To children today, parks and playgrounds go hand in hand – to have the first without the second is a rarity. But this wasn’t always the case.
Newtown Park (which we know as Collins Park) was once Wagga’s premier park. It had an animal enclosure, a large pond, huge shady trees, tended flower gardens, swept paths, and open grassy areas for picnics, fetes, and concerts. But children’s play equipment didn’t appear there until after World War One had begun.
A number of swings were erected in September 1914 and a Council Ordinance passed to control their use which ruled that no children over 14 were to play on them and they were not to be used by anyone at all on Sundays or when the Park Caretaker was absent. At the same time, a sand heap was suggested for the park along with a see-saw set for the very small children.
By October 31, 1914, the Wagga Wagga Express was able to report that the new swings and sand heap were extremely popular with the “juvenile population”, and the see-saws would be installed in a few days.
Once the see-saws were in, they quickly became a hit. They were so popular, in fact, that certain older members of the population (labelled as larrikins by the local papers), were also interested in them.
On 7 December 1914, Joseph Swansborough, a 16 year old, pleaded guilty to “wilful damage to property of the Council, to wit, a see-saw, in Newtown Park.”
Joseph was caught breaking the see-saw locks one night by the caretaker, who had been hiding behind a tree ready to catch the youths who had been interfering with the children’s play equipment and damaging trees.
Joseph was ordered by the Court to pay a fine of 10/3.