There’s a lot someone can say about Sandy Graves that people in the area might not know already. But that’s what happens when you live in the same house you grew up in, in an area you watched grow from a population counted in the hundreds to one now tracked by the tens of thousands.
Sandy’s community work is well known. She helps with a puppet ministry with Van Dyke Church of Lutz. She’s very active politically with the Republican Party. And she is putting in a lot of hours trying to redevelop Heritage Park at the Land O’ Lakes Community Center that would include an outdoor stage.
But one thing these same people may not know about Sandy Graves is that she spent 11 years as a flight attendant with Eastern Airlines.
“I was going to Auburn University, and I had a sorority sister that had graduated the year before,” Sandy said. “When she came back, she was a flight attendant. And it sounded good to me. It was exciting, and I wanted to travel.”
Back then, Eastern Airlines dominated the travel market between New York and Florida, all during a time when luxury and convenience were staples of the flight industry — no matter how long the trip was.
“It was not as glamorous as some people might think,” Sandy said. “Especially when you had an hour-long flight, and had to throw out a meal to everyone, clean it up and throw it all away before we landed.”
Sandy left Eastern not long before the company folded in 1991. But instead of returning home to Land O’ Lakes, Sandy instead stayed in Atlanta where she lived during her time with Eastern, and became a youth minister there.
By 1995, however, Sandy and husband Steve decided it was time to move home, and did — eventually ending up in the same 1950s house she grew up in. But that took some adjusting.
“It’s strange at first, because this was my bedroom, but now this is my bedroom,” she said. “But we remodeled it and put our stamp on it. It has a different personality, because now it represents the grown-up me.”
Family remains important to Sandy, especially when it comes to siblings. She spends as much time as she can with her nieces and nephews, many times taking them camping at a place she and Steve maintain in North Carolina. With the horseback riding and canoeing, it reminds her an awful lot of life in Land O’ Lakes before the boom.
“I used to ride horseback all where Lake Padgett is now, and back where Pine View Elementary is now, as well as lots where Connerton and Avila are now, too,” Sandy said.
Harvey’s Hardware on Land O’ Lakes Boulevard was where Sandy and her family would get soft drinks and even gas. Grocery shopping was done at the beginning of Ehren Cutoff where LOL Transport & Moving Inc., is now.
Anything else required a trip to Tampa, and since Interstate 75 hadn’t been built yet, that meant a long trip down U.S. 41.
Pasco did have its own amenities, however, and Sandy has lots of memories when it comes to Quail Hollow Golf Course.
“My dad would join a bunch of his friends there to play golf, and he would drop me, my brother and my sister off at the pool,” Sandy said. “It was always so exciting, because we could go inside, then, and run tabs for things like hamburgers. We felt like royalty doing that.”
Land O’ Lakes is no longer the community off a small two-lane road connecting Tampa and Brooksville. It’s a bustling community of its own, which can’t seem to stop growing.
Sandy Graves, however, still has that small-town attitude. And she works hard to ensure the identity of Land O’ Lakes is never lost.
“Everybody knew each other growing up, and I could name all my grade school teachers,” Sandy said. “It’s not like that anymore, but now we have a chance to turn it into something special.”
Getting to know Sandy Graves
What song on the radio will make you sing out loud?
“Happy” from Pharrell Williams. I think everyone is listening to that song right now. But another one I actually love and used to play a lot is “Radioactive” (by Imagine Dragons) because sometimes I feel like people aren’t returning my calls because I’m radioactive.
If you were elected President of the United States, what is the first thing you’d do?
I’d cut every single department in the United States by about 5 percent. When they did the sequester thing, they said they had to close down the Grand Canyon, but how do you close down the Grand Canyon? Do you throw a sheet over it?
If you could fly anywhere you’ve never been?
Portugal and Spain. I would love to see the Mediterranean.
If you could appoint someone locally as President, who would it be?
Our county clerk, Paula O’ Neil. But I would make me vice president.
Published June 4, 2014
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