According to the 1940 census, Framalopa County had a population of slightly over 8,000. About half of these lived in town, and the other half lived in the country: truck farmers and cattlemen who came to town on Saturdays to buy the few necessities they couldn’t raise themselves. At that time, Florida was the second-largest cattle-producing state in the nation.
The townspeople had their own crop to tend: Yankees, who came down to Framalopa and other coastal Florida towns after the first snowfall in Cleveland or Jersey City or Utica. If they were rich enough, they would put their children in the Out-of-Door School, so named to remind folks that Florida winters were mild enough for classes to be held on the school’s sun-swept lawn or under coconut palms beside the blue-green waters of Framalopa Bay. Much of the time, classes met indoors to avoid the cold, wet winter wind.
Parents who couldn’t afford the Out-of-Door School sent their kids to Bay Haven Elementary, Southside Elementary, or Framalopa High School. But as soon as they got word from back home that the creeks had thawed and the first robin had crapped on the village green, they packed up and headed north, where God was squatting on their front lawn, waiting to welcome them home.
In retrospect I realize that the presence of what the Chamber of Commerce called “our winter...