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Published Aug. 27, 2005

By Melinda Griner, Brandon

I am a native Floridian. I was born at the old St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa and lived near Jesuit High School. My family moved to Brandon in 1969 to get away from the city. Lots of cow pastures and orange groves were a big draw.

Growing up, my brother and I took long bike rides, many times ending up at the corner store to buy penny candy. My parents never worried about us.

I went to Yates Elementary until Limona Elementary was built in 1972. I graduated from Brandon High School in 1983 when it was the only high school in Brandon. My husband graduated the same year and played football for Brandon. At that time, Brandon High was on double session and had one of the largest graduating classes with more than 1,000 students.

My husband, Tony, and I decided to live in Brandon because it is a family oriented town where people sleep at night instead of cruising around.

In 1995, I was hired as an aide at Colson Elementary. Coincidentally, the teacher I had in the sixth grade is the guidance counselor at Valrico Elementary, where I am now a secretary.

My parents moved out to this area to escape the city, but my dad says the city just came out here to us. When we moved here, there really wasn't much development. Our big Thursday event was to go to the Publix at Clayton Plaza and to Colony, a clothing store, next door.

Clayton Plaza at that time was the place to be. You could shop at Publix and get ice cream at Dipper Dan and feel good because you would always see people you knew. Back then, there was not a whole lot here so we drove to Tampa quite a bit. My children don't know just how nice they have it with all the conveniences so close to home.

I have four children: a 16-year-old at Durant High School, a 13-year-old at Mulrennan Middle School and 9- and 7-year-olds at Valrico Elementary.

We moved three years ago from the Mango area out to the Bloomingdale area and that has been quite an adjustment. The traffic in the south area of Brandon is definitely heavier. I read an article not too long ago that said 28,000 people a day travel through Brandon on State Road 60, quite a difference from the traffic in 1969.

Although Brandon has changed a lot, it still has the same feel, a family community. And you can still find a horse pasture or orange grove if you want to.

_ Griner lives on Minuteman Lane.