For nearly 40 years, I’ve been in love with Tallahassee. I fell in love with its majestic, moss-draped live oaks, its rolling hills, its Southern drawl and its small-town feel with big-city amenities.
But what made me feel instantly at home here was a nickel in a cash register.
It was 1981. My wife, Linda Kleindienst, and I were living in Boca Raton. We had just heard that her employer, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper, was moving Linda, one of their star reporters, to a new assignment covering the Florida Legislature and state government.
I was also a Sun-Sentinel reporter. I knew I was facing a job search and yet another move to yet another new city, my third hometown in five years. I hate to move.
Exhausted from a weekend of packing, we drove in at nightfall on an early spring Sunday from far to the south. U.S. 27 had been dark. The thunderstorms had been bad. I was ready for a hot pizza, a cold beer and a quiet hotel bed.
And slumped at the convenience store counter, I found I was five cents short of a six-pack. Could you hold on a minute, I asked the clerk. I need to run to the car for five cents. “Honey, just never you mind,” the clerk smiled. She put a nickel into the cash register. “Welcome to Tallahassee. You can catch me up next time.”
The clerk was far from alone. Everywhere I went, I found a shared feeling that there was something special about Tallahassee. Most folks seemed proud of where they lived, and were pleased to share it with you. I have never lived in a community that has such a deeply felt sense of place, and yet is so welcoming to new residents.
Perhaps that’s because we have so much experience at welcoming people to our town. Every year, after all, more than 10,000 college freshmen pour into Tallahassee. Add in the thousands of legislators, state government staff, lobbyists, university professors, businesspeople, new residents and visitors who come here ever year, and it’s easy to see we get a lot of practice.
Some spend a few years, and then move on. Others, like me, fall in love and never leave.
In nearly four decades in Tallahassee, I’ve met thousands of new Tallahasseeans, some from practically next door in Florida and others from halfway around the world. I can honestly say that I have never met anyone who has mentioned that they were made to feel unwelcome.
So y’all come up on the porch and visit awhile. Tell us where you’re from and why you’re here. Let’s talk about the weather, the neighborhood and, of course, football. Would you like some sweet tea? And if you’re a nickel short at the cash register, someone might smile, chip in a coin, and say, “Welcome to Tallahassee.”
You can catch us up next time.
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c (850) 228-2759