1960s beach postcard model reflects upon a simpler time

Published: Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 10:06 AM.

PANAMA CITY BEACH — Front Beach Road was called “The Miracle Strip” and an observation tower dominated the sky, overlooking an amusement park, some small mom-and-pop motels, and miles of pristine sand dunes.

It was 1965, and 18-year-old Melody May recently had graduated from Bay High School.

“I went out with two of my sisters to the Holiday Lodge, where (Jim Sumpter) was gonna take a shot of girls and pick somebody to use for the publicity for Panama City,” she said.

Birmingham, Ala.-based Sumpter had been hired by the Economic Development Association, a precursor to the Convention and Visitors Bureau, to shoot photos for use on postcards and in pamphlets, newspapers and magazines to promote Panama City Beach as a vacation destination.

After photographing May and dozens of other potential models standing by the lodge swimming pool, Sumpter told May he wanted to use her for the campaign. She didn’t see why; she thought many of the other young women at the audition were prettier than she was.

“ ‘Two reasons,’ he said: ‘Your smile and your legs,’ ” she recalled.

>>See video of an interview with Melody May.

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