the fires of Mount Doom) long before the numbingly safe playground equipment of the 1990s and 2000s. This was no Rubbermaid play set. The Razor-Slide of Aggravation would probably give today’s soccer moms a panic-induced aneurysm. Besides its striking resemblance to a Jolly Green Giant-sized guillotine, there weren’t even any wood chips around it. Only trampled grass. And piles of moaning kids. Because the Triangle Slide granted no mercy.

According to Eau Claire’s Parks, Forestry & Cemetery Division,** the slide was torn out somewhere around 1992, soon after the Consumer Products Safety Commission released a new set of industry standards for playgrounds, leading to a nationwide rejigger of public- and school-funded equipment. According to the new guidelines, the triangle slide, though sturdy as ever, was just not safe anymore.

And a few years after that, the Rocket Slide had to go, as well. If you want, go ahead and believe that it blasted off to Planet Fantastic, never to return. In truth, it was sold for salvage, its metal more precious for its cash value than the memories it held within.

But fear not. Things are getting better on the ol’ playground. The rubbery, hyper safe equipment developed after the shift in standards has given way to a new breed of gear that adheres to safety guidelines while still offering plenty of fun opportunities to skin your knees. Kids need that. They need to learn to keep their balance and solve problems in the physical world. They need chances to fail and overcome the consequences. And honestly, a lot of this new equipment looks way more fun than the stuff we had 30 years ago.

And as you read this, plans are underway for a $500,000 upgrade to Carson Park’s playground. According to Todd Chwala, superintendent of the Parks, Forestry, and Cemetery Division, new construction could begin late this year, or early 2018. Giant razor blades not included.


* See what I did there?
** I’m pretty sure The Triangle Slide is why “cemeteries” fall under the jurisdiction of the parks department.

Press and hold the up/down arrows to scroll.