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New Florida residents find things different - and the same

On Oct. 18, 1989, my wife and I, feeling somewhat like the BeverlyHillbillies, loaded into two cars what the movers wouldn't/couldn't take, along with our two kids and a dog, and began our seven-hour trip from Columbus, Ga. to Clearwater. The dog got to mostly ride with me because I was mostly driving the lesser nice car!

We arrived after dark and at first couldn't find our house. After a lengthy search we eventually found it, made a pit stop at the golden arches and checked into a motel. After the dog dragged me around the parking lot for about an hour, we got a good night's rest and met the movers early the next morning.

We've been warmly welcomed to the community, especially by lots of

water-softener installers and pest controllers!

On my first Sunday I shared with our new church family some of our first impressions and questions about our new location - those things that you and they know that we don't yet know.

For instance, how can one tree produce three or four kinds of fruit? I studied about grafting in college biology, but in my hometown (Donalsonville, Ga., population 3,000) we only know about things like peanuts and corn and soybeans, pecan trees and peach trees.

These "cocktail" trees are quite sophisticated for a former Georgian, and I'm still trying to figure out just how they work. I didn't have one yet, but to my wife's dismay, I had planted a lemon and tangerine tree almost before the moving van pulled away.

I'm also still trying to figure out this four- to six-lane highway one mile west of where I work. I'm trying to avoid U.S. 19 as much as possible. Some prophets told me in October that it would get worse - and they were right. Perhaps you know where all those cars could possibly be going and where they're coming from. I haven't the foggiest idea!

I'm trying to learn more about the Bucs and the Magic and the Pelicans. I only know (more than I want) about the Falcons, the Hawks and the Braves. Have I come from Losersville to Winnersville? The jury is still out!

For the life of me, I can't figure out why one area has so many banks and S&L's. In Georgia we say that there's a Baptist church on every corner. Here, there seems to be three banks on every corner with names like I've never heard.

My hometown has two banks and probably could get by with one.

Within a very short distance of where I live and work, I've counted 25 banks and I'm still discovering them.

I thought banks had names like Commercial State and Merchants and Farmers. Here we have Sovereign Savings, Life Savings, Fortune Savings, Beneficial Savings.

Now that I'm complaining, you understand. If there are this many banks so close to our church, there are bound to be lots of unchurched folks, too.

One more thing about the banks. I made a lot of calls trying to figure out which one was best suited for the Gutermans. Many of you know why for the first time in my life I wanted to be 55 years old!

Lastly, how's a person supposed to read all of these little newspapers that are thrown in the driveway each week? I do well to read the Times, which, incidentally, is far superior to our daily in Columbus.

I'm sure that after we've been here a while, we, like you, will discover the answers to these and other questions. Although we're encountering people from all over the world, many of whom talk a little differently than we do (my good next-door neighbor from New York had heard me several times and finally said, "I don't know where you're from but it's not far from Jimmy Carter's house!"), we're also rediscovering that people are people wherever one lives. We all have about the same basic needs, fears, hopes and dreams.

We're staying.

Raymond Guterman is the senior pastor of Northwood Presbyterian Church in Clearwater.

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