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Monday, October 05, 2009

Trailing Spouse Enjoys Return to Kissimmee

While Lulu was busy with presentations at the FAME (librarians) convention near Disney - I took another ride into the past. I went to Kissimmee.

Kissimmee holds a special place in my heart. After first visiting Disneyworld after it opened in 1971 - I wanted to move to this cow town about 10 miles east of the Magic Kingdom. Lulu and I just got married and we spent our first month together honeymooning in Miami. We were convinced that we could make it in Florida and thanks to Walt Disney this town seemed to offer the most for us.

No - we didn't move there - but I studied every thing I could about the town. Beside leading in oranges - Florida was the nation's second largest supplier of beef. Both were center near Kissimmee. When Disneyworld opened Kissimmee turned to a boom town. At that time it was about the size of our hometown - and as Florida and Kissimmee grew - Tamaqua and Pennsylvania waned.

In 1972 - Lulu and I returned - spending the summer in Miami. Not only were we there for both the Republican and Democratic conventions - we took summer jobs considering a permanent move. But when the school bells started to ring in the fall - we returned to our roots in Pennsylvania - I as a teacher and Lulu as a college student.

In 1974 - we thought it would be great for my students to experience Florida and Disneyworld even if only for a day. I chartered a jet out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and flew my students - about 150 - to Florida for a day. We left home at 5 AM - and returned back to the Pennsylvania hills at midnight. Many of them flew in a jet and saw palm trees for their first and only time in their lives.

In 1978 - we bought a tour bus and drove 16 groups on visits to the Sunshine State . We always seemed to end up at Kissimmee usually via Cape Canaveral. But it was always our dream to move to Florida. We just loved the surf - sun - sand - palm trees - oranges - and adventure. Teaching salaries were horrible because they expected you to "take it out in sunshine."

1980 - after teaching 10 years in Pennsylvania - I took a sabbatical leave for a year planning to live in Kissimmee. Lulu studied at the University of Central Florida - so we settled into Winter Park - just a few miles from the tiny campus. While she finished a masters degree in 30 weeks - I watched two toddlers. I always wanted to work for Disney and a night time security job was available - too bad I found it impossible to stay awake past midnight.

In 1982 - my students and I took the train from Philadelphia to the train station in - you guessed it - Kissimmee.

In 1988 - Lulu was offered a scholarship to earn her doctorate at FSU. Once again - I watched two kids while she studied. When Lulu earned her doctorate in two years - she vowed to someday return to Tallahassee and FSU as a professor. We also bought resident passes to Disneyworld.

Finally when I retired in 2003 - Lulu got her wish - FSU recruited her to be a professor.

Kissimmee is much bigger and busier now. A majority of the population is Hispanic. Many of them are employed in the service industry serving the tourists of Disneyworld.

And now it has all come full circle for me. While Lulu is presenting at a FAME Convention - I am walking the streets of Kissimmee thinking about our dreams there to live in Florida - permanently.

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