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by Ray Allen

Part 2 - The Hannah Sisters

Chapter 1 - The Trip up from Miami

1950 Plymouth Suburban
For several years, we made the hot 700-mile trip from Miami to Milton in our family's 1950 Plymouth Suburban Station Wagon.

Car travel itself was what seems very primitive today.  It was usually summer, so it was hot.  Hot like most people can’t even imagine. Air conditioning was only in places like movie theatres and big department stores.  So the car was hot. The restaurants were hot. The motel cabins were hot. There were electric fans everywhere, but everything was still hot. Every day and every night. We’d stop and picnic at “rest areas” along the way, not only because my parents were frugal, but because for long stretches of the two-lane highways, there was no other public place to eat.  Just to catch a breeze under a tree at a rest area was heaven.  The trip was long, since we had to drive all the way from Miami at Florida’s southern tip to within 25 miles of Pensacola, the very western end of the panhandle. Our trip was the entire length including the whole Big Bend of Florida.

Of course, there were no interstates, so we drove through every town along the way.  We got to know places like Clewiston, South Bay, Perry, Crestview, Old Town, Madison and Marianna. We laughed about  little towns with names like Andytown, Yeehaw Junction, Two-egg, Bagdad and Sneads.  We rounded Florida’s huge Lake Okeechobee, crossed the big rivers including the famous Suwannee, watched the state capitol go by in Tallahassee, and stared at the forbidding red brick state mental hospital when we drove through Chattahoochee.  All these places are in Florida’s interior, not the glamorous well-known resort towns on the coasts. 

1950 Plymouth Suburban
Free with fill up!

And there was something else important about Chattahoochee besides the state hospital.  That is where we entered a different time zone, and we’d watch as our dad ceremoniously changed his watch from Eastern to Central Time.  We didn’t really understand that, but we knew it was important, and we were getting near Milton. 

It fell to our mother to navigate these long trips.  And unlike today, that was a difficult job when you had to pick your way through every town, large or small.  At the beginning, we’d start with a state map that we could have free at almost any gas station.  Then our route was marked with X’s with an ink pen—we remember those little black x’s up and down the roads we were to travel.  Time and again, construction, some new building or something else would throw us off, and our dad would complain that Mom “got us lost.”  In the back seat, Jayne and I would giggle at all this. We loved the trips. We sang, counted state license plates, read the funny Burma Shave signs, and slept.

1950 Plymouth Suburban
We always sang the song as we crossed the famous bridge over the Suwannee. 

Like all Floridians at the time, our family followed the popular way of crossing the Suwannee River.  Our dad would alert us that we were approaching the famous bridge on US 90 which we all knew had a big steel plaque across the superstructure with the famous line: “Way Down upon the Suwannee River.”  The instant your car passed under that sign and you were on the big bridge, you were supposed to sing the world famous Stephen Foster song, so we always did—“Way down upon the Suwannee River, far far away….” You had to quit singing the second you got across.

We know now that our trips bridged not only time and place, urban to rural, but they also transported us into a completely different culture. Miami was a growing resort city filled with people from “up north.”  Milton was pure Deep South.  North Florida, then as now, was completely different from the southern parts of the state.  It was exactly like Alabama or Georgia.  Thick southern accents we never heard in Miami were universal, and there were no coconut palm trees. 

Chapter 2: Welcome to Milton
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Return to Introduction to Part 2

Copyright 2007 Ray Allen - Used by Permission
3/1/07 L.C.

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