Avoiding sand spurs while swinging at the Rec Center

Published 5:30 pm Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Milt and I love to take morning walks throughout the city.  We walk through the neighborhoods we grew up in and we spend a lot of time reminiscing. On a recent walk from Water Street to Fifteenth Street via Bridge Street, we passed the Beaufort County Boys and Girls Club.  Before becoming the Boys and Girls Club, the building housed the Bridge Street Recreation Center. The ‘Rec’ as it was called was the hub of activity for hundreds of children growing up in Washington.

In addition to a wonderful place to learn new games, activities and sports, the recreation center playground, was a wonderful place of its own.  The large metal frame of the swing with six seats suspended with long chains from the top pf the frame was the main attraction of the playground.

The frame still stands today on the playground.  It was on that swing I learned lessons in life that helped me with many things like patience, as I sometimes had to wait a long time to get on a swing.  I learned humility in that just because a kid was smaller than me and wasn’t ready to relinquish their swing being bossy and yelling for them to get off didn’t work.

Some of those same smaller kids when they did get off the swing could make your back a dart board for the sand spurs they found close by.  Aiming a handful of them at you while you were swinging was torture when you got struck with them, and it brought sweet revenge to the kid that had thrown them and then ran off.

Kids being hit with the sand spurs while on the swing would have to stop swinging to pick those awful barbed plants off of them. Then the kid that threw them would howl with laughter from a distance.

The older teens who wanted to swing simply told us to get off and I for one surrendered my swing at their request. That was a lesson in wisdom and learning to pick my battles carefully.

Most of all, I learned to value what was really important. As much as I wanted to swing, was it really a good idea to swing as high as I could at high noon on a steamy hot summer day?  I did that one day and it took two days to recover from the severe dehydration I got from my love of being on that swing.

For several generations, the Bridge Street Rec was an integral part of growing up.  The kind adults who worked or volunteered there gave of their time and effort to make sure we had wholesome, creative and fun activities and like Wonder Bread the Rec helped build strong bodies and minds in many ways, as the Boys and Girls Club does today for our youth.

Long before it was a recreation site, the land was wanted for a Black church with a playground in 1908 but the purchase never happened. Later, the site was selected to be a hospital for Black residents. In 1953, local Blacks raised money to buy the land for a small hospital to be built.

Mr. George Bailey Sr. and Mr. Leon Randolph Jr. spearheaded the effort. It was later decided since Washington had two hospitals with wards for Black residents, the land could be better used as a recreation center and playground. It was constructed in the early 1960’s. This site was part of Fort Washington, built by African Americans during the Civil War.