Sol Lipkin, a member of our American Legion Post, showed up yesterday to take part in the Memorial Day Parade, the Memorial Day Ceremony at the townâ€™s Memorial Park, as well as the Memorial Day open house, which was hosted by the Post.
Sol turned 99 last week.
Sol started his career with the American Shuffleboard Company in the 30â€™s, but with the outbreak of World War II, Sol interrupted his career to join the Navy at age 37. He spent the war years as a See Bee building airfields in the Aleutian Islands. After the war, he resumed his position with the American Shuffleboard Company and sold just about every shuffleboard that exists today in the United States. He has been referred to as the “Father of American Shuffleboard”.
However, donâ€™t get the idea that, at age 99, Sol is a feeble shut-in, who is annually coaxed away from his rocking chair and lap blanket to be paraded about on Memorial Day. No sir. Sol stays busy â€“ very busy. You see, he still works, and he works hard. He travels all over the country promoting shuffleboard playing at Dave and Busterâ€™s, a nation-wide chain of well-organized places that feature excellent food, drinks and arcade-type games for grownups. He also spends time promoting the Cadillac of Shuffleboards â€“ the â€œSol Lipkin Shuffleboardâ€.
In the 60â€™s, Sol was asked by the U.S. Navy to oversee the installation of a shuffleboard on a nuclear submarine, the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Details and enlargeable pictures of the final installation can be seen here (You’ll have to scroll a tad).
Sol’s extraordinary ability to sell is not limited to shuffleboards. When Sol learned of the American Legionâ€™s Annual Poppy Drive a few years ago, the Post almost ran out of Poppies, because Sol single-handedly sold more than 500 of them outside a local supermarket.
His energy is seemingly boundless. At a 50â€™s and 60â€™s Dance thrown by the Post a few years ago, Sol showed up in a spiffy yellow sweater and outdanced people one third his age.
He was twice widowed and often speaks lovingly of both his wives. However, when I saw him yesterday he reported, with a twinkle in his eye, that he had just returned from spending a month working in Texas where he had the chance to spend a good deal of time with his â€œgirlfriend.â€ Heâ€™ll be heading back to Texas in week or so, and then heâ€™s off to a half dozen more states. He is irrepressible.
A few years back, I visited Sol at his home and, knowing that I enjoy a bit of bourbon now and then, he produced a well-aged bottle of I.W. Harper bourbon, a brand that is difficult â€“ if not impossible â€“ to find in stores anymore. We sipped the most excellent bourbon while I had the pleasure of having Sol share with me some facets of his lifeâ€™s story. At the end of our visit, he told me that he would save the rest of the “special bottle” for my next visit.
Yesterday, he reminded me, â€œJim, I still have that bourbon. Youâ€™ll have to stop by one of these days and weâ€™ll finish it.â€
Iâ€™ll make a point of it, because just as good bourbon improves with age, so does my amazing friend Sol.