Growing up in the small town of St. Augustine, I can remember complaining to my mom of being “so bored” with nothing to do. Summers felt endless with daily beach trips and bike rides through the neighborhood. In the 1980s, St. Augustine truly was a small town.
The 312 bridge was just one bridge with two lanes. 312 ended at US1 where Red Lobster now is, with a line of trees between US1 and 207. The movie theatre was in the Ponce Mall and was the place to be on Friday nights. You could get anywhere in town in less than 10 minutes. It was a place where local businesses ruled the roost, with hardly any chain restaurants to choose from aside from the usual fast food restaurant and Morrison’s Cafeteria.
If you wanted to get out of the house, the beach, riding bikes or a local park were the go-to places. Our biggest complaint was catching the Bridge of Lions – where we were forced to soak in the beautiful view of this city (ha!).
Slowly roads started changing, the land got cleared for more homes, and the landscape of the town has continually grown and evolved. You don’t notice the change as much when you’re living in it day-to-day, but it was happening, slowly but surely.
As a hostess at my parent’s busy restaurant, I saw the tourist season with all the ebbs and flows. We actually had slow seasons where you could breeze through downtown. And, we had to plan accordingly for the staffing of the restaurant. Today it seems downtown is always flooded with tourists who saw our city on one of the many top 10 lists and it has taken an hour to get from Vilano Beach to St. Augustine Beach more times than I’d like to admit.
But I didn’t want to leave.
When it was time for me to leave for college in the middle of the state, I suddenly realized what an amazing place this had been to grow up in, and I didn’t want to leave. It’s funny how easy it is to take advantage of something that has just become the norm for you.
Every time I came home from school, something new had been built, a new lane was in the works to accommodate the ever-growing traffic, new red lights, more and more people. But it always had that charm.
I knew when I left that I would be back, eventually. I knew I wanted to raise my kids here. Most people who leave St. Augustine, whether they know it or not, come back. St. Augustine has this boomerang effect – everyone who leaves seems to find their way back home, even if this isn’t your true hometown.
It’s the simple things in life.
The quote ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’ rings true for the STA. Thirty years after being “so bored,” this town is anything but boring. And although the town is hardly recognizable compared to the 1980s, some things will never change. You will still see at least one person you know while running errands and you can still feel the charm it exudes. Talk about a small town coincidence. My childhood best friend who I lost touch with after first grade now lives three doors down, and we get to raise our kids in this special little place.
And what is so interesting to me? Even with the endless attractions and events to choose from, my family still finds its way to the simple things I did as a kid – the beach and the park.
I am sure in another 30 years I’ll be able to write a post about 2018 being “the good ole days.” Until then, I’ll continue to soak up the laid back vibe this town offers and share stories of the past with my kids as they grow up.