Shared Stories: Youth in the Sunshine State

Katie Troy recalls the fun she had as a young adult when she joined her sister in Florida. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns

By Katie Troy
It was January 1982 when my sister Marianne came home from Indian Rocks Beach, Florida, to celebrate her birthday with family and friends.  She moved there after she graduated college from Pittsburgh in 1979.  

Back home in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, she asked me when I was coming to visit.  I said, “How about Monday, when you leave?”

I packed my bags and was off to Florida. My mom and dad drove us to the Pittsburgh Airport.  My mom said, “It’s seven degrees.  It’s getting warmer.” It was below zero, plus there was a wind chill factor. Brrrr.

When we landed in Tampa, Florida, it was 75 degrees. It was hot for me. I was in the ocean the next day. A year later, I couldn’t believe I got in the water in January. My blood had thinned. I guess I was no longer a tourist.

Marianne got me a job in Clearwater Beach at a restaurant called the Beachcomber. She was a waitress there. I was the salad girl. I also made beet borscht and coleslaw. Later I was switched over to frog legs and chicken fryers. Those poor, innocent souls. Then I was moved on to pastry chef.

I made Baked Alaska, coconut, banana, chocolate cream, and lemon meringue pies – along with dinner rolls and banana bread. I made everything from scratch. Don’t ask me for the recipe today. I used to know it all by heart.

After working at the Beachcomber, I became a waitress at a little café called The Stuffed Bun.  Both of the places where I worked were across the street from the beach, the Holiday Inn, and the Beach Bar.

Drinking age in Florida was 19. I was 19 when I moved to the sunny state. I didn’t have a driver’s license or an I.D. Wherever you go nowadays, you need an I.D.

I would meet tourists almost every other week. When they talked, you could tell they were tourists. People from Canada were easy to recognize. They would say “Eh” after most sentences.

“Could I have a hotdog, beer, and fries, eh?” or “Where are you going, eh?”

I would party with the vacationers. We would go to the Holiday Inn and dance to the live bands that would play. We would go to other hotels on the same block next to my Uncle Chuck’s condo. Bands would play outside by a Tiki bar.

Uncle Chuck had a friend who had an airplane.  He would fly us to lunch and back. That was so cool.

I remember riding on a boat spotting parasailers. I would ride for free, keeping an eye on them.  When it was my turn, I would be up there longer than usual because the crew had to make a beer run.

Living in Florida was so much fun, even though it was humid in the summer.  Why I moved in with my brother in Lakewood, California, on Rocket Street, I have no idea, except maybe I was going to become a “superstar” in Hollywood someday.

Those were the days – to be young again.