Meet the Humans of the Keys

Meet the Humans of the Keys

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Bill and Jan Wang, Islamorada

Bill: We’ve been in the Keys ten years. We had been coming down for many years and when I got an early retirement offer we decided that if we didn’t make the move then we never would. We were living in San Diego; Titusville before that and Michigan before that. I had a pretty good run with my career. I got involved in computers when we were still doing punch cards. I’ve been into computers since 1969, back when they were huge. I’ve seen the computer technology change a lot.
Jan: He had a very interesting career.
Bill: I got involved in some new stuff back then. It wasn’t cutting edge, but not something that was being used a lot yet. One day I got a call from a brand new account that was working at Kennedy Space Center. They had just taken over writing some new software after the Challenger accident, and they were using some of the stuff that I was working with. So they asked if I could come down and help out. We went down for the winter of 88, 89 and 90, then went down for the winter of 91 and stayed; we moved to Titusville. So I was involved with the Shuttle program for over 3 years. It was exciting. We got to watch a lot of launches, up pretty close.
Jan: Three miles from the launch pad, as close as you can get! It was pretty exciting!
Bill: Not long after we got there was the first flight after the Challenger accident. It was early morning; we had to be there at some ungodly hour, like 2 or 3 in the morning. They opened it up for car passes, and we had this mass of traffic going in to watch it. We went out and parked and watched the launch across the river from the launch pad.
Jan: That launch was an emotional event. Everybody cried. If you’ve never been that close to a launch, you don’t realize that when the shuttle fires off you can literally see the sound wave coming across the water. And, then when it hits you, your whole body starts shaking from it. It’s something like you’ve never felt.
Bill: I got to go up into Discovery and sit in the pilot’s seat once. I also went out when it was on the launch pad, and crawled up in it. Probably not things we were supposed to do. But we had a friend who knew everybody and we could get anywhere!
Jan: They also did family days. So we got to go out and do stuff that normal people can’t go out and do. I got to touch the nose of Columbia! We had so many opportunities. We were very fortunate. Now days with the security, we probably couldn’t do what we did back then.
Bill: Those were great years. I’m sorry it didn’t last longer. But we did an awful lot in the time we were there. But, that contract ended when the project was completed. Then I got a call from this computer manufacturing company in San Diego. They were also using the same software and were looking for somebody who knew it already. So that’s what took us out there.
Jan: I loved my job in Titusville. I worked at the day care on the base. And we had the cutest little house. It was hard to move out to San Diego. I actually stayed there for a year and a half after Bill moved out there just to make sure he would like the job and want to stay out there.
Bill: I worked at that job for about 5 years. When that account ended, I got a call to work on a military account. So I ended up my career working for the navy; that’s where I retired from.
Jan: We love music and got involved in the music scene out there. We did house concerts for three years. That was very enjoyable. We were some of the first people to do house concerts out there. There were just so many great musicians and so few venues for them to play. We wanted to give them somewhere to play. And we had fun with it.
Bill: We thought about moving back to the Titusville or Merritt Island area when we left California. If we had gone to that area, we could have bought something on the water. But we decided we wanted to live in the Keys. We’ve been coming down every year since 1997. We would stay over there at the Key Lanter/Blue Fin, come over here to Lorelei to listen to Billy, and then drive down to Key West for the weekend. So, when we started looking for a place to live, we always came back to Islamorada.
Jan: We have a nice little niche going right here.
Bill: We do get taken care of when we’re out. If we have a favorite place up here in the upper Keys, it would be Lorelei. We come here a lot. Those 2 bar stools down there on the end are “our seats.” One time we had called Jerry, the bartender, and told him we were going to be late. When we got here, there were place settings on the bar at our seats. So, we thought somebody was sitting there already. When he saw us starting to sit somewhere else, he said, “Sit down, those are your seats!” He had saved them for us! That made us feel good.
Jan: People ask why we get treated so special. I say because we treat them special.
Bill: If you are patient and respectful and take care of your bartenders and servers, they will take care of you.
Jan: And we love the music scene down here too.
Bill: It’s funny, in San Diego there weren’t many venues doing music so you had to really look for somewhere to go. Down here, it’s just the opposite problem; there are so many great places with great musicians it’s hard to choose where to go. We would have to be in three places or more a night to see everybody we wanted to most nights. It’s hard to choose. We try to hit everybody at different times.
Jan: We also go to Key West a lot for music. We like going to see music down there because we get to see so many different acts; so many good musicians go down there. We’re not part of the Parrot Heads anymore, but we still like to go down when they are in town because of all the musicians that come along and perform. And we do the Songwriters Festival down there. Billy and Cindy Davidson went down with us and we got them hooked. Now we all go every year.
I grew up in a musical family. Our son has a band up in Michigan. Music just came naturally for him. He started playing saxophone in 5th grade, then guitar and keyboard. He would just sit in his room and make music. I can’t tell you how many guitars he has now. When his band first started they were a KISS cover band. He was Ace Freely.
Bill: He plays lead guitar and he’s really good.
Jan: He took lessons from my uncle and ended up learning more than my uncle ever knew. Of course when he plays at home, the dog is on one side and the kids on the other side!
We love our grand-kids. Our oldest came down to visit recently and brought his girlfriend. He said they wanted to do something fun! Visiting the grandparents was doing something fun! How about that?!
Bill: They had a great time. We did everything! And then we took them to Key West and closed the bars.
Jan: I’m sure they had fun going home and telling that story!
Bill: I think people are very lucky to live down here. If you are able to live down here, you should appreciate what you have. Not everybody has the opportunity or the ability to live here.
Jan: I think people need to learn to appreciate what they have because it’s not always going to be here.

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