ZEPHYRHILLS SHUFFLEBOARD CLUB
5207 8th Street
Zephyrhills, Florida 33541
HISTORY OF SHUFFLEBOARD IN ZEPHYRHILLS
By: Robert Perkins
I am just about done with my book detailing the history of shuffleboard in Zephyrhills. Here are a few interesting bits of information from my book.
As best I could determine, shuffleboard started here in 1930. At the time there were no RV parks in Zephyrhills. However, the “tin can” tourist camp by Lake Zephyr (now the site of Winters Park) had 2 courts, along with horseshoe pits. The lighting for night play was so bad it was hard to tell when you were in the kitchen. Players would throw acorns at frogs on the courts. Once in a while a snake would appear and upset the women players. The park only had cabins and a general store. In 1951 Gordon Winters purchased the 5-acre Eastman Trailer Park and started Winters Park. Lakeland people told him he needed shuffleboard to bring people in. He installed 2 courts on the edge of Highway 54, across from Bob’s Garage. When Highway 54 was enlarged he moved the courts to the current location.
For the past few years, Bob Perkins has been researching and writing a book on the history of shuffleboard in Zephyrhills.
Bob is in hopes the book will be completed and published by the end of our 2017 season.
Here are a few excerpts from the book which will eventually be available at the Club.
In 1932 the Tourist Club purchased the Storm Feed Store on 7th Street and installed several courts, along with horseshoe pits. The city of Zephyrhills leased the land to them for $1.00 per year, which was next to the Seaboard railroad tracks. More courts were added until the total reached 21 courts, the city decided that there was too much traffic crossing 7th street. Thus the lease was terminated and in 1995 the Tourist Club moved the courts to their current location. A local shuffleboard player’s ashes are in one of the courts. Once RV parks started coming in the demise of the Tourist Club started, and it is now closed. In the 1980’s it had over 1,000 members with shufflers, dancers, and card players.
In the early years, Zephyrhills shufflers were not winning many tournaments. Teams from Lakeland with 100 courts were taking home the honors. All this changed in the '80's -'90's when a new crop of players from Zephyrhills began winning tournaments. Some of those players included: Jack Grant, Pete Romano, Paul Pagen, Bill McMillan, Larry Koch, Kelly Bowser, A.F. Richy, Earl Ball, Joan Cook, Art Vogel, Dale Williams, Don & George Darwin, Howard Workman and Thelma & Jim Springer.
The first airport in Zephyrhills was built in the mid 1930’s when flying was just beginning. When the airport moved to a bigger location, Winters Park purchased the land and expanded their park.
In the early days of shuffling it wasn’t uncommon to have 200 spectators and 69 teams entered, and this was mostly done outside in the sunshine and the heat and wind. Shuffling in those days was more a social event than today. Winters Park even served pizza during a tournament.
Many of the players had nicknames. Some of the names I found in the local newspaper were: Hambone, Gilderesleeve, Diamond Charlie, Hair Breath, and Maverick.
Oakside Park (one of the oldest in Zephyrhills) was originally called Trailer Coach Park. It was later owned by the Houck Brothers who changed the name to Oak Side Travel Park. In 1971 Bill Zack purchased the park and changed the name to just Oakside. Herb Keller is the oldest player to have played at Oakside. He shuffled until the age of 102. There were several Pro’s listed from Oakside, but the most notable was Dale Williams. He was a 15-time State champion and played on 3 international teams.
The first courts at Betmar were built on what was a swamp at the time. It was common to see panthers, snakes raccoons, alligators, armadillos, possum, and skunks.. And this was in the 1960’s. Betmar is unique among RV parks with 3 gold courses, 8 lakes, and 1,000 oak trees.
Look for many more facts when my book is published in early 2017.
There were no RV parks when shuffling started at the log cabin tourist camp. After the parks started coming in greater numbers after 1960 there were 80 parks. Today there are 114 parks in Zephyrhills. Many have shuffle courts, but only a few have active shufflers.
Pinecrest was the 2nd park in Zephyrhills with shuffleboard courts. They started with only 2 courts and the park now has 6 courts. The park is still very active in park leagues. The only Pro player to come out of Pinecrest was Elmer Cox. One of the best left-handed shufflers from Pinecrest was Ron Redman. In 2001 residents purchased the park for $1,450,000.00.
Tourist Club located across 7th St.
Looking south towards 4th Ave.
New club built in 1995 on far left
Old TC courts looking north toward 5th Ave.