I was born in Sanford, on the St. Johns River, just north of Orlando. It was a typical small, southern town in the 50s and 60s. I was raised in the same home, without air-conditioning, that my parents bought soon after they married. My dad worked for the same company all the years my two brothers and I were growing up. We had everything we needed, although our family was anything but affluent. I walked or rode my bike to each school I attended until I went to high school. The river was close by, so I always had some type of boat. I built my first one in our garage when I was 12 years old. I had the freedom to be on my own “up the river” whenever I wanted, often overnight. I was allowed to make mistakes and fortunate to have survived them!
Long before 10 speed bikes became popular, a friend owned, what was for me, an expensive coaster bike. I convinced him to sell it to me and I rode it all over town - without a helmet! My mother had a general idea where I was but she would have been hard-pressed to actually find me if I was needed. I knew I needed to be home in time for dinner. If I did anything wrong in town, it would be immediately reported to my parents, not to the police. Times certainly have changed!
Sundays were spent at church, followed by “Sunday supper” complete with white tablecloth and then an afternoon “visit” to a relative’s home. When I was old enough to get my driver’s license, Sanford began to seem very small to me. I couldn’t wait to leave, which essentially happened when I went off to college at FSU.
Since that time, my parents have gone and I’ve had little contact with “home” over the past 20 years. Then a funny thing happened. My wife’s two brothers moved to Sanford and a few years later her mother followed to escape the cold Pennsylvania winters. Ironically, they all moved within blocks of my old neighborhood.
They live in an area of Sanford, which is now referred to as the “historic district.” It sounds a lot nicer than when I was riding my bike through those same streets as a kid! In the summers, I used to mow half those lawns. Now the entire little town has new life - better than it was when I was a child. I love to visit, taking the one-mile walk down the brick street shaded by century-old oaks to the downtown farmers market, pick up soul food from “Angels Restaurant” on Sanford Avenue or take a run along the lakefront where my parents took a Sunday drive each week.
Funny how life works!