The things kids used to play on at the beach might send a modern-day parent into a panic attack.

In today's world we have soft round corners, safety devices and lots of rules. Not so long ago, kids would head out to play on all manner of contraptions, with sharp corners, few rules and even fewer safety features.

We've gotten better at thinking about safety and crafting ways to reduce accidents — those are good things, for sure. Still, a lot of us who have been around for a while often think, “Well, I rode around in a car with steel dashboards and no seat belts, and I lived!”

I remember, even in my cozy little childhood neighborhood, that we would disappear into nearby woods or abandoned lots to play for hours after school, without the comfort of a cell phone or anything else. Eventually, we'd wander back for supper.

It was a different time then, with less going on, in some ways.

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Kids line up at a slide that will take them plunging into the lake. (Photo courtesy of Becker County Museum)
Kids line up at a slide that will take them plunging into the lake. (Photo courtesy of Becker County Museum)

We are living through a weird time right now, one that is limiting what we can do. Normally at this time of the summer, we'd be going to all kinds of festivals and gatherings, but this year, because of COVID-19, we're staying home more, maybe getting together in smaller groups, with just our own family.

One thing we can still do is go to the beach. Summer is hot and water is cool, and even if we can’t have community events, we can still swim and splash and have fun. Going to the beach is a timeless activity that's been enjoyed for generations, but our ways of having fun at the beach have, like everything else, evolved over the years.

To see some examples of how, check out these nostalgic photos of local beach and playground scenes from the past.

This column is a regular feature of the Tribune's monthly History page. Kevin Mitchell may be reached at the Becker County Museum by calling 847-2938.