Now this entry in the “I Love Lucy [the Elephant]” Memory Contest is a little different from the others, but no less fun or inspiring! Thanks, Traci, for the submission and for the intro to your Go Big or Go Home blog. Hope you enjoy her entry — it’s about a place with a certain “no one puts Baby in the corner” vibe.
Shuffling Back in Time
by Traci L. Suppa
The” yin and yang” of family travel means that, in return for enduring godawful meals at “Chuck E.”-type establishments which please my kids, I expect their best behavior at places which may not hold a lot of kid-friendly appeal. This deal doesn’t always work, but it’s a goal. I thought I might have to cash in a few credits when we took them to the Mirror Lake Shuffleboard Club, but they actually enjoyed it – almost as much as I did!
This club, located in St. Petersburg, Florida, is the world’s largest shuffleboard club, and the oldest in the United States. Since it’s not open every day, I made special arrangements with the St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club president, a gracious and enthusiastic volunteer named Christine.
We played shuffleboard last spring as a family at the Woodloch Pines Resort, and we all enjoyed it. (Momma had game…thoroughly surprising everyone.) So we were all up for trying it again. Even Grandma and Grandpa came along.
This was one of those times I wish I had a time machine. The Mirror Lake complex, built in 1923, is an Art Deco charmer. I would have loved being there on a spring evening at the height of its popularity, gussied up in white – as was the custom — for a night on the court.
In its heyday — the 1930’s through the 60’s — the club gained international fame for its size, with 110 playing courts and an annual membership of over 5,000. There are now 65 shuffleboard courts at Mirror Lake, and covered grandstand seating for over 100. We had the place to ourselves, so Christine directed us to a regulation court.
I really wanted to learn how to play shuffleboard, the right way. Christine outfitted us with poles and disks, drew the scoring triangle on the chalk board, and gave an overview on how to score. She glassed the court for us, which involved spreading microscopic glass beads across the court’s surface to make the disks slide faster.
There is some skill involved in shuffleboard; you have to put the right amount of force behind your shot so the disk goes far enough, but not too far. Another important aspect is strategy, and knowing how and when to knock your opponents’ disks off the court. After a few frustrating shots, I was hooked. I wanted to get my game back.
A match is usually three games. Whoever wins two games first wins the match. We didn’t make it that long. Our four-year old daughter wasn’t cooperative. She played for a while, climbed up and down the steps of the grandstand, then told us it was time to go. Our 10-year old son enjoyed the game and would have stayed longer.
Still, I got some good shots in, and was able to spend some time inside the clubhouse, poring over the black and white photos of former club members, as well as the wall of trophies from as far back as 1934.
Mirror Lake is a special place. It’s an endearing example of historic preservation moving in the right direction. I learned that this club has been experiencing a rebirth, offering weekly play on Friday nights, and attracting hundreds of locals. In particular, families. For me, shuffleboard has a “retro” appeal, representing a time in our history when family entertainment was more social, and wholesomely unplugged.
St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Courts, 559 Mirror Lake Drive North, St. Petersburg, FL
BIO — Traci L. Suppa drags her small-town family to see a quirky array of the world’s largest, longest, or tallest things, and blogs about it at Go BIG or Go Home.
You’ve been on the edge of your seat waiting for another one of the wonderful entries in the “I Love Lucy [the Margate Elephant] Memory Contest,” haven’t you? Well wait no more! Herewith, The Battle of Sand Hill Cove and its prize-winning original illustration, both by Anne Fontaine (all rights reserved).
The Battle of Sand Hill Cove
Striding importantly through the beach peas, I was on my way to find my brothers and my cousins on the crowded public beach and bring them back to the cottage for lunch. It seemed to my 12-yr-old brain that as the eldest child and eldest grandchild there ought to be more to it but this was just the sort of errand I was sent on, often several times a day, when we stayed at the beach. I knew exactly where they were, too. Junior anthropologists all, they were crawling through the dunes to spy on awkwardly passionate teenagers. Fetching them out might blow their cover, a prospect I was looking forward to until I noticed the tide was out. The rocky shore on this side of the breakwater now extended past the middle of the jetties—it was like finding the door to a closely-guarded castle wide open and I thought, just for a minute.
It was slow going; some of the rocks were slippery, covered with green hair that lifted and sank with the rhythmic movement of the water. I was watching my footing. peering intently into the sandy pools, when the jerky motion of a small shell caught my eye. Two shells, actually, their occupants locked together, moving balletically over the sand and rocks. Then my schoolyard instincts kicked in and I recognised the behavior: the two hermit crabs were fighting. I knew boys fought, of course, and that men fought in wars; I knew that some animals fought over territory but they all seemed land-based, and large. Around and around they went, my view of the battle sometimes obscured by patches of sunlight that turned my watery lens opaque. Then, suddenly, with what should have been an audible POP, one hermit crab pulled the other out of its shell. It appeared on the sand, a bent knuckle with legs, as the victor quickly vacated his own shell and popped himself neatly into the emptied one.
Amazed and outraged at the same time, my head shot up to call out. I realised my mistake instantaneously, along with a few other things. I was alone and a lot further from the beach than I thought but I had to know what happened to the newly naked crab. Hurriedly turning back to the sandy battlefield, the water almost to my knees, the depth was now too great to see through clearly. I couldn’t find it. A frisson of fear shot through me as I heard, from the jetty to my left, the unmistakable gurgles and ominous sucking noises that meant the occupants of the black spaces between the boulders would be returning; the tide was on its way in and had been for a little while. I moved quickly toward the shore, suddenly aware that I might be trampling over other oceanic dramas, a silent sorry, sorry repeated in contrition, just in case. As the water level on my legs dropped and I began to see the stones again, a line of recognisable boys walked across the beach in the direction of the cottage, laughing and joking. I never told anyone I witnessed a war that afternoon. It seemed too big, and I was terribly late for lunch.
We were without power for a couple of days after Sandy blew through town. Our many thanks go to the men in the Mississippi Power trucks for their efforts in our neighborhood to restore our electricity. Though there is a certain charm to living by candlelight, after a while you start fantasizing about being able to take a hot shower, or make yourself a cup of tea.
How about that Sandy, huh?
(And I mean the hurricane, not Sandy, baby, in “Grease”)
If, post-superstorm, you’re feeling the need for a little lightness after the darkness, have I got an event for you!
What’s more — it’s electrifying!
By which I mean that you buying a ticket to sip a cocktail in a National Historic Landmark and mingle with other cool people like yourself will help raise money to upgrade the electrical system at the wonderful, quirky, Victorian Wagner Free Institute of Science. (Oh, did I mention that it’s a National Historic Landmark, a designation awarded to only 2,500 sites in the United States that are considered exceptional examples of our shared American history?)
When? Where? Mark your calendar.
2012 Benefit Cocktail Party
Wagner Free Institute of Science
1700 W. Montgomery Ave (nr Temple)
Friday, November 9, 2012, 5:30-8:30pm with a special “welcome” @5:45
If you can’t make it to SIP OF SCIENCE but you like the idea of the spark of knowledge and bolts from the blue, you can still make a donation.
You and the Wagner’s stuffed alligator, crocodile, three-toed sloth, and whatnot will be rubbing elbows with more than 250 guests. Guests who love cool science, and want to support the Wagner’s efforts to provide FREE science education to Philadelphia schoolchildren (and all the grown up visitors too; I always learn something whenever I visit).
Mayor Nutter and Governor Corbett are Honorary Event Chairs. Senator Casey, Senator Toomey, Congressman Fattah, and Councilwoman Reynolds-Brown are members of the Honorary Committee.
Founded in 1855, the Wagner Free Institute of Science is dedicated to providing free public education in science. Its programs include free courses and lectures, field trips and lessons for children and museum tours for all ages.
The evening science courses — for all ages — are in their 157th year, making them the oldest program devoted to free adult education in the United States. The Institute also has a strong commitment to children’s science education and offers a range of programs for school groups and through partnerships with neighboring schools and community groups.
The Institute’s Museum houses more than 100,000 natural history specimens, a collection begun by founder William Wagner in the early nineteenth century and expanded by the pre-eminent scientist Joseph Leidy in the 1880s. Completed in 1865, the Institute’s National Historic Landmark building is essentially unchanged since the late-nineteenth century and includes a Victorian Exhibition Hall filled with fossils, shells, minerals and mounted animal skeletons and skins displayed in original wood and glass cabinets. The Museum is open to visitors Tuesdays – Fridays, 9 AM to 4 PM, year-round. Evening and weekend programs are offered during the fall, winter and spring.
Big, bossy Hurricane Sandy blew through town.
I’m not even current on all the damage she caused because here we’ve only just had the power restored. (200,000+ people in the area still without power; MontCo and Bucks were hardest hit.)
However, I’ve managed to glimpse a few photos, including remarkable scenes showing a twisted roller coaster in the ocean, and a New York City subway platform, deserted, and underwater.
Not long ago I wrote about my childhood “friend” Lucy the Margate Elephant and her 131st birthday. She stands looking out to sea on the Jersey shore. As I listened to Governor Christie talk about the flooding in Atlantic City, Lucy was much on my mind. Would she survive the storm after standing beachside for more than a century already? (Wondering how she was faring helped distract me from thinking about the giant oak tree leaning just outside my window in the blasting winds).
I was pleased to read a note from Executive Director Richard Helfant on Lucy’s Facebook feed.
Many have written in sending Lucy prayers and kind words during this unprecedented storm. Although we cannot return to the island yet to conduct a visual inspection, the Margate City Police Department is keeping a watchful eye on Lucy. As of now, we have had no reports of damage to the monument. Some things to keep in mind;
1. Lucy has weathered everything mother nature has sent her way for more than 131 years.
2. She is a stronger structure today than she was in 1962 during the March storm. Her main ‘superstructure’ is now steel; it was wood in 1962.3. She is farther back from the shore line than she was in 1962.4. Lucy’s Beach Grille building sits directly in front of her. It will bear the brunt of the wave action and serve as a barrier for Lucy. Our thanks goes out to all of Lucy’s well wishers. Good luck and be safe.
Because an elephant never forgets…..
Then I challenged you to share a recollection of a place, object, or landscape that stays in your memory as something special.
Thanks to all of you who took the challenge, turned a memory into a story, and were willing to share it with us.
Thanks also to my panel of judges, who took their jobs very seriously!
The entries were wonderful. Long. Short. Fanciful, Practical. Some came with images, some didn’t. While my judges and I had discussions about judging criteria to help guide their selection, their gut instincts were their best guides, and we quickly came to our final decisions.
I’m delighted to announce that the first winner of the first “I Love Lucy [the Margate Elephant]” Memory Contest is Ms. Rebecca Hodgkins. Her story, Lagan, is a memory from her childhood, with elements of the magic we all believe in when we are young (and some lucky few still believe even as the years pile on).
Ms. Hodgkins wins the grand prize — a plush Lucy the Elephant (see above), sporting a bejeweled crown (stitched during the blackout caused by Hurricane Sandy).
A special prize for illustration goes to Ms. Anne Fontaine, who submitted “The Battle of Sand Hill Cove” accompanied by a watercolor/collage to help tell the story. The prize is a plush Lucy the Elephant (sorry, no crown for this category).
All other entrants receive a certificate of excellence. Please send me your mailing address (see the email address in the sidebar).
You’ll have the opportunity to read each of the wonderful stories, leading off with our winner, “Lagan” by Ms. Rebecca Hodgkins.
I had a weird childhood. My parents and I would take these trips to Nashville to see my Dad’s family. It wasn’t quite Shawn Mullens singing, “She grew up with the children of the stars,” but we’d go to a funeral and Dolly Parton would be there. My dad jokingly tried to trade me for a pair of black jeans to Alice Cooper on a golf course. When Elvis died, we sat stunned around my great uncle’s TV set while he called his son for the details firsthand. So I developed this sort of worldview that anything could happen, and probably would, if I simply expected it.
That’s how I explain the sand dollar.
But connected to the sand dollar is a memory I can’t even explain to myself. It did happen. I remember it happening. I remember it happening a certain way. It couldn’t have happened.
Nashville was only a stop on our way to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina – our “real” vacation. I’d spend the rest of the year in landlocked Illinois loving a place where I couldn’t be, thinking about the trip down, watching the moss begin appearing in the trees, waiting to see the gap in the land where I knew the ocean was, just over a sand dune, finally opening the car door and breathing in the tangy perfume of the Atlantic.
When I was seven, my dad brought home an illustrated book of seashells. Among the conches, the abalones, the spiraling snail shells like staircases, I found a page about sand dollars. That was it. I would find one on the beach. My dad was skeptical; we were too far north, he said. He’d never found one himself, and this would be his ninth trip there. But I was seven years old. I would find one, because I wanted to find one. Simple logic.
No one surfed Myrtle Beach. I had an inflatable canvas raft like everyone else, and I rode it back to shore on every wave I could catch. Sometimes, if I were lucky, I could catch a wave just behind the crest and I would fly all the way back to the beach. Without luck, I’d overshoot the sweet spot and tumble forward into the white foam, the wave throwing me under its feet. I’d come up sputtering and scared, feeling betrayed, then paddle back to the beach to build a sand castle until I felt the ocean had forgiven me, and it was safe to go back in.
I was pulling my raft behind me in shallow water when I first saw the sand dollar, round and white and only a few feet away. I lunged for it just as a wave came in and snatched it away. The water calmed between swells, and I saw it again, sitting back on the bottom in deeper water now. The same thing happened; as I reached for it, the next wave came and pulled it away. The water was too deep now to safely grab the sand dollar without going under. I knew I was being teased. I was too young to know I was being reeled in.
Frustrated, I rode the next wave back to the beach. Turning back, I saw it again, flipping over in the wave that followed mine. No – not a sand dollar but a piece of round, white cardboard – trash, a fool’s dollar. I was angry that the ocean would tease me like that. The sand dollar was out there. It was mine. I looked up the beach to where my parents had their umbrella and towels. My mom was lying down, my dad, reading a book. I paddled out past the breakers, watching the sand under my feet. Nothing. The bottom here was smooth and void of treasures. It was also at least four feet below my toes. I saw something, something bigger than a fish, moving just within the murk.
I never saw the wave coming. It picked up my raft and flung it forward. I lost my grip when my back hit the water.
I remember this.
I remember lying on the sand. I remember the way it felt as my fingers trailed through it, like silk. I remember opening my eyes because I wasn’t alone; I was being watched, or watched over; I felt curiosity flowing like a current around me. Above all, I remember feeling peaceful and safe. The sun shone down on me. And then it didn’t, as my raft floated across the light, six, maybe seven feet above me. It reminded me that I didn’t belong down here, despite the fact that I didn’t seem to be in any danger of drowning. I calmly sat up and pushed off from the bottom, broke the surface without so much as a gasp or pause in breath.
That is what I still remember, and what I cannot explain.
I paddled to my raft. Just as I pulled myself onto it, another wave came, picked me up and carried me all the way back to the beach, faster than I’d ever gone. I came to rest on the sand. And it was right there, not an inch from my hand. My sand dollar.
I picked it up and ran to the umbrella, excited to show my dad what I’d found.
I kept the sand dollar, of course. I wish I could send you a picture of it, but that’s impossible. We went back to the ocean every summer, moving north up the coast as the prices rose in Myrtle Beach. By the time I was fourteen, we’d made it to the Outer Banks. I was a bit of a lost teenager then, wanting independence from my parents, hanging out with a group of other teens from the condo we rented, and my dad decided that we’d had enough of the beach. We never went back.
A year later, the sand dollar (kept safe in my desk drawer) cracked right down the middle. By the time I was packing for college, it had turned to a fine powder, only the little “doves” inside left sitting on the pile like lagan at the sandy bottom of the ocean.
Ah, it’s an oft-heard phrase — “they don’t build ‘em like that anymore” when you ogle a wedding cake of a building like Philadelphia’s City Hall (built 1871-1901, architect John McArthur, Jr. deemed too expensive to tear down), or the gargoyle-encrusted Fisher Fine Arts Library at the University of Pennsylvania (built 1888-1890, architect Frank Furness).
Because it’s Halloween, I’m letting those beasties run amok here for your enjoyment. (Go ahead, say it: “They just don’t build them like that anymore….” Can you believe they were going to tear this building down? I think its interior spaces are among my all-time favorites.)