Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Way Back WhensDay: An 11 Year Old's Florida Odyssey

Not the actual bus, but close
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

It's hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that 30 years ago this summer I embarked on an adventure of epic proportions.  I was 11 years old at the time.  My great-grandma, cousin, and aunt were visiting us from Florida, and someone got the idea that my brother and I return to the Sunshine State with them.  Here's the catch, we would travel by Greyhound Bus.

My cousin Tammy, Aunt Sandra, and I would leave first, because my brother had a week long scout camp to attend. He and great-grandma would join us a week later.  I had a big green suitcase packed as I prepared to spend five weeks of my life with my aunts, uncles, and cousins in Largo.  
My cousin DJ

The bus ride was 32 hours long.  During a pit stop and bus switch in Atlanta, I remember Aunt Sandra telling me to make sure they were putting our luggage on the right bus.  Bleary eyed, I watched the crew members throw my distinctive pea green suitcase into the luggage space under the bus.  A few minutes later I went inside the station and reported back that everything was good to go.  We then boarded the bus NEXT to the bus that was carrying our luggage. I didn't say anything, hoping that I was wrong, but when we got to the station the next day in Florida, my suitcase was not there.  Eventually I was reunited with my clothes.

My brother "playing" piano
Once my brother arrived, we with our Aunt Jo, Uncle Harold, and cousins Tonya and DJ.  We had so much fun, soaking up the Florida sun and spending time with all of our extended family. I remember riding a borrowed bicycle up and down Murray Avenue, visiting Aunt Sandra's and great-grandma's houses.  We'd take turns "playing" the player piano too. 

Like a teen or tween back in the 80's, trips to the mall were common during our stay.  There were frequent visits to the Pinellas Park Mall and lunches at the Woolworth's inside.  Ghostbusters was released on the big screen while we were there and of course we went to see it.  I also bought the vinyl 45 single record of the movie's theme song by Ray Parker, Junior.

Uncle Harold working
My Uncle Harold was installing an in ground pool that summer. One morning while he worked, we headed to Tampa to spend the day at Adventure Island.  It was a day filled with water slides, wave pools, and a lazy river, until we heard Aunt Jo's name announced over the speaker system.  She was summoned to the front office where she took a phone call that Harold had fallen into the empty pool and his wheel barrow landed on top of him.  Frantically, we headed back home, worrying the worst may have happened.  

I don't remember all the details, but Uncle Harold ended up with a bunch of stitches in his head.  I took a picture for whatever reason.  The trooper he is, he finished that pool and we enjoyed it for years to come when we'd visit.

That trip holds so many good memories for me.  Spending time with loved ones and gaining a sense of independence right before heading off to middle school.  It was five weeks of fun that I'll never forget.  I just wish I would have taken more pictures...

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