County Road 30A is home to about a dozen beach communities, many of which are shiny and new.
Grayton was here before any thoughts of painting a house bright shades of sherbet entered any sane person's head, or thoughts of "needing" to provide entertainment for those who came to summer at the beach.
Malcolm Patterson is one of the few who can remember "the good old days" when Grayton Beach was so quiet that you could hear a car coming long before you could see it, and everyone would get up to walk to the porch to see who it was.
Yes, those were the good old days.
Patterson's mother's family were some of the original settlers of
It was a time when people looked at beach property as worthless.
Patterson's grandfather owned most of the cattle in the area at that time. He tells of hearing about the day when his grandfather came upon someone slaughtering one of his cows. His grandfather rode a horse to DeFuniak Springs to tell the sheriff. The sheriff told him they didn't come south of the Bay and people down here would just have to handle their own problems.
So, he did. The next time his grandfather came upon a cow being slaughtered, he shot the man dead.
Patterson retells the story today with a laugh.
Patterson was the second of five children born to Wilhelmina and Pat Patterson. His younger sister, Linda, also has a lot of memories to share.
Pioneers and a Model T
"My mother came to Grayton as a baby in 1902," said Eyer. "The W.L. Miller family were the early pioneers in Grayton. The family lived across the lake at The Old Miller Place on 310 acres, much of which the state park is on today. They raised their own food and my granddaddy's cattle roamed the woods freely from Phillips Inlet to Destin. We ate fish, oysters, and alligator from
"They all rode horses and later had a Model T Ford.
"Early on, we used an outhouse, which I never went out at night to use! Wild pigs roamed the area and would root under the house, which was scary for a young girl.
"My grandmother was a midwife, and she ran or cooked at the old Grayton Hotel, which was located to the west of the
"My mother was 23 years old when she drove old Mr. Butler, who was in his 70s, all the way to the west coast, which he wanted to see before he died.
"The Butler Store, built in 1939, was a wonderful place for families in the early years, but every time alcohol became a factor there were fights."
No Schools on the beach
There were no schools at the beach in the early days and when Patterson's mother was told that his older sister would have to board in DeFuniak Springs to attend school, his mother said no way and moved the family to Pensacola only to return to Grayton every weekend, which was no easy task in those days.
The road south to the beach was over dirt roads until the family boarded a ferry in
"There were no paved roads here then," remembers Patterson.
Patterson's family has owned a home at
"My granddaddy owned most of the cattle. There were no fences because there were natural barriers," said Patterson. "The cattle was my family's major income. In the spring they always did a roundup to brand them. We would wrap barbed wire around the trees to do the branding. My granddaddy knew every cow and who it belonged to. Dewlap was his granddaddy's preferred brand.
"There were lots of cows on the beach then and kept cool by getting in the water. There was nothing on the beach but sea oats sand cow shit. Living here then was like a Huckleberry Finn adventure."
Patterson also remembers the time he spent as a teen at the old Grayton Store, and sitting on the porch at his mother's house and carrying on a conversation with the family across the street.
"That's how quiet it was," he said. "I lived here at a time when it was truly Utopia. It shaped my personality and my character. But I spent the first 18 years of my life trying to get out of here."
Patterson did get away, by playing football for LSU, and joining the Marines and serving in
Grayton Sees Changes
In 1977 Patterson did make it back.
"I realized finally that
However, Patterson has watched his quiet little hidden community get discovered and the changes that have come about. He is not happy about all of them.
The first thing that began to change Grayton is the "monster houses," he says.
"I am a believer in private property houses," said Patterson. "The monster houses were permitted as single family dwellings. But they are small hotels handling from 15 to 30 people -- as many as you can cram in them. When you permit that, you change the character of a place.
"The second thing that changed
The noise and parking problems caused by visitors to The Red Bar was the genesis of Patterson leaving his beloved home in the heart of Grayton to move north of the Bay.
"I still go to
One final issue Patterson has with the changes Grayton has seen is the allowing of charter fishing boats on
"The boats are a direct user conflict. There will be an accident and the county will be in jeopardy of a huge lawsuit.
"With all the people there and coming and going, it's a fundamental issue of private businesses using public land for personal property. When you put 15 boats and trailers on a beach packed with people of all ages ... They have 42 yards to launch a 10-foot wide boat. I don't think the county commission has a clue what is going on there. There is no delineation once the boat gets in the water. Common sense tells you there should be a lane for boats so swimmers stay away. And that they are allowed to clean fish on the beach is ludicrous.
"And, finally, beach chairs set up two and three rows deep on a significant percentage of the beach, set up at daylight every morning before anyone even gets there ... Tourists and locals can't even get to the beach.
"All of these things have changed
Patterson served as the first executive director of the Walton County Tourist Development Council.
The Good Old Days, no more
Eyer echoes her brother's sentiments about
"The Old Grayton Store has been added onto more than once and too many people are crammed into it. It's a shame," she said sadly.
Eyer owned a home on
"We fought with everyone over what was going on in Grayton. You can have asphalt and concrete anywhere. Why do that to Grayton? It was crazy. People think Grayton is The Red Bar and that drives me up the wall. It is so much more. It was a small community of all families. People have no idea what Grayton was. It has changed so much. Most of the small houses are gone. Robert and Daryl Davis lived in Grayton while they were researching for their development of Seaside. A lot of us thought Seaside would not make it," she says now with a laugh.