Friday, July 24, 2009

Sorry for your troubles (but thrilled with the hole-in-one)

When I went to check one of my many e-mail accounts the other day - this one over on AOL - a headline about the best miniature golf courses in the country caught my eye. As someone who enjoys a good round of mini-golf, I wondered if any of my favorites made the cut.

Alas, the wonderful course in Naples, Maine, with the beautiful replicas of things Maine - Portland Light, the Casco Bay Ferry - on each hole wasn't there. Nor was the nicely landscaped course in Eastham/Orleans on Cape Cod with the koi pond. It did give a shout out to the Pirates Cove chain, which is fun but hokey. I've played the one on the Cape a few times.

But it was an embedded link to a "mortuary-themed" mini-golf that really intrigued me.

Ahlgrim Family Funeral Services, in Lake Zurich and Palatine Illinois, has been in business since 1892.

But it took them three generations and more than 70 years to figure out that the dead space in the basement could be used for a mini-golf course, which is precisely what Roger Ahlgrim did in 1964.

It actually wasn't created to be an integral part of the funeral parlor, with people heading down stairs for a few holes after paying their respects, or where the bereaved family could kill some time between the afternoon and evening sessions of the wake.

No, there wasn't much to do in Palatine, Illinois in 1964, so Roger decided to build a community room, centered around a haunted-themed mini-golf course.

Over the years the miniature golf course took on a life of its own. By the time his children became school age, the basement housed a 9 hole miniature golf course, a full size shuffle board coarse [sic], ping pong table, bumper pool table and a foosball table made by Roger during his high school years.

(It's not clear whether the Ahlgrim logimageo, which includes a windmill, pre- or post-dated the mini-golf.)

More recently, they've added video games to the mix, as you can see here.

I don't know if Ahlgrim raised his family over the store, but what kid wouldn't want this in his basement?

We just had a warped old upright piano, a piece of plywood haphazardly balanced on an old table that we used for playing ping-pong, and a "strike zone" painted on the white-washed walls by one of my brothers so he could practice his pitching. But our cellar was large enough for tricycle races, in which the big kids used the little kids trikes as scooters, and careened around screaming our lungs out. Wheeeeeee!

Unlike the Ahlgrims', our cellar wasn't at all alluring.

If being located under a funeral home isn’t special enough, Halloween makes the Community Room even more alluring.

Unfortunately, we don't get the scoop on what makes it even more alluring on Halloween.

Maybe some of the "guests" make a guest appearance?

Hey, it's a true haunted house happening! You get your bowl of cold spaghetti guts, your jello mold human brain, and - eke! - that cold and creepy old arm you just touched is actually the cold and creepy old arm of someone's late Aunt Mechtilde!

(Cue screams! Cue older girl saying, "Gross." Cue older boy saying, "Cool.")

In case you're wondering:

The Community Room is strictly never used during funeral business.

And if you're ever in the neighborhood, keep in mind that:

Families have planned a visit to us into their vacation and vacations have been planned around a visit to this unique Community Room. This room has as many memories as those made with the people we serve.

I went to high school with a girl who's family lived over their funeral parlor. I was at their house a couple of times, and it was very nice, although eerily quiet. (Maybe there was an "event" on the times I was there.)

Anyway, there's no reason why perfectly good space should go to waste, so I'm all in favor of the Ahlgrim Community Room.

And, let's face it, death is as much a part of life a mini-golf is. Maybe even more so.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Fun piece, Maureen. I used to work near Lake Zurich; had I known about this, my long lunches might have been longer still!

I'm happy to have a brighter image in my mind when I think about funeral home basements! I'll resist the urge to make a bunch of wordplay jokes on this.

I just wonder, if I still lived there, would the "cool, mini golf" emotion be strong enough to overcome the "ewww, a funeral home" feeling.

Probably. In fact, I'm dying to play it. (Okay, so I lied.)