How shuffleboard helped shape Leesburg in the 20th Century

Leesburg

The eighth and final panel of the Leesburg Bicentennial Mural depicts recreational endeavors of Leesburg’s residents and guests. It’s only fitting the mural, which portrayed 120 years of Leesburg history, includes scenes of kids playing baseball, fishing for bass, hunting, playing tennis and shuffleboard, bowling and sailing.  

Last week, I began looking at bowling. My research has bogged down, and I ask anyone who played a line or two or remembers the days of the Bowldrome on Third and what is now Market Street to get in touch with me.

In the meantime, I’m returning to our topic of a couple weeks ago — shuffleboard.

I was given a file on the history of the Leesburg Community, Tourist and Shuffleboard Club that was compiled in 1968 by Lucile Boring, the club’s historian.  It was a gift to the Leesburg Heritage Society by Robert Cauthen.

“The foundation for the Leesburg Community, Tourist and Shuffleboard Club we know today had its beginning back in the days before there were many winter visitors or trailers,” began Boring in her history. “It was laid by a few men and women who were dedicated to the idea of making everyone who came to Leesburg as a tourist feel welcome, enjoy their stay and want to return another time.”

I never imagined what a big role shuffleboard had in Leesburg’s history.

Before the creation of Venetian Gardens, the city maintained a few small rentals for tourists on the grounds and on Second Street, according to Boring.

“They also started City Trailer Park to accommodate the ‘Tin Can Tourists,’ as they were called,” wrote Boring. “At that time a small building called the ‘Hut Sut’ stood on Dixie Avenue, marking the entrance to the park, (if one could call it that in those early days).”

It’s helpful to remember Venetian Gardens got its start in the mid-1920s when the sawgrass swamp that filled the lagoon was turned into a usable waterway. The Leesburg Kiwanis Club decided that Leesburg needed a swimming pool, which was completed and opened in 1929. So the park was beginning to take shape.

“Old Timers say that the only high ground in the park was where the fine live oaks stood, and still stand, on Dixie Avenue around the present Community Building,” wrote Boring. “There was nothing but swamp and backwater down to the lake until the days of the W.P.A.”

Her next paragraph puts the time frame in the mid-1930s, when plans for Venetian Gardens were being drawn up. While not called Venetian Gardens, the preliminary work was started 10 years earlier and there was clear water in the lagoon area all the way to Lake Harris.

“Then the ‘Hut-Sut’ was enlarged to take in the drive-through entrance and connect it to another small building to the West,” wrote Boring.

Could anyone tell me how that building got its name? It was a very important small building. I would also welcome any photos of it.

“This building was headquarters for the recreational activities of the City of Leesburg, working with children in the summer and tourists in the winter,” wrote Boring.

Rationing of gasoline during World War II curtailed winter visitors in Florida but after the war was over they once again found their way to the Hut, wrote Boring. “Previously they had their meetings in an upstairs room in the Lassiter-Ware Building on Sixth Street,” she wrote.

Today, the Lassiter-Ware Building is home to the Leesburg Heritage Society and Historical Museum. It began its life in the early 1920s as the meeting place of the Leesburg Woman’s Club.

In the early days of the tourist club, there weren’t many social events like dinners, according to Boring.

“But the woman secretary of the Chamber of Commerce arranged to take tourists on a lovely free boat trip on Lake Griffin and served them a lunch on board the big boat,” wrote Boring. “Later the tourists gathered in a room on the second floor of the Stoer Building on Fifth Street, but climbing the long stairs proved to be a hardship for many, and news of the enlarging of the ‘Hut’ was indeed most welcome.”

Finally, the Tourist Club had a home. And they used it.

“They now had weekly suppers and a place to meet for visiting and entertainment,” wrote Boring. “In those days there was no piano in the ‘Hut,’ but folks enjoyed singing a capella at their get-togethers. And there were no paid programs—just the joy of good fellowship in the land of Sunshine, and impromptu entertainment seemed to be enough.

“The building was overcrowded (about 80 was the capacity) but it mattered not to the good-natured crowd, that when the supper tables were set up across the doors, keeping them from being opened, some had to crawl through the windows to get in. Your historian did it several times.”

Those days are gone forever as building codes would not allow doors to be blocked. But it was a simpler and maybe sweeter time.

Rick Reed is a columnist who lives in Mount Dora.

Article sent along by Bob Weber > WITH THANKS!!    Want to see more Murals??

Stan McCormack.  2014 11 28

 

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