There’s No Place Like Tallahassee
After 20 Years and Many Travels, This Atlanta Businessman Still Prefers His College Town
It had been 13 years, maybe more. An important business meeting had finally given me a reason to be back in Tallahassee, where I left a big part of my heart and soul.
After a day and a half working in Mobile, Ala., I was finally heading east. After three hours and with about 200 miles of Interstate 10 in the rear view mirror, I hung up my cell phone, turned off the radio, and soaked in my surroundings during the last 45 miles to Tallahassee in complete silence. Crossing over the Apalachicola River and seeing those cypress swamps brought back many memories.
It all started for me in the summer of 1982, around the time I graduated high school in Atlanta. A friend who had been accepted to Florida State University (I had been accepted, but had no intention of attending) bugged me to ride down to Tallahassee with him for orientation, just to get away for a weekend, gawk at some girls and see the town. It didn’t hurt that we happened to be in town the very week that the Florida State High School Cheerleaders Association was holding some event on the FSU campus.
I’d be lying if I said that thousands of beautiful blonde coeds running around everywhere didn’t have an effect on my decision, but the beauty of the campus and the surrounding city, the universal friendliness of the people I met, and the abundant outdoor opportunities sealed the deal. I came home from that trip, immediately notified UNC they could give my spot in their freshman class to someone else and enrolled at FSU.
I grew up as a hardcore angler, and I was in nirvana with some of the world’s best largemouth bass fishing in just about every direction one could head outside the city. There were forays down to the Gulf, where we could wade out and catch sea trout and redfish. Later in my college days, those sorties took us scuba diving and spearfishing, snorkeling for scallops on the flats in the summer, and deep-water fishing for snapper, grouper, dolphin and cobia out in the Gulf.
During the fall of my sophomore year, I went dove hunting over on the Apalachee Wildlife Management Area near Sneads, on the western shore of Lake Seminole. I didn’t clip a feather that day, but was immediately hooked. The next day, I shot my first dove behind the old Lowe’s on Pensacola Street. We’d sneak over there late in the evening and shoot half a dozen doves among the scrub and pines in an overgrown, undeveloped lot next to the store. We got run out of there on more than one occasion by the Leon County sheriff, too.
Two months later, I went on my first duck hunt on Lake Miccosukee. I would also have the glorious opportunity to hunt wild quail by horseback on some of the magnificent plantations between Tallahassee and Thomasville, and shoot sporting clays competitively at Myrtlewood Plantation.
The towering pines, old oak trees with their drapery of Spanish moss, and the late-afternoon shafts of sunlight turning the broom sedge a golden brown created an outdoor cathedral to a young impressionable man who had already developed a deep appreciation for the outdoors. I missed more than a few classes in pursuit of all this outdoor sport, and I didn’t break any records for grade point average at FSU. But with the perspective of 20 years, it hasn’t seemed to hurt me much.
In those ensuing decades, I have traveled all over North America on business. I have driven the sublime stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway between Monterey and Big Sur. I have eaten at the fanciest restaurants in Manhattan, Chicago and San Francisco. I have played golf at Pebble Beach, soaked in the breathtaking beauty of the High Sierras, snow-skied all over the Rockies and hunted waterfowl on the Canadian prairies. For me, no place in America can hold a candle to Tallahassee.
Be thankful that you live in the greatest city in the greatest country in the world. Take advantage of the beauty of your city, the kindness of its people and the natural resources all around you. Do your part to keep it that way. You are indeed fortunate, if you can just see the forest through all those beautiful old stately oak trees.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Alan Bressler is founder and president of Atlanta-based CPR Companies, as well as a freelance writer on brownfield redevelopment and wingshooting sports. He first came to Tallahassee as a Florida State University student in 1982 and, after graduating, returned to work here until 1991. This excerpt is from an essay about why he considers Tallahassee his favorite place.