Many of us have memories of our special place by the sea By Debbie McChesney
Many of us have memories of our special place by the sea, digging toes in the sand or finding a perfect, unbroken sand dollar. Some of us have memories that involve waiting on an elevator to descend from a high-rise condo to reach the beach. The lucky ones remember climbing wooden steps to the top of a gazebo that towers over sand dunes covered with sea oats, hosting dozens of dragonflies, and a whole world of creatures beneath the brambles. My three children believed that the dragonflies were tooth fairies that came in the night to pick up their lost tooth and dip their wings in a bedside glass of water, turning the water shades of pink, blue or green.
The first time I saw the town of Seaside was in the early 1980s. We were driving from Sandestin to have dinner at Bud & Alley’s. It was a foggy, rainy night with an occasional flash of lightning. As we drove the desolate stretch of 30A, Seaside appeared like a mirage on the horizon. The small pastel cottages lined Robert’s Way, a path in the middle of nowhere, and seemed nothing short of magnificent. The electricity was out when we arrived so we dined off the grill by candlelight.
As I remember it, Sundog Books was a charming one-room bookstore with a sand-covered floor that rested behind the dunes. Bud & Alley’s was a short walk away, Sip and Dip, run by Charlie Modica, was next door and Modica Market was across 30A. Not much else existed. If you came to Seaside in January it was wise to bring all your necessities.
Seaside is now filled with restaurants and shops; fun, imaginative, forward thinking places. Seaside is fluid, always changing, constantly seeking a better way of doing things. For example, current restaurant owners are meeting to find ways of obtaining better, fresher and local ingredients. The Seaside Amphitheater just received a major renovation and is now a strikingly beautiful stage fitting for the center of town. The green spaces peppered throughout Seaside are as important to the feel and fun as the shops and restaurants. In front of our house sits a beautiful space where the water tower once hailed. There is often a family playing bocce or Frisbee, just yesterday I witnessed a woman taking her turtle out for a little sunshine. With all the development on 30A, it is nice that in Seaside, our green space remains, respected and untouched.
Thus far Seaside is doing something right. The Financial Times writer Nick Foster suggests “that the series of nine gulf-front pavilions, all for use by everyone, encourage interaction, give residents a connection to the sea, and thus boast the value of everyone’s property.” In another article titled “Seaside Weathers the Real Estate Storm,” Philip Langdon says that Seaside has retained its value better than most communities and has fared well in the real estate climate of the last few years.
Programs like the Seaside Repertory Theatre and Escape to Create (30A’s artist-in-residence program), add purpose and mystique to our town and often lead to an ongoing relationship with the artists and 30A. But, most important, Seaside is just plain fun. The annual Halloweener Derby, a dachshund race that honors Seaside’s first dog, Bud; the Seaside Neighborhood School half marathon; shops like Duckies House of Fun and Central Square Records; the Seaside Yard Sale and the Saturday morning Farmers Market all add up to create a special place that brings out the child in all of us. Just tonight, I overheard a child leaving the movie in the amphitheatre say, “Mom isn’t this the most magical, perfect place in the world?” Her mom nodded, “ Maybe so.”