Thursday, October 28, 2021

From Across the Pond to Goodland: An Interview with Chris and Jenny Branston

Goodland Life

Submitted Photos | Chris and Jenny on “Old Ironsides,” 1966. Chris and Jenny hitchhiked wearing similar clothing as seen here.

As I have written in the past, the best part of writing this column is getting to know the fascinating people of Goodland because they are from all walks of life. Last fall, I met my new neighbors who had just completed building on our street. This couple migrated all the way from London, England, making Goodland and the good ‘ole USA their home.

It is an interesting story. Chris and Jenny Branston met in 1965 when Jenny was nineteen years old. They fell in love, and in the summer 1966, they planned a trip to America. Jenny, being an only child, expertly persuaded her unsure parents with the help of Chris, who reassured them that they would be staying with friends. Chris, studying at a New England prep school, contacted several friends in the states and secured lodging, complete with a stay with the daughter of the Kleenex heiress in Buzzards Bay, next door to the infamous Hyannis Port compound.

The trip was an adventure to say the least. With limited funds (a restriction placed on how much funds you could take out of the country), they trekked to Waterford, Virginia. There they stayed with Chris’ family friend, Colonel Knight and family. Colonel Knight was quite eccentric and his wife, a budding writer, was even more so. She would write down ideas on the walls of their home. Food was scarce, as Chris and Jenny would have to sneak food (cinnamon toast) in the middle of the night. Borrowing their VW bug to go to the local drive in (breaking the seat during some playful intimacy), ten days later they had overstayed their welcome, so they hitchhiked to Florida (hitchhiking was all the rage in the ‘60s).

They made it to Miami and found a “Free Flights and Lunch” marketing ploy that sounded like an easy way to see some sights and eat for free. They took a DC-3 mosquito control plane show-casing plots of land for $200 around the Port of the Islands area. The salesperson, as persistent as he was, was disappointed that he couldn’t close the deal with such an elite English couple.

Chris and Jenny remembered Miami being garish but exotic. They didn’t care for it, so back to Virginia they journeyed. Along the way, a gun-toting gentleman driving a Thunderbird picked them up. Then, a Corvette Stingray driven by the lead actor, Anthony Quinn from the 1967 film “The Happening” offered a ride. The holiday was such a comical success; it left a long-lasting impression.

Fast forward the early 1970’s, Chris and Jenny started vacationing in the US, spending more and more time in the states. They vacationed in Wolfboro, New Hampshire and although they loved the little town, it was too small and cold for them. They traveled to Galveston, Texas and Cali-fornia, but those places were too far. They would also visit Boston for long weekends. In the ear-ly 1980’s, they vacationed in Madeira Beach, close to St. Petersburg, Florida. During this trip, they drove down to Wooten’s to take an airboat ride. They traversed US 41 through Naples to get the Everglades. Jenny explained, “We thought Naples was a ‘nice little town,’ it reminded us of a ‘country walk’ in England.”

Chris and Jenny today outside their Goodland home.

In 1978, after a chance encounter with two Naples realtors, they took the plunge and purchased a condominium in the Naples’ Walden Oaks neighborhood, off Airport Road, upgrading two years later to a single family home in the same neighborhood. In 2000, they bought a boat and would cruise around the Goodland area. Falling in love with its beauty, they purchased a second home in Goodland on Palm Avenue. And with some thought, they decided they would build their forev-er home in Goodland, selling their homes on Palm and in Naples, and relocating to Coconut Avenue in October of 2018.

Interestingly Chris retired as a lawyer for a Houston oil energy company, and Jenny, a retired principal from an elementary school and nursery, enjoyed owning Volkswagens in college which progressed in to a love of Porsches. They bought their first Porsche when they first got married. Chris would race it on weekends, traveling to Stuttgart, Germany and meeting a lot of incredible people, including Ferry Porsche and his son Dr. Wolfgang Porsche. Chris became the Chairman of the Porsche Club, Great Britain from 1976-1991.

In January 2019, Chris and Jenny became U.S. citizens. It almost didn’t happen as they learned of the citizen ceremony the night before it was to take place! So if you see a handsome English couple cruising the streets of Goodland in their Porsche, give them a friendly wave!

Stacia has a husband and two sons, and has resided in Goodland since 2007, and in Florida since 1999. She is a graduate of the University of Missouri.

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