Five Questions / Anne Garris

By JARED LEONE, Times Staff Writer
Published August 1, 2007

Anne Garris, 78, is best known in Clearwater these days as an activist, the leader of the Save Our Bayfront group, which opposed the city's recently approved plan to build publicly financed boat slips.

But Garris has another claim to fame. She's almost a lifetime resident, having moved to Clearwater Beach in 1943, when she was a teenager. Last month, she regaled an audience at the Clearwater Beach Library with tales of growing up there and watching the beach transform from a small patch of residences and islands covered in mangroves to a popular sunbather spot filled with high-end homes.

5. What was it like growing up on Clearwater Beach?

"We came down here from Macon, Ga., the big city, and the only way you got around any water was going to the Y(MCA) or talking to your daddy about going to the lakeside. We came to Clearwater and it was like, you could go anywhere, as long as you know how to swim, you were not going to get into anything that would cause you problems."

4. What are your fondest memories of life on the beach?

"Sand Key was our Robinson Crusoe island. We spent a lot of time over there as teenagers."

3. How has life on the beach changed

"The inner part of the beach from just beyond north of the causeway to Carlouel (neighborhood) was not occupied. My parents had a house on Lantana in '47 and my boyfriend vowed that he needed to bring his Colt revolver to fight Indians."

2. How do you pass the time on the beach?

"There was a time in my life when I would do my devotionals on the beach. There is something about being in God's great wide open. ... You can also walk down to the sand bar and pick up live sand dollars with your toes and I still enjoy doing that."

1. What is it about the beach that has kept you here?

"There is nothing quite like being walking distance from a sand pile and swimming pool that you don't have to maintain. The white sand of Clearwater Beach is incomparable and swimming in the gulf is a more leisurely activity and if you are on the north beach it is less crowded - still is."