Panama City Beach Dreaming


When I heard that Panama City Beach would be celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, I got a little nostalgic. One of my favorite pictures of my dad was made there in January 1961—a snapshot taken by my mother during their honeymoon.

For years, our family rarely vacationed anyplace else. We’d usually stay at a little mom-and-pop motel with cinder-block walls, a rectangular swimming pool, and a kitchenette. (My mother always packed her skillet.) Our vehicles didn’t have A.C. back then, so we would head out in the wee hours of the morning, while it was still cool. I got to take along a buddy, my older cousin Kathy. Once the two of us were old enough to walk down the beach all by ourselves, we were instructed to steer clear of The Hangout because “there might be some of those hippies down there.” Of course, the possibility of seeing an actual hippie just made us want to go even more. Occasionally, we’d get brave enough—or curious enough—to sneak over to The Hangout and listen to the Supremes, the Beach Boys, and the Beatles as we watched the older kids do the Swim, the Twist, and the Watusi on that concrete dance floor.

We lived for nighttime rides at the Miracle Strip Amusement Park. And I absolutely loved Petticoat Junction, where you could ride a train into Tombstone Territory—just a tiny, faux-Western town nestled into some Florida scrub pine, but I felt like I had stepped into an episode of Gunsmoke. The train traveled past a fake cemetery, and I still remember the inscription on one of the tombstones: “Here lies Les Moore. Caught a slug from a 44. No Les no more.” I thought that was hilarious.

Many years later, my husband and I rented a high-rise condo with a stunning view of the Gulf and reconnected with the amazing beach that hooked me as a child and never let go. Part of me was a little wistful for the old amusement rides and motor courts, which had given way to swanky resorts and hip restaurants. Then again . . . I didn’t have to pack my skillet.

Here’s to you, PCB.



  1. Michelle Reeder

    Your article brought back so many memories for me also. Being from the wiregrass area of southeast Alabama, PCB was such a treat for my parents to take our family often for our summer vacations on the beautiful white sandy beach and salty water. Sometimes my parents would just spontaneously surprise us on a Saturday or Sunday morning with 4 kids and load up the the car with a picnic lunch to make a 1 and a half hour trip for the day at the beach! It was so exciting to us kids to see who could see the water or beach first as we drove into the “Y” which is now called back beach road! Then growing up I would be invited by friends with their parents to go or take a church bus from one of the local youth groups to go for the day! The days of springs breaks and club trips were so memorable because that meant not only the beach but meeting new friends from all over the world! We would lay in the sun till we were “brown as a bear!” The most exciting time I’ve experienced is when I graduated from high school and moved there for the summer before I started college and worked for my parents best friends and my second parents, Ted and Sophie Kominos at The Chateau Restaurant on the strip. The experiences and friendships were endless that summer. Then a few years later my parents bought a lot with a trailer on it at Laguna Beach just west of PCB, but was still considered PCB. Fortunately, after I had children of my own they were able to enjoy all the excitement of Miracle strip, Thomas Donuts, Capt Andersons, Petticoat Junction, the putt putt golf with the giant gorilla out front, Funland, and all the local restaurants and pubs. So many places are no longer there but the memories I still have! Thank you for the article once again!! Happy 80th Birthday PCB!

    May 4, 2016 at 3:37 pm

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