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Cocoa Beach Recent History

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Sunday July 15, 2018

We all gauge history from our own perspective and experiences so I’ll try and use this time to jot down my thoughts and research from the history of Cocoa Beach, Florida till present day. Of course by the time I finish writing, history will be upon us once again.

As a child of the 1960’s and 70’s my parents settled across the Banana River Lagoon on Merritt Island’s eastern shoreline where I had my earliest childhood memories. Unlike many of my neighbors whom came to the area for employment at Kennedy Space Center, my father retired from a twenty four year stint in the military and chose the Cocoa Beach area because of the fishing and quality of life. They had previously chosen Bonita Springs and purchased a waterfront lot in the 1950’s for their retirement plans, but once dad settled on this coastline, it became our future and thus… Our history.

Questions about when Recent Historical relevance started can be debated, but when I research about Florida and particularly about Cocoa Beach, I find that World War II appears to be the kindling that starts the fire in Brevard County or “The Space Coast”. According to some local historians, 1938 may have been the actual spark when local officials and businessmen went to Washington DC to petition for a military base in the area. The success of their venture established the Banana River Naval Station and started a small employment foundation directly below Cocoa Beach where present day Patrick Air Force Base is located. December 7th, 1941 would create an atmosphere that fanned the flames of that spark and expanded the Naval Base, bringing opportunity for residents and new arrivals looking for employment opportunities.

The 1940’s would see a rapid fifteen year advancement of the United States Missile Program at Cape Canaveral and the Annexation of property and condemnation of private property where NASA, Kennedy Space Center and the Canaveral Air Force Station is presently. Testing of German rocket technology eventually gave way to our own advancements and then the announcement of President Kennedy in 1962, “By the end of this decade we will put a man on the moon” caused a massive migration to the Cocoa Beach area for engineers and others looking for employment at the new facilities.

This is where I come into the picture being born a Air Force Military Brat in 1962 my parents were quickly reassigned to the Panama Canal Zone for the first four years of my life and then settling shortly afterward in the Cocoa Beach area known as Merritt Island. Dad swapped military branches to the Army leaving mom and us kids while he spent 1969 in Vietnam. I remember picking dad up at the airport with mom’s tears of joy that her man was back home.

The sixties brought a brisk growth in families to Cocoa Beach, turning it from a small village to a bustling community with astronauts driving corvettes and rubbing elbows with the locals at nightclubs, bowling alleys and beaches. It was truly a unique time in our nation and in the beach town’s history. Barbara Eden would put us nationally on the map with the weekly show featuring her astronaut boyfriend, Major Nelson in I Dream of Jeannie. The sleepy dirt road town was quickly turning into a destination for tourism, sportsmen and masses looking for careers in the aerospace industry. Cocoa Beach went from a few hundred residents to thousands in the matter of a decade and then came Orlando and it’s Walt Disney World attractions to make Florida a destination for millions of worldwide tourist looking for entertainment and folly.

Over the next few decades we’ve become less dependent on the Space Center and more oriented towards retirees and tourism. Florida’s population is quickly closing in on the equivalent population of the continent of Australia at over 20 million and each decade is adding more to those numbers. Cocoa Beach has long lost it’s sleepy town atmosphere and is advertised as the destination for tourism and retirement. It’s a long way from the family filled neighborhoods of the 70’s but it’s still has it’s charm and captivates millions of visitors a year as a beachcombing destination and vacation rental alternative.

Cocoa Beach a great place on the East Coast of Florida to live and visit. Pristine waterways situated between the Atlantic Ocean and Banana River Lagoon.

Published by: Captain of Lagooner Fishing Guides©

Author Captain Richard Bradley

Captain Richard Bradley is the author and contributor for many of the articles written on the Lagooner website. Richard is a professional fishing guide, taking anglers in his native waters near the Banana and Mosquito Lagoons on Florida's central east coast almost three hundred trips seasonally. When not charter fishing, Captain Richard enjoys time with his family surfing, fishing, camping and various other outdoor activities.

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