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A special day to play for seniors

Special discount days for senior citizens are common in west Pasco, even at the most uncommon places.

Take the Stop and Play amusement center on U.S. 19, for instance. Yes, the very same place that children and teen-agers go for video games and pinball has a special day for seniors.

Thursday is Senior's Day at Stop and Play and anyone over 55 receives four free tokens worth $1 and free coffee. And it's always two-for-one miniature golf for seniors.

There were a handful of seniors at the amusement center last Thursday, including a Hudson couple who were beating the heat on the indoor miniature golf course.

"There's nothing else to do," said 71-year-old Joseph Giorgi. "That's what happens when you get old."

"But it's a lot of fun," said his wife, Marion. "I think it's very nice here. I bring the grandchildren."

Stop and Play owner Jean Thompson said the center is for children of all ages.

"A lot of the seniors come here Thursdays with their grandchildren," Thompson said. "We offer a nice family atmosphere where anyone of any age can enjoy themselves."

Indeed, Thompson said many people are surprised by the family-like atmosphere of the spacious center, which includes the miniature golf course in the middle, a snack bar in one corner, and video games, pinball and other games of chance along the walls.

"A lot of people have this image of game rooms as a place for pot-smoking, loud-mouthed, swearing kids," Thompson said. "We make sure it's not like that here."

And Thompson said that is one of the reasons seniors enjoy visiting the center.

"It's a place for seniors to meet, enjoy a cup of coffee and socialize," Thompson said.

The most popular game among seniors is Double Up, an electronic poker game. Tokens for the game are four for a dollar, and players try to make their best poker hands. Points are awarded for the best hand and can be converted to tickets, which can be redeemed for merchandise.

"You come in here about 5 or 6 o'clock and it's like happy hour," said 55-year-old Shirley DeCiucies, who was playing Double Up with her husband, Angelo, on Thursday. "All the machines are packed."

The DeCiucieses said they prefer the indoor entertainment over outdoors activities.

"It's better than going to the park because it's so hot outside," said Mrs. DeCiucies, who enjoys playing skeet ball when she's not playing Double Up. "We spend a couple of hours here just to break up the day."

Playing Double Up has paid off for Mrs. DeCiucies as she has won enough tickets to purchase a fishing pole for her husband and toys for her grandchildren.

"We only spend a few dollars in here," she said. "It's all in fun."

Tickets also may be earned on some of the center's other games, and there are prizes such as color televisions, bicycles and VCRs.