The Elephant Slide 2012.10.17

Written by David Green.

elephant slideFormer Morenci resident Dan Green wrote the following essay that was published in the Observer in 1989. It came to mind recently when Jessica Stark from Little People’s Place called to place an ad in the newspaper. She wanted to sell the slide that’s been located on the preschool’s playground for years.

Wait a minute…isn’t that the elephant slide that stood inside the kindergarten room in Morenci’s old Union Street schoolhouse?

Sure enough. Former Little People’s Place owner Bob Dister confirmed it. Underneath the red paint is an elephant that provided so much fun for hundreds of Morenci students over the decades.

Jessica has heard that someone is interested in buying the old slide, but she hasn’t received any confirmation. If interested, it can be seen in the driveway at the preschool’s Locust Street entrance.



When I was in kindergarten, my school had the usual outdoor play equipment, but there was also a little slide right in the classroom. There was a cartoon painting of an elephant on its wide metal side. When we climbed to the top, we went up the elephant’s back. When we slid down, we were zooming down its trunk.

The slide was great fun, as were the various toys available, and so were the furnace vents on the floor that made the girls’ dresses billow up like colored balloons as they walked over them. There was also chocolate milk on hand, every single day. It could have been paradise if not for the Hokey Pokey.

On a regular basis, Miss Gillen would get out her scratchy old recording of “Do the Hokey Pokey” and make us all stand in a circle. We were supposed to sing along as we did the dance. We were supposed to love it. We were supposed to know the difference between right and left.

elephant slide graphicWe hopped and jerked around like puppets gone berserk, limbs flailing, as the record sang out instructions about what to do with our heads and arms. I was half paralyzed with self-consciousness. Inevitably, when the record said, “Put your left foot out,” my right foot would go. By the time I figured it out, everyone else had gotten to the “shake it all about” part, so I hastily threw in a few spasms. It was a disaster.

I imagined the critical eye of the teacher burning into me. I figured all the kids noticed my confusion and were covertly laughing. While they were joyously singing “That’s what it’s all about,” I couldn’t fathom any of it. I just wanted to go home.

“Give me reading and writing any day over that motor coordination stuff,” is what I would have said, had I known what to say. Words were something I could wrestle with. They’d give up their meanings without much struggle. The Hokey Pokey sent me scurrying to the bookshelves—or to the elephant.

Up the back, down the trunk—now there was a dance I could understand.

  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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