Tag Archives: space shuttle

40 Years of Florida Christmases

My readers may remember that I celebrated my 40th birthday this year (back in April) and I made my 40 for 40 promise, which, by the way, I am happy to report has continued on track!  Donating to Relay for Life on behalf  of fellow tweeter @JenVargas, fulfilling her birthday wish, was #32.

At any rate, as Christmas approaches and I went to set up my tree again this year, I realized that this is my 40th Christmas… so of course I knew I had a blog post in the making!

Florida Christmas in the 1970s

  • Opening of Disney World Resort
  • Opening of Sea World
  • Closing of McCoy Air Force Base

Now, my family actually goes back to the 1800s in Central Florida. In fact, here’s my grandmother fishing a snake out of Howell Creek when she was much much younger!

And, when my mother was a teenager, she wanted a horse, but the City of Winter Park did not allow horses inside the city limits. So, my family moved way out in the country (at the time) and bought some pasture land down a dirt road with beautiful goldenrod growing all over.  (This dirt road is now known as Aloma Ave. and that goldenrod pasture is marked by Goldenrod the road!)  But this Lazy 3 Ranch, where my mother grew up, is where I grew up too, at the same time as the city was growing up around us in leaps and bounds.

The Lazy 3 Ranch, corner of Aloma Ave. and 436

So, my memories of Christmas at this time were typical of most children: lots of 70s era toys!  Dolls and ride-in cars for me, Stretch Armstrong and army men for my brothers, a working Lionel train set for which my father spent weeks building and nailing down a track, and even chickens. Yes, chickens…we did live on some land, after all!

And, of course, Disney toys and theme park visits were very big with our family…we lived in Central Florida! (And, boy, do I remember those booklets of tickets…especially the feared E-Ticket!)

Christmas, 1975

A young Top 5 editor Bess Auer with her beloved "Big Red"

And as soon as we had our toys, we’d rush outside to try them out, riding bikes down the driveway, skateboarding around, climbing trees with GI Joe.

Christmas 1976

Florida Christmas in the 1980s

  • Space Shuttle program launches
  • Opening of Epcot
  • Domination by Miami football

By the 80s my brothers and I were getting into our teenage years, and Central Florida saw the launch of the first Space Shuttle as well as the opening of Epcot. (I watched the opening live while home sick from school…and classmate Jody Crane skipped school to attend the opening and was featured as the very first guest!  He got lifetime tickets or some such wonderful thing!)

At any rate, childhood toys at Christmas gave way to clothes and boom boxes.  And still, after unwrapping presents on Christmas day, we’d head outdoors to the yard to have orange and grapefruit wars, or to take my grandmother to Epcot, or even to head to the beach and lay out in the sun for most of the day.  Florida Decembers have certain advantages!

Christmas day - grandmother and her beloved dog at the beach in New Smyrna...look how uncrowded!

And then, as the decade ended and I was cheering in college, sometimes Christmas days were spent traveling to bowl games, like the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.  (Not a bad place to spend Christmas and New Year’s, by the way!)

Florida Christmas in the 1990s

  • Opening of Universal Studios
  • Domination by Bowden’s FSU football program
  • Closing of the Orlando Naval Training Center

This decade saw me getting married, buying my own home, and setting up my own Christmas tree for the first time.  I have never been a fan of traditional, so I bought silk flowers for my tree, which I still use nearly twenty years later!

Our Christmas tree

And then, as the second half of the 90s began, I became a mother, and Christmas suddenly was geared to children once again. Thomas the Tank Engine, Pokemon, and Legos were tops in our house, as Harry Potter paraphernalia soon would become, too.

Florida Christmas in the 2000s

  • Ending of the Space Shuttle Program
  • Opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  • Domination by Florida Gator football and basketball programs
  • Rise to national prominence by UCF’s football and basketball programs

And so I have reached this latest decade. This one saw the passing of my brother, the continued growth of our children, and even some of the final flights of the Space Shuttles. My son has become the teenager, and iPods have replaced boom boxes, X-Box Kinect has replaced Atari.

My son does not rush out to the front yard to race around on his skateboard or ride his new bike, as my brothers and I did when we were young.  Instead he plops on the couch, puts on his headset, and connects with twelve different friends around Florida who all got the same video game to play online. It is a strange new world in which I live, one ruled by indoors, electronics, and air conditioning, but I wouldn’t miss it for anything!

Forty years of Christmases… what do you remember?


Filed under disney, Just for Me, Sea World, Seasonal, Shuttle, Uniquely Florida

The Top 5 in Space!

The Central Florida Top 5 was invited to tour Kennedy Space Center this past weekend, and what a wonderful time! First of all, I am an Orlando native, and I am ashamed to admit I had never been to Kennedy Space Center before, and I suspect I am not alone! [Note: We Floridians tend to become immune to the theme park and attraction advertising, sending our visiting relatives to go without us, nodding our heads because we think we know what is basically there…well, I was wrong about KSC!] It is well worth the short drive down the Bee Line. From the giant rockets and life-size shuttle that greet you, to the interactive exhibits and unique artifacts, KSC is much, much more than I ever realized.

Upon arrival we were greeted by Public Relations Manager @AndreaFarmer, a Twitter friend whose updates I love reading. She graciously showed us around the visitor’s center, instructed us on “must-see” things, and then joined us for the Shuttle Launch Experience. Similar to a theme park ride, this simulator reproduces what it feels like to blast off into space, rumbling seats and all! [Note: 0 to 17,500 mph in a matter of mere seconds!]

The best thing about the simulator, though, is the feeling of weightlessness it miraculously recreates…totally mind blowing! I was joined by my husband @SwimmerJoe as well as my teenage son and nephew. This shuttle ride was their absolute favorite! [Note: The simulator magically transported me back to feeling like a teenager, remembering why I dreamed of becoming an astronaut in the first place.]  [Note 2: This dream was shattered while sitting in Astronomy 101 at the University of Florida where I learned Astronomy is basically the title of a really, really advanced math.] [Note 3: Yeah, I dropped the class after the second week.]

Shuttle Launch Experience Highlights:

  • Ultra-slick welcome by astronauts who have actually “been there, done that”
  • Quick queue for boarding the simulator
  • Realistic countdown from Launch Control
  • Awesome blast off and then that feeling of weightlessness
  • Eerie yet breathtakingly beautiful view of Earth through shuttle bay doors and then again through a giant window in the floor after the ride
  • Individual shuttle mission information
  • Signatures of those astronauts who have actually achieved Mach 25 (17,500 mph!)

Check out the video below for the video of the first part of our trip.

Next we visited a bit of a “soft opening” for the Exploration Space: Explorers Wanted, an interactive exhibit geared toward the two teenagers in tow. An ultra-cool display greeted us in the size of a giant revolving planet, so real it felt like we were standing on the bridge of the USS Enterprise. [Note: I am allowing my inner-geek to show, aren’t I?]

Astronaut Bess (at last!)

The Exploration Space exhibit also had different controls/gadgets for the boys to try as well as a neat social media aspect. We could create a post card and then email to friends and even upload it to Facebook.

<——Here’s Top 5 editor Bess standing on the moon!  [Note: Ain’t I cool?]

Finally the area had a live show where actor “Ken” told us about plans for future space exploration. The only thing that stands in the way of the Constellation Program going forward is funding. [Note: Congress, please support 40,000+ Florida jobs, the state economy, a pioneer spirit, and the survival of the human race!]

 Here’s video of Exploration Space as well as the Hubble Display:

Stay tuned for the second part of our trip…more video and photos coming!


Filed under General Info, Shuttle, Space, Tourist

40th Anniversary

It seems like I keep writing about space, space, space…well, perhaps that is appropriate with all that has been happening in Central Florida lately–five attempts before the Endeavor launched successfully and now the fortieth anniversary of the Moon Landing. 

I must be honest…my mother was pregnant with me when Neil Armstrong first stepped on the Moon, so I have never known anything but the space age. I was also home sick from Glenridge Junior High, and so I got to watch live both the first Space Shuttle flight as well as the opening  of Epcot.  (I watched as fellow student Jodi Crane, who was there with his family as the first official visitors to Epcot, smiled and told reporters, “I hope my teachers aren’t watching!”)

My son, too, has grown up with humans regularly going into space. Although there have been two terrible tragedies, I would not hesitate to jump at the chance to go into space myself. (If only I was a billionaire!) I do wish I had been alive to witness the man’s first footsteps on the moon; hopefully I will be alive to see man’s first steps on Mars. After all, my grandmother watched Central Florida change from a place where she took a horse and wagon to New Smyrna Beach to a place that launched high tech rockets into orbit, so there is hope yet!

Enjoy this video recap of the Moon Landing…provided by NASA.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Shuttle

Own a piece of Central Florida history…

Check from Neil Armstrong

Check from Neil Armstrong

With the 40th anniversary of the Apollo Moon Shot, Central Florida will soon be “buzzing” with space memorabilia.  With that in mind, you can own a piece of that history by bidding on this check, signed by Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.

He signed the check shortly before take off, as a repayment of a loan. That check was never cashed and has made it way 40 years to the present, where it is being auctioned off.

Armstrong’s signature is particular desirable, as he stopped giving autographs back in 1994 when he became weary of profiteers. Wannabe owners can check out the auction here.

Fingers are crossed for clear weather Wednesday at 6:03 pm.  There is a 60% chance of favorable weather. For those of you who make the trip to see the launch, patience is imperative as safety is the #1 priority. Those of us who lived here in Central Florida when the Challenger disaster happened, know just how important patience is!

Leave a comment

Filed under Shuttle