For years I thought there were two reasons why I never went in for such high-risk thrills as skydiving and bungee jumping. One, I am a coward. Two, I am boring. You can't get much safer than being a boring coward.

However, the more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that there is another reason I don't have a more adventurous nature. I risked my health and well-being on a near-daily basis when I was a kid.

Of course, this was not a unique situation among my fellow Baby Boomers. Our days were filled with risk and potential danger, but we were so busy concentrating on being kids that we did not recognize that our safety was in jeopardy.

The playgrounds of today are colorful, plastic and fiberglass creations where kids can climb, slide and swing to their heart's content while they run around on rubber mulch or some other soft ground cover.

The playgrounds of my long-ago youth were collections of galvanized steel equipment set in rock-hard ground or macadam.

While falling and getting clunked on the head were two of the major drawbacks in such playgrounds, they were not the only ones.

The monkey bars and jungle gym were, naturally, made of steel and not the colorful, kid-safe versions you see in today's playgrounds. Their dangers lay below whenever my friends and I took our inevitable fall off the steel bars.

The jungle gym was considered the more dangerous of the two since it was common to try to hang upside down on it, holding on with bended knees.

I didn't weigh that much, but my knees were even thinner than the rest of me, so I often lost my grip and plummeted head-first onto the ground. A heavy rain did soften the soil, but too much water had me resembling an ostrich with its head stuck in the mud.

(Perhaps that is why I am still a stick in the mud.)

At least the packed earth beneath the gym didn't smart nearly as much as diving onto macadam.

The monkey bars were less painful. I rarely made it even halfway across before obeying the law of gravity, but at least my feet usually landed first.

The seesaw (which also went by the name of teeter-totter) was perhaps the most dangerous of all the attractions that the playgrounds of my youth offered. Actually, our seesaw opponents, for that is what they were, were what made it so dangerous.

There probably should have been a public service sign posted on the playground fence stating: Seesaws don't injure kids, kids jumping off the seesaw when the other kid is high in the air are the ones who injure kids.

Even the merry-go-round posed a danger in addition to the risk of nausea that was always present when you were spinning around for minutes at a time.

I once made the mistake of jumping forward instead of backward when I wanted to get off. I got whacked by a metal support, and wound up with two sprained ankles and a doctor's prescription to stay out of playgrounds.

Only the bravest - or dumbest - of us would risk first-degree burns by going down the steel sliding board on a sizzling hot summer afternoon. I got an idea of what a potato cake must feel like being fried in a cast-iron pan.

There was an unspoken element of danger in swings that made them the most popular attraction on the playground. Just getting to one was dangerous.

If you weren't careful, you could inadvertently step in front of a serious swinger and be launched 20 feet to land head-first in the sand box.

Even an empty swing posed danger as it swung. If you weren't careful, you could turn from saying something to a fellow playground thrill-seeker and find a metal swing seat heading right for your teeth.

Once or twice, this worked to my advantage as I had a loose tooth or two that I wanted to cash in with the Tooth Fairy.

However, my friend Sylvester was not as lucky. He got a swing in his smile and found out that "permanent teeth" is just a term and not a guarantee.

The biggest thrill on the playground was worth the risk as we would compete to see who could swing the highest. None of the guys ever reached the goal of going so high that he would swing back over the bar on which the swings were hung.

Unfortunately, I had a slight mishap one day while engaging in this quest. I got so caught up in the view from the high altitude that I released my grip on the chains and launched myself across the playground, landing on the top of the sliding board.

It was just my luck that this was on a blazing hot day. After I got to the bottom I had to run home, empty a couple of ice-cube trays in a bucket and sit in it.

Imagine. Kids these days miss out on all this kind of fun.

(Walt Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes "Walt's Way" for each Sunday edition.)