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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
D--We're doing an interview with Joe Raso in his office in Cape Coral. The date
is March 7, 1988. The interviewer is David Dodrill. Joe tell me a little
bit about your personal history.
J--Well, my history is probably a little different than most. I was born in
Italy. I was raised in Italy and I stayed there until I was 16 years old.
Then I came to this country. I landed in New York and much to my surprise,
it was kind of messy for me to see New York after I had lived in Italy because
Italy is rather clean. And when I landed in New York and looked at New York
harbor, I saw the smoke and dirt and it just didn't go over so good. To make
things worse, from New York I went to Pittsburg. This was 1936. In those days
all the heat you needed was provided by the burning of coal. If you ever saw
the smoke that rises from the chimneys, you would understand. It was kind of
a bad time because we landed in Pittsburg in December when it was cold and
wintery and it was just miserable. I came from a very clean place in Italy.
I came from Colabul, which is a southern part of Italy where there is no-
industry whatsoever except farming. There's no smoke or dirt. We didn't
even see any black people to tell you the truth. That was a surprise when I
came here, not that I have anything against them. I think some of them are
great people. I just didn't know them before, you know? I stayed in
Pennsylvania for a few years and then I went into the service. I went into
World War II and served overseas in every country but Italy.
D--You were in the Army? 'V/ "<
J--Yes, I was in the Army. I was in the 28th Division. For them we fought
all across France and Germany, Battle of the Bulge. I was very involved in
that. I was very fortunate, I came home unscratched. I was discharged in
1945 and got married in 1946. I went into the in Pennsylvania
in 1947. I stayed in it until 1959. Then I bought some land here in Cape
Coral, Florida and this was my dream to come to Florida. So in 1960 we
moved here. I had four children at that time, all girls, one on the way when
we got here and she was born right after hurricane Donna, so we named her
Donna Jo. That's her in that picture right there. We've been here since
1960. As a matter of fact, when I came here I opened the first lounge ever
in Cape Coral.
D--What was the name of that?
J--The Tiki Lounge. I was manager of the Tiki lounge for, I guess, a year and a
half or so. We had, during Donna, the people that remained in Cape Coral, about
50% of them were in the Tiki Lounge and the Surfside restaurant which was right
across the street from my office now, and the other 50% were in the motel
office, which was at the corner of Delprado and Cape Coral Parkway. At that
time we had a very small motel, about 12 units, and we were getting ready to
build a different building and the other three wings. Those people stayed in
here those that decided to stay there weren't very many, probably a couple
of hundred. Donna was kind of devastating. It was kind of a strong storm. It
got as bad as it could get. But I was a novice at this thing, and I really
didn't understand what was happening. I knew there was a lot of wind and rain
coming through, but then all of a sudden it cleared up. So I said to myself,
"Oh, hell. This wasn't bad at all." I walked outside and the sun was shining
and it was as peaceful as it could be. So I got in my car and thought I had
better go to Ft. Myers and see if I could find a phone so I could make some
phone calls and tell everybody I'm okay. And someone stopped me and said,
"Where are you going?" I told him and he said, "No. No. Don't do that because
this thing is going to turn around and come the other way just as fierce as it
was before." Thank God they stopped me. The eye came over and it was so
peaceful. So sure enough about 15 minutes later that thing turned around and
started going just as bad as it was before. However, the next day it was just
as peaceful as any other day in Florida. The sun was shining. The storm was
gone. There was no mud left. There was debris, broken down wires (the few
that were here). There was really not too many trees broken down because there
was not too many trees here. The streets weren't all that dirty. But it
wasn't that bad. The very next day we sold a couple of houses and we sold
land to the people that came here. So we didn't stop at all, we just kept right
on going. That was the thing with Donna. I went from the Tiki into land sales.
We had this building here that is now the boardwalk. It was our sales office.
We had very small cubicles that we shared with one another. If I was working
today, I would consider it my office. If you work tomorrow you use it as your
office. We had plaques just like these. These are what we sold from. We
couldn't drive them anywhere. The only road that was open at that time was
Cape Coral Parkway to Coronado. It was a dirt road around Fi. Freedom's Park.
From there we drove down to the yacht club. There was no yacht club at that
time. Then we'd come back up through here and make a circle and come back
through the field. That was it. We told the people what we were going to do,
not what we had done, and the equipment that we had acquired and how capable we
were of developing and making the area grow. It was sold mostly as an
investment. Those that bought then in this area found out that we really didn't
tell any lies. We didn't even stretch the truth. You can see from these
plaques what we sold property for. The riverfront property $7,200 in the
early 60's and now they're getting $100,000 plus. So we didn't tell no lies.
We didn't even stretch the truth. Anyway, that was what happened in those
early days. Then I went into home sales. That was really kind of exciting.
We were motivating people to leave their homes up north and come down here and
live with us. We used to sell quite a few homes. We had quite a few people
to sell to. We used to bring them in here...when I say we I'm referring to
Gulf American...by air, by bus, by train, by boat, by anything that we could
get them here, we brought them here.
D--Who was actually doing the building of the homes?
J--At that time, we built models behind what is now Sun Bank. The models were
built-by Rutenberg, but they were staffed by Gulf American sales people.
Gulf American had an agreement with Rutenberg, at that time, that they'd
build the homes and we would sell them. The financial arrangements I don't
know, but that's the way it worked.
D--Were there other builders at that time?
J--As a matter of fact, it was kind of difficult for them to get started. There
was a builder (I forgot his name), but they built quite a few houses over here
on Lennox Court. That was kind of the first builder. Then there was a few
others that tried to build. But they couldn't compete with us. First, we
had a closed in kind of thing with the customers the people we brought
here. We wined them and dined them. From the time they got off the airplane
until the time they got on the airplane, we kept them busy. I was with land
sales program, so going to the beach in busses, and taking them places, making
sure they saw things. They were never at a stand still. We kept moving them.
We kept them very busy. By keeping them busy they enjoyed themselves. What
a great vacation they had. Two nights, three days here, everything free if
they just bought a piece of property. And even those that didn't buy
property we did the same thing with them. We fed them breakfast, lunch and
dinner. Never cheap. Never. I was so sick of prime rib... But that's the
way it was. We gave them the best. That's why I say Gulf American don't have
to take a back seat to anybody. They were second to none. They were first in
the way they treated people and when we built homes, if you had a gripe about a
house or whatever, Gulf American was there to take care of it. They had a staff
that did nothing but maintenance work. So they had somebody to go to. If you
had any complaint...they were really people that cared. You mentioned Kenny
Schwartz. I can't help but think that man was probably a most brilliant
person in some ways. First of all he had a kind of photographic mind. Whatever
he saw or heard, he remembered it for years. If you were introduced to him
today, a casual introduction, I guarantee you, if he saw you a year from now,
he would call you by your first name. That's the kind of mind this man had.
It was unbelievable. His thing was that if you smiled at people they would
smile back at you. If you were nice to them they would be nice to you.
That's exactly what this whole area grew up to be. Didn't care if you were
1q1 a gardener or a waitress, your number one thing was to be nice to the people
we brought here. And they were just as nice to us. That's why they were so
successful. They believed what we said. They believed in the area and they
bought it for that reason. There wasn't any high pressure. I imagine at times
we insisted that they buy, but we didn't twist anybody's arm like some people
think we did. They listened and we told them the story of what you see today.
That's the story we told them.
D--So the sales people were selling more of a vision of the future...
J--Absolutely. We showed them this map ,and this is quite an interesting map
because it's nice, it's got beautiful color. People see nice things and they
like it. You can make a most beautiful picture from that map. You take a
piece of property and any one of those canals and ,that's what gets in people's
minds. They start looking at that and you tell them whatlit is. They don't
look at the map, they're looking at waterways and homesites. They're looking
at the golf course and yacht club and all these things gets in their mind and
that's what they see. It's here. All the things that we told them was here.
We sold everything from those maps.
D--Do you feel like Gulf American really made sure that the people who bought
homesites and bought homes were satisfied?
J--Absolutely. Anybody who says things about Gulf American really didn't know what
they were talking about. They went out of their;,wayto take care of people. I
know because at one time I had to go to Italy.r We had an office in Rome. We
had offices all over the free world. Not necessarily to sell to those
foreigners but to sell to American people that :, didn't come to Florida but
went other places on vacation. We used to kind or corner them no matter where
D--How did that work like in Rome? Would they just look for Americans on the
J--That's an interesting subject in.itself. We used local people as solicitors.
We had solicitors out on the street. These solicitors had a very large
identification tag that they used to wear because there were all kinds of
solicitors over there. We had nothing but good looking young girls as solicitors.
We didn't want them to be misread or something. So we used to put a name on
them that you could see. Foreigners are very bright at things. If they saw
an American two blocks away, by their walk, by their clothes, or whatever, they
knew they were American. So we used to approach them. We used to, on their
day off most of them were on tours and they usually had a day off here or
there when they could relax, we would get them together at some point or some
hotel.- We would pick-them up by cab. If somebody lived on one end of town
and somebody else lived on another, they would go there. We would get them all
together and we would send them on a tour that was not included in their travel.
So they got to see some parts of Rome that it was impossible for them to see.
For instance, we used to send them to what we used to call Roma Antiqua, which
is old Rome. That's where they were uncovering this town and digging trenches
and what have you, and covering all kinds of pre-dated items. We used to take
them there by bus. Then we would bring them back to the Hilton in Rome, which
is probably the finest hotel in all of Europe. There's nothing any finer.
There, we used to give them lunch. We provided them with the best of food
in a most exquisite and beautiful hall we could find, with thick carpets and
decorated walls. I mean, you walked in there and you said "Oh my God, where
am I?" These people were really impressed. We used to show them the films
of Cape Coral and the things that were happening here, and how Florida and
the south was growing. We had sales people that could hardly speak english
telling these American people that were on vacation how great Florida was and
what a good investment it was, and people would buy. My first month there I
had a million dollars worth of sales. But look how we treated these people.
We gave them the finest there was. We showed them a good time no matter
where they were. There is one thing Gulf American believed in. "Go first class.
It cost a nickel more but it's worth it. So at no time were they chincy
about anything they did. They treated you like you were somebody. To them
you were somebody. If you were a prospect or customer or somebody that in
the future you would refer to. People talk about how many sales were made at
the time we brought a group in. But usually we had anywhere from 30 to 40% of
the people. But those people that didn't buy were not dead because they now
saw what we had and at future times they came back anyway. Just because they
didn't buy that time, you 'didn't throw them away. You kept an eye on them
because they were still good prospects once they saw what they had seen. I
went into that kind of program.
D--About what year was that? \ .OA4,' Pht2"
J--I think that was 19687 Then I think Gulf American sold in 1969 and I stayed
with the company until 1973. I went to Golden Gate and took care of Golden
Gate for about three years. I was the project manager at Golden Gate. I was
in charge of all the sales. And then they kind of went broke so most of us
were let go or we decided to go on our own.
D--Tell me a little bit about Golden Gate. Was Golden Gate different in the
sense of how it was marketed?
J--It was a different concept altogether. Golden Gate was more of a long term
investment that they were selling. She was an acreage deal. Remuda Ranch was
an acreage deal. So you really bought futures if you bought in those areas.
Golden Gate had a Golden Gate itself. The community of Golden Gate was two
square miles. They neyr sold homesites. The other was Golden Gate Acres.
That was sold in acreage. You could buy an acre and a quarter, 2 1, or 5
or 10 acres or whatever you wanted. What they said ,to you was they divided
the property into quarters. They put roads every 1,320 feet...sorry 620 feet.
So you had road frontage on acreage, But if you wanted to subdivide it you
had to put your own roads in the middle or you could keep it the way it was.
But the concept was that you could take an acre and a quarter of property and
eventually make two homesites out of it. So you get two for the price of one.
because at that time acreage wasn't that expensive. So that concept was
golden Gate Acres, and it was sold that way. Remuda Ranch was sold in
acreage. Gulf American built probably one of the most beautiful motels in
the middle of nowhere, which was right on U.S. 41 in the middle of the Everglades
in Remuda Ranch. What a beautiful place they had. As a matter of fact, they
used it for a long time as a great fishing place. Anyone who wanted to go
fishing or hunting, it was a super area. And that's what the area was for.
We had fishing, hunting, riding stables, a shooting range, and we tried to
have something for everybody. Cape Coral was for people with boats and what
have you. Of course, it grew pretty quick. At Remuda Ranch, if you were a
hunter or a fisherman, instead of having a camp out in the mountains in
Pennsylvania, you could have a camp in Remuda. That's the idea that was
D--So Remuda was never meant to be homesites?
J--No. Remuda was strictly a place to go to, own your own land, and who knows
if someday the property would end up being worth more than what you paid for
it because of the things that were happening. Anytime you spend millions of
dollars along some area, the surrounding area is going to benefit. You just
don't throw a million dollars into a piece of property and the next piece of
property rots away. That increases in value. So Remuda Ranch was sold
as a place to go when you wanted to go fishing, hunting, shooting at the range,
or horseback riding. River Ranch Acres was the same identical thing. We had
one in south Florida and one in central Florida. Golden Gate had two square
miles of homesites that were sold. The rest was sold. in acreage. The project
is huge. Cape Coral was some 102 square miles. Golden Gate must be...I don't
know...it's larger than Cape Coral. But that encompasses all the acreages.
D--Did you ever know about any of the other projects like in Arizona?
J--They kept us updated on all the property, no matter where we were. We knew
about Rio Rico, the islands...they kept us updated on all of these projects.
If you worked in Cape Coral, you only had Cape Coral on your mind. Once in
a while people crossed. There were people who owned property here and at
Golden Gate at the same time. Like I said, the people that came-down believed
anything we told them. If we told them to buy a piece here and in Golden Gate
also, because that might come up...what made the program so easy was the fact
you didn't have to be a millionaire. :Just an'ordinary Joe that had a couple
of dollars a month to put aside was all it took. You didn't have to have a
pocketful of money to buy because you used the change you'd ordinarily throw
away anyway. -We used.to say that to people. That's what made the program so
successful was the method in which to buy it.
D--So really their target market was the average American.
J--Yes. We used to tell people everyday, youdon't have to be a millionaire to
live like one. People in Cape Coral today, some of us, including myself, are
living better than some that have millions but don't have the things we have
here. Because they have to pay everytime they go someplace for the things we
already have here year round. I have golfing,fishing, a beautiful home, great
children are enjoying the area, made a nice living, and that's what we went
after was people that were just regular Joes.
D--What would happen if I was a typical prospect and I had flown down on one of
their flights for a three day, two night weekend. What would I go through?
J--You would land at the airport...by the way, Gulf American was the people that
enlarged the airport so they could handle the jets.- Until .they enlarged the
airport, Paige Field could not handle jets.: When I first came down here there
was only one carrier here and it was National Airlines. All that used to come
down here was prop jets. When Gulf American bought their own fleet, they had
their own airlines.' They decided to bring the people here. They went out and
enlarged the runway to take care of it.". So they would get off the airplane
and would be greeted by personnel from Gulf American., They would be put on a
bus. Right across the street was the Nautilus Motel and all those little
apartments right across the street...in those days we used to call them the
garden apartments. They were one bedroom with a kitchen, living room/dining
room. They would be housed either in the motel or in those garden apartments.
They would be told they'd get off the plane about 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon/
that they had an hour to freshen up, relax, there would be booze in the place if
you wanted it. We would pick them up and do whatever was planned for the
evening. So the busses would come around and pick them up and either take them
on a little tour of Cape Coral and the yacht club and maybe to the country club.
By the time they would bring them back, they relaxed, had a drink or two, and
at 7:00 we had dinner. So the first night they would have their dinner. During
the dinner they had music, dancing, they ate and drank, and anything they
wanted was there. The next morning they would be picked up by bus, taken for
a tour. Some sales person would be with them on the bus and pitching them or
giving them the speel about Cape Coral. They'd bring them back to either here,
across the street there was a reception room. So they would bring them back to
one of these two rooms, serve breakfast, we showed them a film of Cape Coral
and then we said to them, "Look, if what you see looks good to you and you
believe in what we're saying, we're offering you a piece of property here."
Most of the time they would buy. We had speakers who would tell them about
how nice Cape Coral was going to be. There wasn't much time.
D--Who would do that speaking?
J--We had people regular speakers and that's all they would do. Then we had
regular sales people that would tour the busses. They would be the speakers on
the bus. Each couple was sitting with a sales person. Everybody had their own
table. You and your wife sat there with me. He and his wife sat there with
another sales person. So you didn't discuss things in front of one another.
In fact, when we had brothers and sisters, whatever, we always tried to
split them because when you're talking about financing, whether it's 100 or $10,
people don't want everybody to know whether they got 10o or whether they don't.
We tried to keep it as confidential as we could. The only thing we did was when
somebody said they would buy, then that sales person would run up to the
microphone and he would say, "Ladies and gentlemen, let me have your attention,
please. I would like you to joing me in welcoming Mr. & Mrs. Smith to the
cape Coral family.". And everybody would give them a round of applause. That's
the way it went. That's how Cape Coral was built.
D--Was there any concern,'early on, when people were buying lots and this would
just become a place where people owned the lots but didn't build for twenty
years. Was there any concern about that or did people right offthe bat start
to build? I looked at Port Charlotte and for a long time there was hardly
J--What we did to encourage people (this is some of .the things most people do not
know is the program we used) to build. Like I told you, we had some model homes
there at all times, but not just the model homes. We used to get people that
bought a piece of property, and we gave them an opportunity to trade at that
time for whatever the price was. Because of improvements and what not, every
six months or so, there would be a price increase on the property. So if they
had bought it for $2,000, by that time it had gone up $400 or $500 or whatever,
they would say, "Now listen. You have $2,500 worth of value up there, why
don't you take that $2,500 from there and bring-it down here for.a piece of
property maybe $3,000. It's $500'more but look,where...and'you build. Even
if you do this, you can come live in this house yourself if you like, because
no matter what you're doing up there, you can always do something down here.
Or if you feel you can't move just yet, build it and rent it. There are
people to rent the house for you and people to manage it and take care of it.
So the rent pays off your mortgage. Why not do that?"
D--So the company was making a real concerted effort to get people to build.
J--Absolutely. "We stressed that as much as anything. When they first started,
I don't know what their thought was.; But once they saw what was happening, it
was the old saying, you have this big lion by the tail, you don't dare let him
go because it's too big. So we did everything we could to promote that again,
to make sure that people would build, to make sure that people would move into
the area. Of course, when you start having people, you start having businesses
and grocery stores and doctors, and dentists. I remember the first doctor that
D--What was his name?
J--The original doctor was Dr. David. He was here three days a week and most of
the time he was in Ft. Myers. Then he was replaced by Dr. Tate who is still
here. Dr. Tate came over and he was kind of our first doctor. But Dr. David
operated on me in 1961 in the Lee County Hospital. It was two floors and
50 or 60 beds. The interesting part, back then we didn't have any bridges.
If you wanted to go to Ft. Myers, you had to go all the way up Delprado and
go across the old bridge and hope it wasn't up for some boat going through.
It was an hours ride to Ft. Myers. Delprado was nothing to travel on but
dirt mostly. The old bridge was the only thing
It was quite a long trip. Now we have everything.
D--So you were involved originally in lot sales.
J-- In lot sales and in home sales and I was manager for, I guess, 4 or 5 years.
They used to call us t.o.'s takeover people. If you were a sales person and
you had a customer and you couldn't sell them, then I would come in behind
you and find out why you didn't sell them, or I would try to close it for you.
Then we had a time when we wanted a little more cash flow. So I would go
out to people and encourage them to pay cash for them. We would give them
certain discounts if they did. Everything we did was for the benefit of the
customer. We never did anything that in any way hurt them. They used to use
programs, I know for a fact, they were not...they were good people...because
even if you got way behind on your payments, they always made every effort
possible for you to keep it. Naturally the company has to have money, but
how many times they would say topeople if you can't make the full payment
this month then send us $20. Keep your account active. It would help people.
That's what made them so successful. They werepeople that cared. They really
cared for the customer.
D--Do you think that came all the way from the top?
J--Yes. Absolutely. Jack Rosen was probably one of them that really cared for
people. If you ever had an opportunity to talk to him, you would understand.
D--You knew Jack?
J--I knew Jack personally.
D--Tell me a little bit about him.
J--All I can say about him was he was really a super great guy. All he ever
thought of was what can we do to make it better for them. He was a very
understanding kind of guy. Leonard was the opposite. Leonard was the brains
of the thing. He was always running around trying to raise money or get other
people to work with them. Leonard was always the guy that was the front runner.
Jack was behind the scene most of the time. Most times, if you were to really
look into this, you always heard "Leonard Rosen", "Leonard Rosen". But Jack;'
was there too. But Jack was behind the scenes and kind of kept everybody
going. If anybody. got upset, he would take care of them. .Even in higher
positions in the company, he always took care of any problem,that came up.
Jack would straighten it out. He was really a great guy. Super- people.
D--I read something one time...what was'the V.I.T. program?
J--That is known as a very important traveler V.I.T. We used to have reception
areas on every major highway in Florida. We had signs that could be seen
from both directions on the road, that said, "Be a V.I.T." What would happen
was you would stop there and the person would treat you like you were kings
and queens. They give you orange juice,:coke, whatever you wanted, they made
you feel at home. They provided nice select areas and restrooms. Then they
would say, "Okay, why don't.you go and take a look at Cape Coral? For doing
that we will give you $15. We'will pay. you $15 if you just go to the property
and have a salesman show you around to show you the area. Most of the people
would grab it. So they would come down and the salesman would show them
around and try to sell them a piece of property. That was just another place
to acquire units. It was done in such a manner that it was high class. That
was the whole V.I.T. program. As a matter of fact I headed that program for
many years in sales, not out in the field. Tom K-o-h-l-e-r I think it was.
He used to head the V.I.T. program. Quite a guy. He and I worked together
during the storm. We were trying to board up some windows.
D--Did the Gulf American sales people feel any competition from general development,
like Port Charlotte?
J--Absolutely none. We were THE company. There was nobody better than us. We
didn't have any competition. We never said to anybody, "Don't buy in Port
Charlotte or don't buy Led H1i Acres." We just merely said, "Buy here. We're
here. Here's what we are going to do. We know what we are going to do. We
don't know about the others. As a matter of fact, if you can effort them both,
buy them both." We never, never let a salesman run another competitor down.
We encouraged them. It was just good business. We had absolutely no
competition. There was various people trying and in their own way I guess they
D--If a person bought a piece of property here and they wanted to sell it again,
did they have to go thr ugh an independent broker?
J--Yes. They had the beS resales office right here in Cape Coral.
D--What was that called?
J--Cape Coral Realty. So if you had something to sell, you were on your own and
were free to sell it.
D--Were there any other people that tried to... (-aJcd)(o.v\
J--As time grew, as we got a little older, other people opened up like Mary Hawthorn.
next door. She opened up. There's another lady you ought to talk to.
D--I've already talked to her.
J--Mary was very active. Then she opened up...Wonderland Realty opened up, and
Johnny Mitchell opened up. They started having a resale office, Pete Petfy,
opened up. Probably next to Cape Coral Realty, it's the oldest office in
D--Was there any conflict with Gulf American?
J--Yes. There was just a little bit. What brought it more was the fact there were
a lot of sales people here. It would be very easy if I was a salesperson and
sold somebody a piece of property and you were Pete Petfy and you would tear
my sale down and make another sale of your own. But that didn't last long.
There was some competition, of course. If you were a sales person and somebody
took money out of your pocket you'd get angry. Its just human nature that
you would do tha. That's what had happened. We kept pretty much a blanket on
all our customers, but sometimes they would go astray. If they did, and they
went into these offices and burnt out a sale that we had, the salesman would be
upset. The company got the property back so it was a matter of making it or
not making it. But mostly it would be the sales person. The higher echelon
of Gulf American cared about the sales people. If they were not happy then
that meant the'company couldn't work. The sales people make the organization
and you had to keep them boys pretty happy. The happier they are the more sales
they're going to make for you.
D--What would they do to keep ydu guys happy?.
J--They paid us a pretty good commission, first of all.` They made working conditions
very nice. That's all you can do for people. 'As long as they pay you nice
wages and they treat you...we got insurance through them, we got stock options
through them...they kept you so you would be interested in what the company
D--What percentage commission would a typical salesman get?
J--It would vary. There were different plateaus and it would change. As time
went on it would change anyway. Like you'started with 1% and then at some
plateau it.would go to ik, then maybe 1. It depended on the volume that
you wrote for the month.
D--Who was the head of sales here in Cape Coral?
J--You had the man. Mr. Kenny Schwartz.
D--And who was head of the sales, lot sales, here in Florida?
J--That got to be pretty broad because there were many people involved. You had
areas and sections. There were many people. I couldn't even begin to name
them all. Just the city of New York and the New York area might have had ten
different areas and ten different offices and ten different managers. Milwaukee,
you would have your own...Florida they had their own. Different areas were
assigned to different people.
D--Where did Ed Pacelli fit into all this?
J--Ed Pacelli was right here. He and Kenny were kind of hand in hand. Ed was
the go between more with Jack Rosen and the internal part of the organization.
But Ed Pacelli was the first person that they sent out in the field to acquire
various brokers throughout the country to set up their programs. We had
brokers from every state it was to sell Cape Coral. He was instrumental
in setting up that program. As time grew, he became president of the
corporation. I think he was very instrumental in the sale that took place
between Gulf American and General Acceptance. Pacelli was very, very active
in the higher echelon.
D--Who were some of the top sales people here in Cape Coral?
J--We had people at various times...have you talked to Frank Ogle?
D--No I haven't.
J--He's in Mary Hawthorn's office. Frank Ogle was one of the top sales people
we had. There's so many. We had nothing but top money earners. We had two
set ups. We had one where it was all new people the ones that came down by
boats, by trains, and by land or air. Those were people that did not own
property. Then we had another office set up that used to take care of
homesite owners only. If you owned property, you could see what was going
on and what not. Then you would go through this other office and they
would show you where the property could be or was or would be. They'd
show you around and what was taken. Sometimes they would persuade you to
upgrade yourself for something better or get a new piece all together. It was
another sales promotion we used with the property owners. Frank Ogle was very
high on the line in those days. So was I. I was a manager in those days.
I had a line in the HSO (Homesite Owners). It was probably 20 different sales
people. From time to time one was better than the other. They were just like
one month you're very hot and you take over and next month whatever. We had,
also, an international division headed by Pete L-u-s-s. I don't know if he's
alive or dead or whatever. And John Cor'. He is still very much alive and
lives right here in Cape Coral. C-o-r-i. They headed the international
division. We had people all over the world. Pete Luss was strictly European.
He handled all the European people. We used to bring people from Switzerland,
Germany, Belgium because these people in these countries were allowed to
invest abroad. Italians, French, English were not allowed to take any money
out of the country for investments outside. So we never solicited them.
But we sold a lot of property to the other people. They used to bring them in
under the same conditions. Theywould pay for their trip. They paid their
own air, but once they got here, we used to treat them like you can't believe.
They would land in Miami where they would be treated royally. By the time
they got here, they were treated very r6yally here. But those people bought.
I mean they bought." It was nothing to have one of those people...I remember
one case in particular. This lady came in with an interpreter. She was from,
I think, either Belgium or Switzerland, and they brought her into my office.
From just looking at the lady I knew she had a lotof money, because of what
Pete Luss had said. So I'told the interpreter that waterfront was our best
investment these days and we had very fews scattered pieces, but we did have
one solid block of property that may be acquired at one time. It don't know
what the interpreter said to her, but he said, "She'll take the whole thing."
It was that simple. So I wrote about 20 some contracts, because there was that
many lots, and I split it up among the sales people so they could all get a
piece of the action. That's what I mean by taking care of the sales people.
I didn't have to pay them commission. I would get paid regardless, but just
because I handled it didn't mean that the sales person shouldn't get some of
it. So I split it up and gave everybody part of the action. Sales people
would appreciate that.
D--So there's a real sense of being a family, almost.
J--Oh, very much so. Very much so. You knew one another because there wasn't
that many people here to begin with. So those of us that were here knew what
time we went to bed, what time we went to the bathroom...we knew so much about
each other because there was nobody else here. We took care of one another.
That's what Jack Rosen wanted anyway. He wanted to have harmony among all the
people, and if you did you'd never have any problems.
D--Did they ever say how big they thought Cape Coral would become?
J--No because as we grew we kept on acquiring more property and it got to the
point where there was no more property to acquire here and that's when they
went outside and they went to central Florida. The original purchase price
of what is now Pointseanna, if I can remember correctly, there was a tract of
land that started there and went all the way out to the east coast. But for
some reason it didn't consummate. Points6anna is very active right now. Of
course it's under Avatar. Some of us...I shouldn't say what I'm about to say
but I'll say it anyway, were prejudiced toward Gulf American. We liked Gulf
American. When GAC came over, they came from a different type of business. They
were people that came from a
which is what GAC was. The money. The people. It was just a thing in
reverse simply because the customers that they had used to go to them and they
would beg them to lend them money. So they could treat them any way they
wanted and it was okay because the person needed them. And when they came
here it was the other way around. People didn't need us. We needed them.
to we had to be extremely nice to them versus the other way. If you're in
the business of lending money and people come to you and beg you to listen -
they giver you everything financial statements...so they need you so you can
treat them any way you want to and they still come back to you because they
need to borrow the money. But when you're in this business here they don't
need you, you need them. Being nice to them is what we pride on. When GAC
took over I think it changed the image a little. I think that's probably the
downfall of this thing. Sales began to drop. People were having more trouble.
Nobody was taking care of them. That's all you need. Just a little disagreement
here and there and it spreads. ;I really and truly believe that's what happened.
That's the way I look at it.
D--In 66 and 67 Gulf got into trouble with the Florida Land Sales Board. They
accused them of misleading sales practices and lot switching. What do you
think about all of that?
J--The problem came...if they would see today what we did then, they would say we
did the right thing. However, at that time you could not see what took place.
People figured that they switched my property.. And you will get complainers.
But what was said is, "We traded your property. We moved it.' We didn't trade
it.. We moved it.because of the reason stated." Soo wt the Company did with
this area here was they found that it had enough .in there that we
needed to build roads. So we'said we'll take this piece right here and move
it right here, right along side of' it. We'l l take these lakes eight lakes....
the property around these lakes is so valuable you can't believe it.
D--How much does it go for now?
J--They're getting $50,000, $60,000, $70,000 for this property. And I"sold it,'
I know, for $5,720. That's how much it went for. These lots and these canals
were moved over her.
D--In other words, just one section over.
J--Just one section over because they got these lakes here. And they said to them
"Okay, we made a boo boo. Do you want your money back? We'll give you
your money back. Do you want to keep'what we have assigned to you? We'll
do that. If you don't like that, we'll give you anything you want in here."
I know. I went through that program and I took care of many people. That's
what we did for them. But the Land Sales Board said, "Well these are not good
practices so you shouldn't do them." They also...people who were speakers on
a podium we used to tell people this was a great investment. They objected
to the word investment because they said it's too long. But you buy stocks
and bonds and it's an investment. They don't tell you it's going to mature
tomorrow it's an investment. It may go up and it may go down. The other
thing that the Land Sales Board insisted on was that we would give a property
disclosure to the people that bought so they would know at what time, for
what period, or what year their property would be ready, where the telephone
lines would be, where the electric wires would be, and what utilities would
be provided. So we gave them a property disclosure telling them the property
would be ready in 1989. If you wanted it sooner we can trade for you. Gulf
American did it right.
D--Did the 30 day suspension hurt?
J--Not really. I can say no it didn't hurt, but of course it does. Anytime you
stop an organization from selling, of course it hurts. But it didn't hurt
to the point of we had to call it quits. All it did was refine our programs
to whatever they thought we were doing that was not quite lilly white. So we
would change the programs and make them lilly white. All we did was organize
to what their thinking was. But it didn't stop us. We played a lot of gin
in those days!
D--Wasn't it true to if somebody purchased a lot through the mail that they
wouldn't necessarily know the exact location other than when they purchased
J--The only location you would have is from plaques and from maps. There was no
way that you could drive or go see the property. In the old, old days, the
early 60's when that office was across the street, we used to have little air-
planes there. If you came down here we'd put you in an airplane and give you
an airplane ride over the property to see what it looked like and what we were
doing. You get a small plane today and fly over this area you see that map?
whatever you see on that map is exactly what you see from the air. In those
days we had very few canals on the bottom that were already dug, so we used to
fly you over and say, "This is what we're doing. See down here? Look at those
canals. Whatever you see here is what you're going to see on your property."
We did that for about 3 or 4 years.
D--A couple of other quick questions., How did the Ft. Myers people feel about
J--They never did like us.
D--What do you mean? Tell me how you knew that.
J--That was the fight we had when we built the bridge.. The property owners on
the other side thought that if we put a bridge there it would ruin their
property. You know where the landing is today? They were the ones
objecting to putting the bridge there.. It was touch and go'getting,
permission to build that bridge, The-only way we'got it through was the
Company put up $100,000 in escrow that if.the bridge didn't pay for. itself,
that the money would come out of there and they would keep on replenishing
that money to keep $100,000 there all the time. So finally we got it okayed
through the country commissioner. The night we.did, we had a big party right
outside his office.
D--Were all the Cape Coral residents for the bridge?.
J--Oh yes. Everybody on this side was. Everybody on that side wasn't. But it
wasn't all of them because finally it went through.
D--What about other people in Ft. Myers. Was there an attitude of "We don't
want those Cape Coral people around."?'
J--No I wouldn't say that. Most people that were here at that time were strangers
to one another. Ft. Myers had a few people that were there from the beginning
of time. They had their own set ways. But even in Ft. Myers people.kept
coming in. Strangers and strangers and strangers. It came to the time where
they said let's be nice to one another because we're all going to be neighbors.
I don't honestly feel that there was any problem between Cape Coral and Ft.
Myers. There couldn't be because most of the business people in Ft. Myers
were already benefitting from the people here because we had nothing here. So
anything we wanted we had to go to Ft. Myers to get. Those people were very
happy to see us. We were bringing in fresh money from the north. They liked
D--Tell me about Tom Weber.
J--What a great guy. He was the engineer for Cape Coral. He made sure that all
the canals were dug in the right places and that the lakes were put in the
right places. He kind of ran the construction end of Gulf American. He was
the engineer that saw that all the things were done right. All the roads were
put in the right places.
D--What kind of person was he? Did you know him at all?
J--I knew him. I didn't know him that close. We didn't socialize that much
together. I played golf and I think he went fishing., But from what I knew
of him when I met him at various sales meetings, he was a great guy. He told
us what he was doing so we knew in sales. We had to be updated in everything
that they did. If they changed something we needed to know. He used to
attend a lot of our sales meetings.
D--How important was the rose gardens to the sales operation?
J--I think it was one more attraction that brought more people in the area. That's
what the thought was that it would bring in people to see the attractions -
and it did for a while. Then what happened is it got too expensive to keep,
so they decided to let it go. We were bringing people in in other manners,
so we really didn't need it. But they went ahead and spent 2 or 3 million
dollars, or they did at that time, which was really quite a thing. The
people were so impressed. Again, I can only say they went first class in
everything they did. People used to come down and see Waltzing Waters and
they thought it was an unbelievable thing, including myself when I first saw it.
It was quite nice.
D--Were there...I read somewhere that the sales offices were bugged that two
managers would listen in. What was the story behind that?. Why was that?
J--It was done for only one reason. The reason we used to do it was not to bug
them, but to find out a reason why they were not buying.. If we said to you
this is a very nice piece of property and we know you can afford it and you
said no to us, there had to be a reason. "Either you didn't .believe in us, the
property, you couldn't afford it,,or there were all kinds of reasons. So we
used to say to people, "Now you sit and talk it over and if you come up with
some kind of decision." And they did talk* Sometimes we found out they didn't
have enough money with them. We found out all these things that were helpful
with the sale. Not that we really cared what their night life was, but we
found out why they said no to purchasing the property. So we would listen.
I think that was a system originally invented by the used car lot. So we'
would listen. But we would find out sometimes what the reasons were and as
soon as you find out what they were and you corrected that, it was a different
game altogether. People appreciated it.
D--Were there any innovations that you made in sales that became standard in the
J--Well the only thing I know of (I have to be honest with you. The only sales
experience I ever had was with this company. I think it was the greatest) is
the fact we used to use the t.o.: system,' where somebody would go behind
somebody else to finish the sale. Other than that it was the standard "Here's
what we gotand here's what it is." Plus the fact that we.used to show
movies and we had speakers. We promoted it very nicely and I think that in
moie an ehdsekr.W rmtdi eyncl n hn hti
itself was a good thing.
D--You were really supported by the main office.
J--Absolutely. For instance if you came down in the winter time and you had
just left New York where there was 3 feet of snow, and you had toured now for
a day and a half with nothing but sunshine and all the goodies. Then you come
in here and we show you a film. "This is where you come from. (slide showing
a man cleaning snow off his car)" The next slide would be "Here's where you
are." What kind of impression did that make? Then we used the before and after
picture. I have one in my office right now. We say, "This is what is was and
this is what we are going to give you. Now you tell me if the property is
worth more here or there." Of course they had to say yes. Before and after
was very effective. It was just in the way it was presented.
D--Were there any potential buyers that were discouraged when they came in? I
heard from somebody that they discouraged blacks from coming in, but it's hard
to say yes or no.
J--I can't honestly say that. I don't think that the Company ever discouraged
any of that. First of all they knew even then that it would cause problems
if they dild. We were scattered throughout the world and there was no way
you could say no. I imagine down here in the south in some places it might
have been. Not to my knowledge anyway. But being one of the southern states
at that time I'm sure something like that could have been said.
D--It was a different world then.
J--When I came here they were still riding in the back of the bus. You can imagine.
Their own drinking fountains. It was just black and white.
D--One last question. Why do you think that Cape Coral was as successful as it was?
J--For the reasons I told you. The people behind them. The people behind Cape
Coral is what made it. The people that you see here today. The old timers,
if you were to talk to them, would tell you that they did love the Rosens and
what they did for them. They're happy. Very happy. And that's how they did
D--Any experience that you remember that particularly told about Gulf American,
that they were really out for the good of the people? 'Any that you can think of?
J--There were so many it's hard to single out;any one. Proof of that is the number
of people that kept on moving here each year. You have to remember that we
uprooted families from all over the country where they were established. We
said to them, "Hey, pick up from there and come here." Those that did had to
believe in the people that were doing it otherwise they wouldn't have done it.
That's the proof. How can you say to somebody, "Sell you house. Pick up your
kids and put them in the car and come on down here." At that time, wages were
not that,greatand work was not that plentiful. Butpeople believed that there
was going to be something here. They believed in that map.
D--One last thing. When were you born?
J--1921, November 1st. My mother says November 1st, but my birth certificate says.
November 3rd. Now who am I to believe?