Summer in Southwest Florida has many a secret. Two of my favorites are: there really are people here, and there really is lots to do. Of course, if you’re reading this, you’re already in on the ruse.
Come summer, clocks are no longer Public Enemy #1; our high-season work-load has slowed to a simmer and time is once again on our side. Traffic is a vague and uncomfortable memory, parking requires no combat training, and all lines are drawn in the sand. Whether you’re an intrepid summer visitor or a stalwart year-rounder, this is the best time to ‘git out there.’
The Marco Island Historical Museum has grown tremendously this past year. It seems only a minute ago it was no more than a giant fund-raising thermometer on an empty lot; now we have splendid traditional tabby-coated buildings topped with space-age thatching. There’s an auditorium, a gift-shop, and multiple galleries displaying permanent and rotating exhibits dedicated to long-vanished civilizations as well as the pioneers, homesteaders and developers that transformed this wildsandbar into our present-day home.
Currently there is a very touching – and telling – exhibit of drawings, paintings, and journal entries by Rob Storter (1894-1987). Born in Everglades City, Storter chronicled daily life and the abundant wildlife unique to this frontier. He earned his living on the water, fishing, guiding, and moving passengers and freight between here and Key West. This exhibit serves as a portal to a bygone era.
Untutored, unvarnished, and tenderly truthful, Storter connects us to our own backyard history. “Wood stove for cooking, wash board for wash day, rainwater. No radios, no T.V., no cars, but oh what fun we had.”
In 1916 Storter, with his wife Marilea Summerall Storter and their four children, moved to a stilt cabin on an oyster bar at the southern end of Naples Bay. “Oysters, birds, and fish…were plentiful. Sometimes it would be a week and we wouldn’t see a boat pass. Now there are million dollar homes on this spot.”
A visit to Storter’s world will surely leave you wanting more. To thatend I recommend a stop in the Museum Shop for a copy of Crackers in the Glades: Life and Times in the Old Everglades by Betty Savidge Briggs.
Also this summer, the Museum hosts a wonderful collection of Clyde Butcher’s large-format black and white photographs capturing the drama and beauty of natural Florida. It’s as close to a day in the Everglades you can get without wetting your feet.
The Museum is also home to the Marco Island Historical Society who throughout the year stages adventurous excursions, fascinating lectures, movies, and other special events. You can keep up on the Collier Museum website or, better yet, become a member and let them keep you updated.
Marco Island Historical Museum is open Tuesday-Friday, 9AM to 4PM. 180 S. Heathwood Dr., Marco Island. 239.642.1440, www.colliermuseums.com.
Tara O’Neill, a lifelong artist, has been an area resident since 1967. She holds Bachelors Degrees in Fine Arts and English from the University of South Florida, and currently has a studio-gallery at the Artist Colony at the Esplanade on Marco Island. Contact her through www.tarao