Of course, I love
During previous visits, my kids endured trips down memory lane where I would point out my high school, the McDonald’s I worked at and our old house. In spite of seeing these places and briefly recalling great memories, it was the overwhelming growth of
When we moved to
One of the great things about
When you are younger, everything seems bigger, mostly because you are on foot or on a bicycle. And when I return to the places where I spent hours on end, riding bikes with friends, I recognize that we probably never really rode more than a few miles in any direction.
Roads that were dead ends now enter into new neighborhoods that have been built over orange groves and cattle pastures. And yet, just across the street from
And speaking of the high school… It was over crowded when I attended. The school only had three grades – 10th through 12th; but as sophomores, we attended the afternoon session – from noon until 5PM. Once we became juniors and seniors, we attended school from 7am to noon. Double Session is what they called it. At the time, Brandon High was the largest school in the state of
Between our old house in Woodberry Estates and the school which is only a mile or two away, there is a
At the corner of
But more importantly, I learned one of the life-lessons that has guided me as a parent, on that day at the curve on
If you can make it beyond the curve in the road, there is a convenience store located just on the other side of the railroad tracks. By
Today, the convenience store looks a little tacky, but who knows? It occupies the same physical location as it did before, but in my dreams, it is a different brand - maybe Stop 'n Go or something similar. I just know that as the finances of a kid mowing yards at $5.00 a whack, I spent a lot of money there.
Of course, I graduated from mowing lawns on my sixteenth birthday and began my one year tour of duty at BranMac, the nickname for Brandon McDonald's. Just like the high school that was overwhelmed with students, BranMac was overwhelmed in volume. The next nearest McDonald's was in either Ybor City or Plant City, I think. I honestly believe that the hard work I put in for a dime above minimum wage there would make military basic training and the supposedly high stress jobs I would hold over the years, a breeze.If the phrase "six and twelve on the turn" gives you chills, you should know that we routinely doubled that. Back when a Big Mac was maybe 85 cents a copy, we were routinely doing multiple $1,200 and $1,400 hours. BranMac was a finely tuned machine and we had something that I challenge you to find at any fast food restaurant today, and that was pride. We must have been so seriously brainwashed by the managers that we genuinely respected, a group of us guys purchased personalized T-Shirts and challenged other stores to grill competitions.
I drove by BranMac a few times during our weekend and noticed they had remodeled. My dad tells me that in a single day, they demolished the entire structure so they could build a new building. I didn't bother to stop by - and maybe I should have - but I couldn't bare the thought of potentially bad service at one of the finest establishments in the company history. Ray Kroc wouldn't have it, and neither would I.
On Sunday Morning I drove my dad and my son down to the car wash to get my dad's little baby, a Chrysler 300, a much needed (whether it was really dirty or not) bath. There is something about a clean car to make things right and my father was simply aching to get the car spiffied up. There is a certain sense of satisfaction that comes from forking over $30.00 and knowing that, barring any rain or unexpected puddles, you are driving one sharp car, all the way home. We discussed the car wash operation and the staff attending to my dad's 300 took great interest in the fact that I was goofy enough to take pictures of a car being washed. If they served food, they'd still be shaking their heads.
In spite of the massive growth in the area, Brandon still has lots of wildlife. We drove by a bank with an ATM machine out front and a group of Sandhill Cranes seemed to be organizing a bank heist. And they would have gotten away with it...
And I think that helps with why for the first time in years when my wife asked the inevitable question - would I move back - I suddenly felt like if a job presented itself, I would. In spite of the massive growth, I felt like the traffic moved, the result of some master plan that involved building beautifully landscaped parkways paralleling the main road through Brandon, State Road 60 or Brandon Blvd. I never felt overwhelmed by the traffic and more importantly, I didn't feel as though I would see vandalized street signs or tagged privacy fences. And that was enough to make me consider it.
I've traveled extensively, lived in several different countries and several states all over the U.S.; I live in San Antonio because I love it here. It never hurts to take a little trip down memory lane though, and I have come to the conclusion that I may need to do it a little more often.