I am Thankful for My Granddaddy, Hoke Smith Bowden of Venice, Florida

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Fred Griffin Real Estate Florida Broker BK436788

Hoke Smith Bowden, born in Enterprise, Alabama in 1906; moved to Fort Myers, Florida in 1920.  In the 1950's he opened the first Supermarket in Venice, Florida.  He was my Grandfather, and I am thankful for the Life Lessons that he taught me, and the Example that he set for me.

     Granddaddy was named for M. Hoke Smith, a powerful Southern politician who became Governor of Georgia the year after Granddaddy was born, and M. Hoke Smith's uncle, Confederate Hero General Robert Frederick Hoke. 


       Hoke Smith Bowden of Venice, Florida




  Hoke Smith Bowden of Venice, Florida

      Everyone called him either "Smith" or "Bowden".















     In the early 1900's, Florida was entering a financial boom.  My Grandfather's father wanted his family to profit from it.  The entire family moved to Fort Myers, Florida just after World War I.

     My Grandfather was the youngest; he was only a teenager.  He worked at the Soda Counter in a Fort Myers, Florida drug store.  Most afternoons during "the Season", three prominent American men would come in to enjoy a Coca-Cola for their afternoon break.  These men were Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Harvey Firestone! 


Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone  



   Mr. Ford, Mr. Edison, and Mr. Firestone would talk with my Grandfather while they sipped on their cokes.

    Granddaddy credited their sage advice with his later success in business.












    Business Success

     Bowden's IGA Foodliner, Venice Florida 1950's


  Granddaddy opened the first Supermarket in Venice, Florida, his own IGA Foodliner.

  He later opened a second IGA Grocery Store in Englewood, Florida





            Man of Honor

     In a proposed Business Venture, he was going to work at an Auto Dealership.  At the Dinner Table one night, he said, "the managers and the sales people in that Trade are dishonest - I want no part of it.  I am backing out."  And he did.


            Man of Faith

     Granddaddy was a devout Christian.  He not only professed Christianity, he lived it.  He took us to the Methodist Church and Sunday School, read the Bible, and led his grandchildren in Prayer

           Dress for Success

     My Grandfather lived in a time when Gentlemen wore coats and ties.   Granddaddy always wore a white shirt and a tie, unless he was at a picnic, or at the beach.   He wore a Jacket to the dinner table, and insisted that we children be "properly dressed" before sitting down to eat.


Hoke Smith Bowden, James Hightower, Mr. Cousins




Granddaddy (left), Mr. Hightower, and Mr. Cousins 













          Man of the Outdoors

     Granddaddy took us to Myakka River State Park every Sunday afternoon.  He would cook up a pile of Sirloin Steaks on a huge Charcoal Grill.   We would have a big picnic lunch.  Then Granddaddy and his friends would throw Horse Shoes; us children would run off to catch minnows and climb trees. 



          Master Chef

     Granddaddy would cook a lot of Steaks on a Large Grill


    Myakka River State Park, Florida - Grill

  He was opinionated about Steak

     "Some people want their steak well-done.   That's a waste, because when the color  goes, the flavor goes.  But if that's what they want, then give them what they want."  

     Granddaddy also had an opinion about Steak Sauce, which he refused to serve:  "That is to cover up the taste of Bad Cuts of Meat."








         Vacation by Automobile

     In the early 60's, Granddaddy piled us into his 1958 Buick Roadmaster, and we went to Highlands, North Carolina.  We drove on to Cherokee, NC and Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  I remember "going up" on the high mountain roads. 

     He took us all the way to Kentucky, before returning to Florida.  It was a great adventure for Granddaddy, Grandmother, Mom, my sister Marjorie, my brother Joe, and me.



       Collector of Giant Sharks' Teeth on Venice Beach

     In the late 50's and early 60's, on Venice Beach, you could pick up shark's teeth by the bucketful. 

Megalodon Shark Tooth



     Sometimes, you would find a Megalodon Tooth, as big as your hand. 


     Granddaddy would say, "When my family came here, those Megaladons were pretty common...  but now they are about gone, and I predict that in time all these teeth will be gone."  


     Granddaddy was right...  the shark teeth are no longer lying all over the beaches of Venice Florida, The Shark's Tooth Capital of the World.  






      Respect for All People


     In 1960, Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus relocated their winter headquarters to Venice!  The Circus Performers would buy their Groceries from Granddaddy's IGA Grocery Store.  

     One day I was at the store.  Some of the giants and the midgets from the circus came in to shop.  I was staring and pointing. 

    Granddaddy took me into his office and said, "Freddie, those people are different on the outside, but they are just like you and me on the inside.  Now you go back out there and say, 'Hi' to those nice people, and introduce yourself.  Come on, I'll go with you."  

      I met some wonderful people that day.


    John Ringling Mausoleum




      My Grandfather is buried in the same cemetery as John Ringling. 

    His grave is about 100 feet from Mr. Ringling's Mausoleum. 









          Rosalee Smith

      Rosy had been with my Grandparents for a long time (before my day).  She was our maid, our nanny and our housekeeper.  But she was a whole lot more...

     When I was  5 or 6 years old, I called Rosy a very ugly name  (something I had heard in school).  Rosy cried and walked out of  the room...  I was heart-broken; she was a Mother-figure to me.  

     When Granddaddy came home, he sat down with me on the back patio.  "Freddie, Rosy is our employee; Rosy is a different color than we are.   But Rosy is our Family.  She loves you as much as her own children.   You have hurt her very badly today." 

     Granddaddy rolled up a newspaper and gave me a spanking, but that did not feel as bad as the shame and sorrow of hurting my Family. 

     The next day when Rosy came in, I ran up to her crying and apologizing.  She picked me up and hugged me and said, "It's okay, Honey".    I think that Rosy was crying, too.   (Rosy and I stayed close the rest of our lives, until her passing a few years ago).



            Granddaddy's friend Faye Miles


     Miss Faye was the owner of the El Patio Hotel in Venice.

El Patio Hotel Venice, Florida

     Miss Faye was the last of the last people that I knew from my Granddaddy's generation.  My brother Joe and sister Marji "re-discovered" El Patio several years ago. We enjoy staying there when we go home to Venice.   Miss Faye always talks about "Garland" (my Grandmother) and "Bowden" my Grandfather.  She talks as if they are in the room with her... then she sighs, and says that she misses them.


    I last saw Faye Miles in the summer of 2010.  She was 102 years old, she passed away a few weeks later.  The El Patio Hotel was recently Sold.  



     True Friendship - Mr. Barone

      Mr. Barone was a science teacher, and the engineer for the only radio station in town.  He would sometimes come by the house; Granddaddy would go outside to meet him.  They would argue.  Their conversations were animated and heated.   I didn't know what they were talking about. 

     My Grandmother would see me peeping out the window; she would say something pleasant, such as, "your Grandfather and Mr. Barone are friends, but they don't always see eye to eye".  

       But I did not think that Mr. Barone was a friend of my Grandfather.  Why would a "friend" argue whenever they were together?


      In 1968 my Granddaddy died unexpectedly.  He was only 62 years old. 

     There was a Viewing at the Venice Nokomis Methodist Church


      Mr. Barone stood for a while by my Grandfather's coffin.  Then he knelt down, and wept openly

       He came over to my Grandmother...  tears were running down his face.   Mr. Barone said,  "I loved Bowden like a brother... he was my friend... he was my best friend."

 Venice Nokomis Methodist Church



Mr. Barone died in 2009, at age 96

His funeral was held at Venice Nokomis Methodist Church, the same church where my Grandfather had lain in 1968.  












 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


        Granddaddy's House at Palermo Place


   Granddaddy's house was a 1926 Model Home, from the Glory Days of VeniceFlorida.


208 Palermo Place Venice, Florida


    When my parents got divorced, Mom and my brother and sister and I lived in this house with our Grandparents. 


   In the year 2001 I contacted the owner about Buying the house.  It  appeared to be in disrepair.  "Not interested at this time, but if we ever sell it, we will let you know."  In 2007 they called. "You can have it for $575,000".  I guess nobody had told them that the Market  had crashed. 

     But could we see it?  When we got there, the lady fumbled with the keys... she said, "My husband bought this in 1968, but nobody has ever lived in it... I came by the other day... before that, nobody has been inside in probably 30 or 40 years."

    Walking into Granddaddy's house was like stepping into the Past.  The furniture was gone, but absolutely NOTHING had been changed.   My brother was with me... we were both overcome with emotion.  We had not been here in 40 years, but Granddaddy's house was just like we had left it when we were children.

     Regrettably, the house needed major repairs.  We passed on buying it.  


     The house was recently sold to a gentleman who is a master at restoring historic houses.  Last year he and his wife gave me a tour of the completely restored house.  George had restored the house to perfection.

   The house is in a Historic Preservation District, so everything had to remain "period".  It is absolutely gorgeous!


    208 Palermo Place Venice, Florida




     In the year 1968, my Grandfather suffered a heart attack. 

   Mom had told me that Granddaddy had been weakened by "The Consumption" (tuberculosis) when he was young, and that he was not as strong as he looked. 


     Granddaddy passed away at age 62.  



    I thank God for my Grandfather, Hoke Smith Bowden.  I only had him for 12 years, but they were wonderful years. 

    He taught me much, and to this day I often think, "What would Granddaddy say about this?", or "What would Granddaddy do?"


Rest in Peace, Granddaddy.


Granddaddy with Fish in Venice, Florida




Posted by

Frederick Griffin, Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker    







Tallahassee Florida Metropolitan Area    


Disclaimer:  Nothing in the above blog article is to be construed as legal advice, tax advice, or financial advice.  For legal advice see an attorney.   For tax advice or financial advice see a tax attorney, certified public accountant, or other qualified professional.



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John McCormack, CRS
Albuquerque Homes Realty - Albuquerque, NM
Honesty, Integrity, Results, Experienced. HIRE Me!

Fred - What an amazing tribute to your Grandad.  He would be beaming with pride I'm sure of it.  Sounds like Mr. Hoke Smith Bowden had a very fulfilling, meaningful, loving and adventurous life in his short 62 years.  It also sounds like much of the business sense runs in the family!  I'm thinking when you retire or find the time you could possibly write a book on the life and times of Grandad.

Best regards from the Q

Nov 09, 2011 04:07 PM #1
DeeDee Riley
Lyon Real Estate - El Dorado Hills CA - El Dorado Hills, CA
Realtor - El Dorado Hills & the Surrounding Areas

Great story Fred!  Your Granddaddy sounds like a wonderful man who taught you many wonderful lessons. 

Nov 09, 2011 05:27 PM #2
Broker Nick
South Florida Real Estate & Development, Inc. - Coconut Creek, FL
Broker Nick Relocation Broker Service

Featured - This post is now featured in Silent Majority Group of Active Rain!

Nov 10, 2011 03:07 AM #3
Gary Coles (International Referrals)
Venture Realty International - Las Vegas, NV
Latin America Real Estate

Fred, Your post is amazing.  It is a great tribute and I really enjoyed reading it.

Nov 10, 2011 02:21 PM #4
Fred Griffin Tallahassee Real Estate
Fred Griffin Real Estate - Tallahassee, FL
Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker

John,  thank you.   My Grandfather would make a great subject for a book.


DeeDee,  when my wife and I had our first grandson, I remember thinking, "I hope I can be an example to him, like my Grandfather was to me".


Nicholas, thank you for Featuring this in The Silent Majority Group.


Gary, sincere thanks.   Your words mean a lot to me.


Nov 10, 2011 02:38 PM #5
Broker Nick
South Florida Real Estate & Development, Inc. - Coconut Creek, FL
Broker Nick Relocation Broker Service
I always enjoy history fom people who have a love for it and share it with others.
Nov 10, 2011 11:07 PM #6
Barbara-Jo Roberts Berberi, MA, PSA, TRC - Greater Clearwater Florida Residential Real Estate Professional
Charles Rutenberg Realty - Clearwater, FL
Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Safety Harbor

I love local history like this and when it combines with your life history, it is indeed fascinating! Thanks for sharing!

Nov 10, 2011 11:08 PM #7
Kasey & John Boles
Jon Gosche Real Estate, LLC - BoiseMeridianRealEstate.com - Boise, ID
Boise & Meridian, ID Ada/Canyon/Gem/Boise Counties

I love the old pictures.  Great tribute to your grandfather. -Kasey

Nov 11, 2011 08:03 AM #8
Fred Griffin Tallahassee Real Estate
Fred Griffin Real Estate - Tallahassee, FL
Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker

Nicholas, I also love History.



Barbara-Jo,  I know that you live in Southwest Florida.   My Grandfather and his brothers and sisters arrived in SW Florida when it was largely undeveloped... they were true "Pioneers". 


Kasey, thank you!  

      I have boxes of old pictures, including Tin Types and Daguerreotypes from the 1800's.   We plan to have all of these photos professionally restored.

Nov 11, 2011 04:19 PM #9
Elizabeth Hope Hightower


Do you know if the "Mr. Hightower" in the picture with your Grandfather is "J.D." (my Grandfather, who I never met).  I believe he was an accountant who lived in St. Petersburg for some years, and in North Carolina previously.  (Seeing how your Grandfather also had North Carolina and Florida history).  A similar shark tooth from Venice was also handed down to me, and my Father loved Venice, South Seas Plantation (Captiva Island when it was boat-access only).

Thank you for your kindness in emailing me if you know more about the "Mr. Hightower" in your photo.

(All my "people" are gone now, so apologies for having to ask you).

What a thoughtful website and tribute; how grateful your family must be that you are keeping the ancestors "alive" online, where they will never be forgotten.


Nov 15, 2012 02:47 PM #10
Fred Griffin Tallahassee Real Estate
Fred Griffin Real Estate - Tallahassee, FL
Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker


    Good morning, and thanks for stopping by.  It is a pleasure to meet you. 

   I will call my Mom tonight and ask her for the first name of "Mr. Hightower" in this photo.  I will get back to you when I have the answer.

Nov 15, 2012 11:34 PM #11
Fred Griffin Tallahassee Real Estate
Fred Griffin Real Estate - Tallahassee, FL
Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker

Elizabeth - the man in the photograph is James Hightower.  I do not know his middle initial. 

     I spoke with my mother last night; she said that Mr. Hightower had been her school principal during the 1940's. 

     I vaguely remember Mr. Hightower, from the late 1950's or possibly early 1960's when I lived in Venice. 

     Mr. Hightower had suffered from throat cancer; Mom said he had gone to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore for surgery.  I remember that he had to speak through an opening in his throat.   Mr. Hightower lived somewhere near the St. Mark's Episcopal Church, in the historic part of Venice.

     The other man in the photograph - Mr. Cousins - is also named James.


     People in Venice, Florida who can help in your quest for information: 

            Venice Triangle Inn Museum   http://www.triangleinn.org/


             Venice Heritage, Inc.   http://veniceheritage.org/


             Facebook Page of Venice Heritage  http://www.facebook.com/veniceheritage


   Take care, Elizabeth!   If you find more information, please post it here, thank you.


Nov 19, 2012 02:01 AM #12
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