Recently, Marybeth McClain invited me to take a few photos at Andrew Johnson School. The faculty and students had announced final “play day” before demolishing this playground. They have a new one slated for opening in the Spring, but it was still worth commemorating because ‘The Castle” had been home to joy and laughter now for more than a generation.

I must admit, when I arrived it was the old playground that stood weather-worn in the background. Event the fact there were over 500 kids, teachers and parents running around the rustic landscape. It was the sound that overwhelmed me.

Perhaps that’s what a playground is known for. Sure. It’s great to see a kid slip and slide, swing and circle, but when you close your eyes and here the screams and laughter – this is the spirit of a great playground.

I remember the day they opened the original park back in the early nineties. At the time, I was working for the newspaper and made almost daily visits to Oakwood Markets at Green Acres shopping center. The Andrew Johnson Playground was a big deal then. However, like most outdoor structures, the weather can carve away at the best intentions.

On Friday, I was driving the girls around Kingsport city streets and we just happened to pass the old Johnson Playground as a big bulldozer was pushing over the castle spires. It was rainy and cold and a few parents were parked on the side of the road taking a few pictures of the playground which will certainly be a part of the landscape of many in Kingsport who spent magical moments on the playground.

I’m sure the new playground will be great fun too for a new generation. For some, this might be a trite eulogy for such a passing era, but there’s not quite like a playground to echo some of life’s greatest memories and for that reason alone, many were sad to see the ‘Old Castle’ go.