Column: Florida growing pains recalled by this native son | News

Column: Florida growing pains recalled by this native son |  News
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It seems to me that the middle of Florida and its begging may be the last bastion of what once was this great state. I say this because the coasts are swollen with development (and more population) and there is nowhere to expand except inland. Coastal leeway is shrinking and some say our eroding beaches mean we are sinking. We better not be.

Florida has seen growth spurts over the years from time to time. Orlando is a prime example, and many of us native Floridians (a.k.a. endangered species) well remember that there was almost nothing there until endless properties were quietly bought, the swamps drained and a magical kingdom suddenly appeared, 49 years ago this month. And then after that, everyone on this side of the Mississippi River and every stranger who could afford it started flocking to Florida to meet Walt’s pal Mickey. And then Orlando flourished. In fact, exploded would be more like that.

The idea of ​​theme parks took off like hunting dog after wild boar, and soon we had Sea World, Busch Gardens, Circus World, Legoland and more. All of this has practically killed off the roadside tourist traps, where wagons full of used children stop to sample free orange juice, see giant alligators, and shop for overseas trinkets, T- cheap shirts and coconuts sculpted to look like monkeys.

Three new professional football teams made their home in Florida, bringing more growth, and then even the biggest tourist favorites like Cypress Gardens, Six Gun Territory, Jungle Larry’s African Safari, Gatorland, Tom Gaskins’ Cypress Knee Museum were bypassed, and began to go bankrupt, one by one. Luckily, you can still grab that good ol ‘goat’s milk fudge at Webb’s Candy in Davenport on Highway 27 and uncover the mystery of Spook Hill at Lake Wales.

Freeways soon swept through the state, bypassing many towns along the older freeways, where souvenir stalls, motels, gas stations, and restaurants for mom and pop quickly fell victim to what was called the progress. Collapsed and overgrown remains of some of these can still be seen along roads which are now less traveled.

Florida is often jokingly referred to as “the waiting room of paradise” because many retirees from elsewhere are moving to experience the last chapter of their lives. They brave sweltering hot summers, the occasional hurricane, bloodthirsty mosquitoes, nasty cockroaches, and those teeming biannual love bug plagues, but they contribute to the local economy, that’s for sure.

My pioneer roots in Florida predate the Civil War, and luckily I reside in a relatively sparsely populated county, where I grew up with cow pastures on all four sides of our old home. Our city and county has grown tremendously in my 65th birthday, but we haven’t yet faced traffic jams, corporate skyscrapers, and tall buildings. Thousands of acres of cattle, citrus, and watermelon are perfect for this old boy.

During my visit elsewhere, I was asked about my accent. Some people assume I’m from Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and other places, and when I tell them I’m from Florida, I get responses like, “That can’t be true – people. Florida have no accents! Well, what’s left of us native people still do and are proud of it.

I said all that to say that. Be proud of your heritage, wherever it comes from, and appreciate what you have while you can always call it home. I sincerely hope that some pieces of old Florida will still be preserved. Otherwise, it will be erased everywhere except in the history books and fading memories. No one will ever believe we existed, let alone have our own accent. And yes, it’s a smaller world after all.

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