THE AVON PARK WINTER GUEST CLUB
written by Leoma B. Maxwell (1908-1997)
(Avon Park Senior Activities Center)
(Avon Park Shuffleboard Club)
Donaldson Park was named after Mr. Charles S. Donaldson, who was twice Mayor of Avon Park and one of the designers and builders of “The Mile Long Mall” which extends from Route 27 to Lake Verona.
In 1933, The Chamber of Commerce offered a $5.00 prize for the best suggestion of what could be done to improve The City of Avon Park. The Junior Women’s Club offered the idea of cleaning up Donaldson Park, which was then an area of only weeds and junk. The project was undertaken and began the improvement of what today is a lovely playground for the children and a large beach area for swimming, also a boat ramp.
By 1935, many people were coming to spend the Winter in Avon Park and had no place to meet for recreation. A group met at the Jacaranda Hotel in the Fall of 1935 with 43 present. Edward Hammond was elected President of the group and Walter Betts as Secretary. The group met at various places and requested the City and the Chamber of Commerce for a permanent place to meet.
It was decided to give this group a building that was then the old club house from Charles R. Head Field on Winthrop St. The building had been used at that location by baseball teams training in Avon Park in the 1920’s. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were among those players. At the time, the building was more or less abandoned. Some reports state that the building began life somewhere East of the downtown area as an armory built by the US Army Air Corps and was declared surplus and gifted to the City of Avon Park when Charles R. Head made baseball an important part of our heritage.
In 1937, the moving project was undertaken. The total cost was well over $500; the City donated $150 and the members of The Club funded the balance and many members donated their labor to the cause. The building was moved in two parts and erected upon its current site. Additionally, the Membership added on a kitchen and a card room at their own expense.
In 1939, Marcus E. Covington was Mayor; he made arrangements for “The Tin Can Tourists of the World” to hold their annual convention in Avon Park. 180 trailers converged on Avon Park and received a royal welcome from Mayor Covington. Perhaps some stayed or returned because, by 1940, the first trailer park was established behind the Club House. They had to use the shower and toilet facilities in the Club House. Since the Coin Operated Laundry business had not yet been established, it became a problem to get laundry done. Most of the occupants did their own by boiling clothes in a big copper pot over a cook stove and hanging the clothes over a line stretched between two palm trees.
These were the years during WWII and living conditions in the City were crowded. As many as 100 trailers were parked in Donaldson Park and the Club House was used as Headquarters for the USO and as a Recreation Center for the military personnel.
After the war it took a few years to clear Donaldson Park of the last of the trailers and return the building to its original purpose for the Club. Shuffleboard Courts were built first in a section of The Mall opposite the building. Later, courts were added between the street and the building. A small log cabin on the property was used as the Cue House. (No one seems to remember when the log house was built or when it was torn down.)
Dues for the Club were only $1.00 and all of the businesses were invited to join. In 1956, the total membership was 601 and the dues were raised to $3.50. Activities at the Club House included many card parties, dinners, square dances, ballroom dancing, cribbage, bingo, shuffleboard tournaments, Arts & Crafts classes and many exhibits.
The Club House was used by the congregation of the Resurrection Lutheran Church until they completed their own sanctuary, and again by the First Presbyterian Church until they completed their sanctuary. The Old Settlers Association was organized in 1947 and they held their annual meetings at the Club House.
After the City was divided into Precincts, the Club House has been used as the voting place for all residents of the North side of the City.
The building was remodeled with a new kitchen area, painted and rest room facilities built outside. The shuffleboard courts have been enlarged.
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This club is now known as The Avon Park Senior Activities Club (APSAC) and now has 22 shuffleboard courts which are covered, lighted, ventilated and meticulously maintained tournament quality. APSAC hosts County, District, State and National Tournaments. Additionally, there are many Club Only Events. Membership is open to all persons of good character and is currently $20 annually.
Please visit us at: http://www.avonparkseniorcenter.com/
- written by Leoma B. Maxwell (1908 – 1997)
- edited 03/31/2017 by Tom Clayton, President, APSAC