Returning to the Marco Island Historical Museum on February 11th was a homecoming of sorts for Rick Smith, the son of author Patrick Smith, who wrote the Florida classic, “A Land Remembered.”
Patrick Smith’s work was nominated seven times for the Pulitzer Prize and five times for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Other famous titles are “Forever Island,” “Angel City,” and “The River is Home.”
Readers of Florida Monthly voted “A Land Remembered” their favorite book for 10 consecutive years.
7 years ago, Rick Smith was invited by the Marco Island Historical Museum to talk about his father’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated book about the pioneers who settled Florida. Little did he know what was to follow.
“They invited me out here,” said Rick Smith, who lives in California. “I put together a little audio-visual show—just because I didn’t want to have to stand on stage and talk. It’s evolved tremendously, tremendously over the years. I’m always changing things up. So that was the first one. Today was number 292. So it kind of snowballed. I’ve been everywhere from Key West to Destin, up in the panhandle. We’ve been invited up into Georgia, but I haven’t ventured up there yet. But we’ve been virtually everywhere in Florida. I used to come out in the fall, but I enjoy fall back home so much. So I just do it this time each year. We call it the snowbird tour. It’s different places every time. There’s certain museums—like this one—that invite me back time-after-time. But there’s so many places in Florida. I think this is the only duplicate on this tour.”
So how does it feel for Rick to represent his father, who penned “A Land Remembered” in 1986?
“I’m very proud of it,” Rick Smith stated. “I like it when the audience responds like this one did tonight. I feel like I’m really doing something worthwhile and touching people. It means something.
“This is an average-sized crowd,” he continued, “I think she said we had 170 people here tonight. It’s much harder to do a smaller-sized crowd. Much harder than a big audience like this. It’s much harder to get them to start laughing. Nobody wants to be the first person to laugh or applaud. But a big crowd like this—I tell jokes in the beginning. When they start laughing I know I’ve got ‘em in a good mood.
“I gave a talk for 1,200 people in Fort Piece. It was amazing.”
Rick Smith combines good comedic timing with his quirky sense of humor to tie together his own storytelling ability with an excellent collection of video clips of his famous father.
“Dad expressed himself through written words, I express myself through things like this. This is my format,” Rick Smith said.
Watching Rick Smith work the crowd, and viewing the interviews he conducted with his father before he passed in 2014, it’s easy to see that he and his father shared the storytelling gene.
“I think a certain sense of humor we have in common. Just an admiration for the people who came here and how hard it was. How could you do that? And why would you do it? They could have gone so many places that would have been easier.”
One of the highlights of the show was a video-story of Patrick Smith’s depression-era tour of Florida with his parents. The audio portion was from an interview with Patrick Smith. Son Rick provided a collection of excellent historical photographs that went along with his dad’s stories.
“I went to historical societies and found those,” Rick Smith said. “A lot of them are from the Florida Memory Project.”