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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
D-This is an interview with Richard D. DeBoast of Ft. Myers, Florida. The
interview is being held in Mr. DeBoast's office at 2118 First Street in
Ft. Myers, Florida. The date is May 23, 1988. The interviewer is David
Before we get started, just tell me briefly about your background. Where
you were born and when.
R-I was born in Salem, Oregon in 1932. My dad was a sales rep. for a phar-
meceutical firm: Eli Lilly & Co. He was promoted and moved to Indiana-
polis in 1947 and of course, I went along. Graduated from the University
of Indiana and went in the Air Force. I was stationed in Houston. I was
a pilot and we flew frequently to Florida. And two weeks before I was
ready to get out of the Air Force I determined that I wanted to live in
Florida. So, I got my Encyclopedias and looked up what universities were
located in Florida and I wrote a letter to the University of Florida Law
School and they accepted me immediately because I had a transcript which
I had sent to them. Two weeks after I had made that decision we were on
out way to Florida. And I did live in Gainesville and went to the Univer-
sity of Florida Law School. Following which....
D--What year did you graduate?
R-I graduated in 1960. And I made a list of towns that I would like to
possibly live in and work in and made a trip to each one of them and
Ft. Myers was where I got a job offer so I have been here since 1960.
D--Tell me a little bit more about how you came to work for Gulf American.
R-In the early sixties, about 1962, I recall Gulf American,knowing that
certain advantages would occur to them used the Lee County attorney, Bill
Carmine, as their private council in this area. And I was involved with
a condemnation trial with Bill Carmine as the county attorney. I was
representing private landowners and we fought bitterly for a week. At
the end of the trial Bill said, "Rick, let's bury the hatchet. I'll take
you to my hunting camp in the Barrier Island area of Collier County."
And we went down there for two days and went hog hunting and became good
friends. Shortly after that he resigned as county attorney and moved to
Miami to be vice-president of Gulf American. And he asked me to take
over his practice which I declined to do but I was given the represen-
tation of Gulf American in the southwest Florida area. When I was 30
D--Tell me a little bit about, you had stuff written down about your
experiences or the things that you participated in with Gulf American.
D--When I hear stuff I have questions on, I'll ask more questions.
R--One thing I will never forget because my whole career in the last ten
years has been based on condominiums but... In July of 1963 they came to
me and asked me to a condominium in Cape Coral and I could barely spell
the word. The legislature had passed the original condominium act only
in May of 1963. So, I sat down with the statute and tried to determine
what would be necessary to put a condominium down. And after working on
it for about a week I decided that I needed some guidance. So, I got in
touch with the Florida Bar and they put me in touch with a Ft. Lauderdale
attorney, Russell McCon who had written the condominium act. He generously
gave me a set of documents which I still have, by the way to use for a
guide. And I wrote Gulf American's first condominium out there called
Newport Manor which is still there and still operating. After that there
were lots and lots of things. I did litigation for them. Usually in suits
where their salesman where they had unimpeded access from their canal to
the Gulf of Mexico when in fact there were many cases where there were
salinity weirs which are like dams which you can't get a boat across.
And for a period of probably for up to ten years I would have two or
three of those cases going at any particular moment in time. They did more
outrageous things than that. In one case, while they were developing a
unit of homes out there, they discovered that there was high quality road
grade shell in the ground. And in order to make use of that themself th
simply move this unit of Cape Coral one mile to the west. Without telling
the purchaser that their location was different. And the sight of the shell
that they took out can clearly be seen today on a map of Cape Coral as
Four Freedoms Park.
D-Four Freedoms is down over here somewhere but this is the Eight Lakes area.
What year did they do that? Do you remember?
R-That was in approximately 1966, I think. I.... That is why this photo-
graph exists. As the counsel for the company, I hired a photographer
and he went over to their sales office and photographed their sales map,
which was on the wall. They even had to take the top off the counter in
order to uncover part of it. This a color photo map that was made to try
and defend them in litigation resulting from moving that subdivision.
D-So, they didn't inform the people at all? How did they find out?
R-I don't recall how they found it out. But that is one of the egregious
things that their salespeople were responsible for.
D-Was that one of the things that the state lands sales board got after them
R-It very likely was because that was the time frame when their were congres-
sional hearing on land sales practices. And Leonard Rosen was called as
one of the principle witnesses. And I can say without real fear of being
wrong that Leonard Rosen is more or less responsible for the birth of the
land sales legislation in the state of Florida and in part responsible for
it's passage nationally with the interstate land sales act.
D-Just because of all the tings that Gulf American was doing.
R-Their salesmen were totally outrageous. They would say whatever was
necessary to make a sale and it didn't have to be true at all.
D--Do you think that was because Leonard and Jack just didn't have more
overseeing and weren't really watching what was going on, or were they
pretty much in agreement with what was going on?
R--Well, Leonard and Jack were very different. I didn't know Jack nearly as
well as I knew Leonard. But he was pretty straight laced and I think
Leonard kept him in large part in the dark in a lot of these practices.
D--So, like Leonard was really running the company.
R--Oh, there is no doubt in my mind that he was. He was a very colorful
person. They had a building in Miami at 79 and Biscayne which was about
twelve stories and Leonard's office was the penthouse. He had a dining
room, a kitchen, a work-out room as well as his regular office. And
Leonard loved to play tennis and he would upon occasion he would arrive
at a meeting with lots of people in three piece suits and conservative
ties, dressed in his tennis shorts. I remember one occasion in particu-
lar where it reminded me so much about the story of the emporer's clothes.
This was a conference where there were probably about five or six people
in the room all dressed up and Leonard was sitting in his swivel chair
with his fly open in tennis shorts and his tennis shoes untied and
nobody blinked an eye.
D--So he was pretty free wheeling. He just did pretty much what he wanted to.
R--He did. I remember another time when he called me up at home and he
said this was in like '65. "Rick, I just bought an airline. It was Modern
Air. I've got four engine jets. I want to land them in Ft. Myers. I want
you to get the airport runway lengthened. Get in touch with Bruce Scott,
the county commissioner mechanic and aceman. You can pledge up to a
quarter of million dollars of company money as long as the county matches
it." As it turns out it only cost 80,000 dollars to lengthen the runway
and Gulf American paid half.
And it was done in about five months.
D-That was just so they could land their jets bringing customers down? Now
I understand they built little terminals over there, is that correct?
R-I'm going to have to break this off for a minute. They had a ten year
lease on some of the airport property and they built a terminal that was
still there. Then at the time was about ten times as big and as nice as
the terminal for the commercial airline passengers.
D-Now, the old terminal used to be the one where.
--break in tape---
D-Mike's landing is over there. Where the small planes park over there, is
that the old terminal?
R-Well, the terminal that I'm referring to was even older than that one.
The regular passenger terminal was like almost one room.
D-So, Gulf American built their own terminal because the county terminal
was so small and everything and they needed a bigger terminal to handle
the traffic they were bringing in.
R-And that is now what I think they call Skyline Aviation terminal.
D--So, Gulf American paid for the lenghtening of the runway, at Paige Field?
R-Yeah, they paid half of it. And I was on hand when his first four engine
Convair eight eighty jet landed. It was a big thing. It was the first jet
to ever land in Ft. Myers. And there were a lot of other interesting
things. It seems like I was always being asked to put out fires for
them because they just did things that you wouldn't even think of today.
One of them involved the failure to get state dredging permits. At the
time and this was in about '66, you could buy a dredging permit from the
state for a nickel per cubic yard of material dredged. And they
simply were negligent in not doing this as they were supposed to. And
this was also the time when the environmental movement was coming in and
it was getting progressively harder to get dredging permits. And the
price was creeping up from a nickel to a dime to fifty cents to a buck.
And they had dverdredged three and a half million cubic yards on the north
shore of the Caloosahachee, which could clearly be seen in aeriel photo-
graphs of the river because the dredged areas looked black and the other
areas you could see the bottom. So, in an effort to settle the state's
claim against them after much maneuvering they ended up swapping the state
most of the land they had that constituted the Fakahatcha strand in
Coller county. In return for the state's fining them for dredging three
and a half million cubic yards without a permit.
D-I see, so the Fakahatche'- strand went to the state and then the state,
did the state still fine them for the dredging.
R-Well, they valued the amount of money that Gulf American owed as equivalent to the
value of the Fakahatchee strand. And this was simply ministerial oversight.
The whole thing need never have happened because approval was pretty
much automatic. You just went up there and paid them the money for what
you wanted to redge and they gave you a permit. Somebody just forgot to
D-Whod did they have to go to in Tallahassee?
R-Oh, there were a lot of people up there. It was basically the state
cabinet made the final decision. And at that time, they had an agency called the
Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund. And it was with the director
and the people of that thing I was making almost weekly trips to Talla-
hassee trying to get these people to agree, trying to get the state peo-
ple to agree. And some of the people got involved. I think I wrote down
here, one of them was Reed. Who later worked for the Federal
Government. He's a big environmentalist in lives in Hope Sound.
D-He worked for the state at the time?
R--O.K. I wrote down three of them. Nat Reed who was board member of the
I.I. Board. Jim Apthorp, who I think was the executive director of the
I.I. Board. And Randolph Hodges who was the state senator from Cedar
Key and who was president of the state senate. I also had a bunch of
meetings with those people in Tallahassee because Gulf American wanted
to develop the area that runs along its western boundary. And we
devised many agreements that might be acceptable to the staff in the
I.I. Board and then we would go into the state cabinet meeting and have
them turn it down. So, that area, as a result, is still in its original
D-What kind of discussion did you have like with Randolph Hodges and stuff?
R-Well, about the parameters and what might be acceptable to the state in
terms of developing what was generally coming to be known more every day
as environmentally sensitive. And you know, we'll leave you this and you
will let us have this. We thought we had a deal completely worked out
in 1969 and the head of the I.I. Board who was going to make the recomenda-
tion to the state changed his mind without our knowledge and recommended
that it not be approved. After that, it was all downhill as far as the
environmental movement was concerned and they had the upper hand. And
Gulf American has been accused of raping the land. They did things up
there then that would never get off the ground today.
D-Was Gulf American different from some of the other land development com-
panies in that respect where they'd gei special privileges or was it
pretty much everybody dredging and doing what they wanted?
R-Well, I think Gulf American was the most aggressive and they were cer-
tainly the largest. They had development going in Southeren Arizona and
in about four different places in Florida. During the late sixties, I
think they were the largest land developer in the United States without
any question and perhaps in the world. And they made their money by being
aggressive. And at one time, in the early seventies after they sold out
to GAC, Leonard and Jack's share was worth at that time 66 million dol-
lars, as I recall. And of course, later in 1973 and '74 when they took
a chapter eleven, I think that vanished forever, but it couldn't take Leo-
nard's spirit away from him. As you know, he went on later to Nevada and
I think he sold timeshare out there.
D-That' s what I understand.
R-But as an example of that aggressiveness there was a square mile of land on
Harney Point that the company was filling by dredging. And the way you
fill after you dredge is to build a dike around the perimeter of the
property and the dredge pipes put sand and mud and water into what is
the first pond and the water settles and then it becomes dry land. And
this was right next to what is now what they call the Eco Park, like in
ecology. Out by Everest' Parkway and at that time it really was beautiful.
There were creeks & canals and there was lots of fish and birds and
animals. And Gulf American was having trouble with getting rid of the
excess water in there. They say the dike broke. It wouldn't surprised
me if they had made it break but the result was that all the area which
is now the Eco Park was filled with fine silt and essentially they ruined
it. The owner of this Edo Park property, at that time it was just
property, was two brothers from Connecticut. Julius Wetstone and his
brother. And so, when they found their land had been covered with this
sticky, gummy sediment they sued Gulf American and Rick DeBoast was
asked to defend the company. I even went over there to the Eco P ark
on the airboat because it was the only way you could get there after
they filled it with mud and somewhere I've got a photograph of myself
waist deep in this stuff. Anyway, we tried to settle the case and I
remember, and I will always remember a midnight meeting at the river
front Holiday Inn in Ft. Myers to try and negotiate a settlement. I had
Leonard Rosen with me and Julius Wetstone had an attorney from Tampa
whose name I have forgotten. And Leonard and Julius would shout at
each other. They were very much alike. Both quite temperamental. And
after shouting at Julius and his lawyer, Leonard said "Let's have a con-
ference Rick." and he took me into the bathroom of the motel and shut
the door and said, "You know, I'm not really mad, I'm just doing this for
effect so go along with me.," And at midnight we agreed on a figure to
settle the case. And Leonard paid my secretary, Margie Bear, who was
still with me a hundred dollars in cash to come down to the office at
12:30 at night and write up settlement papers. While she was doing this,
the opposing counsel for Wetstone from Tampa went across Broadway Street
to what was then called the Broadway Bar and he bought a bottle of Canadian
Club Whiskey and proceeded to get bombed out of his mind. And then
the next day at noon the settlement had been effectuated and all the
people and lawyers involved went over to the Royal Palm Yacht Club and
they had a reconciliation lunch. The only thing I'll always remember
about that, again, is I found out how much I charged Leonard for rep-
resenting him which was 12,000 dollars and the attorney from Tampa
got 25,000 from his clients.
D-Do you have any idea what the settlement was?
R--No, that has escaped me completely. It was in terms of money, but I
don't remember how much money was involved.
D-What year was that?
R-That was in November, 1967.
D--So, they just filled in that area that is now Eco Park? They pumped
all this silt and everything in there and....
R-Yeah, on purpose to make more land. They covered the mangrove area that
D-They found out it was owned by somebody else?
R-Oh, they knew it was owned by somebody. The two parcels were directly
adjacent. The Ecb Park parcel was to thenorth and the Gulf American par-
cel was to the south. And, regarding the dredging, I remember another law-
suit, they had three of them, but there was one of the called the -"Sandy."
And in 1965 there was a real strong windstorm and the Sandy which was
anchored in the rose garden area sank and Gulf American made a claim
against their insurance company which I handled. And the insurance com-
pany claimed that the dredge was not sea worthy and that's the reason
that it sank. And in this case, Gulf American was right because the
sandy was sea worthy., Somebody had left a hatch cover undone and it filled
up with water.
D-So the insurance company paid off or settled?
R-It was an agreed to settlement. O.K. during that same year, in October
of 1967 Gulf American decided that if their community was going to grow
that they needed to have a financial institution and they tried to get
a savings and loan started., And I was involved in that to the extent
that they wanted me to be one of the founding directors and in order to
do that I had to live in Cape Coral. At the time, I didn't but they
moved me to Cape Coral and they paid me rent so that I could be a resi-
dent for trying to get the savings and loan. And we ended up having
hearing a couple of times in late 1967 in Washington D.C. The company
hired one of Lyndon Johnson's former aids. He was a guy, he used to wear
jumpsuits and was homosexual and he was the guy from who Gulf America
was trying to get the influence to obtain the approval from the govern-
ment agency that ran savings and loans. It didn't work. First Federal
of Ft. Myers was there with their president, Tommy Howard, and their
attorney Lloyd Hendry &' they successfully resisted the granting of a
charter. And probably would be interested in talking about the company's
influence in establishing in Cape Coral. The company was viewed by the
purchasers out there as a parent and any time anything went wrong with
anything they wanted Gulf American to pay for it. And the company
thought that they, that if the city were incorporated, perhaps the city
would be looked at as the parent and that in time that is precisely what
happened. I was the only attorney in Cape Coral at the time so I became
a member of the incorporation committee. And of course, I was the company
attorney at the same time.
D--When was this?
R-This was late '69. The first meeting of the incorporation committee was
held in Cape Coral at the Italian-American club on Tuesday, September
2, 1969. And at that meeting we planned for a public presentation to
everybody that lived in Cape Coral talking about the virtues of incor-
poration. And so the big public meeting was held on November 24th, 1969
at the Cape Coral Yacht Club. And during that period of time we met week-
ly as the incorporation committee and I as the company's lawyer, wrote
the charter for the city of Cape Coral. And I didn't get paid for it
by the citizens, I got paid for it by Gulf American. But it was a good
corporate charter. And if they were still using it now they would be
better off. It was a strong council, weak mayor. The mayor was to be
simply ceremonial. And the council was to make all the decisions. And
all of the council were to serve at large so that you wouldn't get into
ward politics. And in the years since I wrote the city charter, they
have done all the things that I was careful to avoid. That obviously,
is just my opinion. And I was invited to become city attorney of Cape
Coral, the first, and I declined to do that, but I did go to the first
city council meeting which my notes indicate was held on December 3, 1970,
at 2:30 in the afternoon. And of course, I knew all of the original city
council and secretary and everything because they were all former members
of the incorporation committee. It's been really fun working for the
company as far as the outrageous things they would ask you to do. And
I feel that it's an integral part of my life now. My career anyway.
D--Tell me a little bit more about Leonard. What do you remember most about
him that you could tell us about?
R-Well, Leonard was one to do just about anything .to make money. Many
people think that when he originally bought land in Ft. Myers and was
going to build a development, that he probably was acting with less than
honorable principles. If it failed somehow he would walk off with the
money. It turns out that he was fantastically successful and he built
a city which is now bigger than Ft. Myers. And I understand, and I
wasn't involved at that point, Leonard who came from Baltimore who had
run and owned the Charles Antel Company, came into Ft. Myers and met
with Harry Fagan, who was at that time the president (and this was
like in 57 or 58) of First National Bank in Ft. Myers. Harry had enough
faith in him to loan the money he needed to get started, And, but about
Leonard, you said that many of your sources have said that he had an in-
terest in women over and above marriage. I can confirm that that is
true. He had a nice apartment set up in each of the projects where he
had developments. He was an avid tennis player. He tried to take good
care of himself. I never saw him drunk and I was with him very frequent-
ly. There was a period of time there in about 1969 through 1971 where I
was asked to meet with him and other company officials almost weekly.
I was flying to Miami at that time and the company had their own airplane
so I flew on Gulf American airplanes becuase they had a regular shuttle
service back and forth between places and Ft. Myers and their headquarters
was in Miami. Leonard loved the finer things in life. I remember one time
that he and I were having dinner with a couple of other people. I can't
remember if it was called the DelPrado Inn or what but it was near the
sight of the present Holiday Inn and their wine list in that restaurant
was things like Mogan David and generic Chablis and generic Burgandy.
And Leonard says, "Bring us a bottle of Chateau Muton Rothschild. And of course
they didn't have that. They said, "I'm sorry, Mr. Rosen, we don't have
that." He says, "well get it." And about fifteen minutes later they
showed up with a bottle of Chateau Muton Rotschild that they had found some-
where in the vicinity of Cape Coral, but not at the DelPrado Inn.
D-Do you think that Leonard was really had this dream of building a city,
or was he building a city to make money?
R-He was building a city to make money. He probably felt good about seeing
what he had created. I think that anybody would. But I think Leonard
was really in it for the money. He was promoter and he was a hell of a
promoter. Physically, he ws not large. My recollection was that he might
have benn 5'7" or 5'8". And as I say, he kept himself in shape. And he
worked very hard. And he had some good people around him. At the same
time, he had a bunch of salesmen who would say anything to make a sale and
Leonard knew what they were saying.
D--But, he really didn't do much to discourage that.
D--Tell me a little bit about Bill Carmine. His name keeps popping up, but
nobody can tell me too much about him.
R-He started as an attorney in private practice in Ft. Myers. He was married
to the daughter of another Ft. Myers lawyer. Her name was Madeline. He
became county attorney, which is the attorney for the county commission.
Back in the days when Gulf American was needing a voice with some authority
to it, so they hired him as their attorney. As I told you earlier, he
became vice president of Gulf American and moved to Miami. IHe had a very
sweet deal, because part of his contract was if he would issue the title
insurance for all the lots sold in Cape Coral and Golden Gate Estates.
And he made a few bucks on each one of those and the total amounted to
pretty close to a million dollars. Gulf Amerian often signed things & didn't
read them and in this case they didn't understand that Bill was to get
this money and so he had to sue them. But I understand the settlement
was in the neighborhood of a half a million dollars. Bill was an outdoors-
man. He liked to hunt. He would cook out and we frequently took trips
together to GAC properties to go hunting. One of them was a big ranch
of abuot 35,000 acres on the Kissimnee River, called 'Kicco Ranch. There
was an old farmhouse in there and we used it as a hunting camp. And there
were lots of deer and turkey up there and wild hogs because the Kicco
Ranch adjoined the Avon Park Bombing Range & every time the federal
government starting shooting them up in there, all the animals would run
over to Kisso Ranch. And one time in that farmhouse, we had our eating
table in the corner by the fireplace, and one time when we were there
and sitting at the table the ceiling caved in because there was a raccoon
that was using the place next to the fireplace chimney as a warm spot to
raise little babies. The ceiling tile was old and coming to pieces and
one of these baby raccoons fell right down on to a pecan pie. And Bill
got divorced from his wife Madeline and he subsequently left the company
and I think was living off some property, some acreage north, several
counties north of here. ANd he eventually died of cancer. And he was
one of those Ft. Myers lawyers of that era that were sort of like Florida
crackers. Wherever he came from, he may have been a Florida cracker. But
their interest after they left their law office, generally their interest
was drinking and going to the woods.
D-Did you think he was pretty much in agreement with what Leonard was doing
with Gulf American or was there conflict between them?
R--Well, it's hard to remember all of those things, but I think Bill was a
pragmatist and as long as they were selling lots and he was getting title
insurance and so forth, I think everything went O.K. It doesn't stick in
my mind that he was a moralist. Some of things the company did weren't
D-There is one guy who comes up, not having worked for the company, but they
bought land from him.. It was a guy named Edward Green. From over in
Palm Beach. Do you remember that name at all?
R-No, I don't.
D-I believe he had a company which was called Jupiter Properties. I know
that he had purchased a piece of land over here that became the first
piece of property that Gulf American bought. Down at Red Fish Point,
Yacht Club area. And it had been sold to Ed Green and that group of men
in Palm Beach.
R-O.K. That was before my time. He was probably four years before I came
D-So, by the time that you came around, he was not around.
R-I do remember their land agent that used to buy property for them without
the sellers knowing who they were selling to. His name was Bob Henshaw.
D-Tell me about him.
R--Well, Bob was sort of a rough and ready type individual. I think he was
a consumate liar, but he made some good purchased for the company and I
think he made a lot of money on real estate commission.
D-So, he was a realtor that went around basically and bought properties for
R-He was a land agent. He put things together.
D-Except that the people didn't know that they were selling to, Gulf American.
R-If you want to know more about him, his son is a practicing attorney in
Sarasota, I think. And his name is Bob Henshaw, Jr. Let me tell you an
anecdote here. This I could hardly believe myself. In September of 1972,
the company received a demand from their former vice presidnet who held
a general contractor's license that they used to pull all their permits.
Jim Petrides was his name. Petrieds hired the Woteski law firm in Punta
Gorda to sue the company because they were claiming that for two years
after Jim had left the company, the company was still using his contrac-
tor's license number to pulll permits for all the homes they were building
in Cape Coral. And I thought this was absolutely impossible because at
all times they always had somebody with a general contractor's license.
And they would have no need to used his license. So, I remember going to
Punta Gorda and I met with Petr.ides lawyer, Bob Mandell, who subsequent-
ly became one of my best friends. And I had the company go through all
of their records and source material until I was satisfied that I had
everything that they had and it turns out, that they had indeed for two
years after Petrides left the company they were selling permits using
his contractor's license. And we ended up paying Petrides 50,000 dollars
in cash having done that.
D-About waht time span was this?
R-This was in September of 1972.
D-So, two years previous to that, they had been doing that?
R-yes. This was another example just like the failure to get dredging per-
mits. They could have done, they could have substituted whoever's license
was working for them, it would have been Tom Weber at that time. They
didn't need to use the Petride's license. They just simply had done it
by virtue of not paying attention. And it cost them money. There was
another time when they printed a brochure and it included a photograph of
a fisherman who had caught a big shock and was holding it up and
the fisherman, they hadn't bothered to ask him if they could use his pic-
ture in the thing and they published it. Well, he hired Harry Blair, a
local attorney and sued the company and we settled that for 5,000 dollars.
Just, you know, they were too big, in too much of a hurry to pay atten-
tion to the fine details. And it got them in trouble time after time.
D-That was a Gulf American brochure, not a GAC?
R-I can't remember.
D--I'm sure I can check on that, That sounds like stuff they would do
R-We used to influence people, the company used to try and influence peo-
ple by entertaining them a lot. And among those who liked to go to the
woods to go deer hunting, I participated in a lot of those hunting trips.
And I would have chairmen of county commissions and particularly the
heads of building and funding departments. And engineers. And I remem-
ber a wild jeep ride up at Kicco- Ranch back in about the mid-sixties.
A county enginner and I were sitting in a box on top of a jeep and we
were, the jeep was chasing a bunch of wild hogs and we went across this
field and we were holding g on with one hand and shooting at the hogs with
the other. And one of the most entertaining things to me was a former
Coller County official, who I will protect by not even naming what he
did, always dressed up in a coat and tie to go hunting. I mean, he
dressed up in a coat and tie all the time, that was his only mode of
dress. And I remember one time, again, in the mid-sixties, seeing him
sitting in a jeep that was stuck in the middle of a canal-up at Kicco
Ranch and with no way to get out in a coat and tie. And he was a slender,
rather elderly man who didn't probably weigh 1301bs. So, one of the other
guys walked out there and picked him up like a baby and carried him back
to dry land.
D--So, they used Kicco Ranch for a lot of entertaining? Before it ever
R--It became River Ranch Acres. They built an airstrip up there and they
built a motel with a restaurant and we had some good times up there.
D--Why do you think the Rosens began to build the other properties which
were basically acreage sales as opposed to building cities? Was it just
R-Well, they weren't just acreage sales. For example, the community at Golden
Gate, east of Naples, started out as some lots and some acreage. River
Ranch ended up as acreage. I think that the Fakahatchee strand area was
always intended to be acreage. They even considered doing a camping
condominium down there where you could buy an undivided share in the land
and you could camp out. As I said earlier, that later became state land.
Because of the overdredging. I would suspect that where Leonard and the
gang sold acreage it was because they could make more money that way.
That by selling all land than by letting somebody else improve it with
houses and everything. They had another big development in southern
Arizona just south of Nogales. South of Tucson, called Rio Rico and they
did the GAC thing down there. They built a motel and a restaurant. Their
engineer in Cape Coral was a Cuban emigre. And his name was Frank
DeNavarra. And his father was either president or vice president of the
Cuban airlines when they had to leave after Castro. And Frank was a big
hunter. We used to go dove hunting in what is now the Cape Coral Indus-
trial Park. And he had a bunch of his Cuban buddies up from Miami and
they were all shouting in Spanish. I think things like "Ariba, Ariba" which
means up in Spanish. And he invited me when he became project engineer
at Rio Rico to go out there and hunt doves because the dove hunting was
just fabulous. And this was in 1969. And '68 and '69. YOu know it was
like a continuing party to work for the company because so many things
happened all the time.
D--What did relationship did DeNavarra and Tom Weber have?
R-DeNavarra worked for Tom Weber.
D-So, Weber was over all the engineering, development....
R--Weber was their top dog when it came to working on land and building things.
D-DeNavarra would be assigned to a particular project?
D-So, he worked at Cape Coral and....
R-Later moved to Rio Rico.
D-Those were basically the two that he worked with?
R-That I know of, yes. And he's currently living in Miami somewhere. He
is a great big heavyset, outgoing, enthusiastic fellow who everybody liked.
He was a lot of fun.
D-Tell me a little bit about Hertzfeld, Bernard.
R-I don't remember very much, if anything, about Bernie Hertzfeld. The
people that I worked with were the corporation general council which was
Bill Carmine, and later Harry Warren and Harry was I think became to the
general council in 1967. And of course, with Leonard. I did a lot of
things directly from Leonard to me. And, particularly Tom Weber and
Frank DeNavarra and they had another engineer, Raul Philip Verde and
I can't begin to tell you how to spell that name.
D-What was the realtionship between you and Herzfeld when he.... From what
I understand, a lot of the legal stuff went through him. Is that not
R--Things that were given to me, I do not recall them coming to me through
Herzfeld. They would come to me from the general council and from Leo-
nard, directly, and on a lower scale, from Tom Weber. They were always
trying to solve problems. And Tom became very nitpicking. For example,
the city of Cape Coral after it was established, did not like the design
of the storm sewer that they company was using and they wanted them to
used a different kind. We already had a big inventory and spent a lot
of money on them. So we had meeting after meeting after meeting just
to let the comapny to continue to use their storm sewer gratings.
D--Tell me a little bit about Arthur Rutenburg.
R--Arthur was building in Cape Coral and I don't know a great deal about his
relation with the Rosens. But I do remember meeting with Rosen and
Arthur Rutenburg and we were in one of A model homes discussing some-
thing, I don't know exactly what we were discussing. And I later had
dinner with him and Leonard at the Cape Coral Country Club. I don't
remember anything in the conversation that was pertinent as to shaping
the company or Cape Coral.
D-Any idea why Leonard quit using Rutenburg to build their homes?
R-I have absolutely no information on that.
D-Did you ever meet Milt Mendelson?
R-Yes. I think I met just about everybody concerned with the company at
one time or another, but I only have, you know, memories of those people
that I worked with sort of on a day to day basis.
D-Did you have a feel as to whether Mendelson had a lot of influence in
R-I understand that he did. I believe that he did. I don't remember his
role, whether he was financial or planning sales, or what. But his name
came up all the time. But I just didn't have that much contact with him.
D-Was he at Cape Coral very much?
R-I had a feeling that he spent a lot of time at Baltimore, I'm not sure
about that. I'm sure he was at the Cape and other areas from time, but
I can't tell you how frequently.
D-Any other people here, locally? You mentioned Harry Fagan over at First
National. WEre there any other people that you know of locally, that
were really supporters of Leonard Rosen and Gulf American, really backed
them, whether they be in....
R-I'll tell you somebody who didn't. Have you ever heard of Pete Petrie?
PEte was originally Gulf American's pilot. They used to have a cesna,
I think, where they would take people for rides to look over Cape Coral.
And Pete later became a realtor and he was in competition with the com-
pany. He had an office that was built right, just west, on Cape Coral
Parkway where the four story Gulf American headquarters building was.
And he would do.... When Gulf American would bring a busload of pros-
pects and sell them company property., Petrie would greet them at the
door of the bus and try to sell them his property. And he and the com-
pany were always at odds with each other. And Gulf American never planted
trees. They planted Eureka Palms right down the middle of Cape Coral
Parkway so that his office would be hard to see. It was the only planted
median in the whole city, right in front of Petrie's office. Generally,
I don't think most people were supportive or believed in Cape Coral in
the early days. And I can't remember any other well known Ft. Myers
residents or Lee Countians who were big backers of Gulf American with the
exception of the county commissioners for the Cape Coral district. That was
Bruce Scott after, the first one was Mack Jones. And no prominent names
really come to mind.
D-Was there a feeling within the county that, was there any kind of anti-
semetic feelings, that we don't want these Jew boys out there, or we don't
like them, or that they would go away.
R-I think that was really a lot of anti-semetism. One of things that people
used to resent was when DelPrado Parkway was a two lane gravel road like
1959, when I first drove over to Cape Coral. I had come down in late
'59 interview with George Allen and he told me that he was thinking of
opening a branch in Cape Coral. We went over there to look at it. They
had salespeople who were dressed in what looked like sheriff's deputy
uniforms with a sewn on cloth emblem on the left brest of their tunic
that looked sort of like a sheriff's badge. Or some kind of a security
badge. When you tried to drive into Cape Coral they were there looking
like a guard box and they held up their hand and would make you stop
because they were trying to solicit you to buy land. And, Ft. Myers
at that time, was a sleepy little laid back town with a lot of conser-
vative people and when Leonard came in as a big city high-pressure real
estate developer, I think they probably resented it a great deal. That
was the feeling that I had. They didn't enjoy a sterling reputation. I
think they were in the right place at the right time and they were very
very successful for a lot of years. And after they were sold to GAC
and GAC took Chapter 11 and was reorganized into Avitar which is a pre-
sent entity, a lot of people lost a lot of money then. But they started
something that is going to out live all of us, because Cape Coral is
going to be a big, big city one of these days.
D-That's what I hear. Like 60,000 people now.
R-We still, I don't personally, but people on this side of the river still
resent Cape Coral because they don't want the midpoint bridge and they
say things like they ought to build a bridge that goes east and north
and west so it stays in Cape Coral.
D-A couple of things and I think we will be all done here. Did you ever
know Joe Maddlone?
R-I remember the name. I'm sure I did know him but I can't remember any-
thing about him.
D-You weren't involved in any of the financial arrangements and money and
stuff like that, or was that all Leonard doing that?
R-That was Leonard. I never got involved in that.
D-Were you ever in on any of the purchases of land?
R-As to the decision and what the terms would be?
D-Yes. And the actual....
R-Well, I closed a lot of sales. I remember one in particular. Where
they purchased quite a big amount of land,several 100 acres.I thought
I had some notes on that. Well, on several occasions, I would do the
actual closing on the purchase transaction. And we sometimes were buying
from people who were really hard to deal with. And we would haggle ex-
cessively, even at the actual closing, over various details.
D--Whay would they be hard?
R-The kind of people that sold land to Guld American, there were several
of them who were just as hard to get along with as Leonard himself.
Like the WEststones. They are Jewish. They are volatile, and they are
stubborn. They are a perfect match for Leonard Rosen. There is another
family, the Zemel family, whose partiarch bought lots and lots of pieces
of land in Lee County back during the depression and who would stand in
the path and have to be purchased by Gulf American. So, we had to deal
with the Zemel family and they were very hard to deal with. There was
a former retired airline pilot who owned a lot of property. And that's
the man that I'm referring to in the closings when we had difficulties.
I can't remember his name right at the moment. And....
D--Were they just constantly just looking for more land?
R--Constantly. The Zemels essentially owned all the land north of Alligator
Slough. It was a drainage way north of Lee County. And we were constantly
trying to buy that from the Zemels. The Zemels were constatnly wanting
impossilbe things in the way of price. The company considered buying the
20,000 plus acre Barnie Baron Ranch and establishing what essentially is
the General Development Coamunity of Port LaBelle. Leonard came within
a little bit of buying that ranch and doing what General DEvelopment had
done. And I think he and his wife are still alive. And I think they
probably live in LaBelle or somewhere. I remember him showing up at the
Pageant dance about six or seven years ago and I met him at that point.
So, yes, they were constantly considering buying.
D--Any other huge tracts of land? That they were looking at that they didn't
get? Wasn't there a large tract in the central part of the state that
-was owned by the Mormon Church or something?
R--Oh, the Iormon Ranch. They did not buy the Mormon Ranch, but they did
buy after Disney World came into existence, they bought a fairly small
ranch just north of lake Wales. And then through Bob Henshaw, they
essentially tried to do the same thing as Walt Disney did, is assemble
a big large tract which would essentially been everything south of Dis-
ney World. And they did put together a fairly large tract up there,
maybe 14 or 15,000 acres. And today, for example, in an area where I
used to go deer hunting up at this ranch, is a well-known Florida re-
sort. Where the Florida Bar had a real property sectionineeting & I was stay-
ing a condo up there on the property where the deer an wild pigs had
been just before.
D-There is a couple names that have come up that I haven't found too much
on. The Poinciana Park near Ocala?
R-You know, you've got me on that one. I remember the name. Poinciana
rings a bell, but where it was and what they were doing with it, I have
D-Does Bare Foot Bay?
R-Yes. That's in Miami. Wait a minute. I forgot about Bare Foot Bay.
O.K. That was....
D-Well, I understand it was a mobile home park, but I'm not quite sure. Near
R-O.K. I remember Bare Foot Bay. I never had any legal work in connection
with Bare Foot Bay. But you know, they almost bought the property just
south of the Bonita Beach Road which goes all the way down to Wiggins
Pass. That was owned by Lely and Gulf American was going to buy it
and make an extensive gulffront, bayfront, waterfront community down
D-I understand they did buy some land down there in that area.
R-They did, but wait a minute. O.K.
D-If I remember right, it was roughly 550 acres.
R-I forgot. I'm telling you the wrong story. They did buy it. They bought
it from Lely. And I went down there several times because it was one
of the best beaches in the whole area. Gulf American was the only person
that would let you in there. You had to be friends of the company to use
the beach. And I had forgot about that one. And I guess they must have
sold it later.
D-I don't think they ever developed it or did anything with it.,
R-Wow. We've been talking a long time. I didn't realize how long we had
D-O.K. One other question. Do you have anything to do with the Cape Coral
Bridge or anything with that deal or all of that?
R-The Cape Coral Bridge was arrived at between Bill Carmine and the
county commission and I got into it after it had already been authorized.
And was built., I remember very clearly that the county commission thought
that the Cape Coral Bridge would fail to be able to pay off its bonds be-
cause not enough people would use it. And the county had required Gulf
American to put up either 100 or 150 thousand dollar cash bond. And at
the point and time when the Cape Coral bridge was paying that bond, my job
was to get the county to realese the money to the company. I did.
But it required a lot of haggling.
D-When did Carmine become? General counsel?
R-I think he left Ft. Myers and went with the company in '62 or '63. Some-
where around there. Because I was looking over my notes and I know that
I was working with the company in the early '60's so I would say that he
may have left in about '63, perhaps.
D-Anything else you can remember? Anything else about the Rosens that
you particularly remember that told a little bit about who they were?
R-Well, I hardly ever saw Jack. As I said, he was straight laced, he had
a heart problem. And I don't think he participated too much after the
real early days. Well, I used to see Leonard all the time. Either in
MIami or here in Ft. myers. And you know, looking back on it now, he had a lot
of faith in a real young attorney: that hadn't been in practice very long.
And he let me do things with a degree of responsibility that were
probably pretty big and unexpected. A few other incidental things
that I remember. When they were blasting to create the canals at Cape
Coral, people used to complain that their house foundations, the walls
were cracked. They would sue and I would have to hire seismagraph
crews. I had to go out and show that the way they blasted wouldn't have
hurt anything. And I remember they wanted the cable television franchise
in 1964 and I set that up and established their cable t.v. company which
at that time was called Gulf Communicator's Inc. And we had hearings
with the county commission to get the franchise. I remember Connie Mack
who was their vice president for public relations and he was always put-
ting out fires. The company was notoriously tight in spending money
and when people perceived a problem, if you wanted to get the company
to move, you had to get Connie Mack to intercede with you. He was very
kind-hearted and he still is. He spends a lot of his time these days
at the regional medical center as a volunteer. Very warm-hearted man,
S and his son is Connie Mack, III who is in Congress. One of the most
interesting things out there was they had a det named Ed Tohari.
And Ed had a weekly newspaper in Cape Coral & he was from Poland & he used to
write all kind of libelous things about the company, at least in the company's
opinion they were libelous. About their scandalous sales practices
and everything. And they had me sue him for libel. And I had investi-
gated by a private investigator and we got a report with a lot of
things that didn't look very good in it. Eventually he quit publish-
ing the paper. We never paid him anything, but I forget how it was.
D--Do you Iow when that suit was?
R-Yes. That was in practically the whole year, December of '65 to Jan-
uary of '66. I've got it writtne down here.
D-What was the name of that paper? Do you remember?
R-I sure don't.
D--I can look that up. Were there any other detractors, people that were
critics? YOu mentioned Petrie. You mentioned Tohari.
R-Petrie and Tohari were two of the principle critics. Down in Coller
County they had a very strong detractor who was a retired fellow who was
always filing federal lawsuits that clouded title to company property and
he was extremely well known down there, but I have totally forgotten
D-Was his name Conover?
R-That doesn't ring a bell. NO.
D-Who was the chief person running Golden Gate? That whole project doen
R-It was a retired admiral. But I can't remember what his name was. I
usually had virtually very little to do with Golden Gate.
D--Was it Jung?
D-Why do you think Leonard and Jack finally sold out? Do you think there
was so much pressure from the state and stuff? Did they just feel like
it was easier to get out?
R--Well, the pressures were mounting at that point. And the only mistake
that Leonard made in selling the company, I think that it was a good
time in the company, is that he took stock in GAC corporation that
went into a voting trust for ten years. And the thing went under, GAC
D--So, he couldn't sell the stock?
R--No. If he could have, he would have.
D-Most people I've talked to have been unsure of whether he could have sold
it or not. I assumed he couldn't.
R-Both Leonard and Jack's stock was in a voting trust. But when they pur-
chased Gulf American Land Corporation, I think GAC stock was only worth
like fifteen or twenty dollars a share and I remember specifically that
it went up to forty five dollars a share after Leonard sold out and he
had big capital gains. I even bought 100 shares of GAC stock myself.
D-Oh, here's a name. Kenny Schwartz, did you know him?
R-Oh, yeah. Kenny was about as falmboyount as Leonard. He was the youngest
vice president the company ever had. When he went to work for the, when
I first met him, he was about the same age that I was. And I was like
thirty. Now, he might have been a couple of years younger than was. I
think he was in his early twenties when he went to work for the company.
He was as you probably read in one of these histories, the first resident
of Cape Coral. He was the absolute first. And he was a lot of fun,
talked a lot. I guess he was probably pretty good at his job. And he
has used me as his personal attorney in the last five years in selling
some land he owns here in Ft. Myers. I've handled about three real
estate deals for him. I hear from Kenny every once in a while. He lives
D-He seems to be doing fairly well.
R-I think Kenny has a pretty good pile under his belt by now.
D-I think I've run out of questions.
R-Well, I have about run out of recollections, so.... But it was fun just
reading all my old diaries. REally, they are just appointment books, but
they've got names and dates and lawsuits and things like that. There is
one other name that I've got that was in sales, Byron MIaharrey. I used
to work with Byron some.
D--So, he was in sales?
R-Yes, I think he was selling condos for the company at that point. I
ended up doing about a dozen different jobs with him. Oh, here's one
thing I meant to. I set up Harbour South Condominium which is just at
the west end of the Cape Coral Bridge on the south side.
D-The tall building.
R-Yeah. It's about six stories or so. The company, and this came out
just about eight months ago, they had a portion of the parking lot on
county rigLt-of-way. And when they are widening Cape Coral Parkway now they
are losing something like 20 parking spaces. But the company on the
condominium plot plan showing a little encasement of the improvements in
the parking lot and everything. The parking lot is in the right of way.
And the unit owners came to me because I'm pretty well known in the
condominium practice and asked me to sue Gulf American or something. I
discussed it with TerryJLennick my law partner, who is government regu-
lation of land use. Because they had it shown clearly, people didn't
realize the import of it. They really have no complaint now. They are
having to redo their parking lot. That was typical of the brass things
that the company might do. I never even noticed that myself until the
people brought it in a year ago., even though I wrote to condo docs myself
D-Let me ask one other question. I understand that there were often times
when they would get an option on a piece of land, or maybe not even get
an option on it, a handshake agreement. They would draw up their sales
maps and they would sell lots from that before they actually owned it.
When they had a certain number of sales then they would close the sale.
R-That is absolutely typical of what you might expect from Leonard Rosen.
And although I don't know, or at least I don't remember any direct
instances of that/ what I know about the company and the people involved
tells me that their probably did do that. You know, they had marketing
all around the world. At one point in time you could walk down the
streets of London and get solicited to buy land in Cape Coral.
D-That's what I understand. Anybody else around in the local area that is
still around that would know.
R-Well, there was, up until recently. One of their general contractors
became a very successful contractor in private business here and he died
of cancer about eight or nine months ago. And his wife is still around.
She might be worth talking to. I have reached the age where you think of
things but you can't think of specifics. And I can't remember his name.
There are a number of lesser employees. A bunch of them at Lehigh Acres
now. Bud Jorgesen, for example, either does or until recently did work
at Lehigh Acres. And if you were to talk to somebody in the Lehigh
Corporation you would probably find two or three ex-Gulf American people
D-Was there any competition you feel from Lehigh or General Development
or did Gulf American pretty much ahve their own show and everybody else
was pretty much forced to follow.
R-They were the power in land sales, in this area at least. Lehigh as always
been a fairly sleepy little community. Leghih was run entirely differently.
They still had high pressure sales tactics, but the reason, in my opinion
that their community didn't' grow as fast as Cape Coral was number one,
the location. But number two, the Lehigh Corporation until recently
never sold any commercial property. They always kept it themselves. And
leased it, and as a result they don't have any big stores over there.
And they bus people in from Miami, but they never owned an airline. And
it hasn't been financially successful. They ahve been sold and resold and
resold and I don't even know who owns them right now. There's some
very interesting stories about Lehigh if you ever decide to write some-
thing about that.
D--I'll be back to talk to you when I start that. Good. Thank you. Is
there anything else?
R--No. As I said, it was just a unique experience in my law career to repre-
sent somebody like Leonard Rosen. YOu Imow, I made money doing it and
I had a ball. He let me do a lot of interesting things.
D-Did he ever think the thing was going to fail?
R-I never got an indication from him that he did. No. But I'm sure that
he didn't tell me everything.
D -Anything, any phrase or camnent that he used to always make?
R-It doesn't stick in my mind.