Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New scores from old Florida

I admit it, I'm a collector. I balance my desire to acquire with a strong sense of thriftiness and the overall knowledge that stuff does not bring happiness. So I rationalize my acquisitions so that my purchases serve a dual purpose, in addition to having great vintage graphics they must also be for one of the following:
1. Usable in a blog post
2. A resource for use in my graphic design work
3. A reference for historical subjects I'm interested in pursuing for a potential paper (since I don't want to be known forever as the 'hillbilly guy.")
That way I can get around the fact I don't really need any more stuff. I've been thinking about this a lot as Christmas approaches.

So at the recent Extravaganza at Renninger's I was focused on looking for mostly paper ephemera that I could use for my latest project dealing with the Fountain of Youth. Here are a few objects I purchased:

Vintage linen postcards from St. Augustine's Fountain of Youth

Vintage postcards of Ponce de Leon from St. Augustine

Many of Florida's springs claimed to be the mythic Fountain of Youth, and many developed into the state's earliest tourist attraction. Perhaps none more well known than Weeki Wachee and its famous mermaids.

Vintage brochures from Florida tourist attractions - I love the graphics and I have to admit I collect these just for the sake of collecting.

I found these fun images in a booklet from the 1960s entitled Living in Florida Year Round that I picked up in a Bradenton thrift store. These don't have a specific use, but it was just to cool to pass up at fifty cents.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The St. Pete Shuffle

I first learned about the St. Pete Shuffle when I was trying to rally support for saving Kissimmee's ill-fated KAST Club shuffleboard courts. I had connected with Chris Kelly and Christine Page, two of the members of the St. Petersburg Shuffleboard club who were instrumental in bringing new life to the venerable St. Pete institution. They were incredibly helpful and ever since then I have wanted to see how they managed to put a new spin on a game associated with senior citizens in their golden years.

So after Thanksgiving on Anna Maria Island, my wife and I drove across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge into St. Petersburg to meet Chris and Christina and attend their weekly Friday night shuffleboard event known as the St. Pete Shuffle.

My first impression was that the shuffleboard complex was much larger than I had envisioned; I'd seen pictures of the club but in addition to the shuffleboard courts there are storage buildings, a clubhouse, restrooms and other buildings. Chess and lawn bowling clubs occupy space at the back of the property and several dance organizations and a folk festival share the facilities in the building that holds the clubhouse. This is much, much more than your typical motel concrete shuffleboard court. In fact there were too many courts for me too count. And the buildings are all historic, built at different times – some have deco details but most are in the Mediterranean Revival style that was the rage in early 20th century Florida.

The club itself was organized in 1924 and has ranged in membership from 5,000 in its heyday to between twenty and thirty before Chris and Christine got involved. Today you see broad cross sections of ages and it is exciting to see hipsters shuffling with seniors and really enjoying themselves. When it was our turn to try out the game, we were tutored by a professional shuffleboard player named Mary, who I later learned is a member of the Shuffleboard Hall of Fame! She was extremely patient and supportive and I learned that while I had played the game before, I had never played it properly.

The triangle shaped scoring area on a shuffleboard court goes from 10 points at the top, 8 points for the top two quadrants, followed by 7 each for the next two and finally minus ten for the rear quadrants (known as the "kitchen"). A shuffleboard disk touching any part of a white line gets no score, no matter what quadrant it lies in. The game is played to 75 and teams alternating going first (the last turn is called the 'hammer").

The Friday Night Shuffle is free and there are beverages, snacks and t-shirts for sale. A sound system plays music ranging from vintage tunes from the golden age of shuffleboard to contemporary alternative rock for the hipsters. It provides a great setting for a game that can be intense and competitive but most of all is really, really fun. I looked around and all the lit courts at the complex seemed to be full of shufflers.

Membership to the St. Pete Shuffleboard Club costs is only $20 a year and it allows you to have access to club facilities beyond the Friday night event.

Chris explained that the city of St. Petersburg owns the property that the club sits on but the club owns and maintains all the buildings. The city has been supportive of the club and club members have been successful at winning grants for upkeep of the property. There is a great deal of work still needing to be done to the historic structures and they hope to earn a listing on the National Register of Historic Places so more grant money will be accessible.

My wife and I agreed that the Shuffle was the highlight of our action-packed holiday weekend. In addition to being incredibly enjoyable recreation, I was very inspired that a few dedicated individuals like Chris and Christine could see the value of this aging facility and restore it to new levels of vitality through their energy, effort and vision. I am hopeful that perhaps someday I can help to preserve aging parts of Central Florida and help others see their value. And I can't wait to shuffle again!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

An Extravaganza of Florida artists

In addition to great antiques and collectibles, the Renninger's Extravaganza is chock full of great art. The extravaganza portion of the show consists of hundreds of outdoor booths. There is, however, a portion of the market that enclosed and is there year-round. That is where you will find the booth of Martin Cushman.

I have blogged about Martin before, as he is passionate about preserving in clay the aspects of old Florida that I love so much. His subject matter includes the native inhabitants of the sunshine state including its birds, animals and Seminole Indians. His pottery is beautiful and whimsical and it seems to me his work has grown since I last saw it, becoming more detailed and confident. And it is very cool that he even found away to vent his anger over the Gulf oil spill in his work. Martin has a unique voice and I am constantly inspired by the candor of his blog.

Directly across from Martin's booth, I was excited to see a large piece by Florida artist Joy Postle. One of her larger works, this incredibly detailed painting was priced pretty high, showing me that awareness of her work must be on the rise. I expect you'll be hearing more about this wildlife painter, performer and poet in the future.

Outside I found a piece of sculpture for sale by folk artist Jesse Aaron (1887-1979). I'm very familiar with Aaron's work as my best childhood friend's parents were early patrons of the Gainesville artist. Their house was full of his work, I thought it bizarre as a kid, but today I wish I owned some of his work. Coveted by collectors, it's pretty rare to good examples his work on the market. This piece was here last year, and it appears to be in rough shape.

According to Just Above the Water: Florida Folk Art by Kristin G. Congdon and Tina Bucuvalas, Aaron was of mixed African and Seminole Indian descent and he was born in poverty in Lake City, Florida. A manual laborer most of his life, he heard a calling to "carve wood" in 1968 and was prolific the rest of his life, starting his carving at 3 a.m. every day.

Florida State Archives

Drawings of Aaron and his work by Stuart Purser from his book Jesse J. Aaron Sculptor

The common thread among these three artists, is they saw something in their enviornment that we often take for granted. Martin Cushman sees beauty in the native critters and people of Florida (although the Seminoles weren't really indiginous to Florida, but that is a whole story unto itself.) Joy Postle, like Cushman was inspired by our state's natural wonders, especially its birds. And Jesse Aaron saw animals and faces in pieces of wood and created amazing pieces of sculpture out of them. Those of us who live in this state are surrounded by the inspiration for their art on a daily basis. Artists like these three, make us see our world differently and hopefully appreciate it more. They continue to inspire me.

P.S. Special thanks to Martin for the coveted excellence in blogging award!

Monday, November 22, 2010


Many of the quirky vintage items in my home were purchased at Renninger's Antique Market in Mt. Dora, FL, specifically during one of their three annual Extravaganzas. Every year, for as long as I can remember, they have been hosting giant antique and collectible shows in November, January and February, where hundreds of dealers from the all over the country bring great vintage stuff to Central Florida. There are almost too many booths to see in one day, and it is one of the rare Florida locations with hills, so a day of trudging around the extravaganza is pretty exhausting. But always fun.

If it's from the past, you can find it here. My current obsessions are vintage advertising ephemera and Florida memorabilia and it's here in great abundance. I do pretty well at not spending too much money, reminding myself that Christmas is only a month away, but it's nearly impossible to return home empty handed. Last year, entertaining a friend from San Francisco, we went two days in a row, so he could purchase several large items and ship them to California for resale.

My wife and I purchased our dining room set at one extravaganza years ago, hurridly renting a U-haul in nearby Apopka and rushing back to the extravaganza just before dark. So walking around over the dusty hills brings back fond memories of finding great treasures, some that came home with me, some left for another lucky buyer.

It's a great place for photography too; there are bizarre juxtapositions of objects at every turn and countless colorful details everywhere. I ran into a friend from Flickr and noticed several others have visited as well. As I resulted I started a Flickr group for others who enjoy seeing the beauty in objects from the past as much as I do.