A Half-Century

As hard as you try to hold onto the clock, you can't stop time, and so here we are—September. September, and I find myself counting the dwindling days of my first half-century.

That's right, my friends. This month I turn 50, and it's got me thinking about how much can change over the course of five decades. Obviously, most of my mulling has to do with personal changes, but since I've brought it to the page here, it feels like a fine time to step back and think about how parks and recreation, sports, fitness and aquatics have changed since 1972. Even off the top of my head, it makes for a long list, but there are some highlights worth mentioning.

When I was a young participant in park district programs in the late '70s and early '80s, there were swim lessons at the community pool, and an incredible summer theater program. But playgrounds looked a lot different—installed over asphalt (at school) or grass worn to dirt (the local park).

In sports, many changes have come as a result of Title IX, passed a few months before I was born. This groundbreaking law made sure that girls had more opportunities to play sports. But sports for everyone have evolved as well, with the introduction of new displays, new turf technologies and so much more.

The first franchised group fitness program—Jazzercize—was born just two years before me. And since then, fitness clubs have evolved from weight training for the muscle-minded to offer a much broader range of options.

And when it comes to aquatics—the swimming pool of 50 years ago might still be recognizable today, but it would surely be considered a relic: a rectangle of shallower and deeper water suitable for laps and lessons, but without the tremendous play value that has sprung up with rides, slides, lazy rivers and more.

And that's all just barely brushing the surface. What changes have you seen in the past 50 years (assuming you've been around that long)? What changes do you hope for in the next 50?


Emily Tipping
Editorial Director,
Recreation Management