My great grandparents decided to retire in Bradenton, Florida in the 1930’s. They were done with the harsh winters in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, and went south in search of the sunshine. They lived in a little travel trailer with a “Florida Room” (an enclosed patio) attached just a short block from the beach. Grandpa’s new job, he had to have something to do, was to serve ice cream from the hotel beach house, right next door. What a perfect vacation for a kid – a grandpa with an ice cream stand on the beach! We made the trek from the west coast 4 or 5 times in the 1950’s to visit them in their little piece of paradise. There were few buildings nearby, and just a rickety old bridge connecting them to Anna Maria Island. I loved those vacations.
Business took me back to Bradenton in the 1990’s and I tried to find the old hotel, but it must be long gone. Although the bridge, roads, electricity, and services have improved immensely, the entire area is now filled with sleek new hotels, condos, and very expensive homes. There are still some charming old neighborhoods, just not the one I was looking for. I can’t even imagine that little trailer sitting on a lot in the old neighborhood! Bradenton is now home to 51,000 people and 23% are over 65. Mean home values run in $163,000 range and many are condos which are a lot less expensive. The temperature ranges from 71 in January to 91 in July. (No wonder they moved here!) Bad news: it gets 107 inches of rain per year. But as I remember it, the rain comes every afternoon for an hour or so and then quickly goes away – leaving a beautiful sunset.
Bradenton is now a totally revised area. The area south of downtown is an arts community with studios, galleries mixed in with restaurants and shops. They have a great community theatre, the Manatee Players that put on several shows a year including big Broadway musicals. The nearest big airport is in Tampa and there are plenty of hospitals to chose from.
During my short visit, I fell in love with Bradenton all over again. While not the place of my childhood, it is still a wonderful little town on the Manatee River. So here I sit, an ice cream in hand, watching the sunset from the veranda of a new hotel in Bradenton. Here’s to you grandpa!
Photo Credit: Don R. – Our Founder’s Grandfather