One of my favorite Amish settlements is the winter enclave of Pinecraft, Florida. Twenty years ago few people outside Plain circles had heard of this Amish paradise. Now this corner of Sarasota – while still quaint – is filled with sprawling Amish-style restaurants and shops. Yes, the Plain people still come to escape the winter chill, but so do a lot of other people. Twenty years ago there were fewer Amish people in general everywhere (some researchers estimate the Amish population doubles every generation, fueled by high birthrates). So Pinecraft was a sleepy corner of Sarasota where Amish people descended to play shuffleboard and spend the winter. Back in the mid-90s I had a reasonably successful magazine writing career (something I’d like to try to revive). I didn’t just write about the Amish I wrote about a variety of fun and serious topics for a range of magazines.
One of my favorite articles was a fun feature I did for Cincinnati Magazine about the demise of the “one-screen movie theater. Most have been done in by the major multi-screen “megaplexes.” But back then there were still a few one-screeners around so I spent a couple of weeks exploring them. Today, some 20 years later, at least one one-screen theater still survives around here and the article I wrote hangs framed inside the lobby of the By-Jo Theater in Germantown, Ohio, which still shows movies on its one screen. Anyway, I have a serious case of digression in this post:) So, back to Pinecraft. I pitched a story about Pinecraft to a magazine called Florida Retirement Living. They accepted the proposal and I started work on a story, but I needed some photos. And being in Ohio I wasn’t about fly down to Florida to take photos for an article that would probably only pay $200.00. But my grandpa lived in nearby Venice, Florida at the time. So I enlisted him to help. He and his wife drove to Pinecraft and took some good shots for me which appeared in the magazine alongside my story. That was a neat moment for me, and I’m sure for him. It’s upsetting because I don’t have a copy of the magazine anymore having disappeared through all my moves somehow. But yesterday I found his original prints taken for the article. The pictures were in a “memory box” that I have in my office that I hadn’t gone through in years. And that might be worth a full post another time. In some ways when I opened the box it was as if my life was there, frozen in time. Old notes from friends in high school (do kids even write notes anymore? I doubt it…they probably send texts, snapchats, vine, etc), pictures from college, early career artifacts, and so on. What would be in my memory box 20 years from now? It’s a good exercise for anyone….
And speaking of frozen in time, in many ways these three photos of Pinecraft could have been taken yesterday, not 1994. Yoder’s Restaurant still serves the most amazing, authentic Amish-style food. Three-wheeled tricycles still are the Florida-version of the horse-drawn buggy. If memory serves me correct,though, Pinecraft Hardware is no more. But someone can correct me on that if I’m wrong.
Ah, and the below photo: Grandpa and me long before I even know what the word “Amish” meant. I do miss him and wish he could be here to meet my wonderful almost 10-month-old daughter. But time marches on. Even in Pinecraft.