In July 1963, the Royals, the Friedmans and the Rubensteins from Birmingham, loaded up their 2-toned wood-paneled station wagons with 11 children (ages 1 – 19), dozens of suitcases and 7 days of food in coolers and made the 5-hour drive to Panama City for a week of R&R, having no idea that this trip would become an annual excursion that would define our family and keep 3 (now 4 generations) close for 50 years.
After a number of years in Panama City, we moved our destination to Ft. Walton and in 1985, the Edgewater’s first year for rentals, we began spending our family reunion at the Edgewater. By this time, many of the cousins had gotten married and had children of their own and our family of 17 had grown to 30 or so.
The Edgewater was perfect for our family and we never wanted to run the risk of the rooms being sold out, so January 2 eachyear, my Uncle Bubba Friedman (in the earlier years) and my mother, Micky (in more recent years), called the Edgewater to make our reservation for 10 -15condos for the 2nd week in July of the following year, 18 months in advance.
Every Summer, no matter what was going on in our respective lives, we had the opportunity to spend 1 solid week catching up with our Aunts, Uncles and Cousins, seeing how everyone was doing, sharing great stories (and lies), laughing, crying, eating (actually gorging ourselves), and, of course, basking in the sun. When I say we have come “every summer for 50 years,” I must confess that Hurricane Dennis actually kept us away in 2005, but proudly, the problems from the aftermath of Katrina and the BP oil spill didn’t.
The Edgewater has truly been the canvas of our family’s life. There have surely been tough times for us, with business struggles, heart attacks, breast cancer, deaths, and all of life’s challenges, but being here together has allowed all of us to support one another through these tough times.
But most of all, we have spent the very best times of our lives here together as a family. We have very old photos capturing happy toddlers playing in the pools and digging in the world’s whitest and softest beach. And, we now have new photos of these prior toddlers doing the same things with their own grandchildren.
Life’s details can be somewhat complicated, and so it is for our trip to Destin. Now, all 4 generations of the family come to the Edgewater, 50 strong, from ages 12 weeks to 88 years old. We can no longer simply load up the cars in Birmingham to drive here, as we now hail from somany places: Alabama, Texas, Georgia, New York, Michigan, Connecticut, and New Jersey.
But the effort is surely worth it. The Edgewater has been integral in preserving a tradition for our family – a precious legacy.
Now, there are 19 kids in the family under the age of 10. Sure they could all stay connected through facebook as they grow up, but there’s nothing like a week of “personal connection” at the Edgewater. Most people in the world have no idea who their 5th cousins are, but the great-grandchildren of Elaine and Arnold Royal, Gladys and Bubba Friedman and Micky and Stanley Rubenstein know theirs and are close to them, thanks to the Florida Gulf Coast and the Edgewater.
Friedmans, Rubensteins, and Royals