Why Do You Head South?

Summer 2007 CSANews Issue 63  |  Posted date : Aug 07, 2007.Back to list

"For the warmth", Marilyn exclaimed.

"For the WARMTH"! Don was even more emphatic when I asked the Peels why they travelled to Florida every winter. Marilyn went a little further: "We can get up in the morning and get out without a lot of clothing. We can go out and walk around without a coat."

The Peels do a lot of walking. The unit they go to fronts onto a small, man-made lake, so it is a pleasant stroll around the area. Across the way is a golf course, so the scenery is delightful. Walking past the fairways, they often cross the Intra-coastal Waterway and make it to the fantastic beaches of Pinellas County. Both agree that beach-walking is fun.

Fun also comes in a number of activities. Marilyn enjoys line dancing and Don has a few friends who challenge each other at golf. They usually have an arrangement that gives them an opportunity to try several different courses, and they try to play once a week or so. Both play card games – Don has a poker night with the boys and both enjoy euchre and bridge. They took out membership at a local library in order to avail themselves of reading material. We are told that a library card is necessary to borrow DVDs or hard-cover volumes, but you can take out soft-cover books without a membership. And of course, you can go to the library and read newspapers and magazines. Their rental unit also has a small collection of books.

Don had a career in education, first as an elementary school teacher, then as principal. He moved into administration, becoming superintendent of operations for the Durham Board of Education. When he met and married Marilyn, he was spending his leisure time playing baseball and his team is honoured with a position in the Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame. Marilyn, who was working in the City of Oshawa's treasury department, retired to become a full-time wife and mother. She returned to work as a school secretary and, after 13 years, retired to enjoy time and travel with Don. Don worked until he qualified for retirement at age 55. During their earlier years, the Peels would fly to Florida for a vacation of a fortnight or so. After retirement, they drove.

"We like to take a circuitous route. It gives us a chance to see more of the countryside and the attractions along the way. We may stay at a spot for a few days, or even spend a week somewhere that appeals to us," Don explains. "Occasionally, that could be in the Sunshine State itself." They drive a Cadillac SUV that allows plenty of room for the goods which they need for their now-longer stay in Florida.

During the two- or three-month respite from the cold weather, they welcome friends from time to time, and family – when the grandchildren have their spring break. Don says, "friends usually stay for two or three days. In the case of our son and daughter and their families, I try to get accommodation for them in a condo unit in our general area for the time they are here."

"The kids keep us up to date on what goes on at home." Marilyn is in touch with the family by phone and by e-mail. They both try to hear "Canada Calling" – the daily report on Canadian news that has been a wintertime feature on Florida radio stations for many years. They sometimes buy a Canadian newspaper for some in-depth coverage not available in American papers. Then there is the Internet. It is easy to call up their local journal to keep in touch with home. They check out the obituary columns regularly, and get a great kick out of weather reports whenever Ontario's climate gets miserable.

When I asked about the expense of living in Florida, they told me that their rent constitutes the major portion of their costs. "In hindsight," Don allows, "it would have been better to buy 15 years ago because of the way rents and values have increased over that time. But we already had our permanent home, plus a lovely summer cottage, and we did not think it wise to have a third property to worry about."

The Peels are outgoing people, so finding a social network was easy for them. Most of their Florida friends were first met around the pool. Virtually all are snowbirds; about half are American and half are Canadian. It seems that most of the northerners like to return to the same property each year because of the friendships they have made. They keep watch on the bulletin boards for events that are organized by their condo association. They also enjoy nights out with friends at the pub and they go to Canada-U.S. nights. They go to plays and musicals and usually get to a few baseball games during the spring training period. They dine out from time to time. When asked about expenses, I was told that they don't really budget themselves, and that there are usually funds left over when it's time to go back north.

And that's a warm and comforting feeling, because it gives them a start for the following year, when the Canadian air starts to get a little nippy.