BRANDON — It hit me over the summer that I have lived in our little slice of heaven for 26 years.
Trying to explain what Brandon and east Hillsborough County was like “back then” to someone who just got here in the last year or two is a challenge. I’m also sure there are at least a few folks out our way who think people like me are newcomers, but that’s another story.
Anyway, with so many people moving out here, it can be hard to tell the newbie from the native. With that in mind, here are a few things I have learned over more than a quarter century of living here:
You might be a long-timer if you know that new road extension just opened up by the mall is pronounced GornTOE Lake Road, even through it is spelled GornTO. I asked Brandon resident (and Tribune reporter) Yvette Hammett why that is and she said, “I have no idea. But the only way I’ve ever heard it pronounced is GornTOE.”
You might be a long-timer if the mall will always and forever be known as the Brandon Town Center. You might be a native if East Lake Square comes first to mind when someone mentions a mall.
You might be a long-timer if you remember when Brandon High was the largest high school in the state, and when Brandon, Plant City and East Bay were the only high schools in eastern Hillsborough County. You might be a native if you remember when Pinecrest and Turkey Creek were high schools.
You might be a long-timer if you remember when Valrico was “in the country” and you didn’t know anyone who actually lived there. You might be a native if you remember when Brandon was “in the country” and people in the city thought the only way to get there was by horse and buggy.
You might be a long-timer if you think the Strawberry Festival is much better than the state fair. You might be a native if you know the back way to the festival, and you can laugh at the three-mile backup of folks from the city who think the only way to get there is on Interstate 4.
You might be a long-timer if you remember the 1977 prep basketball classic between Brandon and Robinson, won in overtime at (cough) the buzzer by the Eagles. You might be a true Eagle if you ignore the fact it was so loud inside the packed Brandon gym that officials couldn’t hear the buzzer that went off at least three seconds before David Galloway put in the winning shot on an offensive rebound.
You might be a long-timer if you remember when Fishhawk was nothing but scrub brush and rattlesnakes. You might be a native if you remember when Bloomingdale was scrub brush and rattlesnakes. Bonus points if you can remember State Road 60 before it was expanded through the heart of Brandon.
Triple points if you ever went out for dinner at 4 p.m. because there were only a couple of places to eat in town, and if you waited until 5 you would never get seated.