Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

March 11, 2007


Visit to Panama City vacation spot like trip down memory lane


          Six of us loaded up in the Blue Goose (our ancient van) and made a quick trip down to Panama City recently. Our goal was to find the places we remembered from summer vacations with our family nearly 60 years ago.

          The designated driver was my brother Seth, eleven years younger than me. Since I am approaching the age when my kids will take away my driver’s license, I figured we would all be safer with Seth driving. He did a great job except for one massive speed bump that none of us saw until it was too late.

          Seth’s wife, Pearl, is not as good a back-seat driver as my wife, Dean.

But she is learning. She will earn her spurs in a few more years. Then she and Dean can open up a school to train back-seat drivers. These days every vehicle needs two pair of eyes watching for the idiots on the highways.

The other two passengers were my sisters Neva Williams and Margie Flomer. Both are widows who are too busy caring for others to feel sorry for themselves. I admire them both immensely and always enjoy their company.

         When we are together we always miss the presence of our youngest sister, Laurida, who moved on to heaven more than a dozen years ago. She was a hoot. To hear her boisterous laughter would make your day. A wonderful mother of seven children, she loved life to the full.

          Memories fade so fast. We think our parents took us for a week’s vacation there in 1947 or 1948. Then we went back for several years to the same location, renting an old house from the Swann’s family in the St. Andrews area.

          A few of the houses are still there, deteriorating under the shade of the same old moss-covered Oaks that shielded us from the hot sun years ago. The house we stayed in, with a screened front porch, may have been the one we found on 14th Street, just off Beck Avenue. The streets, then sandy dirt roads, are paved now and new homes have replaced some old ones.

          When it rained the screened porch was our haven. There we played card games like Go Fishing, Old Maid, and Rummy. The six of us still enjoy getting together to play cards in one of our homes.

          We recalled that it was during those vacations we discovered and fell in love with lime sherbet and apple butter. Neither of those treats had ever made it to the dinner table on our farm. Someone sells canoes now in the store where once we bought our special treat, sherbet in cones. Sinister Sand Spurs, those enemies of bare feet, still thrive in the sand along the sidewalks between the store and the old house where we stayed.

          Going to Panama City meant a chance to play Goofy Golf. Sure enough we found a place where kids and adults still enjoy such fun. It was on the way to the beach. Swann’s place was about ten miles away from the public beach area where we went for picnics and swimming.

          Our vacation was not complete until we enjoyed our one special meal at Captain Anderson’s Restaurant. Red Snapper was always the best choice on the menu. We loved it, especially since we knew we would not eat it again until next summer.

          Captain Anderson has done well. A plush new restaurant attracts huge crowds at a new location where you can watch the fishing boats come in while eating a pricey fish supper. You can buy better seafood at other places but nostalgia demanded that we share a meal at the new place that resembles a palace.    

          Nowhere on the Captain’s menu was our beloved Red Snapper. We did not learn why, only that Tilapia seems now to be the fish of the day. But, for our money, Tilapia’s taste is no match for fresh Snapper. The oysters and scrimp were good but did not satisfy our longing for some good old Red Snapper.

          Our trip down memory lane lasted only one night. That was enough. We came back thankful for parents who pinched pennies and provided their children with thrilling memories of vacation days in Florida, the home state of our father. Those days are long ago but not forgotten. They are an important part of the legacy we share – the value of being a family knit together with enduring cords of love. The devil finds it hard to break those cords. + + + +