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Slip ‘N Slidin’ Away

Slip N SlideBack in 1984 I traded in my paper route (remember those?) for my first real job, as a day camp counselor at Camp Barrett Park in Valley Stream, NY. I ended up working the summer program for 11 years, and stayed with the parks department year-round doing one job or another. Hockey referee, haunted house builder, running special events – you name it.

But the summer program. That’s where it started for me, and it was my first experience with the Slip ‘n Slide, a toy I didn’t have myself growing up. First introduced by Wham-O in 1961, it’s about as simple as you can get – a long sheet of plastic about three feet wide and twenty feet long, with a perforated tube running down one side. You hook a hose up to the connector in the summertime, the tube fills with water that sprays onto the plastic, turning it into one heckuva slippery surface. From there? Well, as any kid’ll tell you, slippery is fun in and of itself.

After my second year at Camp Barrett, I was made a supervisor. The parks department asked for my input in ordering replacement equipment for the coming summer. I recommended ordering six Slip ‘n Slides instead of the two we had. Since the slides were being used out in a field, water was supplied like rain from a sprinkler system. And, I had an idea…

The first chance I got, I hooked up with two other groups of campers and my co-counselors, and we dragged all six Slip ‘n Slides out into the spray. We ran them two long, three wide, grabbed a tennis ball and a couple of rotting old catcher’s mitts that dated back to the Ty Cobb era, and ran
the biggest game of running bases the park had ever seen. We had about forty kids, from ages 8 to 12, running, sliding, diving, bowling one another over, and shrieking with laughter. Didn’t take us long to stop counting who had how many ‘outs’. It didn’t matter. No one was paying attention to anything but cooling off, getting soaked, seeing who could slide the farthest, and maybe avoiding getting tagged at the wrong end of a perfectly thrown strike.

Vintage 1960s ad for Slip 'n Slide

This 1961 ad marketed the Slip ‘n Slide to retailers.

It’s been a long, long time, but the Slip ‘n Slide is still around. And, from personal experience, I can tell you why. They’re instant fun: just add water. Kids go crazy for them. During my years at Camp Barrett? A lot of us teens and adults loved ‘em, too.

Before leaving the world of comic books to take a job at a publishing company in Manhattan, I handled some of my last duties for Camp Barrett. One of those duties was to order an extra four slides for the upcoming summer, which I got to christen with about sixty kids in the two weeks before I gave my notice. As far as I know? The camp program still makes sure to have Slip ‘N Slides every summer. I had a lot of good times at the park with the kids on the Slip ‘n Slides, so I’ll wrap up with a shout out and thank you to Robert Carrier, the man who invented it. I can’t even begin to imagine how many hours of fun he’s responsible for. I know I sure as heck got a lot of enjoyment out of them.

1960s Wham-O Commercial (Slip ‘n Slide & Water Wiggle):

 

How about you? Remember your first Slip ‘n Slide? Are your kids or grandkids still using one? Ever set one up on a hill? Chime in, we’d love to hear about your favorite memories.

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Last updated: June 14, 2013
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About Joe

A writer who's been pounding away at a typewriter since he was 9, Joe's an award-winning filmmaker whose debut, The Bunker, made him the world's first blind feature film director. Begrudgingly, he admits to being a product of the late-'70s/early '80s and, yes, he does remember when MTV actually played videos.