Harold and Betty Mackness have brought a little piece of Florida to their family farm.
It has nothing to do with sunshine or citrus fruit. It’s one of the Sunshine State’s favourite pastimes for elderly residents: shuffleboard.
The Chatham Township couple donated the materials and land on their farm, and several local residents anxious to have a shuffleboard club donated their time. Mackness said 80 year-old men were climbing ladders to help build the facility.
It’s the only shuffleboard club in Canada that has regulation-size courts. And its players include members of world championship teams.
There are eight courts spread out in two rows of four in the cavernous 108 by 40 foot (32 by 12 meter) building. From the outside it could pass as an implement shed.
Mackness said there was a reason for the design of the facility.
“A lot of clubs that start from scratch don’t always make a go of it. I thought if it (club) doesn’t last at least we’ll have a good machine shed for the farm.” He laughed.
The layout is beneficial to tournament play because of the gutters that lie between the green, and raised cement courts, which prevents errant pucks from interfering with another game.
Most other shuffleboard facilities have the courts painted on the floor, and must put up some type of barrier to prevent any interference in play.
Unwanted church pews have been cut down to size, covered with material, and set on cement supports to become player benches.
SIX YEARS LATER
It’s been six years since the facility was erected and the Thames Horizon Shuffleboard Club was born.
Some people may think shuffleboard is a game you play to pass the time on a cruise ship. But there are more than 100 active players in the area.
The Thames Horizon Shuffleboard Club has had a membership of more than 100 almost since it began.
Club President Andy Houston said there is a lot of strategy involved in the fame, which is similar to curling. Houston said on any given day, an 80 year-old player can beat someone quite a bit younger. “It’s a great equalizer.” But not everybody has to be a fierce competitor. Even though there’s no signage to identify the facility, 83 people showed up to play on opening day.
“I thought if we had advertised (where the club is) we wouldn’t know what to do with everybody.” Said Mackness. Snowbird have helped shuffleboard gain its popularity around here. Houston said several of the members only play on “fun days.” Held twice a week, and don’t play in any of the club’s tournaments held every two weeks.
But the club has always got an eye out for someone with natural talent. “If we see someone who is really enjoying themselves, we encourage them to try the tournaments.” Said Houston. “That’s where you are going to learn more about the game.
Thames Horizon is making its mark on the International Shuffleboard scene, as five members recently represented Canada at the International Shuffleboard Championships, held I Edmonton, Alta. In early August.
Muriel Wiseman and Mary Buttton of Chatham, Marjorie Taylor of Blenheim, and Vicky Klym of Leamington played on the Canadian Women’s team, which captured the championship. Nick Klym of Leamington represented Thames Horizon on the Canadian men’s team, which also captured the championship.
The Club has also hosted the Ontario Shuffleboard Championships.
If the success of the Thames Horizon Shuffleboard Club continues, it could be quite a while before the facility is ever used to house farm machinery. “It probably won’t happen in my lifetime,” quipped Mackness.
This article was given to me during the 33rd ISA in Midland, (2014) by Nick Klym. It was in the form of a newspaper article. I scanned some of it, and typed some of it. You may also wish to read this article: SHUFFLING IN COMFORT ALSO, to read about Nick, enter Nick Klym into the search rectangle and hit search. Stan McCormack, 2014 10 25.