Turning 80 in My Home State of Florida
The day has finally arrived, and I am about to become an octogenarian, entering my ninth decade of life.
I still live on the same property where I was born, at a time in Florida when the state was largely covered by ranches and groves. I attended a country school where students wore bib overalls, and some were without shoes. The pants were without zippers.
Locomotives belched black coal soot as they passed by on the tracks near my home. My grandfather was born in 1845, the year Florida became a state, and my father was in the U.S. Army in WWI.
When I was born, America was recovering from the Great Depression, fighting World War II and the fabulous 50s were about to begin. Florida was still somewhat undiscovered, and the total state population was less than the three-county Tampa Bay area I live in today.
It has been a great experience to watch our state grow, not only in population but also in terms of space travel, technology and tall buildings. When I was young, our small airport was served by three airlines and much travel was still done by train. Most roads were two lanes all cars were stick-shift.
When I went to college, the first in my family to do so, the entire university, which now boasts more than 50,000 students, had a student population of 1900.
Politically, the state was heavily Democratic, but they were conservative Democrats. When I first got elected, I was the first Republican from my county to be elected to the state House of Representatives since Reconstruction. It was the beginning of a total shift in political power. The local newspaper called it a “harbinger” of things to come.
I smiled about being a Floridian as the Sunshine State and I grew up together. It was a great state then and a better one now. As it has grown, the median age has shifted so that now one out of five adult Floridians is classified as senior.
That’s why I established Seniors Across America to reach out and lift up seniors as they traverse the journeys and challenges of senior life. I understand them because I am one and very proud to be a senior Floridian.
I am a patriot. I love my country and I love the great state of Florida. As I am in the fourth quarter of my life, maybe even in overtime, and as we celebrate the Fourth of July, I am proud to be both an American and a Floridian. May God continue to bless our state and the USA.