O T  R  T  Recent social trends in the United States, v.2: chapter 18, recreation and leisure time activities by J.F. Steiner: a machine-readable transcription. <br> R ���� 4T ���Y s:amrlg:lg44: Next Section || Table of Contents

R  4T 4

{ page image viewer }


With a Foreword by

Next Section || Table of Contents
R  T  Recent social trends in the United States, v.2: chapter 18, recreation and leisure time activities by J.F. Steiner: a machine-readable transcription. <br> R ���� dT ���Y s:amrlg:lg44: Next Section || Previous Section || Table of Contents

R  dT 

Page 912 { page image viewer }


The movement by the American public toward more adequate recreational facilities is one of the significant social trends of recent times. The gradual shortening of the working day and the general lightening of the burden of excessive toil have brought in their train an increasing amount of leisure and a demand for improved means for its enjoyment.1 The rank and file of the people are insisting upon the right to participate in those diversions, amusements and sports which traditionally belonged only to the favored few. This demand has given the problem of recreation a new importance and has considerably broadened its scope.

1 On the shortening hours of labor, see Chap. XVI.

Directly or indirectly, the movement touches various aspects of the modern scene. Its compelling influence has brought about significant adjustments in government, industry, business, education and religion. Municipal, county, state and federal governments are now assuming responsibility for the establishment and maintenance of public recreational facilities. Private philanthropy annually contributes large sums for recreational work among the masses. Churches formerly confining themselves rigidly to the spiritual side of life are now active in promoting recreational programs. Public and private schools, colleges and universities are facing the problem of training their students for the intelligent use of leisure. Business and industry have found it profitable to provide wholesome leisure time activities for their employees. Commercial amusements are reaching unprecedented peaks. An important characteristic of the modern movement is the complicated network of social forces involved in the exploitation, control and extension of its functions anT d activities. There is a general disposition to organize clubs and associations to govern all games and sports. The expansion of facilities for recreation has broken down the old conceptions of the uses to which leisure should be put. Simple amusements and diversions of the past no longer make a wide appeal.

One of the important trends is the remarkable growth of public competitive sport, now a matter of absorbing interest to all classes. Day by

Page 913 { page image viewer }

day, through the sport pages of daily papers, an eager public follows the fortunes of favorite teams and athletes. This demands elaborate facilities and costly equipment: bigger and better playfields and highly paid players capable of sensational performances bringing striking victories. Naturally the chief interest centers on winning seasonal championships. It follows that athletic sports are dominated by a rigorous and exacting spirit of work rather than of play, and more often than not yet exhaust the health and vitality of the participants when they should provide relaxation and recreation for all.

However important competitive sport may be, the most revolutionary changes in recreational activities in recent times are products of modern inventions. The moving pictures have given the great masses of the people a new form of relaxation, easily accessible and of universal appeal. The radio may be similarly characterized. Far reaching in its effect is the automobile. Through its extensive use America has changed to a nation of tourists, and mobility is an almost determining factor in all of our outdoor recreational life. The present trend in the direction of heavier capital expenditures for recreational purposes is largely due to the widespread popularity of these new devices.

The modern recreational movement is so firmly entrenched in American life and its positive social results so decidedly outweigh its negative that it is no T longer difficult to justify the increasing financial outlays. The present generation hardly needs a reminder of the fact that wholesome recreation leads to both bodily and mental health. It also breaks the monotony of labor and the exhausting routine and regimen of our mechanized industrial system. For thousands recreation is now a kind of cult aiming at physical, mental and moral efficiency. For additional thousands it opens the doors to a new world where during hours of pleasurable leisure the onerous drudgeries of life are forgotten. Of an equal if not greater importance is the outlet given our pent up emotions. The theory of emotional catharsis, first developed from the public games and spectacles of ancient Greece, offers a psychological basis for the prevailing belief that recreation tends to reduce crime and delinquency. The large variety of sports and amusements are, on this basis, more than mere diversions for hours of leisure; they are vital factors in the progress of civilization. One of society's important functions, therefore, is the cultivation of mass amusements, activities and diversions appealing to all age groups from the pre-adolescent to the far advanced in life. It is an insurance of social health.

Changes of vast importance are constantly taking place in recreation. The purpose of this chapter is to review some of the more important of them with a view to determining the direction of the movement. Other collaborators will present, in different chapters, additional findings in this

Page 914 { page image viewer }

field. They will be concerned with the cultural and intellectual leisure time pursuits such as music, art, drama, reading and the like.2

2 A more detailed treatment of the trends in recreation, together with additional supporting evidence, will appear in the monograph in this series entitled Americans at Play.
Next Section || Previous Section || Table of Contents
R  LT  Recent social trends in the United States, v.2: chapter 18, recreation and leisure time activities by J.F. Steiner: a machine-readable transcription. <br> R ���� ӔT ���Y s:amrlg:lg44: Next Section || Previous Section || Table of Contents

R  ӔT 

At the present time, when outdoor recreational facilities are being provided at great expense under governmental as well as private auspices, it is difficult to realize that public opinion in favor of such a program was only in the early stages of its development a generation ago.3 The change from horticultural to recreational parks, the establishment of public playgrounds for children and the construction of athletic fields and other pubic recreational facilities had made little headway at the beginning of the present century. The changed emphasis in the realm of play and recreation, and the transformation it has wrought in the physical layout of cities as well as in the habits and customs of the people constitute a most interesting study.

3 For relation of recreation to public welfare and social work, see Chaps. XXIII, XXIV, and XXV.

New Emphasis upon Parks as Public Playgrounds.--Prior to 1900 the idea prevailed that parks should provide for the quiet enjoyment of well landscaped or wooded areas. Formal gardens were laid out, scenic vistas created, and driveways provided a vantage points from which the scenic beauty of the park could be enjoyed. No provision was made for active games and sports.

The recent emphasis upon parks as playgrounds for the people, adults as well as children, represents a departure which stands in striking contrast to their earlier and more limited uses. Without any great sacrifice of their aesthetic appeal, municipal parks have been turned into attractive recreation areas equipped for the enjoyment of sports of various kinds. They provide children's playgrounds, tennis courts, baseball and playground ball diamonds, horseshoe courts, basket ball courts, football fields, croquet courts, volley ball courts, skating rinks, boats, canoes and swimming pools. Other sports less commonly provided for are archery, bowling on the green, golf, hockey, polo, roque, sailing, casting, skiing and toboggT aning. In addition, municipal parks often provide buildings which are used for social, educational and recreational purposes, such as art galleries, band stands, club houses, conservatories, fields houses, gymnasiums, grand stands, moving picture booths museums, outdoor theaters, dancing pavilions and zoological gardens.

This remarkable expansion in recreational equipment brought to the general public a wide variety of facilities for the enjoyment of outdoor games and sports which had hitherto been available only for the privileged few. Since this change coincided with the shortening of the work day and

Page 915 { page image viewer }

/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=amrlg&fileName=lg44/amrlglg44.db&recNum=3 the consequent increase of leisure time for the mass of the people, it is of great significance.

Recent Growth of Municipal Parks.--The municipal park movement gained momentum in the larger cities during the closing decades of the last century, but popular interest in the development of parks in all cities, large and small, is characteristic of the past 25 years. The park acreage for cities of 30,000 population or more increased from 76,566 in 1907 to 258,697 in 1930, a gain of 237.8 per cent, while the urban population increased approximately 65 percent.4 The expansion of municipal park properties has been especially notable during recent years. Two extensive park surveys made in 1925-1926 and in 1930 by the National Recreation Association and the United States of Labor Statistics show that the park acreage in 584 cities increased from 201,445 to 279,257, a gain of more than 77,000 acres during the five year period.5 Unfortunately, it has not been possible to assemble complete information on park acreage for the whole country. In the 1930 survey, 898 cities with a population of 5,000 and over reported T 11,686 parks containing 308,804 acres. In view of the large number of cities from which reports could not be secured, a conservative estimate of the total municipal park acreage would be at least 350,000, which is approximately one acre of park land to every 183 urban residents. If one acre of park land to every 100 persons is accepted as a reasonable standard for municipalities, then the cities of 5,000 and over in 1930 had somewhat more than half of the park acreage needed to attain this goal. It is significant that all but three of the 174 cities reported in the 1930 survey as having no parks belonged to the 5,000 to 25,000 population group. While complete data concerning the smaller municipalities are lacking, the existing evidence points to a serious retardation of the park movement in such cities. On the whole, in spite of the congestion of population in large cities, those residing in these great urban centers frequently have far better facilities for organized forms of outdoor recreation than those living in the less crowded cities and towns.

4 U.S. Bureau of the Census, Statistics of Cities Having Population of Over 30,000, 1907; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Park Recreation Areas in the United States, Bulletin no. 565, 1932.5 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Park Recreation Areas in the United States, Bulletin no. 462, 1928; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Park Recreation Areas in the United States, Bulletin no. 565, 1932.

No nationwide figures are available showing the extent to which municipal parks throughout the country are used. Many millions of people throng them during the summer months and it is becoming more and more common to equip them for winter sports. So rapidly have these parks developed and so well equipped are they with recreational facilities, that they now constitute the major resource of the urban population for outdoor recreation. The capital invested in municipal parks is estimated

PagT e 916 { page image viewer }

to be well over one billion dollars, and for operation and maintenance more than 100,000,000 dollars are spent annually.6 The widespread use of the parks by all classes of people is bringing an increasing strain upon their resources, especially during the week ends of the summer months, and is strengthening the popular demand for more extensive park development.

6 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Park Recreation Areas in the United States, Bulletin no. 462, 1928.

A recent trend in municipal systems is the acquirement of tracts of land for park purpose outside the corporate limits of the city. Improved means of transportation have greatly extended the distances which people can travel comfortably is quest of recreation; and as a result there is a growing demand for extensive park areas adjacent to cities where leisure can be enjoyed in rural surroundings. In 1930, 186 cities, located in 41 states, reported 381 outlying parks containing 89,196 acres.7 The park resources of some of the largest metropolitan centers have recently been supplemented by county and state parks so located as to be available to urban residents. The Cook County Forest Preserves near Chicago, the Westchester County Park System and the Palisades Interstate Park near New York City, and the Los Angeles County parks are examples of extensive park reservations in metropolitan regions. This enlargement of the recreational areas of urban centers is especially important in view of the growing popularity of golf and other games and sports that require extensive space for their enjoyment. The breaking down of the barriers of distance has been accompanied by changes in recreational facilities and activities adapted to the increasing mobility of the people.

7 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Park Recreation AreasT  in the United States, Bulletin no. 565, 1932.

Development of Children's Playgrounds.8 --Along with the growth of municipal parks, there has been a widespread movement to provide public playgrounds for children living in the congested districts of large cities. The initial impetus for this movement came from private philanthropy, but its later development has been under governmental auspices, usually under park boards, municipal recreation departments and school authorities. Very few public playgrounds were in existence at the opening of the present century and by 1910 the playground movement had begun to make headway in only about 180 cities.9

8 See additional materials in Chap. XV.9 This and the following information concerning playgrounds has been compiled from the yearbooks of the National Recreation Association. The number of cities reporting playgrounds and the number of playgrounds differ somewhat from the figures given by the National Recreation Association. This is explained by the fact that in this chapter towns under 2,500 population are excluded, as well as all Canadian cities. Moreover, the totals given in the yearbooks frequently include towns and small cities about which there is not sufficient information to justify their inclusion in the statistical tables from which this chapter was compiled.

Page 917 { page image viewer }

page image viewer (table) Table 1.--Cities of 2,500 Population or More Reporting Public Playgrounds
and Number of Such Playground, 1910-1030a

a Compiled from the yearbooks of the National Recreation Association and the volumes on population of the U. S. Bureau of the Census for the years indicated.

In 1920 the cities above 2,500 T population that maintained public playgrounds numbered 428. In 1930 they had increased to 695. During this ten year period th number of playground grew from 4,139 to 7,240, a gain of 74.9 percent. Their growth has been more rapid than city population, for in 1910 there were 3 playgrounds per 100,000 urban population; in 1920, 7.6 per 100,000; and in 1930, 10.5. While this progress may seem commendable, three-fourths of the cities, mostly those belonging to the smaller population classes, failed to report any playgrounds in 1930. In that year there was an average of less than one playground for every 3,000 urban children.

Public playgrounds were first intended for use during the summer vacation only, and the great majority still remain seasonal in character. In 1910, 17.6 percent of the playground reported were operating on a year round schedule, and in 1930 the percentage belonging to this class had increased to only 18.2. Climatic factor, of course, partly explain the continued emphasis upon seasonal use but it is noteworthy that summer playgrounds are frequently found in cities located in sections of the country where year round outdoor play is not hampered by inclement weather. The recent development of facilities for outdoor winter sports in the north, and the building of field houses in the park of some of the large cities are indications of a growing tendency to make public provision for play throughout the year.

Emphasis in playground construction has been changing rapidly in the direction of facilities for different kinds of games. The earlier playgrounds had some open space for team games, but no effort was made to provide for a large variety of sports of this type. Attention centered mainly upon play activities which required a minimum of equipment and little in the way of specially constructed grounds. In 1910, only a small number of special playground activities formed a part of the regular program, but in 1930 they had become so numerous and diversified that

Page 918 { page image viewer }

they occupied a position of importance closely rivaling that held by the more traditional types of games and sports. Among some of the most popular special activities now carried on the playgrounds are art work, badge tests, folk dancing, social dancing, handicraft, holiday celebrations, model aircraft, motion pictures, nature study, band concerts, community singing, pageants and plays.

When the first playgrounds were established, the general opinion prevailed that children's play would proceed satisfactorily if suitable facilities were provided. Later experience proved that without competent supervision by play leaders the playgrounds were almost a complete failure. In 1910, the number of play supervisors employed was 3,345 and 20 years later they had increased to 24,949. Between 1920 and 1930 the number of supervisor considerably more than doubled while the number of playgrounds increased 75 percent, showing an unmistakable trend in the direction of better supervision of playgrounds by persons technically trained for their task.

Public School Recreational Facilities.--While the school yard has traditionally been a part of the American public school plant, adequate play space for all children has but recently been considered a vital necessity to the educational program. Unfortunately, the small school yards of a generation ago are still to be seen in large numbers, and in many cases their size has suffered a reduction through the erection of the addition school building. According to a recent survey 20 percent of the elementary schools in cities having a population of 30,000 to 100,000 had no playgrounds and scarcely 50 percent of the city high schools were provided with either playground or athletic fields.10

10 U. S. Bureau of Education, Marie M. Ready, Physical Education in City Public Schools, Physical Education seriesT , no. 10, 1929, pp. 92-93, 99.

During the past ten years the increasing dissatisfaction over the small amount of play space provided by the public schools has resulted in a tendency to secure more ample grounds especially when erecting school buildings in new locations. By 1930 at least eight states had passed laws which set up minimum requirements for school playgrounds. State boards of education in twenty states have adopted rules and regulation concerning the size of school sites. The areas required by statute or regulations of state boards vary from one to six acres for elementary schools and from two to ten acre for high schools.11 In the case of many of the more recently built schools located in small cities or in the outlying districts of large cities these minimum standard have been attained, and in an increasing number of cases have been greatly exceeded. The enlargement of the older school grounds, however, is proceeding very slowly.

11 U. S. Office of Education, Marie M. Ready, School Playgrounds, Pamphlet no. 10, 1930, pp. 4-9. See also discussion of this report in Chap. VII.

Page 919 { page image viewer }

Recognition of the need for indoor recreation space during inclement weather has become general enough during recent years to modify the architecture of school buildings. Either a gymnasium, or an auditorium that can be used as a gymnasium, is now regarded as standard equipment for public schools. Playrooms and, less frequently, swimming pools are also included in modern school plants. Unfortunately, many thousands of old school buildings do not contain adequate facilities for indoor recreation; they were built at a time when the need for recreational equipment was less keenly felt. A survey made during 1926-1927 showed that only 30 per cent of the schools reporting in 410 cities had gymnasiums.12 FortT y-eight percent of the schools reported neither gymnasium nor playrooms and presumably had made no provision for indoor games. Swimming pools were provided in one or more of the public schools in 23 percent of the cities studied. While provision for indoor recreation in the public schools is apparently on the increase, it seems to be lagging behind the development of grounds for outdoor games.

12 U.S. Bureau of Education, Marie M. Ready, Physical Education in City Public Schools, Physical Education Series, no. 10, 1929.

State and Federal Provisions for Recreation.--Public interest in state parks and forest began to develop during the opening years of the present century, although it was not until the last decade that rapid expansion resulted. In 1928 state reservations comprised approximately four and one half million acres, more than half of which were located in the state of New York.13 While the majority of the state governments have adopted the policy of setting aside lands for recreational use, the movement has made its greatest advances in the northern and eastern states where the dense population and the lack of national parks make a development of this kind especially appropriate. Many reservations have been equipped with conveniences for campers and tourists and are becoming popular places for week end trips from neighboring cities.

13 Nelson, Beatrice W., State Reservation Parks, Forests, and Game Preserves, National Conference on State Parks, Inc., Washington, D.C., 1928, pp. 430-431. For further discussion of the use of forests for recreation, see Chap. II.

The national park system now comprises 22 parks with a total area of 8,027,216 acres. Since 1920 five of these parks have been acquired and three additional parks have been designated for future development. These parks are unequally distributed through the country, the majority being located in the west. Formerly the parks atT tracted very few visitors because they were not easily accessible and offered few facilities for tourists. During the past 15 years, however, motor roads have been built, camp sites provided, hotels and lodges constructed, and efforts made to provide recreational facilities. The annual appropriations for the administration and improvement of the national parks have increased during the past ten years from approximately one million to twelve

Page 920 { page image viewer }

million dollars. For roads and trails within these parks the expenditures since 1925 amount to $22,500,000.14

14 U.S. National Park Service, Annual Report of the Commissioner, 1915-1930. page image viewer (table) Table 2.--Visitors to National Parks and National Forests, 1910-1931 a
a Compiled from Annual Reports of the National Park Service and Forest Service.

The increasing importance of the parks is shown by the rapid growth in the number of visitors during recent years. In 1910, the visitors numbered 198,606, while in 1930 they reached a total of 2,774,561, an increase of thirteen-fold.15 It is noteworthy that the stream of visitors has steadily increased during the period of financial depression, the rate of increase being slightly greater for 1929-1931 than it was for the two preceding years. The present policy of the National Park Service in developing new parks and in making more adequate provision for the recreational use of those already established is especially appropriate in view of the growing demand for facilities for the enjoyment of outdoor life.

15 Ibid., 1910-1930.

The national forests, which in 1931 had a gross area of 185,251,582 acres, offer many opportunities for hunting, fis