Atwo-lane road—Highway 98—leads across the bay and into the center of downtown Apalachicola. It’s a one-stoplight town, with wide, palm-lined streets, vintage storefronts, antebellum homes, classic Florida cracker houses, and run-down shacks. Shrimp boats, oyster boats, and fishing vessels ply the waters for the shellfish and finfish harvest that sustains the town. By some miracle, this part of Florida, nestled in the Panhandle, has escaped the blight of development. Established as a seaport and fishing village in 1830, there’s really not a whole lot that’s changed in almost two centuries.
My dad was born here, as was my grandfather. My grandparents were married in the Methodist church, the same church where my dad was baptized and my parents attend services now. My family lore includes the tale of my great-grandfather, who frequented the Oasis, the local watering hole. As the story goes, Granddaddy got mad one night and stormed out the bar’s front door, thundering, “May God strike me dead if I EVER come through this door again!” (Being a God-fearing man, from then on Granddaddy entered only through the side door.)
That was a long time ago, but the Oasis endures, as do most of the other buildings in Apalach. Walking around town, my dad remarked, “Everything is the same as when I was a kid—some of the buildings have been spruced up with a little paint and powder, but they’re all the same.”
At the Piggly Wiggly, the local grocery, the cashiers wear Piggly-Wiggly themed t-shirts. Our cashier one day sported a bright pink t-shirt that read, “What happens at the Pig stays at the Pig.” I liked it, and told her so. “Yeah, but it’s NOT true,” she laughed. I’m by nature curious, and often ask people how they like living here. “Love it,” “Warm, friendly people,” “Wonderful community,” “Safe, I never lock my doors,” and “People really care about each other,” are common responses. So, too, is “But you’d better behave, because everybody’s gonna know your business!”