Oh how I miss Florida, and Avon Park and Sebring. Back in 2009 after my wife and I both lost our jobs we decided to try something different. We embarked on the world’s most expensive extended Florida vacation – we bought a pretty much worthless bed and breakfast in a town most people never heard of, Avon Park.
We were there just a few weeks when I noticed a senior recreation club, just 200 yards from our house. I stopped by one day to find out if my wife and I could join their group. They welcomed us with opened arms.
I didn’t realize until we moved back to our home town of St. Louis, Missouri how lucky we were. Both pro’s and amateurs took us under their wings. We knew literally nothing about shuffleboard. People like John Bushe, Ralph Day, and Dick Davis taught us about drift, strategy, and shuffleboard etiquette.
We played 2-3 times a week and joined the Sebring Shuffleboard Club and added Friday nights to our shuffleboard schedule.
Over time I started to compete in some local tournaments. Eventually, my game improved and a couple of our pro’s invited me to partner with them for some pro-am tournaments.
Besides shuffleboard, I discovered that Dick Davis and I shared a love of fishing and would go out on his boat almost weekly to fish together. He soon became my closest buddy, and I thoroughly enjoyed him both as a shuffleboard mentor and a friend.
We never did make any money from the B&B, despite pouring thousands of dollars into upgrades such as high speed internet, satellite tv, and new flat screen high definition televisions. We did everything imaginable to market the Lake Verona Lodge Bed and Breakfast. We joined the Chamber of Commerce, advertised on line and in local newspapers and radio, and even gave away free sandwiches at one of the district tournaments held in Avon Park.
It was all to no avail. After just under 3 years we threw in the towel. No one wanted to buy the house as a bed and breakfast and we ate a big loss selling just the house. We moved back to St. Louis, my wife hoping to return to former field as a programmer analyst.
Three years ago I entered the St. Louis Senior Olympics. It had been a while since I had played shuffleboard, but I still managed to win a gold medal in the men’s single competition for my age bracket. One of the guys I competed against told me about a group of shuffleboard players that played at a local park.
I joined this group that eventually became the St. Louis Shuffleboard Club. We meet twice a week and purchased 3 courts from Allen Shuffleboard Club. Our club president Glen Vanmatre arranged for the Gateway Salvation Army Community Center to let us play there in the winter and when the weather is bad.
We have a pretty competitive group of men and women. It isn’t a large group but our members have done pretty well in local and regional tournaments. One of our members, Joe Blumenkemper, took first place in the National Senior Olympics in the 50 to 54 division.
I consider my time in Florida as getting my Bachelor’s Degree in shuffleboard. Sadly, due to injuries and illnesses, and this past February, getting my right knee replaced, my game has deteriorated. I consider my skill level to be about 25 percent down from when I lived in Avon Park.
Sometimes I fantasize about coming back and getting a “tune-up” with my shuffleboard game. Lately, my wife has been making noises like she wants to become a “snow bird” and eventually move back to Florida full time. I hope so, now I want to go on to my Masters and PHD in shuffleboard.
I am retired, but she, 10 years younger than myself (I’m almost 69) has a few more years before she can collect social security. She never did get back to programming, and has worked a couple of low level administrative jobs since our return. She regrets that we moved back to St. Louis. Like me, she misses our friends, the lakes, and yes, our beloved shuffleboard.
We’ll be back. I can’t say exactly when, but we’ve both decided we’re ready. I’ll have to dig out my “Maine to English” translator so I can understand Dick Davis again. “Pahk the cah.”
I can’t wait.