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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
Interview with Carol McNeely in her home in Cape Coral,
Florida, October 30, 1988, in the evening and the
interviewer is David Dodrill.
D: Tell me a little about how you came to be down here, did
you grow up in Fort Myers?
M: Well, I came down here when I believe I was twelve years
old. My father died. And we lived right out of Washington,
D.C. My mother decided to leave and go somewhere else where
people wouldn't be telling her what to do. So my mother,
brother and I moved to Fort Myers in 1957,it was the end of
1956, and I was in the eighth grade.
D: Where did you live down here?
M: Right across from Edison Mall. And my mother still
lives there on Lagg Avenue off Colonial Boulevard, right
near Orangewood School.
D: So you came down here when you were in eighth grade.
What do you remember first ever hearing about Cape Coral?
M: I never heard of Cape Coral for a long time. We used to
come out here years and years ago. I guess maybe I was a
freshman in high school. We would come out to this area,
not where we are now, but more towards where the swamps
D: Where were the swamps?
M: Right where downtown Cape Coral is! Pretty much. There
was some, there were people, there was nobody living right
where downtown Cape Coral is. That was all filled in.
There was some dirt roads out in this area where they used
to hunt in and camping and everything. We'd come out and
drag race on the dirt roads.
D: Was this area in here further north of Cape Coral, or
was it more higher ground, or drier?
M: This, what I'm on now was considered Pine Island. Back
then we called it Pine Island. And we couldn't really get
to it. Pine Island Road of course was there. And there
were a few hunting camps back here, but they all were
private property. Probably Phipps, private property.
D: Yes, it probably was, he bought it back in 1955.
M: I think is was 56 or 57. The first I ever heard they
were developing out here was, I guess, one of my friend's
father was a subcontractor or worked for a contractor and he
told her that they were building a house here and we just
couldn't believe it. So we skipped school one day, we
skipped school a lot, any chance to skip school. And we
decided to come out and see what they were building because
this had been just swamp. We just couldn't imagine. The
first house they were building, I couldn't tell you just
where they were it was. I think it's still standing, they
say it is. But it was right down where the Del Prado Inn
is, in that general area.
D: That I've been able to track down. The first house was
somewhere down off of, not quite to the yacht club, but it's
on that chunk of land over towards the river. There were
four houses they built all at once. There was one they
built before that, that was the four-plex. And that was at
the corner of Coronado and Cape Coral Parkway. You go down
Cape Coral Parkway and take a left on Coronado, once you
turn on Coronado, it was on the right-hand side. That was
the first modern building in Cape Coral. But they used it
as a sales office mostly. Looking at aerial photos, there
was nothing. They built the road down there as Cape Coral
Parkway and started down Coronado. They built this four-
plex right away and that's where they brought all the people
M: Maybe that's the one I'm thinking of, cause there wasn't
any other houses there.
D: Yes, that was the only thing.
M: There was an old shack they were using to keep their
equipment in. So that was the only house out there.
D: Well, it doesn't exist anymore. They tore it down to
build a little gas station or something. It's kinda sad.
The oldest building in the Cape, but the oldest houses are
still standing from what I hear. I brought some along so
you could see. (Looking at photos) Can you tell me a
little about the Surfside Restaurant? Was it a pretty
classy place or was it just a coffee shop?
M: It was a nice little coffee shop. It was kinda like a
Village Inn or Perkins is now, same type of atmosphere and
clientele back then, that you would get there now. People
would come after church on Sunday and have breakfast. And
then the restaurant and bar was more like the Shallows is
D: I can't remember the what the restaurant's name was?
M: Surfside. The coffee shop was called the Coffee Shop.
I can't remember what the bar was called.
D: Well good. And they were located where exactly?
M: Where part of Quality Inn is now. One block west of Del
Prado but south of the Cape Coral Parkway. On the corner of
Cape Coral Parkway and Cape Coral Street.
D: Good, that tell's me exactly where it was at. And you
worked in the coffee shop?
M: I worked at the restaurant, too, but mostly at the
coffee shop. And then, the restaurant would open at lunch
for the people they would bring in. I didn't like working
there too much for lunch, cause they didn't tip well. The
coffee shop tipped better. But if they didn't have enough
waitresses to work that, I'd be pulled in there because the
salesmen brought people in there.
D: When they would bring people in that they were
definitely trying to sell things to, a lot of land, were you
all given any special instructions?
M: Not to tell them what Cape Coral was really like. We
were kind of critical because they were trying to sell lots
that had never been seen, and you couldn't get to. We were
told not to tell them that. And not to tell them that it
wasn't any more developed than it was. Not to tell them we
didn't like it and not to tell them we didn't live here. We
had to tell them we lived here. Well, maybe a few people
lived over here, but most of us lived in Fort Myers.
D: Who told you to say all this?
M: You were told when you were hired. I think it was the
manager. You get to know the salesmen and you'd have your
favorite salesman. And you knew who you could say what to
and their customers. And you kinda tried to help out your
favorite salesman too. You'd tell them,"Oh, yes, this place
is really up and coming." Because then they'd tip good.
D: Who were some of your favorite salesmen?
M: Petrie, he was my favorite and there was one named Jack
and I can't remember his last name. He's still around, but
he's not selling real estate anymore. I see him every once
in a while. He's a little short guy and I think he's just
retired now. Another one I liked was um...Now Pete Petrie,
I don't think sold for Gulf American.
D: He did right at the very beginning and then he pretty
much went his own way.
M: But when I worked there I think he was on his own. He'd
also bring people in. I don't think they were the people
they'd fly in but he brought people in.
D: So this restaurant was about the only place to eat?
M: Oh, it was the only place to eat. And then shortly
after I worked there, they built Willy's. It's still there,
it's in that little shopping center across Cape Coral
Parkway. Willy's was a little deli. Most everybody who
worked ate at Willy's. Clients ate at the Surfside.
D: Were most of the customers that came in pretty
satisfied or were they skeptical?
M: It was kind of hard to tell. Alot of them were, you
could tell, were just here for the trip and they didn't want
anything to do with the sales and sales pitch. Kinda like
now when you go to these interval ownerships, you get your
prize and you can tell interested and who's not.
D: In other words, it's kind of a mutual cynicism type of
thing. Gulf AMerican is trying to sell people and trying to
do a hard sell on them and the people were there just for
the free trip.
M: There was really a lot of hard sell. The salesmen were
hard. They would yell and they would scream if they got any
resistance at all.
D: Was there a lot of turnover of salesmen? Did a lot of
them quit and others come in?
M: I didn't notice a whole lot of turnover. Maybe I did,
but you got to know the regulars and I guess they were the
good salesmen. You got to know them and the others you
didn't get to know cause they didn't stay long enough.
D: Well, what years did you work there?
M: Let's see, I graduated from high school in 1961 and
probably worked there 1962 and 1963.
D: Well, who else did you know? Did you know, meet
M: I met Leonard Rosen alot. He'd always come in and sit
at that back table or there was a round table right over
there. He always had a woman with him which wasn't his
wife, so it was probably Bernice, the one you were taking
about cause they always talked business. He was very nice
when he came in, other than when he brought people from the
home office or wherever and then he was more like a
salesman, all business.
D: Anything you can remember about him that tells a little
M: I never realized he was Jewish until someone told me. I
always thought he was one of these Italian gangsters.
That's kind what he looked like. Those images you'd see on
TV, the mob. When I worked there is when I heard his father
had been involved in the Mafia. And I also heard it from -I
don't know if Susan told you or not- some of the land out
here was sold to, I think it was to Leonard Rosen. I think
it was one of the first purchases they made by Dr. Steip, a
doctor in Fort Myers. I don't know which, I know it was
alot of acres. Because Dr. Steip owned almost all the land
in Fort Myers. Well, owned all the land on First Street and
probably still owns alot of it. But he sold all this land
to Leonard Rosen for a million dollars, tax free. Which was
like the sixty million dollar lottery. But a million
dollars tax free was just unheard of.
D: How did he do that, why did he do that?
M: I think it was just to make money. And he felt like
everybody else, that this land was something that nobody
could develop. He was a hunter and he had swamp buggies and
all that, so that's what he used his land for. So I guess
he thought that if he was fool enough to pay that kind of
money for it he's sell it, because he had plenty of land. He
was a general practitioner. He was one of the oldest
doctors in town. He's the one, another one that told me
that Leonard Rosen's father was in the Mafia and the gang.
D: Did you ever have a chance to meet Jack Rosen? He
wasn't down here too much.
M: He may of but I didn't meet him. He may of been one of
the one's down when Leonard would bring the whole group in.
D: Who else did you know fairly well who worked for the
M: I knew Ken Schwartz. I liked Ken. I never thought he
was all business. He always had a sense of humor and would
joke with the girls. He always seemed to be nicer to the
Gulf American customers than some of the others. I liked
his wife, she spent a lot of time at the coffee shop.
D: Any stories or anything about him?
M: No, I can't remember anything. He was just always
around, he and his wife both.
D: Was he well-liked?
M: Yes, pretty much by everybody that worked there. He was
always telling jokes, kind of happy go lucky all the time.
D: Did Cape Coral have the feel of being a company town?
M: Then it did, yes. Kinda felt like and I was kinda
skeptical that they would ever really make it, even when I
worked here. It was all very controlled as to who bought
where, who lived where. They sold lots to people who they
wanted to sell to. And if they didn't want to sell this lot
to you, they'd sell this lot to you, and they'd tell you it
was this lot. I remember one time they sold one lot by
mistake right in the middle of the Rose Gardens to somebody
and had to buy it back from them for lots of money. You
know the Rose Gardens with the Waltzing Waters. Somebody by
mistake sold a lot right in the middle. That was while I
D: I know they had to do that with Sam Nahama and John
O'Han. They sold them several lots over on the river and
they ended up having to buy them back for the approaches to
the Cape Coral bridge. And basically the two men, they held
up Gulf American for as much as they could get. You'll have
to read the book to get th whole story. Well, you said that
they sold to who they wanted to. Do you think there was a,
you know, very much of a selective thing. In others words,
we're going to keep out other groups like blacks?
M: It's built a lot that way. I don't think as much as it
was ten years ago. And as you probably know Cape Coral
High School. My daughter in fact, she just moved out of a
black community when she moved to Cape Coral High School.
Fort Myers Middle School was probably 75% black. Where out
here, it's probably the opposite, maybe 20% black. And they
can't even bus enough in, legitamately you know without
making a ...
D: Were there any instances where you heard salesmen
talking or anything that gave you the impression or was it
just kinda a feeling you had that's what they were doing?
M: No, I would see salesmen, not necessarily with blacks so
much, Indians, dark-skinned Indians that they had brought
down. Maybe they didn't know it, I don't know whether they
just weren't trying to sell at all. I mean you could tell
the difference. They just weren't trying to sell at all.
They were trying to sell to the white American and that was
it. No matter how much money they had because these others
obviously had a lot of money. The Indians or the Arabs or
whatever they had. Their wives had big diamonds on their
hands, there was a lot of money there but they didn't. But
of course, that makes the whole community more attractive,
especially back then.
D: What about other people who worked for the company?
Anybody else that you knew fairly well or came in contact
with? You mentioned Ken Schwartz?
M: I don't know. I can't remember the names. I remember,
well, back then, I think Don Brand was involved in the
company. I don't think he lasted with them very long, but
think back then he was. But I got to know he and his wife,
I liked them.
D: Did you know Connie Mack?
M: Oh yes!
D: Tell me about Connie.
M: I like Connie Mack alot better now, than I used to. As
a volunteer in a hospital, he's super. But as a land
salesman, he was...I would have never bought anything from
him because I wouldn't have trusted him. That was my
impression. I thought that he was trying to sell something
that wasn't. I'd sit and I'd watch these salesmen and I was
so fascinated with Connie Mack because he was Connie Mack
and I thought, why is he doing this when he could be playing
baseball. But I always thought that he was a high-pressure,
a very high-pressure salesman. And you know, like were
talking before, Curt and his personality. Connie, alot of
times would have that same personality, then he'd turn
around. He was one of the ones who would yell if he didn't
sell. But I never would have bought from him. I would take
offence at not being totally honest. But I may have been
wrong. That was just my impression.
D: Sure. What about Bob Finkernagel?
M: I knew Bob. I'm glad that you're bringing up these
names. Now that you bring them up. I liked him. He was
kinda easy-going. I never got to see him with customers
though. I guess he was...
D: He really wasn't involved too much with the sales. He
really wasn't. He was brought down specifically to help
develop community services. Like put together a fire
department, to get sheriff's department to finance the
policing out here. You know to get the city to take over
the maintenance of roads. Anything that had to do with
community services or promotions of the community he was
involved with. But very little with sales. Unless it
directly was some sales promotion he was helping with.
M: I never saw him, I always liked him though, I always
thought he was nice. There was a big thing with him, I
don't know if it was gossip or true, that said he was
seeing, he was married at the time, one of the daughters of
one of the upper echelon of Gulf American, not one of the
Rosen's. That's what the scuttle but was.
D: You never can tell.
M: Usually that's right though, you know.
D: What about Tom Weber?
M: Yes. He was quite a character. But what you told me
about him just getting, just saying I'm going to drive to
Miami. He would come in and then he'd be gone. He was just
kinda headstrong. Had a mind of his own. He's a person who
we never got to know well. But we got to know his son. I
don't know if his name was Tom or not.
D: He lives with his son now out in Phoenix.
M: Well, his son was here for a while. I don't know if he
worked here the same as Tom. But he probably did. He's
probably a little older than me but not much.
D: Was there kind of an atmosphere here in Cape Coral that
there was always something going on. That it was just a
real fast pace? I heard that from several people that one
of the reasons they stuck with it was because always
something was going on and always something was changing all
the time. They just stuck around to see what would happen
next. Was there a feeling of that?
M: Yes, not only that. In Cape Coral, which I think it's
still a little that way, there was always something to do.
Back then when they were trying to promote everything, you
know, there was always a dance at the Yacht Club or always a
party at the Surfside or something. And always something to
do. Not necessarily for kids but for young people my age
then. And that went right along with everything changing
all the time. They were always building. They were
building old stores, you know, along Cape Coral Parkway now.
The little dress shops and beauty shops and people were
excited about that. And every once in a while there would
be another street that was put through. That you could go
down and look at the canals.
D: Now before they actually got any houses built out at the
Cape, before any of the people could move out there, even
the construction crews and some of the officials and
everything, where did they stay in Fort Myers? Did they
stay over there off of First Street?
M: I'm trying to think, it's still there. They still do,
people still stay there that are like construction crews. I
think it's Rivers Edge Motel. Right near the bridge,
somewhere near the bridge.
D: Near the new Caloosahatchee bridge?
M: Yes. And of course Holiday Inn was open. So they
partied there. You know like Rosen and people like that,
stayed at the Holiday Inn. And then later Ramada Inn was
built shortly after it. But Holiday Inn on West First
Street was the only nice place.
D: So they like to party alot?
M: Yes, before they even built anything here. But I wasn't
old enough to party with them then. But I sure would have
D: I bet they were pretty exciting for a sleepy little town
like this. What was the feeling in Fort Myers about them?
M: That they were gangsters. The Rosens. It could have
been others but they were developing Cape Coral, the
swampland out here. They were dark Italian-looking, kind of
looked like gangsters.
D: So that was the general impression. Was there anyone in
town that supported them, that thought they were doing a
good job? That took a stand and said,"We like the Rosens."
M: I'm sure there probably was, but I don't know of any.
But I was just a teenager back then. But when I worked out
here, there was a lot of people in Fort Myers that supported
them. Not that they liked them and not that they really
approved of what they were doing. Even to this day, there
is a rivalry between Fort Myers and Cape Coral and, back
when I was younger and raising my children, I had a bumper
sticker on my car that said,"Cape Coral Sucks". Even
though I worked out here and liked it. People kind of got
the impression that people from Cape Coral were snobs. I
did, working the hospital taking care of them. They were
much harder patients to take care of, on the whole. Not
every little one.
D: Did the Fort Myers people think of Cape Coral people as
M: I think so, they probably did. And I think the people
from Cape Coral were a little defensive when they go into
Fort Myers to the hospital, that they were on strange
territory. That in turn, made them a little snobbish. But I
never wanted to move to Cape Coral until I got my divorce.
Then I decided I needed a change. It was cheaper to live
out here and in a better house. I could live better for
less money in Cape Coral, so I brought my children out here.
And I liked it too. But anyway, back to then, there were
people who supported them. I guess they supported them
because they were doing what they wanted to do. But there
was still the rivalry.
D: There were some people who said that there were
definitely some anti-Semitic feelings, like,"We don't want
those Jew boys out there", talking about the Rosens and
their crews. Did you hear any of that?
M: Oh, Yes. But I heard about the opposite, too, that they
have the right to be out there as much as anybody else.
There were, I heard some of that, but back then there
weren't alot of Jews here in Fort Myers. There was Sam
Posner who owned American Variety Store. Now he was
involved somewhat in the development of Cape Coral. I don't
know why but I used to see him alot with the Rosens out
D: He would come out here and talk business?
D: At the coffeeshop or the restaurant?
M: At the coffeeshop. I had worked for him at one time at
D: Tell me about that, working at American.
M: That was interesting. That was the first Jewish person
I had ever worked for. Sam and his wife, I can't remember
her name, I think they started me out at eighty cents an
hour and I worked forty hours a week. My oldest daughter
was just a baby. When I left I was making 95 cents an hour,
which was about average for that time.
D: What year was that?
M: My daughter was born in 1961, she was only three months
old. It was after I worked there that I worked out here. I
worked out here in early 1962. Anyway, they were nice
people to work for, very good to work for, they trusted you,
it was not like people telling you, "Oh, you work for those
Jews. They'll accuse you of stealing." But they trusted
D: Was there a feeling like that? Did people say that to
M: Yes. People that lived around my mother did a lot.
They had been successful downtown, they had a little store
downtown. Then they moved out on 41 and I worked right
after they moved out on 41.
D: What was their store called?
M: American Department Store, it was always American
Department Store, even back down in Fort Myers, it was
always American Department Store.
D: Was Posner well respected in the community?
M: Yes, pretty much. As a successful businessman. But
people still weren't too eager to accept Jewish people. I
think they were, when he opened American there, Kenny
Schwartz worked at American. I had forgotten about that.
But Jewish people were coming more and more, and over time,
they were more accepted. But he was always well respected.
He lived out on Hanson in a nice house. He helped start the
temple in Fort Myers.
D: At the time you worked for him, did you know any other
Jewish people in town?
M: Just the ones who worked there. And which, I think they
all worked there. Kenny Schwartz. He didn't stay there
very long. He didn't work there when I worked there.
D: From what I found out, He went into a partnership with
Posner after he left Gulf American in 1964.
M: Maybe that's what I'm thinking of
D: He worked with the store for several years and then left
and went to Miami or Fort Lauderdale or Hollywood. So
Posner was one of the few Jewish people in the community and
many of the few Jewish families who lived there, they worked
for him. Did you have any contacts or know of Harry FAgan?
D: Tell me about him. What would make him come out and
support the Rosens as much as he did, because he was very
supportive. Everything I've read and heard said that he was
one of the first people to come out and say,"These are the
greatest guys in the world".
M: I think he did that for the underdog alot, and I think
at that time, the Rosens were the underdog. Because they
weren't very well accepted at first. And I didn't know him
well, I knew who he was, I knew when I say him.
D: Did he come out to the property quite a bit?
M: Yes. I had known him before, known who he was before,
but I never really did meet him when he came out.
D: When you say he came out, did he come out five times
that you know of or-twenty?
M: Maybe ten times in the year and a half that I worked
there. Maybe more. Not every day or every week, but he did
come out. And everybody knew Mr. Fagan.
D: Would he come out to talk to Leonard.
M: I think so. Leonard or one of the big brass. There
were a lot I didn't know. After a while, you know, there
just got to be so many that I didn't know from Miami. Maybe
they'd come once every six months.
D: Totally different subject. What were the thoughts of
the people in Fort Myers when it was announced that they
were going to build a bridge out here? Were people in
support of it or didn't care?
M: I never heard a whole lot about it until it was there.
Then one day I decided to drive across it, I had an extra
quarter and I decided to drive across it just to see what it
was like. But certainly not the fanfare that the midpoint
bridge is getting. It was just there one day. I knew they
were building it but that's all. I never heard anything pro
or con. I don't think the people really cared because back
then, that was quite a ways out. When my mother moved to
Fort Myers, right across from the Edison Mall, the Lee
County Bank told her that that was too far south, that she
shouldn't buy that ground, that it would be years before
that was developed. Now it's further out than that and it
wasn't that far after that. So I don't think people thought
it would affect them at all.
D: Did very many Fort Myers people go out to Cape Coral and
get snagged into a sales presentation?
M: I don't think so. I don't remember any. There could
have been. Maybe there were a few but not alot. They
weren't really that interested in buying. They were
skeptical like everybody else. They didn't think...like the
place up in Punta Gorda, that place and Punta Gorda Isles.
They tried the same thing and it never materialized like
Cape Coral. Lehigh Acres never did. Lehigh Acres started
before Cape Coral really and it just now is starting to take
off a little bit.
D: Did the people in Fort Myers have any thoughts about
M: Well, Lehigh Acres was a whole another story. I know a
lot more about Lehigh Acres than I do about Cape Coral.
Lehigh Acres was started by gangsters. Lehigh Acres was
originally Baby Face Nelson's hideout years ago and Carl, I
can't remember his last name, the man who started Lehigh
Acres, was Mafia. He would tell you too. I worked out there
too. I worked in the coffee shop out there too. But that
was all known, that Lehigh Acres was started by gangsters
because the people who started it, they had the circle and
motel and dining room and the Lehigh Acres country club.
They were Mafia and they made no bones about it. Carl
something, I can't remember his last name.
D: Did you ever know Gerald Gould?
M: Yes, Gerald Gould was another one.
D: Tell me about him.
M: I never saw him a whole lot when I worked down there.
He would show up every once in a while but he came for
women. They would have, the people who worked there, there
were some women who worked there and we never knew what they
really did. But I have a sneaking suspicion about why they
were there. They were called hostesses. When Gerald Gould
or this Carl Petrie or whatever it was, would show up, they
would disappear for the weekend. But this Gould, I
overheard him and this Carl, Carl stayed there most of the
time. Gould just came there occasionally. But I overheard
them talking one day, and it was definitely Mafia, that they
knock this one off. And it wasn't in that area, it was in
Miami or somewhere. Well, one time I got in with Barbara,
she later became one of the bigshots out there, I can't
remember her last name. I was working the country club then
and after work she said,"You want to ride to Miami with me?"
And I said sure. My mother had my daughter so I rode to
Miami with her. And we didn't get there until 2 AM and of
course, Miami never closes. And we were wined and dined and
you know, it was like you in. It was definitely Mafia. I
can't explain it. If you were there, you'd know it. And
nobody fooled with us. Nobody. We were kind of scared at
first. She wasn't because she had been there before. But
the hoodlums out on the street knew who we were.
D: I'd love to do some research on Lehigh Acres because
there are so many good stories there.
M: I could tell you people to talk to about Lehigh Acres.
One of them, if she would be willing to talk to you would be
Mort Goldberg's wife. That's where she met Mort.
D: No comment. Let me ask you a question. Were there any
people connected with Lehigh that also had connections with
M: I think so but I'm not sure. That was very hush, hush.
When you worked out there, you didn't talk about CApe Coral
at all. And of course working here, you might refer to
Lehigh but back then, they didn't mind, because you didn't
know that much. But when I worked out there, I think there
was some connection, maybe not people who were active with
Gulf American, but possibly who had been with Gulf American.
D: Totally off that subject again, tell me about Milt
M: All I know is what I've heard. I didn't know him. I
wouldn't know him if I saw him. But back then there just
weren't that many...
D: Did he seem to have a lot of influence with Gulf
American or was he a hanger-on?
M: I don't know, not really. I don't think so. Possibly.
But you have to remember, when I worked here and knew people
here, Gulf American was four or five years old, Cape Coral
was four or five years old. I think he possibly had more
influence in the beginning than at that time.
D: One other question totally unrelated to that, tell me
about the story with Ogden Phipps and his ship.
M: Okay. I can tell you about the Virgemir. Ogden Phipps
I didn't know. I knew his daughter. I had met his daughter
a couple of times.
D: What was her name?
M: I don't know. She happened to be on the ship.
D: Now that's not the same daughter who married, I can't
M: I don't know. She was on the ship at the time and I
went down there, and she was leaving. And so these two
fellows introduced us to her.
D: How old of a woman was she?
M: Probably early to mid-twenties. And this was back in
1959, 1958. Something like that. The one fellow that I
knew was Ralph Alexander. He had been first mate on this
ship since day one, since they had this. And I think this
was maybe the second or third Virgermir that they had had.
They had problems with the others. I think it was out of
D: But they were identical ships?
M: I think so. But this was the only one I knew, I think
it was the last one. Then one day, all of a sudden, it
never came back to Fort Myers. I don't know why. I had
never really kept track of it other than I'd go across the
bridge and see it there.
D: What did the ship look like?
M: Well, I was only sixteen, it looked almost like the
Queeen Elizabeth. It was a big ship and it was very
elegant. The decor was all velvet and silk. I loved going
on it. The table was always set with crystal and china and
silver. And I always wondered how they kept that from
falling over on the ship. But it probably had seven or
eight bedrooms or staterooms, and good size.
D: Did you ever meet or see Ogden Phipps?
M: No. He was never on it that I saw him. We went down
there quite a bit.
D: Would they keep the ship docked there all the time?
M: I don't know. I thought they kept it docked in Miami
most of the time. Of course, it would come here and be here
for several weeks and then go back. And then one time we
went to the Orange Bowl parade in Miami, Jane and I did, and
they were docked in Miami at that time, so we stayed all
afternoon over there at the ship. And he wasn't there
either. The only time I met anyone on the ship was the time
I met his daughter. It was kind of strange. They had a
pretty good-sized crew, maybe four or five people. It was
blue and white. I think the hull was blue. I have a
picture here somewhere of it. I'll try to find it for you.
I know it was blue and white. I think the top was more
white with some blue on it. But I think the hull was blue,
light blue. It was the only one like it that would dock at
the yacht basin. It always docked in the same place. One
ship that was always there, and I think, I don't know how
much luck you would have getting to these people. George
Sanders' ship that he bought he son Andy, who's dead, that
ship was always there and I know they knew the people who
owned the Phipps' ship. Because George bought Andy this ship
because he made bad grades or something and he wanted to
give him a boost. I gave my kid a dollar for every A and he
gives his kid a ship for every A. But Andy was dating
Erlene Sanders, who was his wife when he died. And she
possibly would know more about the Phipps because she stayed
on that ship alot. She's not a real friendly person.
D: Any other stories about Gulf American?
M: No, I can't think of any more, I've been trying to think
of some since I learned you were coming over. I think the
one thing that stands out in my mind and probably makes me
think of Leonard Rosen as a bad guy, even though I liked
him, was the fact that he always made excuses for selling
people property that was underwater. They would fly over it
and it was underwater. "Well, that hasn't been filled in
yet. We're going to fill it in." Then all of a sudden,
maybe is was the county or who made them put the roads in,
they have roads covered over with grass, same as Lehigh, but
the roads are there. But in order to sell lots, they had to
have a road.
D: But he would always make excuses about that?
M: Yes. There were people, some local people who bought
lots were some of the waitresses I worked with. Fifty
dollars down, well no, I think you could get a lot for
seventeen dollars down and seventeen dollars a month. And
they were underwater or you could not get to them anywhere.
Now they're probably right here.
D: Did alot of people who were here doubt that the place
would ever be developed? Or did everybody think,"Well,
they'll get around to it eventually."
M: I think most of them doubted it. I did. I never thought
it would. Even working out here, I didn't. I didn't think
it was going to do what they said it was going to. But when
I heard they had bought all of the land north of Pine Island
Road along Burnt Store Road, I knew then that it was going