Olivia Callender © “The Rose is Gentrified”, New Playground for Blackwell Park, Oct 2012
Projects on Gentrification aren’t all that new yet they seem to be rarely done by the locals themselves. I’ve been going around photographing the things that have “changed” or “stayed the same” since the summer. I’ve got plans to photograph the Goldwater hospital before they demolish it this year and also take portraits of the old and new residents. I’m not sure if I want to have statements across the photographs yet though. If you have thoughts about that let me know.
I guess this all stems from the deep pit of bitterness I have over the loss of my childhood home. I’m trying not to be really but it’s hard. Things change I know, I know they do… It’s just hard when it doesn’t seem for the better.
Blackwell park located behind the Blackwell town house was the largest children’s park on the island. Its layout was probably one of the best I’ve seen for a kid’s parks. We had a stone castle that stemmed out from a natural hill. It had a Merlon top that you could sit on or hide behind. It was good for water fighting and in the shade the stone got cool. We had three slides, one that curled another that was straight and narrow and a large wide one off to the side. It fit at least three kids and was long enough to play kick the climber.
Farther back on the hill were two other structures. They were odd, like two tall and thin houses made of mettle bars and wood with pointy roofs. Pigeons would sometimes nest there in the winter, but in the summer we’d sit inside on rainy days, tiers of children from top to bottom. We hatched plans there, the leaders sitting in the rafters while others sat on the lower bar and then finally the rest on the wooden floor
But that wasn’t all. We had a monkey bar set with similar roofs on either side. You could climb up into the “attic” and sit while waiting to climb across the bars.
There was also the tire swing set next to the monkey bars and next to another structure with a wooden bridge that swung back and forth. You could get splinters running across barefoot or you could get pinched between the gaps in the bars. Next to that was the jungle gym. The jungle gym was the courtroom of our playground life. Laws were made, children punished in the squares that made up the blue spaces we climbed over.
The only thing left is the stone fountains in the back. They are still capable of scraping the skin off of you. The kids can still hop from one to the other but I’m not sure if their overprotective parents will let them.
I was in college when they tore down my park, the place of so many memories. In many ways that place is essential to who I am today. I cried when my brother showed me the empty hole.
It was just as upsetting to see what they had done to it. This small, boring little playground with one slide and a rubber rock wall, it made me furious.
My rock wall was made of rock. I used to rub my calloused palms across its surface to marble the flesh down. They’re measly swing set in the back doesn’t hold a candles to the vomit inducing heavy rubber tires I had. There are no bars to climb higher, to hang off of, and to jump to your doom from. There are no monkey bars to scale across or run on top of, dangerous feet only for the brave. There is no playhouses, no strange structures to use at your imagination.
And most of them don’t remember the freedom of running from the next great leap to the wild swing, or the unbalanced climb. They don’t remember the cool rock or the mettle burn. These children are designated to one playhouse, bare bones in its imagination, and it’s okay for them because they don’t know what it used to be like.
But I pity the kid who doesn’t get a bunch of scraped knees, or a few good scars, and a bushel of bruises from societies cradle, the playground.