What it’s Like to Be a Kid in Punta Gorda—Then & Now

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Livin' the easy life in Punta Gorda.

Livin’ the easy life in Punta Gorda.

Arguably, the greatest thing about being a grown up is the ability to dramatize your childhood.

You can tell a kid that you walked miles uphill in the snow every day. You made the trek in your one pair of shoes—which were sandals—and you never complained. You appreciated what you had.

And the kid might doubt you, but they can never quite prove you’re exaggerating.

Unless you grew up in Punta Gorda. Even children know the weather here is perfect and always has been. The downside of spending my childhood in small town Florida is my nieces and nephews think we had it easy.

Well, they’re wrong. They have it easy. Punta Gorda was a rough place in the 1980s. And today, I’m going to tell you why. So, if you happen to run into any small people with the last name Andreae, you can back me up.

5 Reasons Today’s Kids should Respect their Punta Gorda Elders

When I was a kid…

…If we wanted an ice cream cone, we had to convince our mom to drive 25 minutes to Twistee Treat in Port Charlotte. There were no ice cream shops in Punta Gorda. Now, there are two. When I take the kids for ice cream, they have a choice. We never had a choice.

… Gilchrist park had an old rusty slide that almost killed my younger brother, Alex. He attempted to jump from the ladder to the top of the slide. He missed the slide, fell to the ground, and ended up with stitches in his face. To be fair to Gilchrist, this may have been Alex’s fault. It was pretty dumb.

Still, Gilchrist has updated their equipment, and now there are several parks in town.  The Bayshore Live Oak park playground floor has a soft padding. Padding! A kid could fall off that slide and not end up with stitches. What’s the point of a young boy doing something dumb if he doesn’t get stitches? These kids are soft.

… Every Halloween, my mom drove us to PGI. (There was only a smattering of houses in Burnt Store Isles, but we’ll get to that in a minute.) She’d drive around looking for a few homes with lights on and drop us off.

girls-pumpkins

Now, the entire downtown transforms into a giant Haunted House/candy machine. People are practically throwing candy at the kids. A kid could stand in one spot and fill up their bag. These kids don’t know what hard is.

… When we moved to Burnt Store Isles, there were five houses. Everything else was a vacant lot. Cable TV didn’t come to BSI until I was in junior high. We made our own fun. We could see US 41 from the house, and we would count moving vans as they went by. Allied, Mayflower—I knew all the big moving companies.

The kids today would never think up something so interesting. They’re busy playing with their neighborhood friends. We didn’t have other kids and fun. We had vans and counting. And we were happy.

(Ok, some kids moved into the neighborhood early on and having 900 vacant lots and a golf course as your playground can be pretty fun. But that’s not the point. Stay focused.)

… There was no stop sign at the Taylor and Cooper intersection. Notice the angle of the intersection below. The high school is just north of this picture.

tayloreWhen we were first time drivers and wanted to check Taylor for oncoming traffic, my generation contorted our necks like pimply-faced owls. I can only guess how much money back and neck doctors have made from us over the years.

But not anymore. Sorry, docs! Since then they’ve installed those fancy schmancy Stop signs on Taylor. Today Punta Gorda teenagers barely have to move their heads. We just give them safety. They don’t even have to work for it.

Did you grow up in Punta Gorda?

If you did, you know how hard we had it. Please share this post with your friends. We must ban together and let the children of today know how easy they have it.

 

 

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