Thursday, March 11, 2010

Shuffling Away

Shuffleboard courts in downtown Avon Park, Florida

Shuffleboard and golden days of retirement are entwined in Florida mythology. In the mid to late twentieth century, there wasn't a trailer court in the state worth a lick if it didn't have a shuffleboard court or two. This association with the elderly has been a bit of a public relations challenge in attracting new fans to the sport, although the St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club has a very popular Friday night session with live music.

Playing shuffleboard in St. Petersburg, back in the day (Florida State Archives)

The Kissimmee All States Tourist Club's shuffleboard courts will be torn down soon as part of the city's Lakefront Park redevelopment. Grass-roots efforts to save or at least commemorate the courts include the Facebook group Save Our Shuffleboard. KAST is the subject of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Story of the Day today: Florida To Lose 1941 Shuffleboard Courts.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy Presidents Day, Florida!

Brass band awaiting Grover Cleveland's arrival in Lakeland, Florida, 1894 (Florida State Archives)

Today, a U.S. president overlooks Florida at his own peril, but even before this state was a political battleground , our nation's leaders found their way here on a regular basis.

First was Andrew Jackson, who was Territorial governor of Florida before Florida was a state and before Jackson was president. Neither Jackson nor his wife Rachel were particularly fond of Florida, in fact, The Hermitage's website says that they "despised the climate."

Several places in Florida are named after presidents, including Polk County, which honors our 11th president, James K. Polk. Fort Pierce began as an actual fort, named after Lt. Col. Benjamin Pierce, the brother of President Franklin Pierce. The Herbert Hoover Dike holds the waters of Lake Okeechobee, and is named after the president who authorized the money to build the earthen dam after devastating hurricanes swepth through the Everglades in the 1920s. Manned space flights launch from the Kennedy Space Center, named after the president who challenged us to travel to the moon, not because it was easy, but because it was hard.

Dr. Mudd, who treated John Wilkes Booth's leg and was himelf accused of plotting against Abraham Lincoln, was held prisoner at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. Fort Jefferson was named after our 3rd president, Thomas Jefferson.

Many presidents enjoyed fishing or hunting trips to Florida as breaks from the rigors of office. Several went as far as having second homes or "little White Houses" here - the Kennedy's had a family compound in Palm Beach, Nixon had a waterfront home on Key Biscayne, and Truman favored Key West.

So for all these presidents and more who have traveled to our sunny state, we wish you an Happy Presidents Day!