We Tell You Just A Little About the 10th Anniversary of St Petes

Beth Allen Speaks: Good morning Stan,

What a great night at the St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club!!  Jim and I arrived at 7:00 PM to find every court filled and each piece of equipment in use.  During our 2 hour visit, there were no less than 600 smiling people enjoying the party.

One of the first faces I saw was Mary Eldredge, teaching a group of newcomers the basics of the sport as she has done for the past 10 years of shuffle on Friday nights at St. Pete.  This new group was listening attentively as Mary explained how to hold the cue, makes the shots and mark their scores.

New club president, Carrie Waite, along with club executive director, Christine Page, welcomed everyone to the anniversary party.  They both thanked the founders, including Mary Eldredge and Chris Kelly. Chris is pictured with his wife, Debbie.

New Florida resident and lifetime club member, Michael Zellner, was also in attendance to enjoy the festivities. It was quite an evening both for the historic club and those in attendance to celebrate a decade of St. Pete Shuffle.

Wish you and Lois had been in town to attend. Beth

This NARRATIVE by Chris Kelly was posted on the BLOG, the same DAY as the Anniversary Celebration at St Pete > 2015 04 10. The Weekly Planet story, a comment of Philip Clark’s and a request from Stanley Roy McCormack to share thoughts about the 10 year anniversary of Shuffle makes me want to say something.

I’m really proud of Shuffle. Next to my 25 year marriage and my two great kids, it is the thing I am most proud of.

Just over ten years ago, I bumped into Phillip Clark and Chad Mize in Evos on Fourth Street N. They were standing in line, one of the guys had an Artillery shirt on. I asked them if they had any interest in seeing a cool venue that they’d likely never considered for an art event. I cajoled them into grabbing their Evos and following me to the Club, where they likely wondered if I was going to rob them. The Club seemed abandoned most days in 2004, as it did on that day. Phil and Chad saw the opportunity and we exchanged phone numbers and agreed to regroup.

We developed a simple two page statement about who the Artillery was, who Pinellas Heritage was, what we thought was possible at the Shuffleboard Club and how we wanted to get there. It is, in hindsight, a remarkably astute roadmap for how to resurrect a shuffleboard club. We put that document(does anyone have a copy?) in front of the Sunshine Center and City Parks department leadership and they signed on, waived rental fees and helped in every possible way.

Months before that happenstance meeting, I’d met Mary Eldridge-Litts. Mary was the president of the Club in those days, keeping it alive for the seniors who would come to play nickel games and for the occasional group of homeschoolers. I met Mary as part of my attempt to bring the Shuffleboard Club and St Pete Preservation into collaboration. SPPI wasn’t ready to program at the Shuffle Club at that point, but the meeting helped me understand who Mary was and what she desired for the organization she was caretaker of.

Months before that happened, Allen B. Loyd organized an event at the Shuffleboard Club called Flux that Patrick and I volunteered at and which Debbie and I attended. That event, FLUX, sticks in my memory mostly for the violent reverse catapult that Kevin Brady built to form Viking helmets(if that doesn’t already appeal to you, add a bunch of beer and reconsider) out of sheet metal during the event.

Shuffle started on a shoe string. Kristy Knowles, Tim Burns and I had a small Florida not for profit called Pinellas Heritage and $1200 in a checking account. We bought ice and water, the Shuffle love jug always replaced whatever was expended. We sold Blue Lucy designed shirts and raised enough money to buy more shirts. Whenever possible, we encouraged Shufflers to join the Club, not Pinellas Heritage. The money remained static, but the Club grew.

I was drawn to the site because I saw it as the architectural legacy of St Petersburg, a public recreation facility built not with tax dollars but by the contributions and goodwill of generations of friends. Friends who were drawn to this site on the north side of Mirror Lake despite(or because of) the Great Depression, World War II, Korea, Vietnam.

But once Shuffle started, it wasn’t about those glorious buildings and historic preservation. It was about the relationships I developed with several, then dozens, scores and hundreds of people whose interests also allied with mine, people who wanted a third place – somewhere that wasn’t work and wasn’t home. The St Petersburg Shuffleboard Club became our space quickly. It became a place that Nadine and Equality Florida played on courts adjacent to the Indian Rocks Baptist Church Teen Group.

One evening while I was visiting Bill Stokes at the attached Lawn Bowling Club, I was called to deal with a problem on the north courts. When I arrived, I found that a tipsy woman had spilled her drink on a court and refused to clean it up. That the folks on adjoining courts were so disgusted by her behavior that they had asked her to leave. “Was that Ok?,” I was asked. Yes, absolutely. More than OK. Pride of ownership was evident everywhere in those days, in cleanups and the blizzard of ideas and opportunities presented.

For me, the event was never about Shuffleboard the game. I like the activity, if the company is pleasant or the conversation interesting – I’ve even been known to play. For me the great joy of Shuffle and of the resurgent St Petersburg Shuffleboard Club, is standing under the stars on a beautiful evening, listening to music and meeting new faces.

I am delighted that Shuffle has the leadership it deserves. Christine Page has moved the even forward in ways that surprise and delight, honor and encourage. She is a great a steward of my third child, of our greatest community project, and I look forward to the twentieth anniversary of Shuffle.
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1 Response to We Tell You Just A Little About the 10th Anniversary of St Petes

  1. Michael Zellner says:

    Christine Page undoubtedly brought life back into a dying entity. As historical as The St Pete Club was it had fallen into disarray with years of neglect. The city was even contemplating taking the land back for other use. As we all know the age of most shufflers is senior citizens and through the normal life process pass away reducing membership to almost unsupportable levels. Christine Page marketed and brought younger players into the game. She set up training programs and free open to the public shuffling on Fridays and her membership soared. She even brought in Food Trucks to offer everyone exotic food items and with all this newfound income she reinvested it into modernizing and upgrading the club. I am so proud of Christine and her staff and honored to be a Lifetime Member of the club.

    Liked by 1 person

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