READY: Reminiscences from a west Destin snob

Staff Writer
The Destin Log
Mary Ready

If Destin had a railroad, I’d live on the wrong side of the tracks. As a long-time resident, growing up, raising a family, and retiring here, I’ve become an insufferable proponent of all things long ago.

I live in a creaky old place built in the 70’s.  Like the city itself, my house never anticipated the complications of technology. The phone and T.V. go out when it rains; I have to use a screwdriver and paper clip to fix my Internet connection; and there are too few outlets for all the electronic gadgets of modern living. After spending thousands of dollars over the years to fix it, my pool leaks like a sieve, but I’ve made peace with the spirit who dwells in its waters, rippling the surface even when not a breath of air is stirring. She was a young swim champion who lived in the house before me, but ironically drowned in the Gulf many years ago. I don’t mind sharing the cool water with her on a hot day.  I live on Kelly Street, not Kelly Plantation, and my neighborhood streets bear names such as Stahlman, Marler, Calhoun, Zerbe, and Reddin Brunson Road … all honoring early pioneers. I wouldn’t trade my house with its raccoons in the attic or my 837 phone prefix for one of those palaces further east.  

And no offense to the palace dwellers.

I was O.K. as long as the development was to the east and left my little west-side world untouched. Now I’m surrounded by progress almost in my own backyard, and I whine about it every chance I get. A quaint old house just down my block has just been bulldozed, and I think more townhouses are in the offing.

Call me a reverse snob or an ignorant redneck. Wait! Never mind the redneck epithet. I just remembered I affectionately referred to our Florida panhandle as the Redneck Riviera in a column a few years ago, and I got an indignant response from a reader who enlightened me in my dimwittedness. Seems Destin is now majority populated by wealthy sophisticates with too much social refinement to be thus labeled.  

My bad.  

I miss the modest beach cottages, family-owned motels, mom and pop retail stores, and groceries being home delivered by a teenager on his bicycle. I miss the only doctor we had for a long time, his office in a tacky green building down by the old Kelly Docks. Doc Odom’s specialty was removing fish hooks from the flesh of unlucky deck hands and tourists.

I miss the Green Knight who stood guard at the corner of Main Street and Highway 98, marking the official end of the town limits. Beyond him lay only a few scattered cottages, the Spy Glass Inn, Frangista Inn, and a small gas station or two all the way to Panama City. I miss the Blue Room and Jewel Melvin’s restaurant, two places for wonderful seafood and down-home atmosphere. And gone are the days when the Wharf Restaurant served up a basket of shrimp, fish, fries, and hush puppies for a dollar.

Most of all, I miss old friends who moved away from what Destin has become over the last 30 years.  But I understand why they sought in another place what Destin used to be.

I’m not going anywhere. I voted against becoming a city, yet I’m absolutely loyal to Destin’s well-being. So, I’ll put up with the traffic, the monstrosity at the foot of the bridge, those insane round-abouts, the loss of old landmarks, and the over development because I love this place.

Admittedly, I’m a dinosaur facing extinction.  When I was younger, I enjoyed watching the exciting changes all around me. Now, I resent them.  I hate to see ancient trees cut down and old homes leveled to be replaced by cookie cutter houses.

No one and no institution can hold back change. In my head, I know that change is good (well, except for places of “adult entertainment”). In my heart, I hold on fiercely to the past when life seemed so simple and gentle by contemporary comparison.

Our 35th President John Kennedy said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past … are certain to miss the future.”   

I guess he was thinking of me.

Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.