Five for Friday: Five Reasons Branford, FL Was A Nice Place To Grow Up

Growing up, when people would learn I am from Florida, they’d always respond with, “Oh, that must be nice.  You have the beaches and Disney.”  Yeah, not quite.  The nearest beach (in the actual beach on an ocean sense) is several hours away; Disney is three.  I’d have to explain that I wasn’t from that part of Florida.

No, I’m from the middle of nowhere, lots of woods and mosquitoes, the nearest real town is a 30 minute drive part of Florida.  Branford, FL.  Matt and I are heading down for a visit this Labor Day.  We plan of doing some serious tubing on the Ichetucknee (see what happened last time I attempted a floating trip).  So I figured I’d dedicate this Five for Friday post to my hometown!

Branford is nestled right in the middle of North Florida on the historic Suwannee River.  And aside from that river and the University of Florida 45 minutes down the road, there isn’t a whole heck of a lot going on.

Oddly enough, the town’s website actually uses the verbiage “nestled on the banks of the Suwannee River”.  See, that river really is the main event.

Branford is a small, friendly town nestled on the banks of the Suwannee River, where pride in family, community and patriotism create a wonderful quality of life. It is a peaceful, rural area of natural beauty balancing the old with the new. Enjoy browsing our website and then make plans to come see what you are missing here in Branford Florida.

I knew from a young age that when I graduated high school, I’d have to leave this town in the dust (actual dust from all of the dirt roads).  Now I only get back to visit family a few times a year, and I truly look forward to my trips home.  Because while Branford is somewhere that I wouldn’t want to live, it is a fun little place to visit, and it actually was a nice place to grow up.  And oddly enough, it’s the lack of much to do (in terms of what a city offers) that yields the:

Five Reasons Branford, FL was a Nice Place to Grow Up

Number 5:  The Rivers

As you’ve already learned, Branford enjoys being nestled up next to the Suwannee River.  But it also boasts several other great rivers:  the Sante Fe and the Ichetucknee.  The Ichetucknee is my favorite.  The water is crystal clear and the six mile stream of connected springs flows through some truly breathtaking nature.

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Number 4:  The Springs

As great as the rivers are, they have nothing on the springs.  Branford has some really kick ass springs.  From Florida Dive Connection:

“This landlocked area of the state has contributed more diving knowledge and innovations to our sport than just about any area of the country. The little town of Branford is known as the “Cave Diving Capital of the World” and many of the pioneers of cave diving hailed from this section of Florida.”

I really miss hopping in the car and heading down for a quick swim “at the springs”.  Many a summer was spent in a bathing suit jumping from trees and platforms, catching minnows, and hanging out on the steps.  You better believe I visit these spots every trip home and we always make a stop for a huge helping of boiled peanuts from the side of the road.

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Number 3:  Woods and Dirt Roads

I spent at least 85% of my waking hours each summer outside.  My brother and I climbed trees, made forts, and cautiously avoided prickly pears in the woods behind our house.  As we got older, we turned to the woods or dead-end dirt roads as a hang out spot with our friends.  And boy did we do some “hanging out”.  A bonfire, case of Natural Lite or a bottle of Boones Farm, and a car stereo system lent themselves to many a fun night.

prickly_pear_cactus_flower

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Number 2:  School Events

Since there wasn’t much else typically going on in town, any event at the school became a town event.  I think almost every house in the town was empty on Fridays in the fall, because everyone was in the stands cheering on a then constantly losing football team.  And it didn’t matter that we were losing, people had so much Buccaneer pride that it transcended the score.  School play or pageant?  The auditorium was packed.  Fall Festival?  People were lined up to shoot the flame out of a jack-o-lantern or bob for apples.

That’s not something you see in sprawling cities like metro Atlanta.  Parents are there, but the community isn’t; at least not in the same way Branford is.

Number 1:  The School

I went to a K-12 school (now an elementary and high school).  That concept is so completely foreign to most people, but it made for some truly unique experiences.  My high school track coach was my PE coach when I was in elementary school.  I had some AMAZING teachers throughout the years (most notably Mr. Murfee, HS English and Mrs. Wingate, 4th & 6th grade).  I was involved in almost every club and sport that was offered; because the school really is the life of that town.  And most remarkably, twelve of the kids in my graduating class (of 69) actually started kindergarten with me!  That’s wild!  I made some of the the best friends of my life and got to crash through every hurdle of my adolescence with them by my side.

branford panoramic

So there you have it, a short homage to B-town.  I’ll have to make a “5 things that happened when I lived there that would garner a lawsuit anywhere else” list next.  Now, that would be a good read!

Stay positive & love your life!

-Melissa

Today:

Listening to: Team Sleep – Tomb Of Liegia

Eating:  Pasta

Drinking:  H2O but I’m about to be on the hunt for something with caffeine.

Random fact:  One time my brother kicked a prickly pear and it landed in my leg.  Holy ouch!  I’m sure I got him back.

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24 thoughts on “Five for Friday: Five Reasons Branford, FL Was A Nice Place To Grow Up

  1. Pingback: Quick Stepp | Trifextra: Round My Hometown

  2. I attest this is true! I never left and was one of the 12! Branford is home and always will be for my little family.

  3. Love this, and it is so true! I was a transplant to Branford from Ft. Lauderdale in the 5th grade…talk about culture shock!! But my mom and dad still live outside of town and I do love driving through and reminiscing. No one who hasn’t lived it will ever truly understand. 🙂

  4. Love it Melissa! The rivers are ridiculously high and I’m not sure about your floating plans 😦 hope y’all are able to have some fun this weekend while you’re home!

    Erin Hudson 🙂

    • Thanks Erin. I checked the park’s page and it’s supposedly a slow float and few launches are down. But it looks like it still may be doable. We’ll ride out to check first. Fingers crossed. 🙂

  5. I moved to Branford from Miami when I was 14 but the school had a big impact on me specially Mrs Daniels and later Mr Doppen. I think Mr Doppen is one of the reasons I ended up moving to Europe. I’ve only been home once in the past 14 years but the first thing I did was head to Arnolds Barber shop and get me a haircut and when I go home for Christmas this year it’s the first thing I am going to do again. I think for most guys Arnolds is a bit of an institution.

    • Thanks for reading Guy. Mr. Doppen was before my time. But I remember seeing him in the halls when I was in elementary school. And Mrs. Daniels was awesome. Mr. Mc was the figure head during most of my years. He was such a great guy; gone way too soon.

      Arnolds! I remember going in there with my Papa. 🙂

  6. Good job, Melissa. You brought me back. I graduated BHS in 1979, and have not lived in that area since.

  7. Awesome article Melissa! I can say I really love this town! It has changed a lot since we ran the streets but is still a wonderful place to raise children!

  8. Oh what a glorious place to spend a childhood and enjoy your teen years hanging out! And it’s so very beautiful. It sounds like a great setting for a novel too!

    I just love the way you end your posts with “Stay Positive & Love your Life!” Oh my gosh I just saw my name on your blogroll! Wow. I’m honored. Thank you Melissa! 😀

  9. I’ve been gone for 19 years now living in Austin, TX. I understand the bit if culture shock, but don’t you just feel the layers of stress from big city life just peel off as you arrive. I sure do! Great article!

    • Thanks Diane.
      It’s changed some since I left in ’98. I love a small town visit, but after a while it has its own stressers: nowhere to find good beer, nothing to really do once you’ve been to the springs and the river, etc. 🙂

  10. Loved this ! But actually, “O’Brien” was probably a little more “middle of nowhere”. That ride to Branford for school seemed so long sometimes . Mr.Sam Murfee was one on my classmates and dearest chums. Never a dull moment. He singled handedly got me elected “Queen” one late October Homecoming with his original and humorous signs : ” Vote for Lori, she’s a real nice Ghoul!” The band of 25 played “Send in the Clowns”. 🙂
    We kids from the farm (my cousin,Diane, who commented above), used to love staying in town after school. The Cannon’s house was always open for all of us who were waiting on our rides . I still remember Mrs. Cannon running that office….with her Malox bottle nearby. She loved us all. Mrs. Daniels grossed us all out in class one day by telling us what happened when she hit a buzzard with her car (ugh). I avoid them when I’m driving at all costs! Loved growing up in such a wonderful part of Florida. We were blessed with so many memories .

    • I won’t argue that O’Brien is definitely more middle of nowhere. I remember it seeming so far from Branford when I was younger too! We stopped there for gas on the way out of town this time and there was an odd collection of people having a Labor rally or get together. Matt asked what was going on. I said, “How the heck should I know?” Even I can’t decipher everything that goes on there!

  11. I really enjoyed reading your articles and I especially love the pictures. There is nothing like the beauty of the Suwannee River and the springs all along the way. Everyone should get to experience the ice cold, crystal clear water of the Itchetucknee River. Floating down that river was so much fun.

    I lived only 5 miles from Branford in Lafayette County but, when we “went to town”, it was almost always Branford. We bought our groceries from Mr. Jim & Ms. Nellie Severance across from where Scaff’s is now. I remember Mr. Bob Fletcher’s Hardware Store. The best food in town was Julius’ BBQ or Nell’s. Man, that was good stuff! I miss the old bridge coming into Branford from Mayo and I always thought the ice house was so cool. (pun intended!) My family had a lot of beef processed and stored right across from the inspection station. My grandfather, Miller Walker, was the Secretary/Treasurer of the Suwannee River Riding Club for a lot of years, my grandmother, Celestia, sold ads every year for the program book and the Annual Parade and Rodeo were so much fun.

    I graduated from Mayo in 1981 and moved to AL in 1983 but I love to go “home”. I had some great friends in Branford and still keep in touch with several of them. Thanks for bringing up sweet memories!

    • Thanks for reading and sharing your memories Sherry! 🙂 Had some good friend growing up in Mayo!
      I remember the old G&H grocery story. I used to think it was dark and scary as a kid.
      You know Nell’s is no longer there. Never thought that place would disappear. Even little Branford continues to change.

  12. Hey that’s my picture of the high school I took during my senior year in 2012! lol And I was the last kindergarten class to get to attend BHS when it was k-12 and move to the new elementary school in the same year. I love my little town of Branford!

  13. Pingback: Quick Stepp | Twisted Mix Tape Tuesday: Walking in High Cotton

  14. Pingback: Quick Stepp | Confessions of a Childhood Home: Branford, FL

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