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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
D-This is an interview with Millard Bowen. It is December 14, 1987. The
interview is in his house on Cobalt Court in Cape Coral, Florida. The
interviewer is David Dodrill, and....
To kind of get started, Millard, tell me a little bit about your background.
Before yo ever came to Cape Coral.
M--You might want to turn this off.
D-- Oh, no. Go ahead.
M--I'm a retired army colonel, 30 years in the regular army. And I retired
in the fall of '65. My wife, Carolyn, and I had made up our minds early
in the 60's, well earlier than that, in the 50's, that if I survived
everything and actually reached retirement age we would retire in Florida.
Because of her early living in Florida, eventhough she was a native of
Washington D.C. and Maryland. Where I'm from. In fact, I was born in
Calvert County, southern Maryland. In Calvert County they call it Culvert.
But everybody else calls it Calvert. It was named after Lord Calvert,
who settled there and established it. It's the first county organized in
the state of Maryland, and understood to be one of the earliest in the
country. So, little, occasionally in my speaking I will come up with a
broad "a" which is spoken by a lot of people from that area. And many
people mistake me as being from Canada or someplace like that. Anyway
I retired from the army on the first of October, 1965. I went through the
whole career. I went through the post-graduate system. I'm a graduate
of the army war college and everything else lower than that. I have com-
mand all the way from the platoon level all the way up to regimental
level. To and including regimental level. Staff jobs at all levels, including
the dept. of defense at the pentagon. Commands overseas. I'm a member of
the 29th division that landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day, the Blue and the
Grey. I'm still a member of the association. I was a major commanding
one of the batallions of that division. And today I'm the only living
one of the original nine batallion commanders that were involved in that
operation. There were many others that came later, but of the original
nine, I'm the only one that is remaining. And I think it's because they
couldn't find a way to get rid of me. I am very happy to be here. We
settled on this in 1962 up in Maryland, when we read some advertising and
decided to look into it. And we did. We didn't want to go on the east
coast. It's too commercialized. We wanted to be in the residential area.
We were kind of thrilled to be part of the new community starting.
Particularly with waterways because we both did a lot of boating in the
Chesapeak Bay. Every morning this lady goes by, walking the dog with a
can of pop juice. We decided to look into it and we did. We were im-
pressed, and of course we made arrangements to come down here. We came
down on one of the tours, but we drove down because I took 30 days leave
in '62 and we just spent the 30 days touring the state of Florida. We
had been here the year before, but we had never gone south of St. Peters-
burg. And we decided to take a good look at it. WE spent several days
here, including the three they gave us and we added two or three more to
it. We got a good look at this area and then we went down to Key West and
headed on back.
D--What other developments did you look at?
M-Well, we were familiar with Lehigh Acres through my sister. She and her
We didn't like that.
husband had bought some land there. And we took a look at that./ We looked
at some of the small type divisions that were being developed and they
were very small at that time. They were scattered around here in the
county. Naples, of course, was labeled as millionaires area. At that
time 41 and Naples. Anything west of 41 was the millionaires area, any-
thing east of it was the blue class area, salary people, that was not
salary. Now they have a middle class. We came down and we looked at it
and we decided to buy some land. At that time they were pushing develop
ment east of where the churches now are on Del Grado. So we bought a cou-
ple of lots there. And after we thought about it, in '63, we came down
again and from then on we were down about every 3, 4, or 5 months. One
or both of us were down here, doing things. We came in and told them that
we didn't like to be in that area. We wanted to change into another area
farther south. Well, they said if you go farther south you are going to
have to build right away. I said, "I'll decide when we are going to
build, not you." And we went around and we looked at various areas.
They wanted to sell us on the river. I told them we lived on the river
in Cheasapak Bay and no way was I going to buy lots on a major waterway
where they were having erosion problems. So they a nice section that we
were interested in but because it was on the river we said that we wanted
to be at least one waterway back. So we looked all through the area and
they had nearly four lots right here. We like this because we would have
our rear of the house to the east with the sun setting in the west. And
this would give us some area to be in the shade in the late afternoon and
the evenings. Let the front of the house face west. So we built around
here with enough room so the youngsters thought they wanted tennis courts
on the side, but we banned that idea. They wanted a swimming pool in the
back, but they banned that because we told them they were going to have
to take care of it. And we joined the country club and we became members
up there. They used to have these really nice family memberships that'
they don't now. They try to make it a resort now. It went on from there.
Well, when I retired, I didn't want to work. We didn't want to join a lot
of social clubs. We had been involved in them during my career. One assignment
was the military attache to the government of Pakistan and we got in on all the
diplomatic levels, national and international level. We had dinner with
the governor general, the president,the Shah of Iran, all these kinds of things
east. What they call the Middle East. Well, I won't go into all the de-
tails of that type of stuff. But that gave us the background an. I
talked to Carolyn and she agreed that I would devote my time into commun-
ity action. We joined a church here and she was a singer in the choir.
She'd been with them ever since. Faith Presbyterian Church has a very
fine choir and she got into the bell ringers and became part of that.
I joined the civic association and became active in it. There was hard-
ly any time at all before they nominated me for president. I took it
and I was president or immediate past president for four consecutive years.
D--What years were those?
M-'68 through '72. But I was member before and a member after '72. It
was during those years that the information being disseminated through
the actions of the county council that they people of the community were
realizing that the county commission was going to do as little as possible
for Cape Coral, because they had a developer over there and they thought
that the developer should take care of everything. EVen though the
roads that Gulf American had put in according to county specifications
and wer taken over by the county for maintenance, they wouldn't maintain
them. And this got the people of the ocnmunity very worked up and angry
and many other things. They slapped taxes on us much higher than other
areas, mainly because of the waterway. And things like that. And the
irritation kept going on becuase our governing body was the county comms-
ssion. And during this period of time starting '68, I made it a point as
president, to start visiting the commission meetings every WEdnesday. When
they opened the doors Millard Bowen was right there going in. So, I point
to know all five of them and take with them. And I became particularly
close, as far as I knew a citizen could be, to Julian Hudson who was the
chairman of the commission. And he was very -c:zh interested in the growth
of Cape Coral. But being a politician along with all the others, they
had theri political careers to consider first. They always said that
Gulf American would take care of it. As the president I arranged with
Julian Hudson that we would have a group of members of the board of direc-
tors at every meeting of the county commission. That there would be one
or more representatives of the Cape Coral Civic Association at every one
of their meetings, including special meetings. Thefirst meeting they
held which we adopted this technique I took one-half of the other board of
directors with me. We went in early and we purposely, I had made
arrangements with Julian Hudson & we introduced them to every one of
the five members, including the secretary, who later became the admin-
istrator of the county commission.
D-Who was that?
M-A lady. Lavon Wisher She was the secretary. So they got to know
them. And the next meeting, I took the second half over. And I in-
formed all of them that the Cape Coral Civic Association was going to
be represented at everyone of the commission meeting because, "you are
our governing bodiy and we want to know what's going on. We wanted to
know how it would affect us." And if our rights as a citizen in an
unincorporated community were going to be observed. And they seemed
to be interested. But again, they were politicians. And it worked
very well, I promised them that there would always be at least one or
two, probably two or three or four members of this board at every one
of their meetings. And, as a result, we found issue coming up that con-
cerned the Cape like, licenses to be issued for garbage and trash collec-
tion. Various other things of that type. They definitely affected
Cape Coral. And of course, Gulf AMerican wasn't going to do much in
that respect because they didn't want to get into it and have the county
pin them back and make them responsible. So when the price of garbage
collection was established, they let a franchise with this man that
owned and operated. And again, I'm fishing for the name. But, he
later sold half of his operation to a man that now owns the garbage col-
lection in the Cape. ANd when it came time to consider establishing new fees
for it, we made a visit to Julian"Hudson. &. told him we were definitely
interested and we wanted to speak to this thing. And the garbage an'd
trash people at that time, some of them franchised and some of them were
individual contracts, where they were permitted by the county'to go'into
an area and go down to the people and get contracts from people and pick
up garbage. The public thing, which the franchised operations were,
they operated as a public function, just like the city of Ft. Myers at that
time. And now. So they agreed. So, when they had the franchise opera-
tion come up, for consideration for the one here, the two owners wanted
to speak to us, and a little short man which was the original owner,
senior partner with the fellow who now owns it. We had him to speak to
us. And I, as president of the civic association, I injected the civic
association right in the middle of it. ANd of course, the owners were
delighted. We worked out a system with them, where by there would prac-
tically no limit to the amount of stuff people could put out. Because
they had all theseAto trim, all this shrubbery to trim, all the grass,
and we sold the company on it and told them we would go to the county
commission and present it on the behalf of the community. Because the
association was behind it one hundred per cent. Anything that I or any-
body else represented the association in was approved by the board of
directors of the membership. And under the constitution bylaws, certain
things the board of directors acted on behalf of the memberhsip. But
many of the things had to be referred to the membership. But it operated
very well. Well, we got there and we made this presentation and the
jist of it was that it was finally decided that this would be the case.
People could put out their trash in garbage containers. If they had a lot
of shrubbery if they piled them loose, they wouldn't pick them up,because
they had immense piles. If you ever drove up and down MacGregor, you
would see immense piles of palm fronds. The regular trash people would not
pick them up and they would have special pick ups. Well, this was then
and is now a much larger area. You could imagine now what it would be
like. So it was agreed that the people would cut their palm fronds
and condense them to four feet or so and tie them up in bundles. They
could put as many bundles out there as they wanted to as long as they
were tied up. They wouldn't have the economical problem of waiting time
in pickingup trash. To those people that is very crucial. This was fin-
ally established and the company was all for it and the county commission
said they would give us we want, so they did. We also had a provision in
their about new families moving in. They would come in and they would
have a lot of boxes and a lot of paper, packing. They would have a
problem getting rid of it. So it was agreed also that when people moved
in for the first couple of weeks after they moved in the trash people
would pick up stuff that they put out there.
D--So, they civic assocaition was basically looking out for the interest of
Cape Coral before it became a city, before they had representation.
M--This was exactly the attitude. We developed the idea that we would be the
watchdog for the community and the community's relationship with the
county commission and with Gulf America. There wasn't anybody else around.
No one. Because it was unincorporated. And we ahd very high membership
OUr meeting were scheduled regularly. The programs were planned in advance.
And there were things that wer of interest to the community. Involving
our present way of living and the future.
D-How often would there be meetings?
M-Once a month at the yacht club.
D--And how many people would attend?
M--Oh. We packed it. We'd have 5 or 600. In fact, it got so the volun-
teerfire department got so they said, 'Look ya'll are going to have to
curtail this. You're going to have to restrict it. There are too many
people." We hd a membership of over 2000 and growing. It started small
and as we really became interested it grew. And these were all foreign-
ers. They were all from the north. At that time there was nobody here
that had been born here. Though very shortly one of the families in our
church had the first child that was born here. The Bakers. He used to
be in real estate but he died and his wife subsequently remarried and she
married Costa, who was here involved in some business in Cape Coral. One
day he started with an acitve police department. He joined the police
department. He had some prior background. he's still with them.
D--Let me ask you a question about the civic association. There was obvious-
ly records kept, minutes of the meeting and stuff like that. Do you have
any idea where they are?
M-I have no idea where they are. None whatsoever. When I left the civic
association because I was involved in other activities, I got active in
the chamber and was a director there for several years and a member for
many more years. The office of the civic association is in the chamber
office which is just a small place back off of Cape Coral Parkway.
And what files were there at the time, when that broke files were taken
into custody by various people and then they were.... I don't know what
happened to them after that. They just, I guess the present officers
have some files. They were supposedly passed along.
D-So the Civic Association didn't do any business?
M-Yes. It's definitely business. It's very accurate.
D-Who is the president now?
M--It's a lady, and I can't tell you her name right now. But that would be
easy to ascertain. The chamber could tell you without any trouble at all.
Where do I go from here?
D--Well, how about...?
M--Well, wait a minute something just popped into my mind. Gulf American
put out a map that showed areas along listed as parks and churches, things
of that type, recreational fields and stuff like this. We were interested
in that so we started following that up. Now all this time nothing in our
mind though about the incorporation. Everybody was happy with the situa-
tion. '68, '69. So, we started checking on it and we found it that in
the plats that Gulf American had submitted to the county commissioners
for approval of their designations of the various type zones they even
have for the Community. But they hadn't always dedicated this property
to the county commission for public purposes. They kept it under their
control. We were curious about this because we weren't getting anything
here. In parks and public areas.
D--I noticed that there is not very many things.
M--Well, actually it's more than you think now. The county was doing nothing
here at all, because it was that attitude again that it was a developer.
Let them do it. So we talked with various people. Of course, Connie Mack
was there as a go between and I was generally the one that went up there.
But sometimes I'd take someone else with me. So he and I developed a real
get along attitude simply because we both were after the same thing even-
though he was working for Gulf American. He really wanted to see this
place develop and see the people happy here. He was very conscientious.
And he fought for our interest many times. They would give him some very
definite instructions on how to operate and like this, but he still was
very interested in the people here. And incidently, many of these people
were acquainted with the Mack family from the baseball area. So, we were
able to...Our chamber of commerce was getting organized. There was one
man in it by the name Chester Grunsten, who isn't here anymore.
He became active in the chamber. And he finally became the representa-
tive of the chamber on thiscommunity relations business. And even after
I left the presidency of the civic assocaition I was a representative for
many years until I ceased my activities in that and moved into something
else. And we worked together at many things and one of those things
that cam up was how can we get more land for Gulf American and the county
to develop for parks and recreation areas? The only hing we had at that
time was Four Freedom's Park. And this was part of the promotional
exercise of Gulf American. They fixed the ampitheatre there and you could
sit under it. Long before we incorporated, it was starting to run down
and pullin g away from this tourist business. The thing we wanted to do
was get a park some place where we could have some baseball or soccer
and football. And finally we prevailed upon Gulf AMerican through Connie
Mack & with occasional visits to Miami. We had 'them come over here.
To have a piece of land dedicated for that purpose. And that's the
land up there on Country Club Blvd up by the church. And it's the name of
this boy Verdo that was killed here by this guy that raped him and
killed him. That was subsequently named for him. AT that time it had
another name which I don't recall but it's in the records. And that
was the land that was given for that purpose. So then a lot of work
had to be done on it. Well, we had to get a lot of volunteer labor.
Gulf American finally volunteered some tractors to come in and level
it and get it smooth and all. We were able to work with the chamber and
with Gulf American to get some clay brought in here for the infield of
the baseball diamond. At the same time we wanted a soccer field because
you could play football on it. But a soccer field is larger. And we
needed grass. Connie Mack, Jr. came on the scene, no Connie Mack, III
came on the science. He was then with Cape Coral Bank. And I worked
with him and through his efforts somebody involved in the family we
were able to get sod for the entire field at no cost to us. Except the
labor, the cost for the labor at the far end in the sod farms where they
would dig up the sod and load it on the trucks. We provided the people to
unload it and lay it. And that's how we got sod for that place.
D--Now, when was this?
M--It was in the late sxties, early seventies. WE then were able to get the
county to come in & put some money into it. We were able to build our
first rest facilities building in the county. They coudln't very well
back off of it because they were doing so much in the other communities
in Lee. Bonita Springs, Lehigh, East Ft. Myers. Everything in the
country, but they weren't doing a darn thing here.
D--The county just felt like that since Gulf America was developing it they
didn't have really any responsibility out here.
M-Well, they tried to shrug the responsibility. Eventually they got caught
up in it. The end result, we had The Breeze come along, and there is a
man you want to talk to, the first editor of the Breeze.
D--Are you talkingabout Richard Crawford?
M--No. What was that last name?
M--Oh, yeah. Dick Crawford. He's a retired lieutenant. He could give you
some background. The Breeze files have a lot of stuff once you go back
far enough. I think they've kept it because they run this column every
so often. In fact, they used to have it every day. "Five years ago, ten
years ago, fifteen years ago, twenty years ago." Somebody there would
select something and put it in the paper. He could give you some back-
ground of some of the things that transpired in the community. And his
opposition to many of the things that happened with Gulf American. I say
his becuase he was representative of the Breeze. In fact, he owned it.
He was the one that got it started. And then eventually, Bob Finkernagel
got into the act. And then he became the sole representative. And finally,
they sold it to the corporation. Fred Cull became the publisher of it,
and he stayed with them until just a few months ago. He left them.
Have you met Fred Cull?
D-Yes. I spoke with him last spring. In fact, I just saw him Friday.
M--He and I worked together on many projects.
D--He's a really nice guy.
M--Yes. He is. lie was and is. He's a very community minded person.
D-Tell me a little bit. Were you around when they were talking about the
Cape Coral bridge and all that fight about the bridge, whether to have the
bridge or not.
M--Before we get into that, as I said something to you a moment ago, some-
thing else popped into my mind. We worked an arrangement with Gulf
American. I say we, I mean the civic assocaition, primarily as the
leader, backed up by the chamber of commerce, becoming active then. To
do something about establishing more recreational areas ans parks in Cape
Coral, and again Connie Mack, Jr. was instrumental in this, guiding us
along the right lines and working with us and dealing us. And we
started a publicity campaign here because Gulf American wasn't giving us
any land available. Eventhough maps were showing it, they weren't making
it available. And of course they didn't give the land to churches and all,
they had to buy the land. I don't know whether the first church was
given any of their property of not. However, they did give them re-
duced prices when they did that. They did give them breaks. We finally
worked out an arrangement whereby Gulf American would dedicate those areas
for a lot of the recreation areas we have now and the parks we have now.
They turned it over to the county, including the one up here on the
Hancock Bridge Parkway. Right at the city line, where the sewer plant
and all that is.
D-They call it Hancock Park?
M-Yes. That's right. Including that one. So finally that was arranged,
but we had to pressure it and we had to use newspaper publicity to do it.
And of course the Breeze was real up on it. And I must admit that the
Ft. Myers newspaper at that time was very reluctant to get into anything
like that. Because people frowned. EVerybody around here frowned on
Cape Coral. The opposition was tremendous. You would find it in busi-
ness. Some of the clerks were very....I'm not exaggerating. This is the
truth because it happened to me. Some of the clerks would be obnoxious
to you when you would give the address as Cape Coral. In fact, I had
one tell me, when she had my address for the delivery of this merchan-
dise, she said, "I don't know why you people came down here to Cape
Coral. We had a nice area before you built this place. You should've
stayed up there where you belonged." I said, "Madam," &this was an
elderly lady, I'm here because I want to be here and becuase it's
a nice area and I think that I can help to make it better. But for your
information, I happened to be personally acquainted with the boss of this
business." And her attitude changed just like that. Just like
that. And I'm not exaggerating. It's the truth. It's still in business
today. And she was so scared that I was going to go back and say some-
thing to him. I didn't do it. But that's all I needed. But you could
find that opposition in certain things here now. Particularly this
D--The midpoint Bridge?
M-That's right. Or any other bridge. The action that had to be taken by
this community and the present city councils that have been involved with
it for the last several years, built up so much pressure that they had to
go with the paralled bridge. They had to go to it. Now this doesn't
solve the problem. They're going to have a lot more problems. Back
when the civic assocaition was very active and then a lull came and then
they became active subsequently. We made a study because we were interes-
ted in the problems of getting around here. Of course, as you know, I'm
rambling but I have to because I'm not prepared for this. I'm rambling.
As you know, we wouldn't of had that bridge as early as we did or may not
have had it at all, if the present attitude existed. If it weren't for
Gulf American. Gulf AMerican was solely responsible and Leonard Rosen
in particular, because he was Gulf American, enve though Jack was the
president and ran a lot of other administrative things. Leonard was the
real go getter. Both of them were visionary. But I think that Leonard
saw more of the dream than Jack did. That's my personal opinion. And
he saw that a bridge was going to be needed there. And he seemed to
be able to realize that as Lee County was developed upward. Ft. Myers was
a little community. I don't have any ill feelings toward Ft. Myers or
the people there at all. But you have to be reasonable and logical
about htis ting. And you could see that Ft. Myers is rapidly being rel-
egated to a county seat. Like we have in state north of here. Like
Georgia and all the wasy up the east coast. It's being relegated that
way. Businesses are doing it themselves. They've pulled out. Banks
have kept the main banks there but they've set branches all over Cape Coral. All
over south Lee County. And Ft. Myers has a.lot of problems that they "don't deal
with themselves, that they don't recognize. And they just haven't been
able to cope with being relegated to a second grade community as com-
pared o the others. And tha'ts what's happening. Well, the people are
deciding that, not the governments. The people are deciding that. By
their going south. And they can't settle anymore in Ft. 7Myers. They
have been able to or are unwilling to put sewer and water and paved
"streets in a lot of sections of Ft. Myers, Which is a matter of record. So, how
can they expand? They can't take care of what they have there. Now, Cape
Coral was different. It was a brand new community. Started by a devel-
oper working under the county commission. The county commission was a
governing body responsible for keeping an eye on the developer. And in
those years, in the Florida counties a big developer would come in and
the county commissioners in general would just give them a rubber stamp
on whatever they wanted to do. That's a matter of record.
D--Would they just go wild because the sense was that the more development,
the more tax money we'll have.
M--And the less money that the county would have to put into it as long as
the developer would do it. That was the reason here in Cape Coral they
would say, let the developer do it. And they'd say go talk to the devel-
oper about potholes in streets and stuff like that. Well, I got off the
D--Leonard Rosen wanted the bridge.
M--Oh, yes. He visualized the need for it. One thing he regretted later
was that he didn't have them build a larger bridge.
D--Had he said that to you?
M--Oh, yes. He said that. This was several years later. But he got that
in and he and his attornies worked with the bonding to make the funds
available for the bridge. But in order to guarantee it, he took $100,000
in cash out of the Gulf AMerican funds and depostied it into an escrow
account which the county commissioners could not touch. They wanted to
get their hands on that money so bad that it wasn't funny. And he was
here again he protected Cape Coral,
shrewd enough to realizethat they would have to have provisions in this
bonding agreement that would prevent the commissioners from getting their
hands on the money. They would supervise it but they couldn't use any of
it except for purposes specified in the bonding agreement. And that indi-
cated for the care of the bridge and to develop the necessary funds to
pay off the bond. That bond issue was paid off long before it was sup-
posed to. Becuase when that happened it became the sole property of the
county. From then had we had problmes. Well, we had the funds in the
account that would take care of the maintence of the bridge. All that.
Because when the bond issue was wiped out and the agreement no longer
had a hold, we began having problems. Including the approach to it. So
that's how that developed. It was, again, the imagination and the dream
of Leonard Rosen in particular. But the Rosen brothers were responsible
for that bridge. And many people have said with the attitude that it
existed for many years and the county commission would have had a
bridge today. I'm sure that we would've had one, but I'm sure we would've
had toll on it all the time. It never would.have been lifted. Like over
to Sanibel. It's going to go back on eventually, unfortunately. But
the need for a paralled bridge developed many years ago. Well, in
the civic association we made a study of the road problems here. And the
first few years if you wanted to shop anywhere other than a could small
stores here on the Cape, you had to go all the way into Ft. Myers. All
the way back down around the Edison Bridge. Boy, you had a day trip.
That's what it meant. But we also had the mail boat that would come in
here. Now, I'm getting off the track a little bit. But it's tied in
indirectly. And that mail boat would come out of Ft. Myers in the morn-
ing. Stop here at the pier of the yacht club, and somebody from the local
post office would pick up the mail. And people could buy a ticket and
ride over to Sanibel by boat. At that time, it was no bridge or cause-
way. It was ferry. They'd ride on that boat over there and spend a cou-
ple of hours there and come back in the afternoon and get off here or
your ticket could take you on into Ft. Myers. But it was amazing how
few people used it. Really. But a lot of people would see the boat
come in and go into the post office and see if they had any mail.
That was something that Gulf American was instrumental in getting started. To
speed up the delivery of mail. And things of that kind.
D--Who, if Leonard Rosen supported the idea of the bridge and everything,
who opposed it? It sounds like there was quite a bit of opposition.
Most of it was from the Ft. Myers area?
M-There were two individuals here, but there was nothing of any great pull
against it on this side today. Everybody know it, the county know it.
The people on the other side know'v But like the development of any
area, something has to give. Whether it's on this side. If they go
to the site that's been selected by every study group that they've
designated, they've designated several. They've spent hundreds of thous-
ands of dollars doing studies and research and they all come up with the
same conclusion. There is no connection between the research groups.
Everest & Colonial.
That general area right there.1 Well, this started many years ago here
in the Cape. We presented a study to the county commission indicating
that there would definitely be a need for the bridge up in that general
area. We also said that there was going to have to be another bridge
down here on this side. Of course, that's coming out. A copy of the
study was in the files. Whether it's still there or not, I don't know.
A copy of it was presented to the county commission. We made.... I
headed the briefing. We had some people speak at it. We took .... we
had people that live on the Cape with city background, like we did on
all committees that were established when the incorporation came. We
manned the committees with people that had experience before they came
down here. To the extent that we possibly could. It worked very well.
On the bridge thing, as time went on people began to see the need for it
more and more. Even though we had the toll gates here and traffic was
beginning to back up with the tolls, it's nothing like it is now. But
it became apparent that there was going to have to be another bridge
crossing here. And of course, the people started banning together for
it and Joe IIarry stepped into the picture and he formed a coalition, and
people just swarmmed to it, and the business got in it. The chamber was
with it. The civic association.
D--This coalition? This was a coalition for the midpoint bridge.
M-Yes. That's right. At the time he became ill and wanted me to take over.
I said no, I'm just a member of it. I'll work with it, and I did. I
stayed in the background and worked with it. When they had this last
one, they asked me again to take it over. I said no. In fact, I'm not
chairing anything. I haven't for the last 3 or 4 years in the Cape.
Going back to our briefing with the county commission. This went on
for several years. And they kept it up after I left the leadership.
D--When were those briefings, that it became apparent that there should be
a second bridge. Was that Like?
M-Well, sometime in the early seventies. It became apparent and we organ-
ized the committee in the incorporation and we had all these subcommittees.
For every subject involved in the corporation. Including roadways and
transportation. It began to become apparent to everybody that there
would have to be something else. Of course, in the meantime the Chata-
hoochee Bridge was build which helped on that end. But do you know that
the two major traffic intersections of this county that are a problem are
two of them that affect Cape Coral? Number one is the Cape Coral Bridge
road and iMacGregor, college parkway. And number two is the junction of
Hancock Bridge Parkway and 41. That's the second one. They're the two
major problems. One of the ways that the county is proposing to solve
the problem and it's been proposed by people on this side too is to
build a couple of overpasses there, on LacGregor and you could probably
go down as far as 41. Because that's a problem there. Colonial Blvd.
is a problem. If you've ever been up there by Galloway Ford. It's
really something. A lot of traffic goes off at the Cape. A lot of
traffic comes in. A lot of people come over here to go to work. A
lot of people. Cause there's a lot of things going on. Construction
is going on and will be for years to come. And probably the only thing
that would stop it would be a national disaster. Because there's lots of
soul. People are coming in. If the city was capable of putting in sewer
systems and water systems a lot faster. I'd think you'd find a lot more
people would come in. Because we have this salt restriction now with salt
infiltration water in the areas and whether or not the land can absorb the
sewage, without contaminating everything. So they're restricted. Septic
tanks can't be built on the street in certain areas. Instead of everybody
having one maybe they will only allow four or six or something to every so
many lots or feet. Based upon the absorption of the land. So there is no
permanent pollution there. That's the way it has to be done. And it's
going to be that way in certain areas here in the cape and in other areas
of Lee County besides the Cape. Until the city can get and solve the pro-
blem economically. But they have a plan. They've got it plotted out that
that this area will be done and then this one. They are working on it.
They are a little slow. In the meantime, everything that the city took over
when it incorporated was stuff that had been put in by Gulf American. And
fortunately for the citizens of the area and the city, it wasn't put in with
long range views in mind for continued usage of it. The deteriation of the
system occurred fairly early in life because Gulf American along the
way decided somewhere along the line that they were going to sell out.
And of course, the people here immediately were interested. Because...
D--How did it affect the people of Cape Coral when it became apparent that
Gulf American was going to sell out to GAC? Did that seen to affect them?
In the late sixties? Were they apprehensive?
M--Yes. They would be apprehensive. There was no question about that.
What tlie people were more concerned about was how are we going to protect
our interest? How are we going to take care of ourselves? As this
developed at our civic association meetings, when the time came on the
agenda for overt remarks. Practically, without exception, this subject
would come up. How are we going to help ourselves? How are we going to
protect ourselves? They started talking incorporation and all like that.
So it became apparent after a few months that the civic association was
going to have to dwell in this matter of incorporation.
D-Tell me about that. I want to hear about the story of how the idea became.
M--We discussed it at the board of directors meeting several times. We'd hold
special meetings and talk about it because it was becoming very important,
a very hot subject here. EVerybody was talking about it. Complaining
about potholes in the streets, complaining about water problems and sewer
problems and things like this. We'd go to the county commission and plead
with them to put pressure on Gulf American to repair these things. The
streets were definitely the responsibility of the county to take care of.
They put that off as long as they could. It is now, and has been until
we incorporated into a city. So we decided that we were going to run a
series of programs on the pros and cons of incorporation. Because we
wanted to be sure that the people of the Cape understood the pros and
the cons. Because there were advantages and there were disadvantages.
And there was the matter of increased taxation. Regardless of what any
politician would tell you, any group that was incorporated, when you in-
corporate units smaller than the existing unit, taxes increase. There is
no way you can get around it. But the politicians all talked that there
would be no increase or it would be minimal. Well, all of us realized
that this wasn't the case. So we set up a series of programs that ran
for aobut a year, maybe a little more than a year. Every night we would
have someone. The chairman or myself would travel around and contact
various towns, various cities and talk to groups that had tried to incorporate
Sand couldn't. Ft. Myers Bch. had been trying to incorporate for time in.memorial.
And they've worked on it, they've had studies. And we got up to the town
9 ^) 21
for voting, all of them that were for it, voted against it. I think it's
the taxation and the responsibility that frightens them. Anyway, they had
made a study of it, so I went down there and I borrowed the study. Made
a copy of it and gave it back to them. And we looked at that, and we
studied that. And that was cranked into our programs. We had people come
in form various areas. We had the city manager of Sarasota come down and
talk about the advantage of incorporation. We had some groups locating
here in Florida that were against incorporation. We had them come in.
And they would present their views. We had one special night devoted to
the five county commissioners. It took me months to get the five of them
to agree to come over here. It took a long time.
D-That was when? '69?
M--Probably '69, maybe '70. Some where in there. And we finally got them
to come over and one of the things that clinched. Through Connie Mack,
Jr. we arranged with Leonard Rosen were he to entertain the county com-
missioners at a luncheon here in the country club and we would bring the
county commissioners over, he would provide the bus for them. We would
make a tour of Cape Coral for the county commissioners because they
would jst not come over here and take a look at it. They wer scared,
actually. Because they had a growing elephant on their hands and they
didn't Inow how to handle it. They didn't have a trainer capable of
handlign an elephant. So we did. If I recall correctly, Leonard Rosen
came down here and he had lunch with them. But we took them out over the
area and we developed a schedule, an itinerary. And we had people there
that represent the community and Gulf American. And we talked to them
about the area. We had people take to them about their problems. And
we spent most of the day over here. That's the only time that the
county commission's ever done anything. Now they've been to a few places.
Three or four of them would go to a few places or stuff like that. But
this was the whole group of five come over here in the morning and we
took them on a tour and we had lunch with them. We went around again and
we took them back to the parking lot and back to their jobs, whatever they
were doing. Then we had them over here later to speak at a meeting. And
we had to turn people away from that yacht club. We could not let them
D-How many people do you think were there?
M-Easily, 500. They were standing all around the walls. They even
opened some of the side doors where they had rooms and people could get
in there. The fire department was involved here and the fire depart-
ment was as fidgety as the devil. We had no smoking. And we turned
them loose. We had each of them get up and say something for a few
minutes about their views on incorporation. ANd then using somebody
as a moderator and let them moderate the questions from the floor. We
finally had to put the gavel down and close the meeting.
D-You were the head of the civic assocaition?
M-Thats' right. And it was a fascinating success. Dick Crawford wrote
some articles on it in the Breeze and things like this. Well, this
began to alert the county commissioners that they had a group of peo-
ple on their hands that insisted that they do something to Cape Coral,
and if not they were going to incorporate it. Well, this went on for a
few more months and finally after we had presented both sides as thorough-
ly as we coul we then had a meeting to discuss the attitude of the civic
association, relative to the issue. And by golly, it came out to incor-
porate. So we then said, well, what do you want us to do? They said,
well, you're representing us. You set up the organization to get this
thing going. So we did. The board of directors sat down and we talked
about it. We pulled in a lot of people in the community to meet with
the board at various times. People that were experienced in different
areas. So we decided the segment of study that would have to made
to decide whether or not he incorporation was going to take place. And
we set up the committees. And we staffed them and manned them with very
capable people. They indicated that they had background before they came
down here in these subject areas. And by golly, the thing started
clicking and the people became interested in it and started moving along
and we developed all of that. And then we came up with a plan for incor-
poration. And then we had to get some legal advice on the way to go
about this thing. Because you have to have the legislature of the
state approve it. And we had that done. In the meantime, Gulf AMerican
was sitting back there and they could see where they were going to get
off the hook if they could eventually have the city incorporated. So
they went forward for the city incorporating. And then finally, it came
up to the point where we had to present it to the state legislature through
our representative there and it was done very well. And Gulf didn't ob-
ject to it. They had some reasons why they would, but all in all they
were for it. And the state legislature passed it and gave the Cape the
necessary authority to put it on the ballot for an election. And it
was voted in by the people by a good majority.
D-Vlhen wa this?
M--'71 I think or '72. And it became incorporated. And they started estab-
lishing a city government to get the people involved. And of course, first
of all when the master committee was set up to get this thing functioning
and the sub-committees were established. We at the civic association
purposely detached that from the civic assocaition. We made it a commun-
ity committee. Because we set everything up and they wanted me to
chair it and I said no. I was going to have a conflict of interests.
Because the civic association is the watchdog on all of this. And the
board agreed with me and we said no, we would reamin separate. I should
/ stay, and I stayed with the civic association. And PaulFickinger became one
of the key people in it., on that end. OUt of it came the approval by the
state legislature and the right to put that on the ballot. And of
course, when we got ready to run the election for the council, no
question about it, we nominated Paul Fickinger to be the first chairman.
Because he chaired it, we thought that was right. And of course, the
civic association was behind us, pushin it all the way. Because we were
one in the same people. We were just wearing different hats, that's all.
D--So the civic assocaition brought it up to the point where....
M-The community had the vote on it.
D--The community had the vote on it. In other words, you just didn't....
Had the incorporation been granted by the state yet?
M--Oh, yes. The state has to approve that before it can go on the ballot.
D--O.K. They approved that and then to put it on the ballot you formed
M--No. That was handled by that organization.
D--By that committee?
D--They set up.
M--They handled it. They made the necessary arrangements with the one that
handles the voting in the county. That office. They made the arrangements
all through them. And the civic association backed off for a while be-
cause we wanted to keep that difference.
D--The time it went to the referendum, the civic association became a watch-
MI--Yes. The same as it was with the county. It stayed that way and then as
years went on it gradually slackended and theri interest became lax and
about six or eight years ago, the interest started developing again.
And kept, it's still active but it's at a lower degree. Low profile.
It became a high profile organization again, has been ever since.
D--Paul Fickinger headed up that committee?
M--Yes, He and another Chet Grunsten who was involved in that. Oh, I can't
remember. And after that, it was agreed by all of us that we should nominate
Paul Finkinger to be the first council chair. And it was done. There was
nobody running against him or anything else. In fact, on all the people
that submitted, if I recall correctly, nobody was in opposition to him.
South was one of the first council man, of course, he was the one that was
killed in a motorcycle accident, while he was in office.
D-I didn't know about that.
M--He ran a flag and pennant, that type of business up in the industrial
park and of course his wife took it over and has been running it ever
since. I heard that she recently sold it. Well, I don't know, and there
are a lot of thinkLs like this.
D--Generally, you came here in when?
M--We moved in in the summer of '65. The family moved in. I was still on
duty in the pentagon. I was working for Secretary of Defense MacNamara.
In a research and analytical position.
D--Were there, did you feel that Gulf American was basically helpful to
the residents here or by '65 had begun to back off. I know that earlier
on they really did anything that they could to make sure that the resi-
dents were happy. If they had any problems they would take care of it and
stuff like that.
M--It still prevailed at that time. I'm very sure because we dealt with
Connie Mack, Jr. all the time. My finger was on the pulse of that con-
stantly. Later on, after they began to sell most of the lots, then
theri interest began ot move to other areas that they were developing.
That's when the idea became more alive than before of, well, we better
sell out our interest in Cape Coral. And tha'ts how GAC came in which
was a finance corporation. And of course, they milked the comapny dry.
They milked it dry. And'Avatar had a heck of a time getting things
going, but they've done reasonably well.
D-You mean Avatar?
M-Yes. Avatar. Avalon was one of._the Key at .Sarasota there.
D-You said you knew Leonard Rosen. Tell me a little bit about him. What
type of peron was he?
M-Well, you must understand that I was not a intimate acquaintance or friend
of his. I knew him because of the relationship here. We'd been together
many times. We concocted the idea of bringing the county commissioners
over and him entertaining them. He jumped at it. He put the facilities of Gulf
American available. He provided the busses, he provided the yacht club, the
meal, everything else. For the whole group And I had several of the
board of directors and other people here in this area in on it. Paul
Sanborn was involved. Of course, Connie Mack. I was impressed with the
vigor of the man, themotivation. He really had a dream. Of'course it
was a lot of financial aspects to the dream. But he had a dream. And
he could visualize a gigantic wonderland. Which is exactly what he dev-
eloped. their will never be another one like it in the state of Florida.
Because the state legislature has passed legislation prohibiting the
construction of waterways because of salt water intrusion. It is the
largest waterway city in the world. We lived in Venice when I was on
duty there three years after the War in the infantry division. And my
wife came over in '46 and our first child was born there. He had dual
citizenship until he was 21. Because in Italy, everybody born there,
regardless of their nationality has Italian citizenship. He, natural-
ly was in it for the money. He and his brother and other people that
were investors in it. And you could understand that. But he did really
try to help the large majority of people. And for the large majority,
things were satisfactory. But there were some things that were bad.
And of course, it was a gigantic organization. It was the biggest on e
here. And, true of any large organization there was always things that
happened that some of the top people don't know about. He knew some,
some he didn't. But some he didn't know about and some he did know were
justified. And some of them he was able to correct and some them he
couldn't or wouldn't. They received some bad publicity. And of course,
the advanced size of the organization, as far as the news media is con-
cerned, they're ripe for plucking. And that's true today in any of
these things that take place. So they did. But the intervention of
the news media in many instances were able to help people that had
wrongs to had the wrongs made right, that probably wouldn't have been
righted had it not been for the news media doing a lot of publicity on
it. So this is what we did in order to get Gulf American to turn the
parks and recreational facilities over to the ocunty. They hadn't done
it. And that was the initial action taht enabled the expansion of
those facilities in Cape Coral. But the county commission held of on
Iancock Park because they had no park there in the area that could be
utilized by the county people. And Cape Coral said that none of the
county organizations could use the Cape Coral facilities because we have
so few and we have so many organizations to use it. And we still do.
OUrs are fully occupied all the time. We have a tremendous youth
program here and recreation program. It's unbelievable. And of course,
the community supports, now, two high schools. I don't know. I could
ramble on on a lot of stuff like this. But all in all, I think Leonard
Rosen did a good job. There is no getting around it. Many of the
businesses operating in the construction field in lee County and South-
west Florida today had their starts through Gulf American and Leonard
Rosen. He put several of them in business. Gave them contracts to get
them working. When the tourists would come in here for the business
area which then was nothing except Cape Coral Parkway, it wasn't much.
Part of their program when they had the tourists here was that they
would take them along Cape Coral Parkway and the busses would drop
them off for a certain period of time and load them up and take them
back again. So they could get individual attention.
D--One thing that I wanted to know about. There came a time in the late
60's that the Cape Coral Gardens, there was talk that Gulf American
wanted to close it up, and talk about the city taking it over or the
state taking it over.
M-This is true.
D-Tell me a little bit about that.
M--Well, this was when Gulf American was reaching the end of its sales
program. Those rose gardens were phenomenal. Beautiful site. The
that could match it,
only thing that I could think of, and I've benn to several,Awas the one
in Hershey, Penn. They have one of the world's most renouned rose gar-
dens for the Hershey Corporation. They not only grow them, but they have
them for sale. And this was fantastic. They had some pools there, they
had lights around the garden. ANd along the bushes. They had all kinds
of roses. Any kind they could grow in this area, they had them there.
They had lighted programs on it. It was just, you'd have to see it to
believe it. They built the porpoise pool and they'd have a porpoise
show there. And a good one. They also build a zoo. They had a zoo
there. They had this area known as the hanging gardens and the rain
forest. And when you'd pay admission to go in there and see these
various things, and they also had the waltzing -waters. That's were
they set up the original waltzing waters. It was am immense project.
And they had an organ there that had been manufactured by some prominent
organization here in the country. And they put it on sort of a pedastal
platform. It was under glass. It was connected electrically with the
lights and the water. And the music. And they played it like an
organ. And the man that played it was the maintence operating the water
The man would set this one up. And this was either the second or the
third one in the world. The people who had the waltzing waters were
D--You were telling me a little bit more about the Cape Coral gardens.
What eventually became of it? What did they end up doing with it?
M-well, when Gulf American realized that they were going to very soon
terminate their interest here in the ownership aspect of cape Coral.
They realized that with the money that they were spending on the rose
gardens. They also had the Park of the Presidents they had the hanging
gardens, the rain forest, the zoo, they had a big gift shop. That was
the entrance and exit. And plus the gardens, and of course, there was
the porpoise show and the pools for that. And they had the necessary
bleacher areas and all of those things where people could sit and see
the shows. I don't know how much it cost a month to maintain that
place but it was many thousands of dollars. They were losing the
aspect of selling property here, they jsut had to make another profit.
So they thought that with the tremendous thing they built there, and
people wer coining from all over, they long stopped bringing tours in
there. But people would travel over just to see the show there. It
was tremendous. ANd all of us who lived here on the Cape, we had rela-
tives and friends over we'd take them for a tour of the gradens and
take them out to take the porpoise show at night and watch the waltz-
ing waters. You'd go in to see the porpoise show and then you'd move
over to the waltzing waters. And the pace was infested with peacocks.
They had them running all over the place. Peacocks and peahens and, I
call them litters coming behind them. And the call of a peacock is like
somebody saying "Help, help" And it sounds like a person yelling. And
newcomers to the area would think something was wrong if they'd hear a
peacock yelling. And they'd yell during the show and everything else.
They got friendly with people. Well, they realized that this thing was
becoming a burden to them to support financially. So they offered it to
the state, and it was attraction. The state debated for a while. They
weren't going to give it to them. They were going to sell it to them.
They debated for a while and they finally decided not to. But everybody
around the area couldn't figure out why the state would turn something
down like that. It was a drawing card. Well, I don't think the state
wanted to get involved with the administration of something like that.
Because it required a lot of work and care. Then they turned to the
county. The county dickered for awhile and they said no. Well, the
only thing left was to close it out and that's what they did. But they
did it in a very unsatisfactory way. Tey just closed it and walked out.
Of course, people started going in and taking this and taking that.
They did take out the monument of Mary with Jesus on her lap and the
turned it over to the Catholic church. And they made a nice little
memorial park up there for it. They finally, the bank up there on
DelPrado finally agreed to take over the IwoJima- monument and with
the help of the marine corp league, they restored it. Of course, people
stop and look at it now, people take a walk over and look at it. Every
so often the marine corp group will have ceremonies there. The organ
for the waltzing waters, they gave it to some organization. It seemed
to me it was one of the veterans organizations. I'm not sure. The waltzing
waters, German American club took it and they held it for years.
And then finally, they closed down there because the German American
club wasn't interest in having a park anymore. They expanded into
there things. They had a zoo and things like that. Well, they moved
it down here on 41. Of course, it's nothing there like before. It can't
touch it. Actually, it's even smaller. So they jsut walked off and left
it. They had a house there that they used as a model house. They put
a house on one of the nicer shows and raffled it off and somebody won
a prize. The people have expanded a little bit, since the new owners
have it. It was won by a sergeant and his wife.
D-Sounds pretty good.
M-Anyway, what else do you have on your mind? I don't know what to pick
D-Anything else pertaining to Gulf American. That you can think of that
you know first hand. Was there anybody else in the corporation that you
knew pretty well? You mentioned that you knew Connie Mack pretty well.
M--Oh, yes. Bob Finkernagel. Paul Sanborne.
D--Tell me about Bob.
M-Well, he really succeeded to the job that Connie Mack, Jr. had. He
became the representative here. Paul Sanborne started with the country
club. They had that before the yacht club for a while. Then he moved
into the headquarters and he became a go between. And Bob Finkernagel
and Connie Mack Jr., Paul Sanborn were all top men that Gulf American
had. They were really interested in the community. They were not just
doing the job for Gulf AMerican. They were actually interested. They
lived here, they like it. Both of them became active in the community.
Both of them still are. They're very active. Paul and I served on the
Chamber for years. I was one of the retired people at that time that the
chamber permitted to have membership. Because the business people at
that time weren't really interested in developing theri business, be-
cause Gulf American would bring the customers to them by busses. So
they weren't very much interested in developing theri sales program for
the citizens of Cape Coral. It was given to them on a platter. Well,
that bean to be restricted and some of them became worried and some
of them finally realized that they would have to cater to the people of
Cape Coral. They would have to change. It was a slow procedure, but
it did take place. Well, then the chamber became active and started
encouraging businesses to open and they started sprouting out. Gulf
American encouraged businesses to open. And the city has ever since
the city incorporated.
D-How would Gulf American encourage businesses to open? what would they do?
M-Well, I can't make the next certain statement because I can't prove it.
They lent support in various ways. Actually, by encouraging people, by
talking to them. And they did. And every time that I was around when
Leonard Rosen was around, he would encourage people.
D-They were just talking it up a lot.
M-That's how they would open the discussion. The would say that. It
has been reported that some of the contractors in the area started be-
cause Gulf American helped them get started.
D-Financially helped them?
M--This is what I understand. But I can't prove it. But they did get a
lot of businesses in this community and in the county. They helped the
county an awful lot. A lot of these people expanded theri businesses
in the offering. Cement walls, waterways, all kinds of things, road-
pavers, ditch diggers. Earth movers. Many things like that. They lent
a lot of support to the utilities, to the telephone company. To the
electric company. And of course, the civic association and the chamber
also, we had to get information as to what the probable future population
and all would be in Cape Coral. The two agencies we would go to first
would be the power company and the telephone company and see what they
were developing. We did this in our church here when we were getting
ready to set up a second presbyterian church, which were are working on
now. Ve studied the studied those two corporations had made in order
to tie in with the potential growth of the areas. And where the growth
would probably be because they study that all the time. They have to
be ready before anyone else. You have your electricity in there first
followed by telephone.
D-Well, good. I think that I've had most of my questions answered and if
I can come up with anymore I'll give you a call. But thanks a lot.
I appreciate it.
M--Well, I don't know, but if I think of names of some other people, and as
I tell you, I haven't put any thought to this think at all, just the
moment that we sat down here. And there are other people around. lIce
"Andy Anderson, Joe Rasso, Pete Petrie, people like that. That certain known
things have happened they could tell you about some aspects of it that
they are more familiar than I am. I'm jsut generally in the area of
the administration I supplied to its application of the future and the
community. Mainly, through the civic association and chamber of