1. What is it about the state of Florida that is so fascinating to everyone who visits?
Mike: The climate and laid-back attitude is the obvious allure, but Florida is more than just alligators, beaches and pina coladas. I think when people learn more about the interesting history and diverse cultures it becomes more than just a playground. I see it as a melting pot within a melting pot.
Jeff: The rich history of the state, the role it had in the early days of the railway system. The differences in the state depending on where you are - in St. Augustine, the oldest city, some of the hotels remain that were built in the late 1800s through the early 1900s. Tampa along with Key West was famous for the early days of the cigar industry. Central Florida is home to Disney World as well as some of the most beautiful lakes, historic homes and of course the rich history of Downtown Orlando. Palm Beach, home of Whitehall, Henry Flagler’s residence. Delray Beach which began as an area full of pineapple farms now has some of the most beautiful parks and homes in the region. Miami and Miami Beach known as the Magic City, embracing different cultures and history for over 100 years. There is something for everyone within the 67 counties of Florida.
2. Why is it important for you to keep your Facebook group “HISTORIC FLORIDA: The Original” going?
Jeff: Short answer, to leave a legacy. A living record of where we began as a state and where we are headed. The group began as an interactive way for people to post photos and discuss them in detail; not necessarily nostalgia it’s more of an exchange of ideas as to why a family decided to make an area their home, or what if the gentleman building the railroad tracks never met the other gentleman who decided to build a hotel nearby? In a short period of time the group began to grow and I believe what separates it from other groups is the fact that we have always included our members in what we do.
Mike: I feel we have a responsibility to our members, many who have grown up here, to keep alive their memories of how Florida used to be. So much has changed over the last 50 years, more so than most places, so I feel we are providing a service to those who want to recall the simpler times. I also feel it's important to educate the younger generations of how Florida used to be.
3. Your Facebook group has over 200,000 followers and is one of the most dynamic sites in Florida. Why is this subject so fascinating to so many people?
Mike: I think as people get a little older they begin looking for things that remind them of when they were younger. Perhaps it's a defense mechanism in an attempt to slow the aging process. Giving people glimpses of the past gives them something to hold onto and I think that's a comfort to some.
Jeff: The success of the site is due in no small part to the fact that it is maintained throughout the day and constantly updated. The template that we created back in 2012 still holds true today with a few updates. As far as why it’s so fascinating I guess it’s because Florida is an incredible state. Break it off into sections and you can research interesting facts about almost all of the counties.
4. What surprised you most when you were researching this book?
Jeff: The fact that as much as I thought I knew about the state there is so much more that I have learned and continue to learn as we update our group daily.
Mike: Like Jeff said, there is still so much about the state to learn. Even after managing our Facebook group for over 10 years, perusing thousands of photos and researching various subjects, I still learn something new about our state on a daily basis.
5. Where did you find the photos in this book? Was there one that particularly stood out to you?
Jeff: The photos were located from many sources and all are referenced in the book. Some of my favorites come from our members who graciously donated photos to the book. As far as one that stood out to me personally, that is a hard question to answer. I love all of them.
Mike: The photo of Lyndon B. Johnson campaigning in Orlando in 1964 stands out to me because I recall my father telling me about that day. He was working at the Porter Paints store on Colonial Drive when the motorcade passed by. Also, the photo of my grandmother sitting on Ferdinand the Bull at Daytona Beach. She was quite a character and the photo captures that.