Growing Up Near Frothingham Park, Who Else Remembers?
I’m sure we took it for granted, my siblings and I, living across the street from the Park. For every season, there are memories. We lived on Sheridan Street, but we didn’t usually enter by way of the Sheridan Street gate. Almost directly across the street from our house was the “crooked bar”. One of the iron bars in the fence was bent, just enough that small children could slip through. The crooked bar was such an institution that when, decades later, the fence was being repaired, my mother asked that the crooked bar be left alone.
These memories are from the 1960’s, when the playground was typical of the times, but dangerous by today’s standards. There were monkey bars, a giant slide, swings, heavy metal rings, and most fearsome of all, what we called the ‘merry go round’ or Maypole spinner. These were metal handles draped off a center pole. You ran and jumped and swung and dreaded the occasional hit on the head when someone jumped off, leaving their handle flying. I was hit on more than one occasion. There were wooden seesaws and in the back corner near Park Street a tall metal jungle gym. On hot summer days we would hang upside down by our knees from the lower bars.
We called this the ‘merry-go-round’. Beyond the fence are the backyards of houses on Day Street. Notice the plaid bell-bottom pants. Easton Historical Society.
The Big Rock. We discovered a few different ways to climb up onto the Big Rock. It was like hitting a developmental milestone once you could maneuver this all by yourself. It was a great spot to view your surroundings or have a secret meeting. Secret meetings and clubs were huge. Another test of climbing ability was to climb on top of the monkey bars. And there was tree climbing as well. They were wilder and freer days in the 60’s. Siblings and cousins accompanied you to the park, not parents.
One of the most creative ways we used the Park was to set up ‘house’ in the pine grove in the corner near Sheridan Street, just inside the fence. We swept the pine needles on the ground into low walls separating our houses and hung our doll clothes in the trees and made rooms for our babies. Very dated female role playing, but we had fun.
My sister Rosemary and I trying out our new big bikes on the track at the Park, 1963.
In winter, the hill on the Sheridan Street side was great for sledding. The perfect size for the age ten and under crowd. One year we built a mogul at the bottom of the hill for extra excitement. Remember metal coasters? Sleds with metal runners? In spring the track got really muddy, and we wore our boots and pretended it was quicksand. So much fun getting pretend stuck.
In the summer there was a Park Program and neighborhood children could just walk in. One of my strongest memories was gimp. Multi-colored plastic strings that we braided into bracelets, necklaces, or key chains. Quiet activity for a gray muggy day, or a cool sunny one. We didn’t carry water bottles, individual plastic, or reusable, they weren’t a thing yet, but the water fountain was always available if we were thirsty.
Above is the water fountain at Frothingham Park. Cannot confirm date but clothing looks to be 1960’s. Easton Historical Society. Note backstop and softball field in background. They no longer exist.
Sadly, the days of children moving in packs and looking out for each other are gone. For better or worse the playground looks much different now. All the old equipment is gone as the Park has evolved with the times. (Shout out to Scott Pearsons, Executive Director and Facilities Manager.) My own children enjoyed the Park in the 80’s and 90’s, my grandchildren enjoy it today. Thank you, Mary Ames Frothingham, for your gift to the town, in memory of your husband, Louis Adams Frothingham, dedicated September 27, 1930, and putting it in my front yard.
Playing games in the park
‘til way after dark. I’m back
through the crooked bar again,
where only children fit
Anne Wooster Drury
Anne Wooster Drury