Salem’s Forest River Park has lots of attractions: dazzling views of Salem Harbor and Marblehead, a shady green expanse, bike paths, beaches, a playground, a swimming pool, a baseball field, Pioneer Village, America’s very first living history museum, and its most distinct feature: a slide made of concrete. Concrete, children, and sliding seem incompatible to me, but there it is, and it has been there for some time.
A friend and former student of mine has shared a picture with me (and you) from the 1940s taken by her father: there is Priscilla sliding down the Forest River Concrete Slide fearlessly. It’s such a great picture.
And here is the slide today: as Priscilla points out, cardboard was an absolutely necessary accessory for those who ventured onto the concrete slide, both for comfort and speed. The pieces of cardboard strewn about the slide are not litter, but evidence that it is still used.
Despite the evidence of the cardboard, I have never witnessed any children on the slide, but maybe I haven’t hung around the park enough. While I was there this afternoon, these three contemplated it, but ultimately opted out.
I don’t know of another concrete slide in New England but apparently they are big in Northern California. San Francisco, Berkeley, and Davis (that I know of) all have public parks which feature such slides, restored, well-maintained, and evidently quite popular. I suspect Salem’s slide might be an example of California culture come East, but I’m no expert on “playground architecture”. Below are the rather more elaborate concrete slides in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and Berkeley.
September 2nd, 2011 at 8:04 am
I Missouri, in the early 70’s there was a mud slide on a hill near a lake. You’d carry a bucket of mud up to the top of the slide (for lube) pour it on the slide and jump on. You’d fly down the hill into a big mud puddle about 3 feet deep. Then grope your way over the hill to the lake, and jump in to get the mud off. It was fun!
September 2nd, 2011 at 9:26 am
After a big weekend Forest River Park is a sea of cardboard! It’s actually very cool that the slide is still used and like you, I’ve never seen anyone use it. The neighbors have lots of stories of skinned body parts… Love the old photo of it.
September 5th, 2011 at 4:21 pm
I see plenty of kids on that slide, my own kids love it and spent at least one day a weekend on it last summer.
September 5th, 2011 at 7:07 pm
Glad to hear it, Adam!
September 7th, 2011 at 11:59 am
This is fascinating! I’d never seen nor heard of a concrete slide before. They’re so pretty too and so much cooler (literally) than metal. Thanks for the enlightening tidbit about the cardboard though – otherwise I’d never have figured out how one could actually use it. Except maybe a whole lotta grease?
April 25th, 2013 at 8:47 am
I grew up using this slide! I was always very scared to skin my nuckles! We used cardboard as well as laundry baskets! So fun!
June 1st, 2015 at 9:52 pm
I rode the Forest River Park slide may times, when I was a kid in the 50’s. Owing to the appearance of the California slides, I will offer the prospect that the California slides might actually have been a later, more “sphisticated” design with their roots in the Salem slide. After all, Beverly Hills, California was named after Beverly Farms, Massachusetts. Which is, of course, just across Salem harbor from Forest River Park. Hmmm, sounds like a good research project. Now, I know that just about every fad & fashion has come out of California for quite some time, but to anyone who was born & bred in Salem . . . . . . . Everything started in Salem!
June 1st, 2015 at 10:41 pm
I’m with you, Alan. This blog keeps going because Salem is the source of so many things!
August 10th, 2017 at 4:31 pm
My 3 brothers and I grew up using the Forest River Park and riding the concrete slide was an absolute must…and when we were feeling like showing off, we’d try(sometimes accomplishing) running up the slide from the bottom, then grab some cardboard and slide back down.
May 23rd, 2019 at 12:42 am
I used to have soooo much fun on that concrete slide. I was apart of an after school program in Everett, and it was all day in the summer from ‘89-94. And, they’d pack us kids up regularly to head to Forest River Park (although we weee told it was called Pioneer village, which is across the street).
I’d scavenge for cardboard and fly almost till the end. After that we’d jump in the big pool which was salt water at the time.
I should take a ride up this summer.
May 23rd, 2019 at 9:01 am
Thanks for your memory!
May 23rd, 2019 at 1:54 pm
I remember very fondly our summers at Forest River Park, my 3 brothers and I would go down all day on our families outings to the “beach”
Cardboard was always around to use on the slide
Looking at the pictures, the slide looks so small, but, as an adolescent it seemed daunting, until you went down and the thrill going down was well worth the “worry”.
I hope that the slide never goes away, as all children should get the opportunity to experience that thrill.
May 23rd, 2019 at 8:21 pm
Oh I can’t imagine it every going away; people are extremely attached to it!
May 23rd, 2019 at 9:31 pm
Do you happen to know if they have cared for it at all? This was back in 2011 & it looks like it could have used some attention.
August 23rd, 2021 at 2:49 am
I grew up in the city next to Salem and I use to go to that park all the time when I was little. Yes we went on that slide all the time!!! I went to see it about 10 years ago and stood at the top and I tell you I will never do that again! It seems soooo much higher and more steep and I can’t believe I went down that as many times as I did without REALLY hurting myself.