A key part of being your trusted Panama City personal injury law firm is being part of the Bay County community. An article in the weekend's News Herald reminded us of a key part of our region's history: the relationship between Panama City Beach and the tourism industry.
When the Hathaway Bridge opened in 1929, Panama City was already a busy community, but Panama City Beach was relatively quiet. At that time, cows were a frequent site on local beaches, and the Beach area was still largely undeveloped. Long Beach Resort opened in the 1930s as one of the beach's earliest vacations destinations. Paul Churchwell moved to the area in 1948, and the Churchwell family played a lead role in buying and subdividing the land and marketing "the world's most beautiful beaches." Other developments, including efforts led by Gideon Thomas, marked the same era.
Development continued into the '50s and '60s when Panama City Beach became a vacation destination for families who returned yearly. Tourist attractions from 1964's Petticoat Junction, an amusement park, and 1959's Goofy Golf also marked this heyday for the American family. The term "Redneck Riviera" was coined in this era, as blue-collar families came to the increasingly busy area that was more affordable that other Southeastern destinations. Interestingly, about 70% of motels in town were owned by people from Alabama. Panama City Beach bustled in the summers, but was quiet and isolated during the off-season.
Another era of significant change came in the 1990s when the area worked to shed the "Redneck Riviera" moniker and development shifted to focus on high-rises and other condominium properties. This changed the look and function of the town, which was previously dominated by mom and pop hotels and motels. The switch led to the development of supermarkets and other infrastructure to compliment the move to condo units versus traditional hotel rooms that required patrons to dine out for every meal. Panama City Beach's evolution continued after Hurricane Opal in 1995, when the move to condo resorts became even more marked.
Between 2000 and 2005, Panama City Beach began to become more like the community we now know. Developers and the Panama City Beach Community Redevelopment Agency continued the shift away from the Riviera mindset. The rise of properties such as the Grand Panama also led other to other businesses catering to a clientele with ever-increasing expectations of their vacation towns. Improved access, including better roads connecting the town to Atlanta and Birmingham and air service through Southwest and similar carriers, also contributed to opening the area to a growing tourist market.
For more than 30 years, Wes Pittman has served clients in Panama City and Panama City Beach. The Pittman Firm is one of the oldest law firms between Pensacola and Tallahassee focused solely on representing injury victims. We are proud to serve the region and to have grown and evolved alongside other small businesses in Bay County over the recent decades. Our phones answer 24/7 and we always offer a free consultation. If you have been injured in Panama City or the surrounding localities, whether as a tourist or a year-round resident, please call the firm that shares your love for and ties to our beautiful region.