Whoever designed Pomonok certainly had kids in mind. In addition to the “big” park at P.S. 201, there were lots of little playgrounds strategically situated through the project with benches, jungle gyms, and concrete tunnels. On the hot summer days before air conditioning was installed, all the kids would head to the playgrounds that had sprinklers, flip-flops on their feet and towels in hand. We’d wait around impatiently until some responsible party would alert the maintenance men to turn on the showers, and the fun would begin.
As soon as the water hit the hot concrete, a distinctly sweet and musty aroma arose. I learned later in life that the aroma actually had a name: “petrichor.” It is caused by plant oils absorbed by earth and concrete. When the water hits the concrete after a long arid period, these oils are released. Live and learn.
I remember the water always being freezing cold at first, probably because we were all so hot and sweaty, and there would lots of screams as the first bravest souls dared run through sprinkles. The main hazard of course was running barefoot on the concrete. If you didn’t come from the showers with a bloody toe, elbow, or knee, then you weren’t really having a good time. You hardly felt the pain while playing, but it really hurt when you got home and your mother put iodine or Mercurochrome on the wound. Iodine is still around, but Mercurochrome has been banned since it had mercury in it. Who knew back then that our mothers were pouring poisons into our open wounds?
Of course, being kids we made a game out of everything. Under the sprinklers the most common was tag, with the phallic-shaped sprinkler head as base. Another game was draping a towel over the sprinkler head, letting it go and scattering as fast as you could before the returning spray would hit you. No wonder we got so many cuts and scrapes.
The largest and most fun shower was at the P.S. 201 park. It was enormous in a small child’s eyes, a square concrete enclosure with steps, multiple shower heads, and a huge drain in the center all surrounded by a wrought iron fence. Whoever designed this must certainly have been a child at heart.
The best thing about the “big showers” was that since it was totally enclosed, we could convert it into a pool by blocking the drain in the center with towels. If we were lucky, the water would accumulate a foot or so in depth and we could float.
The big showers are gone now. I don’t think they even have sprinklers during the summer anymore. Now kids stay in their air-conditioned apartments and play video games all summer long. Seems to me that a few skinned knees, and maybe a broken arm here and there, is a small price to pay for the good old days of sprinklers.