Post by Diane Merkel on Sept 17, 2007 15:52:26 GMT -5
Walton County History Detectives, Case No. 1:
Re: Murmuring Surf Cottages, Scenic 98, directly across from the Embassy Suites, Miramar Beach, Walton County
The Terry family owned the cottages for many years, starting in the 1940s. Now, a man has purchased the big, main house at the Murmuring Surf resort and has moved it to a new location by Legion Park. The rest of the Murmuring Surf resort will be destroyed and a condo will be put in its place.
I'm looking for some historical information on the Murmuring Surf resort. Anything you can tell me about it would be appreciated. I've even heard that back in the day, the Murmuring Surf cottages were the last place visitors could stay before reaching Panama City Beach. Do you know if that is correct?
Post by Diane Merkel on Oct 28, 2007 15:29:13 GMT -5
Below is all that was left of the Murmuring Surf Cottages complex on October 15, 2007. As you can see, the cottages are gone. For perspective, the building on the right in the first photo is partially visible on the left of the second photo.
Post by Diane Merkel on Apr 21, 2008 10:42:11 GMT -5
Clay Terry of Atlanta has graciously given me permission to post her family's story:
My father and mother, John and Emily Terry, made the bold decision to leave their city lives, jobs, friends, and connections to move to what was then an isolated parcel of land overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. They left Memphis TN in 1948 with their two toddler girls, moved into an old rental cottage with no hot water, and my father began to build a house for them and to plan for the "tourist court" that he and my mother decided would be their family business. My mother taught school while my father built the eight cottages that were the original Murmuring Surf, and once tourists began to trickle in and then become faithful customers, mother was able to give up working away from home and join my father in running the business. I was born in 1953 and my brother John was born in 1959, which meant that our family was too big for the original house my father built, so he built a new house that was attached to the old one. Although my father had an architect design the cottages and the "new house", he build them himself, with only an unskilled helper who was often not available due to his drinking habits. These buildings were so solid that they survived numerous hurricanes with little or no damage, including Hurricane Opal, which absolutely devastated the Destin/south Walton area and washed away our beach and the bluff above it, but our only structural damage was a partial "peeling back" of the roof on one cottage. My brother John graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in civil engineering but always knew that he would come back home and work in the family business, which he did in 1982. He built a four unit apartment building and "double-decked" the two front cottages, bringing the total number of rental units to fourteen. In 1995, he completed a new house on the property (the one that I think you mentioned you saw being moved from our property) and that is where he, his wife and daughter, and my parents lived until Murmuring Surf was sold in October 2005 (except my father, who died in 2003 at almost 90).
Murmuring Surf was the last family owned and operated motel on what used to be called the Miracle Strip (now the Emerald Coast), the stretch of land from Pensacola to Panama City. The decision to sell after 57 successful and entertaining years was too difficult to imagine, except that our area had changed so drastically and it was no longer the pleasant, easy-going, reasonably-priced little corner of the world that it had once been. Folks who were not our customers (often they were staying at Embassy Suites across the street) roamed over our property and beach at all hours of the day and night and were apt to become belligerent if they were told that it was private property and asked to leave. Our own customers, most of whom had been coming for decades, did not hesitate to patrol the cottages and beach and alert us to these trespassers, but what had once been a veritable Shangri-La became the last vestige of a way of life that had disappeared into a jungle of ludicrously overpriced and overdeveloped rental units, condos, houses, stores, and restaurants and aggressive, ill-mannered tourists. Our area had once been a place where folks from all walks of life and with all levels of income could and did mix, mingle, and enjoy the natural beauty of the sea and sand. When so-called progress destroyed that, my family sold our property to a developer who planned to build fourteen luxury condos on it. He started the process of clearing the land, but then the economy took a dive and he couldn't finish the project. The property came back to my family and that is how things are now, and will be until either someone makes my brother a sound offer or he decides that we should use the land for some other business. My mother, now 90, and my brother and his family live together in a house in a quiet area a few miles from our property and often hear from and are visited by former customers. Our customers were like family and they, along with the wonderful scenic views of beach, water, and sky, and all the good times we had through the years are what we miss the most about Murmuring Surf.
I hope this email answers the question of "what happened to Murmuring Surf ?". My parents had a simple idea for a beach-front tourist court that succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, but like the Bible says, "to everything there is a season", and after 57 years, Murmuring Surf's season came to an end.
Diane Merkel Museum Archivist Walton County Heritage Association, Inc. WaltonCountyHeritage@cox.net
Post by marthakoelemay on Jul 25, 2009 17:24:35 GMT -5
My family and I vacationed at Murmuring Surf in the 70's and 80's. My husband's family, when he was growing up, would rent half the cottages for a month each summer, so when he and I were married, naturally that's where we went for our first vacation and every one after that until the girls were grown. We loved the simplicity of the little cottages, which were impervious to wet feet (kept reasonably clean by the "foot buckets" outside the door to the screened porch) and drippy swimsuits as well as small children. Constructed of cinder blocks and concrete, these cottages housed us comfortably and happily for many years. The Terrys were friendly and easygoing, and we often saw the same families from one year to the next and were comfortable with the kids "hanging out" on the beach because in those days everyone watched out for everyone else. Jim, my husband, died seven years ago and the girls and I have been waiting for a time when the three of us could come back to Murmuring Surf to give his ashes to the sea at the place he loved so much. I had hoped against hope that against all odds it would still be there but am not really surprised that it isn't. Clay, if you see this, and if your mother is still with you, please tell her hello from the Koelemays--she was a lovely, kind lady and I have thought of her many times over the years. I would love to hear from you and share updates if your mom still remembers us.
Diane, your information is correct--Murmuring Surf WAS the "jumping off place" before the long drive to Panama City. And it seemed we drove for miles and miles before reaching Miramar Beach and seeing the familiar, weathered sign. Between Murmuring Surf and Panama City there was one little Tom Thumb grocery store where we would go for supplies; other than that there were only miles of pine forest on both sides of the road. I have pictures of the cottages and the beach if you haven't been able to find any.
I don't go back often now--it is not the same place. The whole area from Pensacola to the other side of Panama City is so overbuilt, crowded and "junked up" that it doesn't draw me as it once did. I would love so much to walk by myself in the early moring on a quiet, clean beach, but it isn't there any more.
My family also vacationed at Murmuring Surf! Our 1 family trip every year was in June for 2 weeks - my brother and I could not wait to visit. Some of my most favorite memories were going crabbing with Emily and John Terry. We made sure to bring our nets and a big bucket to carry them back to the cottage so our mom could cook them. I also recall John's son John who was usually there helping his mom and dad. They had a German Sheppard named Bo (Beauregard?) who I thought was the best dog anyone could have! Emily was so nice to me - she let me look at all the stuff she had collected on display in her house. These are some of the very best memories I have of childhood...if you are still in contact with the Terry's , please pass on my best wishes to John, Emily, & Clay from the Clevelands (Allen, Joan, Allen & Alisa)!
Post by marthakoelemay on Sept 3, 2009 10:23:48 GMT -5
Hey, Alisa, how great to hear from someone else who vacationed at Murmuring Surf! We usually went in mid to late July, so we wouldn't have known you. Your memories of the incredibly hospitable Emily and crabbing reminded me of the wonderful calico crabs that apparently are/were found along that beach and nowhere else that I've been able to find. Emily taught us to differentiate between male and female, and after that we were careful to take only a very few of the big males so as not to endanger the survival of the species. She also introduced me to the fascinating book "Beautiful Swimmers" about the crabbing industry in New England. My daughters were in their preteen years and hung out with the Terrys' granddaughter when she was there. I have forgotten her name but emailed my girls to see if they remember. I recall that we were there for Princess Diana's wedding, and watched parts of it on the Terrys' TV. Funny the things we remember once we start reminiscing!
We always eagerly anticipated our once-a-year trip also, so much so that one year we left the night before, drove all night, and got there long before the cottages were ready. So we just left everything in the car, peeled off our clothes (under which we had already put on our swimsuits at a potty stop), and went straight to the beach, where we stayed until it was time to check in!
Diane, a Murmuring Surf reunion sounds enticing. I fear it would never be the same without the beloved little cottages and the Terrys, but be sure and let me know if one is in the making!
Post by marthakoelemay on Sept 3, 2009 12:13:13 GMT -5
Leah. The granddaughter's name was Leah, and my younger daughter Debbie says she was closer to her in age than to Laura, who is two years older. Leah lived in California, I think, and visited her grandparents in the summer, and sometimes her visit coincided with ours.
Post by libbyporter on Sept 12, 2009 18:40:22 GMT -5
My family went to Murmuring Surf also. My mom and Dad went every year the week before Memorial Day. I went with them one year and stayed on the beach and studied the whole week for my Praxis test to teach. The next year my husband and I went with them. Once we had kids they also went with them. We started going as a family when my youngest was 1 and the kids met another family. They had 3 girls who were the around the same ages as my kids. For the next 7 or 8 years we had to go the same time as they did. The kids got together and begged that we made the same date. I remember tears one year because our weeks were different and the date was changed. We usually went the 3rd week in June. I remember one year all the men and kids went deep sea fishing and that night we all ate together including the Terry's. We all made the fish a different way and brought a side dish. Took the picnic tables and put in a long row. What a blast. The families watched each other kids and you never new which "home" you would find the whole group in. Great memories. Leaving Murmuring Surf that last time was like losing a family member. It was so gut wrenching. I have not been to the beach since they closed. Great Memories and I thank them for that.
I wanted to thank all our former Murmuring Surf guests for their wonderful memories and let them know that I pass these kind words on to my family , who live on several acres near the bay, just a few miles down Hwy 98 from the site of Murmuring Surf, Mother is almost 92 and doesn't do any crabbing, but she is about the same as always: lively, interested in the world and the people around her, and always the center of a lively group of friends of all ages. She lives with my brother John and his wife Maria and daughter Emilia. The family can be reached at (850) 267-1480 and enjoy hearing "Murmuring Surf Memories" from former customers. The area has changed so much and it's good that there are many folks who remember the simple pleasures of a summer vacation in the Terry family's little cottages.