Bob Kealing is probably best recognized in Central Florida as a longtime reporter for WESH Channel 2. He is also the author of four respected books on Florida history and culture. Kealing will discuss his new book “Elvis Ignited: The Rise of an Icon in Florida,” at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 1,at the Library of Florida History, 435 Brevard Avenue, Cocoa. The free presentation is open to the public. In his books, Kealing explores the lives of people with strong Florida connections, who had a significant impact on popular culture.
Florida is a place and a state of mind. As the former, it’s lovely but afflicted, like Fay Wray in the hands of King Kong (developers). As the latter, it leaves much to be desired. I went to high school in southwest Florida. The malcontents pronounced it Flori-duh. Florida is a supposedly fun place that has a lot of sadness clinging to it, like barnacles to a boat’s hull. The novelist Cynthia Ozick is not someone I can imagine enjoying blender margaritas down at the beach bar, with sand in her toes.
The United States built hundreds of military bases across the nation during World War II. But few had as much impact – at the time and in the future – as Tallahassee’s Dale Mabry Air Field. That’s why a group of local residents has formed a non-profit corporation and is seeking to establish a Dale Mabry Air Field museum. Thursday, a flag will be flown at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C., honoring Dale Mabry Airfield – on the 75th anniversary of Dale Mabry’s formal opening to the public.
Florida is weird. That much probably goes without saying; in its flora and fauna, its cultural history, its politics, its singularly bizarre criminal elements, and its natural ecosystems, there is nowhere else like it. So it should come as no surprise that, though it theoretically is part of the American South, pretty much any discussion of Southern linguistics comes with a caveat: “Well, except South Florida.” South Floridians do not have the pin-pen merger, which makes the word “ten” sound like “tin.” They do not “front their O,” which turns a word like “boat” into “beh-oht.” They do not turn simple sounds into complex ones, like “friend” into “free-ay-ind” (this is also known as a Southern drawl). These are standards throughout the American South, and they are almost completely absent from South Florida.
A sultry morning in Ybor City feels like a good time for a cigar. That’s what I told myself around 10:45 on my third day in this old quarter of Tampa, as I sweated out the previous night in front of the King Corona Cigar Bar and Cafe, sipping a milky iced Cuban coffee and puffing on a particularly robust, particularly expensive Nicaraguan stogie. Okay, who am I kidding? Every minute of every day in Ybor City is a good time for a cigar. In fact, by my count I’d smoked at least 15 cigars during the previous 48 hours. And to be clear, I am no cigar aficionado: These days, in my normal life, I smoke maybe two cigars per year. Like many of us in this enlightened age, I’ve internalized the surgeon general’s warning on smoking as intensely as the Pledge of Allegiance or the Lord’s Prayer. Yet in Ybor City, it seems as if — whether perversely or refreshingly — one enters a parallel universe where smoking cigars is still a totally natural part of life.
Not that the ship has completely sunk, but the traveling exhibition based on the book Just Above the Water: Florida Folk Art by Kristin Congdon and Tina Bucuvalas needs some major repairs. Curated by Bucuvalas, the show culminates their five-year research project full of road trips across Florida, studio visits and interviews with artists and makers to document the diverse folk art scene in our state. The authors should first be applauded for the incredibly diverse range of artists featured — not only in their materials used, but their cultural upbringing. Each artist gets a wall feature/mini-biography providing background about birthplace and early life, as well as insight into his or her creative process.
Sunbright Manor, the oldest house in Walton County, has a colorful history. Railroad magnate J.T. Sherman built the nearly 6,000-square-foot mansion in 1886 to be a duplicate of his family’s home in Wisconsin. The Shermans spent their winters at the house at 30 Live Oak Ave. W. at a time when DeFuniak Springs was a center of culture and commerce in Northwest Florida. “This was a big railroad town, and of course you had the Chautauqua Assembly, which had its programs here in the winter,” said Reese Orlosky, who has owned the house with his wife, Sally, since 1999. “Many of the homes on Circle Drive near Lake DeFuniak were built during this time period.”
Meet the Highwaymen, Florida’s African-American landscape artists who defied the odds by overcoming the obstacles of the “Jim Crow” South, solidifying a chapter of artistic and cultural history. Depending on how long you have lived in Florida, you may or may not have heard of the Highwaymen. They are better known today, but not very long ago they were an anonymous group of Florida artists selling original paintings of Florida landscapes from the trunks of their cars. Though they would not be called the Highwaymen for several decades these African-American artists created a unique chapter in Florida’s cultural history. From the 1950s into the 1980s, a total of twenty-six individuals from Fort Pierce and nearby areas were creating Florida folk art – and doing it well under the radar of the art world.