The Rear End

THE REAR END: Hell Razor

a word on Eau Claire’s slides of yore

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Eva Paulus |

Yes, of course I liked Carson Park's Rocket Slide. Why would I even pretend that you asked about it? What kind of silly conversation is this? Let's get serious.

The Rocket Slide was my everything. And by "my everything," I mean, "during the handful of times my mom took me to Carson Park, I really liked the Rocket Slide, as long as it wasn't too crowded with other kids, especially big, mean kids who smelled like warm cheese."

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 merging from the second story (for emergency escapes). 

Like any Eau Claire townie who came of age during the 1970s or '80s, Carson Park's rocket slide (and, lest we forget, its twin sibling over in Riverview Park) is iconic to me. It's one of the big, tall poles holding a carnival tent over my fondest memories. It was my everything.

But that damn slide gets too much credit. Because another Carson Park slide lived in its metaphorical shadow. Heck, it may have lived 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 lofty relic of America's Space Race era – the Triangle Slide is where things got real.

Real painful.

IT LOOKED LIKE A BIG RAZOR BLADE – A GIANT TRIANGLE OF SUPER-POLISHED METAL PROPPED AT AN ANGLE, CAPABLE OF ABSORBING RAYS OF DANCING SUNLIGHT, ONLY TO CONVERT THEM INTO BRUTAL WAVES OF KNEE-SCORCHING HEAT ENERGY.

MIKE PAULUS

There was no ladder to get you to the top. 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 metal to assist in your ascent. it was the most frustrating, elbow-bruising, ego-crushing piece of "play" ground equipment ever created.

And it was kinda awesome. 

The 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 playset. The Razor Slide of Aggravation would've today's soccer moms and dads 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 hard-packed dirty. And piles of moaning kids.

Because the Triangle Slide granted no mercy.

According to Eau Claire's Parks, Forestry and Cemetery Division, the slide was torn out somewhere around 1992, not long after the Consumer Produces Safety Commission released a new set of industry standards for playgrounds, leading to a nationwide revamp of publicly funded equipment. According to the new guidelines, the Triangle Slide, though sturdy as ever, just wasn't safe anymore.

And the Rocket Slide had to go, too. If you want, go ahead and believe it blasted off to Planet Fantastic, never to return. In truth, it was sold for salvage. The cash value for its metal was more precious than the countless memories locked 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 adhering 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.

Excluding the giant razor blades, of course.