By Charles Morgan III
It’s not so much what we had, it’s what we didn’t have.
We had the Jitney Jungle (with great cheeseburgers) and Odom’s for grocery stores.
There was the Wharf, the Blue Room, Captain Dave’s, the Quarterdeck, Fred’s, Davey Jones Locker, the Green Knight, and Sandy Sands for restaurants.
Our charter boat fleet was comprised of fishing boats, and we knew the names of every boat and every captain and deckhand.
Jewel Melvin’s and Sexton’s (at the Kelly Docks) were our seafood markets.
There was parking on the outside lanes of Highway 98.
There were two service stations, and Buddy Runnel’s dad offered shells and floats and stuff.
Bill Ming and Fred Jones ran our two marinas.
Don King had a plant nursery on Mountain Drive.
Bill Jones ran the drug store, but he closed every year the day after Labor Day.
Cox and Young were the realtors—John was the realtor, Bert was the appraiser.
Bill O’Connor sold insurance.
Paul Odom came to town, and we had our first doctor.
We didn’t have any lawyers.
We had the beach, and it was totally accessible. We had the bay, and Crab Island was a real island with way more crabs than people.
We had more fish.
What we didn’t have made us special and different. What we have now makes us more like every place else.
Now we’ve got 19 giant t-shirt shops where you can buy one shirt and get three free with sizes up to 6XL. And a free hermit crab. We have 10 corporate chain restaurants for every independent one. There are enough auto parts stores, car washes, and mattress outlets for a town 10 times our size.
We were amazed when Delchamps opened in the Shores Shopping Center. Now we have grocery stores bumping into each other. We have enough pontoon boats and jet skis to form a naval armada. It wouldn’t be a particularly impressive squadron, but still.
Destin doesn’t look much different than any sprawling land of strip centers in Atlanta or Birmingham. We’ve got the same stores that you’d find on any interstate exit from Mobile to Memphis.
It’s funny how age works. It might just be a number, but look at the numbers.
Birth to 20 – Adolescence
20-40 – Young in Age
40-60 – Middle Age
60-80 – Old Age
80-100 – Elderly
As a disclaimer, I am old. So when I talk about “how thing were back then,” that’s just the way old people think sometimes.
In the olden times, when you pulled up to one of the two four-way stops in Destin (we didn’t have a traffic light), you would know everyone in the other cars at the intersection. Of course, Destin was much smaller.
I guess you could say there is more money in Destin now. I’m not sure about that. But I do know something else older people often say—“It’s not all about the money.”
Tourism has been just about the only real industry Destin has ever had other than fishing. Tourism is a tough, fickle, demanding industry. It may be counterintuitive, but the more aggressively you try to lure visitors the harder it gets. Too often our area has fallen to desperate, frantic tactics to “put heads in beds.” It shows.
Another cliché old people use too much is “The horse is out of the barn.” In Destin there is no question that the horse has left the barn. The question is “How far out of the barn is the horse, and can we ever get him back?”
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