NY Times "Cracker" Vacation Experience

Discussion in 'All About SoWal' started by DBOldford, Aug 22, 2005.

  1. DBOldford

    DBOldford Beach Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2005
    Messages:
    990
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Napa Valley, CA
    Sorry that I first posted this on another thread..didn't mean to crowd you. Didja see the front page of today's NY Times, the article about St. Joe Co. creating a neo-"Cracker" community in eastern Bay County? I'm not kidding, folks. It's an opportunity for people who never lived on a farm or at a fish camp, who want the backwater experience of fishing, sitting on a porch with a flappin' screen, and plowing the earth. Prices average $352,900 for the land alone on the first project underway, RiverCamps. I can't wait to tell my brother in DeFuniak that he should throw some millet on the pond at his Euchee Valley farm and wait for the "Cracker" wannabes to follow the new trend and make him a gazillionaire. Will each home be sold with an old pickup truck that features primer coat on one or more of its doors and a Bose sound system inside? And what will happen when the new homeowners discover mosquitos the size of helicopters, critters that take advantage of torn screens (including the two-legged species), and that plow mules kick hard?

    Aside from this being mildly condescending (as perceived by this native "Cracker"), it borders on the surreal. Does anyone else think this kind of real estate speculation is in need of a reality check? Quote from the article, a lawyer trading her Rosemary Beach home for a RiverCamps lot:

    "I don't want to use the word 'backwater,' as that sounds too negative, but RiverCamps has this whole underpinning of past Florida---a rural history." She wants to emulate the early Florida rural settlers known as "Crackers," because they "...lived among the pines, raised a few hogs and cows, grew a little patch of corn, and just barely survived. Absolutely, I want that privacy and those woods. Yet at the same time, I want to be able to invite a neighbor over for a glass of wine and I want a nice kitchen with a Sub-Zero refrigerator."

    Lord love a duck. :laughing1
     
  2. kurt

    kurt Admin Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2004
    Messages:
    7,220
    Likes Received:
    3,746
    Location:
    SoWal
    I guess I am a cracker. I've lived in the South without AC or heat. I like a deep, wide porch with or without screen. Skeeters, gators, and snakes don't bother me. I'd like a little room to roam with a few animals, including 6 or 8 dogs.


    What I want though is the farm in the valley with a pond. Does your brother have any room?
     
  3. kurt

    kurt Admin Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2004
    Messages:
    7,220
    Likes Received:
    3,746
    Location:
    SoWal
    WEST BAY, Fla. - What is a striving Florida developer to do when most of its
    vast holdings are not beach chic but rural, remote and mosquitoey?

    The St. Joe Company, which owns 800,000 mostly inland acres here in the
    scrubby pine forests of the Panhandle, is invoking Thoreau.

    The company, Florida's largest private landowner, is pushing "new ruralism,"
    a concept it hopes will entice city and suburban dwellers who are weary of
    civilization and long to own a tractor, a pickup truck, or at least a kayak
    and a few large dogs.

    At developments called RiverCamps, where homes in a design proudly called
    "Cracker Modern" will sit on lots of up to four acres lots near marshes,
    creeks and conservation areas, "camp masters" will tutor residents in bird
    watching and flats fishing and organize "owl prowls" and "star parties." At
    WhiteFence Farms, on 5- to 20-acre lots near fields and ponds, "farmhands"
    will gas up an owner's tractor and help mow the meadow. A third category,
    Florida Ranches, will have up to 150 acres and cater to hunters.

    Recent sales of RiverCamps on Crooked Creek, the first project under way,
    average $342,900 for the land alone. Projects farther inland will most
    likely cost far less per acre.

    The idea is a corporate reinvention of new urbanism, an antisprawl movement
    that advocates compact, old-fashioned towns where residents can commune in parks, shops and restaurants within walking distance of their homes. Instead of connecting with neighbors, new ruralism promotes connecting with the land - though these cabins in the woods come with wireless Internet access and porches with screens that unfurl by remote control.

    The target market is people 42 to 60 who, tired of coastal hurricane threats
    or the beach scene in general, want something more like Walden Pond or
    Walton's Mountain. Most are expected to use these ranches, camps and farms
    as second homes, though a surprising number of prospective buyers want
    full-time rusticity, St. Joe executives said.

    Brainstorming sessions at St. Joe's headquarters in Jacksonville produced
    scraps of paper scrawled with phrases like "wind in the trees," "stars, no
    lights," and "slamming, squeaking screen doors." In June, the company
    published a white paper quoting Thoreau ("I went to the woods because I
    wished to live deliberately") and defining new ruralism - a concept that
    developers elsewhere have also seized on - as rising with the sun, fishing
    with the tides and resting with the moon.

    "People are trying to get back to a time they remember," said Peter S.
    Rummell, St. Joe's chairman and chief executive, who grew up in rural
    upstate New York and oversaw theme parks for the Walt Disney Company before moving to St. Joe in 1997. "A moderated ruralism seems pretty attractive."

    It had better, if St. Joe is to succeed in the real estate business. The
    company's founder, Alfred I. duPont, bought huge tracts of land in the
    Panhandle in the 1930's, after which the company became a paper maker with
    banking and railroad interests. But the land was strictly for timber farming
    until the 1990's, when St. Joe sought to reinvigorate by switching to land
    development.

    Though the company has been developing property ever since, about 99 percent of its holdings - as much as all the developed land between Miami and Fort Pierce - remain wild. It first focused on its 30 miles of Gulf of Mexico
    coastline, creating resort towns like WaterColor and SummerCamp with
    multimillion-dollar vacation homes. Making inland holdings attractive is far
    more complicated, requiring not just market research but also a tricky
    makeover for land that has long been inhospitable.

    "A big, thick pine forest with a lot of undergrowth is a pretty forbidding
    place," Mr. Rummell said. "It scares a lot of people."

    At RiverCamps on Crooked Creek, which is near Panama City Beach and offers
    two-acre lots for up to $1 million, the overhaul involved thinning the
    forest and burning the thick underbrush so that softer, greener grasses
    would emerge. With the land reworked, a landscape architect identified 54
    "environmental jewels" - Spider Lily Marsh and the like - and mapped them
    out for prospective buyers. Brochures promise homes in the "Cracker Modern"
    style: lots of wood, metal roofs, broad roof overhangs to block the sun and
    screened porches.

    With construction yet to begin, 145 buyers, mostly from Florida, Georgia,
    Alabama, Tennessee and Texas, have closed on plots at RiverCamps on Crooked Creek, the first of three such developments.

    "We honestly asked ourselves, 'Will people live in this environment?' " said
    Kevin Fox, the St. Joe executive overseeing RiverCamps. "We've got critters,
    we've got heat, we've got humidity."

    More problematic is the isolation of St. Joe's land, most of which lies in
    the barely traveled region between Tallahassee and Panama City Beach. Gulf
    County, where St. Joe owns 230,000 acres, has but 15,200 residents, and
    Liberty County, where it owns 112,000 acres, has 7,300. A lot of St. Joe
    land surrounds the swampy Apalachicola National Forest and Tate's Hell State
    Forest, where a farmer named Tate supposedly was lost for days and emerged
    snakebitten and delirious. The company is lobbying to move and expand the
    small Panama City airport, while moving sections of a coastal highway
    inland, widening other roads and donating land for a new hospital.

    Though St. Joe has worked to win over the counties its land is in, some
    residents and environmental advocates worry about the scope of its ambition
    and have fought some of its projects. Charles Pattison, executive director
    of 1000 Friends of Florida, a nonprofit environmental group, said St. Joe's
    latest plan "could be positive" but that the company must take pains not to
    force wildlife off the land and to add enough infrastructure.

    "This is an area of the state that typically has one of the lowest
    population densities," Mr. Pattison said. "Issues like protection of
    habitat, hurricane evacuation routes and service provisions have got to be
    addressed."

    At the first WhiteFence Farms site, southeast of Tallahassee, St. Joe is
    preparing 373 acres of former watermelon and peanut fields for "people who
    have always wanted to live on a farm but don't see themselves as farmers,"
    Mr. Fox said. They must also be willing to pay $20,000 to $45,000 an acre
    for the land alone. The company is digging ponds and smoothing pastures for
    buyers it imagines dabbling in horse riding, beekeeping, wildflower growing
    and field plowing.

    Deborah Dudley, a lawyer who is trading her home in nearby Rosemary Beach
    for one here at RiverCamps on Crooked Creek, said beach towns had grown too crowded with commercial distractions.

    "You lose the whole basic feel of the land," Ms. Dudley said. "I don't want
    to use the word 'backwater,' that sounds too negative, but RiverCamps has
    this whole underpinning of past Florida - a rural history."

    Ms. Dudley said she wanted to emulate Florida's early rural settlers, known
    as crackers, who, wrote a British traveler in 1857, "lived among the pines,
    raised a few hogs and cows, grew a little patch of corn, and just barely
    survived." Yet Ms. Dudley said she also expected the comforts that cracker
    settlers sorely lacked.

    "Absolutely I want that privacy and those woods," she said. "Yet at the same
    time, I want to be able to invite a neighbor over for a glass of wine and I
    want a nice kitchen with a Sub-Zero refrigerator."
     
  4. Beach Runner

    Beach Runner beats on hood

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2005
    Messages:
    15,214
    Likes Received:
    788
    Location:
    Near the ATL and in SoWal as often as possible
    It's hard to believe that they're using the "cracker" word. To me, that's as bad as using the "n-word." Shame on them!

    My daughter's roommate is from Laguna Beach, CA. She remarked at the difference in the architecture between SoWal and CA - she referred to it as "cracker chic," versus the more upscale architecture in CA. I understand - I've been there, as well as the Med, Maui, etc. We have good friends with a place in Menorca, off the coast of Spain - a totally different atmosphere. But the beaches of SoWal are so much better, despite the hurricane damage. The sugar sand, the emerald waters, ...

    New Yorkers love to put down The South. That's why my daughter turned down Columbia University - they insulted us by saying that anything outside NYC (including ATLANTA) was "the country." I was so ticked off at the Columbia recruiter that I asked the cab driver to run him down as we left the restaurant where he was trying to sell Columbia to my daughter.

    Some of my daughter's classmates at MIT actually asked her if all Southerners lived on a farm and had an outhouse. They were speaking to my Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Prada, etc., attired, world-traveled, spoiled child. She calmly responded by asking them if all Northerners are devoid of manners.

    Don't diss the South - don't diss Atlanta - don't diss the Panhandle. I'm ranting. Sorry.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2005
  5. Mermaid

    Mermaid picky

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2005
    Messages:
    7,871
    Likes Received:
    335
    Amen, Beach Runner. And I'm talking as a native New Yorker who lived ten years in Atlanta and fell in love with it before moving to the Midwest (which I also now love)! Though you need to hear the way Midwest gets knocked down, if you think the South gets a job done on it. Or maybe it's about equal: Southerners are rednecks and Midwesterners are local yokel farmers. :idontno:
     
  6. Beach Runner

    Beach Runner beats on hood

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2005
    Messages:
    15,214
    Likes Received:
    788
    Location:
    Near the ATL and in SoWal as often as possible
    Yup, I know. My husband is from Wisconsin.
     
  7. Cil

    Cil Beach Fanatic

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2004
    Messages:
    1,492
    Likes Received:
    46
    Location:
    Amelia Island, FL
    Beach Runner
    Your remarks about the roomie from Laguna Beach amused me. We have a lot of SoCal relatives (including Laguna Beach) and have spent quite a bit of time down there. One thing that always throws us is the general blah-ness of the architecture down there. Other than distinctive Mission style and Craftsman houses we saw, we've been severely underwhelmed every time we've been.
    (NorCal is another story, another part of the state.)

    RiverCamps might be the most we could afford, and it might work for us.
    I have been living in a really dense, tight, urban area for a good 25 years now, and I am ready to downsize, mosquitoes and all.

    "Absolutely I want that privacy and those woods," she said. "Yet at the same
    time, I want to be able to invite a neighbor over for a glass of wine and I
    want a nice kitchen with a Sub-Zero refrigerator."

    This cracks me up, too! I can live without the Sub-Zero refrigerator, but I like the idea of being out in the woods (camping in a house) with the neighbors and a glass of wine. I've read my share of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and I can be quite a sucker for marketing. :D

    Is Cracker really a bad word? I've seen it used in literature. Can someone educate me? Perhaps it is merely the intent behind that makes it bad or good?
     
  8. Beach Runner

    Beach Runner beats on hood

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2005
    Messages:
    15,214
    Likes Received:
    788
    Location:
    Near the ATL and in SoWal as often as possible
    From dictionary.com:
    "Cracker.
    Offensive.
    Used as a disparaging term for a poor white person of the rural, especially southeast United States.
    Used as a disparaging term for a white person."

    BTW you don't want a Sub-Zero. I have had an average of two service calls per year on it, ever since it was new. There's still a problem (an unexplained stalactite sort of thing) that hangs down in the freezer that they can't seem to fix.

    I haven't been to Laguna Beach - just La Jolla and Carmel, as well as the San Francisco area. What I've seen on the CA coast is all upscale.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2005
  9. DBOldford

    DBOldford Beach Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2005
    Messages:
    990
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Napa Valley, CA
    This article is, indeed offensive and uses terms the self professed "politically correct" NY Times would not condone if in another context. All goes to show how little outsiders really understand about the South. There is the assumption that we are less intelligent than people living in other regions and that we are all racists to some degree. And this attitude is universal. When I lived in CO in the 1970s, a co-worker asked if we gave the family name to our maid. (In those days, you either had a maid or you were a maid...people had to eat.) When I moved to CA, people assumed I was a racist because of the Southern accent (which I'm proud to still have after 30+ years away) and would say the most outrageous things to me in seeming agreement. Never mind that CA used migrant laborers everywhere, paying them far below minimum wage with no benefits and looking the other way while they literally had families living in cardboard boxes! And the New England states are the worst offenders in this regard. Many of them enjoy making fun of Southerners when they have never been there and know nothing about the region. Meanwhile, we have seen some of the highest illteracy rates in the country in some NE states and the worst race riots of the century in South Boston. The best example of this New England lack of understanding was the 2004 Presidential election, when Kerry chose his running mate on the basis of boyish good looks and a Southern accent...and this perfectly nice fella, it was known then, would not even carry his own home state. (Duhhh...can you say "Vice President Bob Graham?")
     
  10. kurt

    kurt Admin Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2004
    Messages:
    7,220
    Likes Received:
    3,746
    Location:
    SoWal
    That's the thing about language - it's the mind of the sender or receiver that makes a word good or bad.

    Cracker was a term used to describe southern pioneers who used a whip to "crack" when urging on the beasts of burden that pulled their wagons or plows.

    It has only recently been used disparagingly. In general use it is not considered offensive, such as cracker architecture, etc.

    Other times it is used to describe an ignorant southerner. Sometimes the shoe fits.
     
  11. Beach Runner

    Beach Runner beats on hood

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2005
    Messages:
    15,214
    Likes Received:
    788
    Location:
    Near the ATL and in SoWal as often as possible
    As a native Atlantan, I know that the term "cracker" has been a disparaging term for at least since the Atlanta Crackers were disbanded.
     
  12. newyorker

    newyorker Beach Lover

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2005
    Messages:
    147
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    yipes....
    Having moved from the south to upstate NY (I'm an academic dean--academics move to move up), I can attest that northerners, esp New Yorkers, do hold the stereotypical views expressed earlier. But I was born in Vermont--I think that the rural stereotypes (ie yokel) still hold. Interestingly, the poverty I saw in rural Alabama was little different from the poverty that is hidden in rural Vermont....
    Class issues are the key here, not regional ones. The NY Times is laughable in its treatment of the south--to use lit crit terms, the "south is other". (ie, not mainstream). But this article addresses issues of class, not region--similar articles have covered New York city types moving to Vermont or now upstate NY to "become rural"--(they've bought up prime farmland for 2nd homes). there's a fascination w. an imagined American ideal of "rural" and both today's article and others play into this imagined ideal. But in reality, there is no understanding of what being rural and poor is all about.
    Don't take offense (tho the southern issues are real--I grit my teeth often when folks at my college ask me why on earth I'd go south for my vacation). The amusing thing is to think that people would want to emulate the poverty of the past--and yet the reality is that it takes a subzero frig to "create harmony in the woods." Its just like those who moved to Vermont to discover themselves amongst the "simple people and the maple trees"--they had no idea about how real Vermonters lived.
     
  13. GVM

    GVM Beach Lover

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2004
    Messages:
    109
    Likes Received:
    0
    The Atlanta Crackers was the name of a 40's and 50's baseball team, by the way.
     
  14. DBOldford

    DBOldford Beach Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2005
    Messages:
    990
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Napa Valley, CA
    The Majorie Rawlings experience living in the swamps is a good reminder, although she had an ice box, not a Sub-Zero. And I guess that "Cracker" no longer seems disparaging to me as a Florida native, but I am guilty of some self deprecating humor involving that term. One holiday season, we made a banana pudding for some friends visiting from Boston and called it "Cracker Trifle." (They made fun of it, but then ate the entire bowl of leftovers from the fridge in the middle of the night!) No better midnight snack than to "git me some cold 'nanner pudding with that meringue all mashed into it." Can you dig it? :wub:
     
  15. Beach Runner

    Beach Runner beats on hood

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2005
    Messages:
    15,214
    Likes Received:
    788
    Location:
    Near the ATL and in SoWal as often as possible
    BTW I saw on the Internet that there was also an Atlanta Black Crackers team. I did not know that. Can we say oxymoron?
     
  16. whiteyfunn

    whiteyfunn SoWal Staff

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2005
    Messages:
    3,286
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    Seagrove Beach
    Okay...I'll admit that I like the show Laguna Beach on MTV. That's all I'm saying.
     
  17. Miss Kitty

    Miss Kitty Meow

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2005
    Messages:
    27,017
    Likes Received:
    1,117
    Yep, that's one guilty pleasure there. Liked last year better though. Kristen...NO LC...YES!
     
  18. SlowMovin

    SlowMovin Beach Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2005
    Messages:
    485
    Likes Received:
    42
    You coulda just stopped right there.
     
  19. kurt

    kurt Admin Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2004
    Messages:
    7,220
    Likes Received:
    3,746
    Location:
    SoWal
    Cracker Chic - St. Pete Times - 4/6/03
    http://www.sptimes.com/2003/04/06/Floridian/Call_it_Cracker_chic.shtml

     
  20. kurt

    kurt Admin Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2004
    Messages:
    7,220
    Likes Received:
    3,746
    Location:
    SoWal
    "Cracker chic," or the faux-distressed look of poor folks' homes, is all the rage in Florida according to an article by Queena Sook Kim (I met her when she was researching the article at WaterColor) in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required, so the gist is quoted below):

    Architect Jim Strickland bought a 40-by-80-foot lot in a posh Gulf Coast resort community. On it, he's building a poor man's home.
    With a corrugated-metal roof, a screened-in porch and clapboard siding, Mr. Strickland's new house has many of the same features as the shacks built by some of Florida's early settlers. The style reminds the 60-year-old Atlanta native of a "less formal, and less affected" time.

    [?]

    Now, several upscale developers and homeowners are embracing the down-at-heels look -- right down to the outhouse, although all these designer projects have plumbing. The trend has even attracted its own, somewhat controversial name: cracker style.
    Folksy style: New houses with corrugated-metal roofs and wrap-around porches aim to evoke old Florida shacks.

    [?]

    "Crackers lived close to nature," says Mike Reininger, a former executive at Walt Disney Co.'s hospitality development group, who is the creative force behind WaterColor, the development where Mr. Strickland is building his home. "The style has a down-home feel." Including lots, houses in the development range from $750,000 to $3 million.

    Local folklore has it that the term "cracker" alludes to the sounds of a whip cracking over the wild cattle that early Floridians hunted. Shakespeare used it as a derogatory term to describe boastful ruffians, and British colonizers later adopted it to refer to backwoods settlers throughout the Southeast. According to Dana Ste. Claire, author of the book "Cracker: The Cracker Culture in Florida History," the first significant wave of crackers entered Florida in the 1800s, when the state passed into American hands.

    In the early 20th century, crackers were lauded as craftsmen and embraced by some Southerners as a sort of unsung hero akin to the cowboy. But during the civil-rights movement, Malcolm X famously used the term to deride white racists.

    Some older Floridians shake their heads at the recent evolution of cracker from a slur to a symbol of architectural chic. Others are bewildered that people would pay big bucks to live in a fancy version of the kind of house that many were happy to leave behind.

    "If you have ever been in a cracker home during a thunderstorm," says Curtis Law, a retired Pasco County commissioner who is a fifth-generation Floridian, "you wouldn't want to get back in one."

    [?]

    At WaterColor, 30 miles outside Panama City in the Florida Panhandle, developers are going beyond architecture to offer the "cracker experience," says Mr. Reininger. Instead of a golf course within the subdivision, WaterColor has fishing pros at a 220-acre natural lake to teach how to bait a hook and reel in a line. Every year, 15,000 bales of pine needles are brought in to hide the white sand and provide a backwoods feel. Large chunks of weathered tree branches are carefully strewn along trails so "it looks like they just fell out of a tree," says head gardener Snookie Parrish.

    The desire to get "back to the basics" is what drew Fort Worth native Michelle Coslik and her husband Steve to a two-story, $1 million vacation home in WaterColor, which is being developed by the homebuilding subsidiary of Jacksonville-based St. Joe Co.

    Ms. Coslik's home features 1,000 square feet of screened-in porch. The screen door is made of mahogany and fitted with hinges that mute the slam into a sort of soft thud that one WaterColor marketing executive describes as "the sound of growing up in the South." The cost of the door, including handle, is $700.

    Ms. Coslik, 36, isn't using her porch to escape the heat as the early settlers once did. She has air conditioning for that. For her, the porch is a place to meditate and practice Yoga. "When I think cracker," she says, "I think of getting back to the essence and away from material aspects of life."
     

Share This Page