The first time DeLene Sholes saw 30A and Santa Rosa Beach, she was not very impressed.

"My husband had been coming here since he was a young boy and wanted to show it to me," she remembered, "but I was not very impressed."

However, it grew on her.

"It was like it was ours," she said. "There were just a few people here."

That was in 1970.

South Walton grew on her so much that DeLene's husband talked her into quitting her teaching job in Birmingham and moving here in 1978 into the mobile home they had come to on vacations.

The few people they knew here had cabins at Grayton, so the Sholes built a home in Grayton on Magnolia Street.

DeLene quickly got a job teaching in Paxton and commuted until she could transfer to Freeport, where she taught 11th grade students. She taught there in 1978 and 1979 before transferring to Bay Elementary in Point Washington, where she taught 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades.

In 1983, Sholes became the first female principal at Bay, a position she held for eight years

"There were about 200 students there then," she remembers, "but parents moving here from out of state did not want to send their children to Bay. They did not like it. They thought I could get a new school built, but I couldn't. Those were hard years. One mother told me she would like to take me outside and rub sand in my eyes."

Sholes said she doesn't recall exactly why the parent felt that way, but in those days, the parents did not like following rules, preferring to just walk in and go straight to their child's room.

"The kids were great, but it was hard teaching three grades and getting them all what they needed," she said.

One of the new young teachers Sholes worked with at Bay was Cecilia Bishop, now known as Walton County Commissioner Cecilia Jones. 

"DeLene is a wonderful person," said Jones. "She became principal at Bay Elementary when many of us as new teachers had already begun to become set in our ways. With her effervescent personality, she began to set new innovative programs into play that shook our stale functions.

"As a young teacher, I personally learned a lot from DeLene," Jones added. "Everyone has moments when they become agitated with others, however, by DeLene’s example, I learned how to deal with it, move on and remain professional and friendly. She never held a grudge and is really a good person. She gave me a strong foundation in my profession as teacher and I am so thankful to DeLene."

At that time, all the schools had men who came in and taught Bible lessons. This practice had gone on forever, she said, but when parents objected, Sholes had to stop the practice.

"He was much loved," she said.

She also remembers one little girl that liked to come to school barefoot and her parents allowed it.

"It was dangerous to be outside barefoot," said Sholes. "There were snakes all around."

Not only were there snakes outside, Sholes said when at the school alone, she had to be careful as there were several occasions when the snakes came inside. At least one of those that came inside was a pygmy rattler.

In addition to teaching the children of others, Sholes raised her three children here.

"It was wonderful raising kids here. It was safe and the summers were fun," she remembered.

Sholes' last position with the Walton School system was as curriculum coordinator at Walton Middle School.

She retired in 1998.

After retirement, Sholes continued to be involved and did contract work for the schools, as well as workshops.

She also contributed several stories to the two books published by The Three Arts Alliance: "The Way We Were, Reflections of South Walton Pioneers" and "Of Days Gone By, Reflections of South Walton County Florida."

Sholes has also written two books of her own -- one is a skills and activities book for teachers and the other, "Principals Have No Class," is a novel about her experiences teaching at Bay.

Sholes sold her home in Grayton in 2014 and today, in her spare time makes jewelry, which she occasionally takes to area craft shows.