Headin’ to Florida after the holidays to catch some rays and brush off the January blahs? The grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence, but it sure is in Florida come January.

What’s better than winter down among the sheltering palms? We experienced it for the first time in 1958. Our SU gridders earned a trip to Miami’s Orange Bowl to play Oklahoma on New Year's Day. No, we weren’t Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside in SU’s backfield. We were two guys in the clarinet row of the Orange Marching Band.

Florida lived up to its billing. We got sand in our shoes and vowed to return. Five years later we left Detroit for a two-week vacation in Miami’s South Beach. First stop, the old art deco Shoreham Norman Hotel on 5th and Ocean, also home of the famous 5th Street Gym where Cassius Clay trained to knock out Sonny Liston that shocked the boxing world. Warm swimming pools, glitzy convertibles, juice bars on Godfrey Road, (named after radio host Arthur Godfrey) tacky sea shell souvenirs, coconuts, Hialeah, dog tracks and plenty of pretty sights…read between the lines. Again, we said, “We’re ‘comin back, only next time, to live!”

We did just that in 1965. Quit our jobs in Motown, and drove our ’59 Chevy Impala convertible to Miami Beach. Permanence can change illusions to disillusions. After a warm winter and unsuccessful job searches it was back to Detroit in the spring. Four years later, from Detroit, we did negotiate employment in Miami and left the cold north again.

Every year many “Sno-birds” leave Utica after the holidays to spend the winter by Florida’s turquoise-colored coastal waters. Rock and Mary Ann Giruzzi have a golf-side apartment in New Smyrna Beach and the Florio Vitullos favor West Palm Beach. Marge and Mike Calenzo like Tampa/St. Pete. Doris Chanatry Hutchinson and the Bob Petronios winter in Naples where Larry Luizzi Jr. is a gourmet chef, year around. Tom and Marge Baumus enjoy Sebring and the Clint Bagshaws do Dunedin.

Former Utica dentist Pat DeCarlis and wife Mary Ann raised their family in Gainesville where their beautiful daughter met and married a baseball star’s son. Would you believe, the son of Yankee home run king Roger Maris? Former Proctor jock George Fanelli hasn’t been down since his parents sold their place in Boca, where Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza’s TV parents were. We miss our “Sno-bird” friends but it’s nice to welcome them back every spring. Do they have the best of both worlds? That’s debatable.

“Utica’s cold winters are way too long." “We miss the grand kids but the weather is great." “Florida’s not the same anymore…. too much traffic and construction." “We love the ocean, our boat but we miss family, friends and the change of seasons." “We can’t take the long drive down and back every year." (Our achin’ backs) “Shall we cancel cable for four months and get the lower starter price in April or pay $19 or $20 per month and resume the regular rate?" “If we cancel our landline phone, we’d lose our familiar number." Decisions, decisions!

When Rhodes scholar and author, the late Dr. Gene Nassar, asked our dad why he didn’t go to Florida for the winter, he told Gene, “I used to go, take the train down and back with my family and buddies; we all used to go. But on the way back, I’d look out the train window, and at each stop, they’d be loading a coffin or two for the trip north!

"I said, 'to hell with this. Nobody’s gonna load me as freight. I’m gonna die in my own house.'”

We caught the bug after seeing the 1960 movie, “Where the Boys Are” with Connie Francis, Paula Prentiss, George Hamilton and Jim Hutton. Like those spring breakers searching for sun, sand, adventure and romance, we too learned that it wasn’t all fun and games. Searching for Shangri La comes with hurricane warnings, evacuations, Palmetto bugs and other challenges.

What used to be low-rise motels a la the Aztec, Desert Inn, Thunderbird and the famous Castaways has morphed into sky-scraping sand castles along A1A. Old motel row of the 50’s is now accessorized with Bentleys, Jags, Maseratis and Porsches, to mention a few. A new Porsche high-rise even elevates your auto up to your condo unit. What an elaborate evolution since Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon landed there in 1513 and called it “la Florida”. (“The land of flowers.”)

Do what circumstances allow and be content wherever you are; cold, warm and in-between. Happiness isn’t a state but a state of mind. Both New York and Florida have their slice of Heaven but the whole pie is not on this planet. As long as the snow falls and the sun shines, “Sno-birds” can enjoy the best of both worlds: Adirondack firs and the sheltering palms.

Brothers Bob and Dick Chancia are native Uticans. Bob lives in New York City. Dick lives in Utica.