Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Slides of San Francisco: A Photographic Essay in Four Parts

I never learned to propel a playground swing on my own. I couldn’t master the weight transfer of the leg kick. Even today I still need someone to push me. As a result I got the majority of my jollies on the slide. I was lucky to grow up where I did. The concrete slides I became accustomed to as a child are a lovely and unique feature of the city by the bay. Bring a cardboard toboggan and ride the slippery slopes of the first installment of TYHIVN's very first service feature!

Seward Street slides - Seward and Douglass Street

The Seward Street slides are the big island of the SF Slide archipelago. These twin chutes are seriously steep in and of themselves, but the view of the downtown skyline and the East Bay reminds you that you are riding a slide on top of a mountain.

As if the vertiginous height wasn’t enough to make your knees knock, ole Johnny Law ups the fear factor! What I do is just make friends with whatever children and accompanying parents you meet there and strike a deal that they will say you’re with them if the cops show up.

While both runs are painted a patchwork of grey from snuffed out graffiti, TYHIVN has learned from a source close to us who frequented these slides during elementary school circa 1994 that they were originally painted yellow and red, and affectionately referred to as ‘mustard’ and ‘ketchup.’ Longtime neighborhood resident Matthew Pantell clarifies: "More like blood and bile." And indeed he is right. These slides are serious business.

Surprisingly, the Seward Slides were designed by a kid (ForUsByUS) in 1973. From the Noe Valley Voice:
The curved double slide, which is a favorite destination of many a Noe and Eureka Valley child, was designed by a 14-year-old girl, Kim Clark, who won a "Design the Park" competition. Clark grew up on Seward Street and attended nearby Alvarado School, where she participated in a special arts program pioneered by Noe Valley sculptor Ruth Asawa.

"Ruth Asawa and her kids were very involved in the Slide Park project," recalls Kim's mother, Annette Clark. "To have children participate in the design was part of the philosophy of the time, which emphasized learning through the arts. We were very conscious of giving children opportunities to do design work."

Clark adds that her daughter's winning slide design was inspired by a slide that many of the city's children loved at the old Playland amusement park at Ocean Beach, torn down in 1972.

Kim Clark, your vision has provided thrills aplenty and also a place for teenagers to drink forties at night. Thank you.

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