Deep in the backwoods of Cherokee County in northeastern Alabama where the air is thick and damp, the fragrance of magnolias and honeysuckle lingers. Here, in the sleepy town of Centre (population 4,000), not far from the Georgia border, life unfolds slowly.
Nearby Weiss Lake, 33,000 acres of clean, blue water owned and managed by the Alabama Power Company, is known as "The Crappie Capitol Of The World," and it is the area's lifeblood. It is the reason people who were born here stay here and why newcomers relish this unhurried spot far off the beaten path.
Nearly 50% of the population is age 45 or better, and 29% of locals have at least a college degree. Politics lean to the right. The cost of living is 29% below the national average. The crime rate meets the national average, although property crime is above the national average. Centre has grown 23% in the last decade or two and has some racial diversity.
The median home price is $220,000. Most older homes, both in town and those scattered in the woods, are ranch ramblers or farm houses. Waterfront residences, many of which are vacation homes, start in the low-$200,000s.
High school football games, barbeques and fish cookouts are popular. The downtown sits along Main Street, which is wide and lined by one and two story red brick buildings that house city offices, retailers and banks. Several festivals take place every year, including the Fall Festival in October and the Taste of Cherokee in February.
The Cherokee County Public Library has books, public computers and Internet access. City recreation facilities are somewhat lacking, but there is a YMCA. The Cherokee County Historical Museum chronicles the county's heritage and has a Starbucks and an internet cafe. Shopping is limited to a few large grocery markets, Walgreen's, Wal-Mart and the like. Restaurants are mostly fast food places and home-style diners, but Tony's Steak Barn serves slabs of steak and receives rave reviews.
While not a lot goes on in Centre, the fish are usually biting (not just crappie but bass, too). The lake has 450 miles of wooded shoreline and all the attendant marinas, campgrounds, boat rentals, bait shops, supply stores and guide services needed to keep both tourists and locals happy.
Cherokee Medical Center has 60 beds and is accredited by the Joint Commission. It has a 24/7 emergency department, an ICU and surgical services, and 72% of patients would recommend it to a friend, which is above the national average. The facility participates in Senior Circle, a non-profit group that caters to those age 50+ and offers discounts on wellness programs and various services. Medicare and Medicaid patients are accepted. The nearest VA hospital is in Decatur, Georgia, 75 miles away (Rome, Georgia, 25 miles away, has a VA clinic).
The Centre Senior Center offers a variety of programs and is managed by the The EARPDC Area Agency on Aging. Centre has no public transportation.
Summer temperatures reach into the 90s with plenty of humidity, and winter temperatures are in the 30s, 40s and 50s. On average, the area receives 58 inches of rain per year. The air quality and water quality are both above the national averages.
It is should be noted that Alabama is a poor state, and Centre's poverty rate is above the national average. The chance of a tornado striking is 235% higher than the national average. The area has been in a drought for several years and Lake Weiss levels are currently several feet below normal.
Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Yes | Is Alabama Tax-Friendly for Retirement? Yes
The higher than average poverty rate should be weighed, but retirees in search of affordable living, an unhurried pace and lake recreation should take a look at Centre, Alabama.
The Heart of Dixie was admitted to the Union on December 14, 1819. The Cotton State was a major player in both the American Civil War and the American Civil Rights Movement. Montgomery was once the capital of the Confederacy and also the heart of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Its current economy is fed by agriculture, auto production, and aerospace. Only Arkansas and Georgia produce more broiler chickens. Alabamians built the Apollo 11 rocket and helped land the first human on the moon.
Bordered by Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, and the Gulf of Mexico, Alabama covers 52,423 square miles of land and water. Topography ranges from mountains and plateaus to river valleys, lowlands, and coastal plains. Average rainfall is 56 inches per year. Growing seasons can be long and summers hot. Winters are normally mild.
Mobile, Alabama has the oldest Mardi Gras celebration in the United States. Nicholas Langlois introduced Carnival to the city in 1703, fifteen years before New Orleans was founded.
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