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“I Love Lucy [the Elephant]” Memory Contest: On the Road Division

November 13, 2012

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.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 18, 2012 10:37 pm

    Thanks for sharing my story! I’m enjoying reading through the other submissions, too.

  2. April 15, 2013 9:57 am

    Sabra; I thought of you and our shared appreciation of Lucy the Elephant this weekend as I wrote this post about my family’s recent visit there. It’s a more serious than usual post on what visiting Lucy meant to me as a mom, trying to teach her kids about historic preservation, volunteerism, and authentic tourism.

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