Towns Change, Is This Progress Or Ruining?

In this blog post, I have included a couple of videos, to illustrates the points that I was trying to make, but you might enjoy watching the video at the end for its own sake.

The coastal town that I grew up in, in the 1970s in Florida, was very beautiful, nice, and pleasant.  It was not over-developed or over-commercialized.  The population was about 10,000 people.

When my grandparents first came to this town in the 1930s, the population was about 2,000 people.  Hardly any of the roads, other than U.S. Hwy 1, were paved.  There was no interstate highway system in the United States until the 1950s, everyone had to travel on roads like U.S. Hwy 1.

Travelling on two-lane U.S. Hwy 1 back then through Florida, you might only be able to average 30 mph.  You could only make 250 miles in a day of travelling, so every small town in Florida on U.S. Hwy 1 had small “Mom & Pop” motels.

All of the towns in Florida would have a small business district with very little more than one grocery store, one hardware store, one general store, one barber shop, and maybe a movie theater.  Most of the towns were completely covered by a dense canopy of over-arching oak tree limbs, with Spanish moss hanging from them.

What I just described, is what my grandparents experienced when they first arrived in this town.  This is the town that my father grew up in.  My grandfather managed the General Store, and my grandmother was a beautician sometimes.

In this town, when I was very young, my father was able to show to me the elementary school that he had gone to, the high school that he had gone to, the houses that he had lived in, the old General Store, all of the places that he used to go and the things that he used to do.

Growing up, through elementary school, I was able to live in a town that was very similar to the town that my grandparents had lived in, and the town that my father had grown up in.

This town had changed some through the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, but it had not changed drastically.  Due to a growing population in the United States in general, the “Greatest Generation” reaching retirement age, the decline in factory and industrial employment in the Northeastern U.S., the creation of the interstate highway system, and the invention of air-conditioning, there became an enormous migration of people to Florida.

To local people in the towns in Florida, this migration was both good and bad.  There was an economic boom with new housing construction, new schools, new businesses, new roads and infrastructure.  But the lifestyle of the local people and the character of the towns was being destroyed.

It was very, very upsetting to me, my father, my mother, and my sister to see our town being destroyed.  For what, and for why?

People from all over the United States wanted to move to these coastal towns in Florida because they were so beautiful, charming, quaint, unique, picturesque, and laid back, but in the process they were destroying everything good about them, and creating a city just like the ones that they no longer wanted to live in and had left.

To my family, and to many of the other local families in the town that we lived in, the over-development of the town became to seem inevitable and unstoppable.  We couldn’t stop it, we could only try to get away from it.

Many of these local families that lived in this coastal town, had grown up fishing, boating, and sailing offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.  It was fairly dangerous and frightening to pass through the 1/2 mile long, narrow, and very rough inlet into the Atlantic Ocean, in a boat that was only 18 feet to 40 feet long.  It was dangerous every time that you did it, even if you had done it hundreds of times.  Here is what the inlet passage into the ocean was like in the winter:

Besides what you see in this video, keep in mind that this water is full of sharks, this water is about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the current is very strong, and you are at least 1/4 mile from shore. If your boat motor quits, you will likely capsize and die from hypothermia, drowning, or being killed by sharks.

To many local families, the beach and the ocean was what was important to them, what they loved, fishing, swimming, surfing, sailing, and sunning.  Not K-Mart, not Wal-Mart, not McDonalds and Burger King, and everything else that the transplanted people from the cities in the North brought with them.

Some of the local people found that they could travel 500 to 600 miles in a southeasterly direction across the Atlantic Ocean, to reach the far out-islands in the Bahamas, to reach islands that were completely uninhabited, and towns that were completely unspoiled.  Towns that didn’t have automobiles or police officers, because they didn’t need them.

You had to be a very, very knowledgeable, experienced, and brave sailor to get to the out-islands by boat.  Most of the islands were uninhabited, the water depth varied from shallow to very shallow, and there were reefs everywhere.  You had to be a very good and experienced pilot to even dare to attempt to reach one of the out-islands.  One of the reasons why I included the rough inlet passage video clip above, was to show what a trip by boat to the Bahamas could turn into at any moment, especially out in the Gulf Stream.

This difficulty in reaching the Abaco Islands, protected them for hundreds of years from over-development and over-commercialization.  However, just like the people from the Northeastern U.S. came to my hometown in such large numbers that they ruined it, we people in Florida probably contributed to ruining Hope Town.

There had been small numbers of people from all over Florida who had been travelling to the hard to reach islands in the Bahamas, in order to get away from everything.  These were the adventurers and the risk takers, the divers, surfers, offshore boaters, and pilots.  These people appreciated the beauty of the islands, and they didn’t want to ruin it, but they all did unintentionally.

These islands went from being simple, quaint, and rustic, to Americanized and commercialized very quickly after approximately 1990.  Some Americans wanted air-conditioning, brought air-conditioners down there, people got accustomed to it, and then everybody had to have air-conditioning.  There were no televisions, then someone got a satellite dish, then everyone had to have satellite dishes.  It became Americanized, one step at a time, bit by bit.

With the introduction of more and more American amenities, conveniences, and other things being made available, the out-islands became less rustic and more modern.  This made it more appealing to rich, pampered, lazy people, instead of the risk-takers and adventurers.  When rich people begin visiting or moving into an area, the real estate prices escalate to where other people are priced-out and displaced.

There is an expression, “Nothing ruins a good time like a bunch of millionaires moving in.”  And in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, “The billionaires drove off the millionaires.”

Where the local families from towns in Florida had once gone to get away from everything, to enjoy, peace, quiet, simplicity, and a laid back simple lifestyle of swimming, fishing, sunning, and taking walks, once word got out about how nice it was, and wealthy people found out about it, here is what Hope Town has been turned into:

 

What you see in this video, the smallest of those yachts, the 50 footers, those are $1 million boats.  The 70 footers, $5 million boats.  There are couple of yachts in this video that are more than $10 million.  Before GPS became available to the public in the late 1990s, hardly any large yachts would cruise the out-islands because navigation was so difficult and dangerous due to thousands of unmarked shallows and reefs.

The average annual income of a Bahamian citizen is probably about $20,000 per year.  I checked with my father, and he told me that all of the local people who have lived on this island for many generations, have had to move away.

I believe that the person who made this video, thinks that all of this is just great.  I don’t think that he knows that what he is recording, is a town that has been ruined.

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