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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
D--We're doing an interview with Joe and Agnes Miller in the Coral Springs,
Florida. The date is January 27, 1988. The interviewer is David
JOe and Agnus, tell me a little bit about your background before you came
to Gulf American or came to work for them, where you were born and stuff.
Maybe a little bit about your educational background.
J--Well, let's see, Dave, I was recruited by a blind agency in Miami. And
after about the third day, I then found out who had hired me. At that
time they ad just converted from Gulf Guaranty Land and Title Company to Gulf
American Land Corporation.
D--When was that?
J--I had just got back from South American, so it would be'61, I guess.
And the job description was something like this, "We're going to send
you into various departments to work. YOu just go in there and learn and
keep you eyes open." And....
D--Who described the job like that?
J--Well, I'm trying to remember the chap, and I can't remember his name. In
fact, he later on introduced me to, this is before they had the offices
built on Biscayne Blvd. They were located on 3iscayne Blvd, over Junior's
Restaurant and in other retail outlets, on the second floor. It was all
over the place, down the hall, inbetween barber shops and what have you.
But ultimately, within the first thirty days, I was introduced to a chap
by the name of Jim Layden who went on to become the executive vice pres-
ident of Gulf American Land Corporation. At that time, I think his title
was assistant to the president, depending on who was president at the
time, it would change roles. Jack would be president and Leonard Chiarman
of the Board and so on. And the very first real job I had was to join a
marketing program that had formulated that was called the V.I.T. program.
And the chap who was in charge of it, as I recall, his last name was
Grossrman, Murray Grossman, had been a friend of Leonard's and had a
background in siding or encyclopedia home repairs or stocks or'bonds
or something like that. And he had come up with this marketing pro-
posal called King and Queen for a Day. A take off on something that
was happening on television at the time. And the agency, and I'm not
sure which one, depending on who you spike with, either the Miami ad
agency or the agency in Baltimore both would take credit for it. But
somebody cane up with V.I.T., very important traveller. And the logo
vwas a little man on the airborne rug wearing a fez and the program
which was very very successful, the program was to minimize the cost of
delivering a buying unit to the sight. And the site at that time was
Cape Coral. So what we did is we built a welcoming station in Cape
Coral for the V.I.T. travelers. Because we offered a five dollar rebate
for their gasoline, a five dollar rebate for you motel room and a five
dollar rebate for you meals. And how we arrange that was by, I hired
people to run up and down the coastline signing up filling stations and
we put A-frame signs out for free gas and people would pull in and the
attendant would explain as best possible. It wasn't really free, but
you'd get five dollars back. And in those days five dollars would fill
up a regular car with gasoline. And in those days five dollars would
pay for a motel room. And you could have a meal. And we used the same
technique with motelairs, hotelairs, restaurants, anybody who would
cooperate, free jewelry, anything, free anything. You would get this
passport to travel to Cape Coral. They were all coded numberically with
codes that we would pay the proprietors. We started our own dictionary,
a "sOiff" for if somebody showed up with the passport that was from their
location, they would get a check and the company paid for it. Needless
to say, here is a filling station operator who conceivably could pick
up a hundred dollars or more off the books, so to speak. So, it was a
very successful program. And so successful that the first year we were
in full operation. Allegedly we were able to meet payroll as a result of
the sales made from the V.I.T. program. They would get down to the wel-
coming station on 41 in north Ft. Myers, remember this is before the
bridge so it was 56 miles roundtrip to the site from northh Fr. Myers. Think
about self-generating, motivating people to do this. And we'd have
the drawing, oh, it was a ford automobile that only made it for two years,
a Falcon. A brand new Falcon up on the platform and you could enter the
drawing to win the falcon, you could also get free orange juice, coffee.
The company brought the first danish to the west coast of Florida, but
you could have the donuts. And also a key that you could open the
treasure chest with a mink stole or a jacket down to various things. And
there were winners, you know. In fact, I brought the couple over who
won the falcon, a young couple. Picked their name. If you evaluted
what it was costing us to deliver one of the OPC's in Miami Beach where
we would solicit a buying unit, either a single adult or a married cou-
ple for the free trip. Started with the airplanes and the real estate
commission came down on us for that. But then we would solicit the people
on the basis of a free lunch or a free trip that was another one of our
marketing things, which I thought was dynamic, of course, I thought of
it. We had a series of billboards which showed only a rear, reclining
lady, attractive, and a sign that said see the other side, meaning of
course, the West coast of Florida. But what we'd do as they came, a
typical operation would be, Agrs, and I would sign up for this free trip
right. Now a chauffer would come to wherever we were staying and pick
us up and drive us to Cape Coral. Now, in those days, there was no Alli-
gator A'lley, either. So it was the Tamiami Trail. And it was a long,
all-day trip. Now there was the cost of the driver, plus the fuel for
his car, plus the spif if they bought, plus the splf to the person who
hussled them. And now their on the line, so to speak. Well, I think
that it was calculated that that was costing us $120 per buyer. Where
the V.I.T. progaie was five dollars for gas, five dollars for motel, five
dollars for meals, fifteen dollars plus the cost of maintaining the wel-
come station, plus the cost of the program. So probably our cost was
about thirty dollars a buyer, a substantial savings. And of course, that
was the reason that we started our own airline flights because of the
cost of the charter flights. First, we started with the dinner parties.
WE started with group ticketing then we went to block seating, then we
went to charter flights and then realized it would be even less expen-
sive to go into the airline business.
D--So you were the head of the V.I.T.?
J--No, the chap who was the head of it was Murray Grossman.
J--Although, Murray was getting on in years and he had some personal pro-
blems so I soon realized that the reason that I was there was to run
the program. And so I did that and then the program then was, we opened
it up for River Ranch Acres, we opened it up for Golden Gate Estates,
when we opened Golden Gate Estates. And then the program was turned
over to a chap by the name of Rosen, no relation to the Rosens over at
Cape Coral, a more logical place for it to operate from. And from
that I went into another program that we started, the Broker Openers
Program. Now this we did by telephone. Myself and one other person and
that grew to about six other people I guess. And what we did is we
ordered telephone directories and we would target areas. We'd. order
telephone directories for a given area. Let's say, Atlanta. And we
would call on watts lines every real estate broker in that area until
we, and we just set appointment for a chap and I never met him. I
talked to him every day on the phone and never met. Anyhow, this chap
would go in, we'd make the appointments for him and he'd go to this
broker and he would sell the broker on representing Cape Coral in
D--It wasn't Lester Morris was it?
J--Lester Morris, I think it was. Yes. And based on his success, we would
open a brokerage office in that state. And then the rovers would come
in. The rovers were teams that went out, let's say that you agreed to
be the broker in Atlanta for example. And what they would do it that
they would come into your office, go through all you office, they would
set up a dinner and give a dinner. Get all of your clients and you
would get a little overwrite for the used of your name and your facility.
We would get you started. We'd put up the signs. It seems we were
doing real well until we, we were using a machine at the time called
'view links to tell the story. And initially, we started because we were
desperate. We wouldn't give them the machine, we'd let them use the
machine. Then we started, I think, trying to get deposits for the
machine, then we started selling them the machines. The more demand
there was to become an affiliated broker for Gulf American. And then,
of course, in the successful area, like Atlanta, if it became very
successful, the company would open it's own office there. So that
D--Was that usually what determined whether they had an owned and operated
J--Yes. If the volume would justify it or if somebody, somewhere decided
that we could do better than the broker for what we were paying the
broker because of his name we could use that. That would cover our
overhead. -;veryone, my reflection is that Gulf American was like a
confederation of sheikdoms and everybody who could start a little
domain, it probably epitomized the era of bureaucracy. And so somebody
would catch Jack or Leonard at the appropriate place or the appropriate
time with a proposal that they bought and zingo, they were the head of
a new division. Even off and running. And then, various people like
myself would later be sent in to find out what the hell was really going
on. So I guess I was a sometimes overt, sometimes covert agent of the
D--Vould Jack or Leonard tell you that, they would send you into something
and say, well basically we want you to learn this, but we want you to
J--The late Jim Layden. I let's see I'm trying to remember, Leonard, the
only at length discussions I ever had with Leonard Rosen is when I would
send a proposal to him to Layden suggesting that they would go into the
insurance business, which they did. And the reason I suggested it was
the idea we were losing sales on the basis of actualities.A couple would
buy a lot with the idea of retiring in a very short time so that would
make them GO some years old, maybe. And before they got anywhere into
the contract the principle would die. And so I had this crazy idea that
what we ought to do is take advantage of what then existed called credit
life insurance. If you bought an automobile and you financed it, they
woud twist your arm and the legislature finally passed a law for prohibi-
ting them from doing that, but they would suggest to you that you should
buy this insurance that in the event of your death, you wife.... So I
took that and I said, "NOw look, Leonard, here's what we can do.
Instead of them paying off the car for the widow, they can pay off the
land for the widow." It was a great idea. They bought a company out
of TExas and I was real disappointed because the chap that Leonard
turned that over to was part of his entourage in Miami. And he ran with
it to built this company. But he used to call me all the time because
I had an insurance background and so finally I asked him, "Aren't you
going to make me vice-president of this insurance company?" Afterall,
everybody that comes down the pipe with a half-baked crazy idea gets to
made director of this or director of chat or so on and so forth with
fancy salaries and all of the acriuents of office. And here I an,' I
can't even get a raise. Leonard told me once in response to that his
corporate resolution preventing any executive from earning over 16,000
dollars a year and you are at 15. And I can't pay you the same as I pay
all the executives. So....
D--Did you buy it?
J--I did for a while. You know, it was a surprising thing because the major
papers that I did for them, I had complete control of the bank account,
up to and including the approval of all my own expenditures. So at any
given time, I could have written myself a check for 25,000 dollars. I
never did, but I could have, forget about a raise. So then, let's see.
The Broker Openers Program. I would do, very few people in the company
knew who I was and who I reported to. They would always say about me,
who is this guy and stuff like that. And I didn't do anything
or anything but I needed out certain facts on cost overruns and stuff
with money not being spent wisely and stuff of that nature. I reported
back. One fellow, it cost him a lot of money and I thought he'd be his-
tory. They took the job away from him, sent he and his wife & family to
Europe for a vacation and when they came back, they gave him a different
job. But he was one of the original entourage, that was permissable.
There was another Jack that kept needing money and kept needing money/
had personal problems. And apparently some things were going on, you
!akow, so I discovered it and was told not to worry about it, it's O.K.
YOu did your job, that's the end of it. Go on to the next project. If
we overpaid grossly for some gravel or rock, and things of that nature.
But all kinds of little things like that. And they would send me these and
able to handle myself in most any situation and you know I could chop
a bunch of projects out which I'd do. I pretended I was a buyer once
for a real estate broker, an independent broker in Cape Coral. And
gave his pitch and I think after we went out of business and came to
work for salesmen, eliminate the competition, things of that nature.
Then I was kind of floating around waiting for the opportunity to be-
come vice president of -!he insurance company and Layden sent for me and
said that they had this project that they had started and initiated it
and it floundered. They wanted to, they promoted it to doing something
with Hobby House. It was going to be called Hobby House and they had
the appropriations for the building, this that and the other thing. It's
over at the Cape. Now, all this time I was housed over at Miami.
D--When did this Hobby House thing start up?
J--Well the Hobby House didn't. 1What I did is, I went into it, the program,
with a proposal and decided that the initial idea wasn't bad it was
just that it hadn't been thought through. The names were all wrong.
There wasn't anything expanded upon it. Again, I guess maybe being
motivated by, what if I were to come up with a winner here, I'd have
my dynasty, I don't know. But anyhow, what happened was that we started
a program and we called it, junking the HObby House name, we called it
the National Hobby Center, O.K. So, much fanfare, I moved from Miami
to Cape Coral and....
D--Looks like that was, it says January, 1965.
J--'65, yes. Probably then was maybe mid-1964. I don't know how long it
took me to put everything in place. To, and this was up and going before
this was published. Miami had to put out the publication. So I would
say some part in the early, mid-64 we launched the National Hobby Cen-
ter. I moved to Cape Coral obstensively as the executive director of
a non-profit Florida corporation called the National Hobby Institute. The
idea there was, and of course Jack liked it very much because The company
was not associated with it. The idea was the marketing concept. To put
Gulf AMerican Land Corporation, right now we had Cape Coral, Golden Gate,
and River Ranch Acres. Now Arizona was just on the drawing boards. We
had property in Arizone, Utah, Colorado, and Central AMerica. So, we
had a lot of inventory. And the idea here was to provide a common denom-
inator with what I estimated based upon given statistics at the time.
There were 24 million American hobbyists. And the grand plan was to
provide say, you at a dinner party at you localized marketing campaign,
leads. Lead cost are very expensive, advertising costs, very expensive.
To provide you with a common denominator, so if you were in Atlanta and
there's a model railroad club in Atlanta. So we established a model rail-
roading club operation in Cape Coral, you see? And as a result of that,
of course we got just all kinds of free publicity. That was my problem
with the Baltimore agency was that I was getting an awful lot of free
publicity for Cape Coral. And I presumed that agencies don't like that.
I don't kn-ow. 3But in newspapers such as The "'ic.?ro Tribune, our clipping
service, we had boxes and boxes because we did wild and crazy things.
And the adjunct of that, of course, was where Dick Sayers came in. As
a result of what we doing we got into the business of bringing in sports
writers, fishing writers, all of these special editors. And people who
wrote for magazines and what have you. Bring them in, make a package for
them we knew exactly waht they were interested in. For fishing we'd have
a charter boat, take them out on the boat. If it was hunting, take them
up to River IRauch or out to Golden GAte.
D--So, the Hobby Center was not to just gain free publicity, but it was also
to generate leads.
J--Well, that was in the master plan. So what we did is we formed the Na-
tional Hobby Center. We started with multi-faceted in that we started
getting into the hobby industry. We started getting into the hobby print
media. WE started having hobbies on review. I mean, I would have people
sent to me collections that were priceless. To put them on display at the
National Hobby Center in Cape Coral, Florida. We would participate. I
gave the Connie Mack Sportsmanship Trophey out to. Now, I would go off
on the road. See I would say this for the Rosens. They never paid me what
I was worth, but if I needed an airplane, it was there. If I needed a car
it was there, If I needed more secretaries, I hired them. You know, if I
had to go anywhere, I went. They left everything up to my judgement. And
so I guess one would offset the other, I don't know. Now that I'm older,
I would have much preferred the money. And then, of course, we started
the National Hobbyist. Dick Sayers was our editor. And we put on then
the series that this chap is our friend to this day, Rich Palmer. Who is
a major, major person in the Hobby industry in those days and still is
somewhat today. But we became friends and he put me into these things. I
was on the dias for the annual hobby industry trade show. They always had
the largest trade shows. And here I am, a celebrity. Cape Coral, Florida,
the National Hobby Center, Cape Coral, Florida. So we held major events.
Here's displays that were sent. Coins, stamps, guns, just all crazy things,
right. Remote control boats, airplanes.
D--A little bit of everything.
J--Oh, yes. We had everything. We started out our CCRR railway and of course,
issued a pass, which is a big thing with model railroaders. Some of them have
an entire house plasterd with passes, from all over the world. So now we're
getting publicity in Italty, Germany, which is very big in model railroading.
It's all free, in the sense that it's not paid ads. And we got our
circulations and ourinterest as establishing that common denominator. Then
we have, we did some, with very limited budget, by the way, and that was
another thing that I think the ad agency complained about. These things
don't make sense. Thisis the Raso girl who is a golf pro. Her dad was Joe
Rasso, who was a salesman. One of the millionaries of Cape Coral. Went
on his own over in Cape Coral. I mean you can go through here and just
let your mind.... And I'll be happy to let you take this with you, if
youd would like. I know I can trust you. I mean anything you can think
of, we were into it, all over the country. To the extent that this is
the only one that I have, there were other publications, I mean other
hardbound publications. But the reason I kept this was the author, Lou
Hertz and he sent me one free. Because I didn't buy any of this stuff.
But this became a bible today. Radio controlled Bible this was the
bible, o.k. No bonified hobbyist. Here I ame amking an award, Connie
Mack, Jr. Sportsmanship Trophy. So I did those kinds of things, to the
winners. Trade shows, both consumer and for the trade, all over the
country. Had a booth, we put together a booth. Well, so we're rolling
along and creating a monster, a Frankenstein. That we had there. It was
in the making. It vwas called the Cape Coral Gardens. And Cape Coral
Gardens was going to be the major, major public attraction in Florida.
Now the real reason for the Cape Coral Gardens and some of the other OPC's
was our hustlers were being arrested at places like Cypress Gardens for
trespassing or at least being threatened with it. Trying to generate pros-
pects. So I tried to get us into, get our literature approved at Florida
Public Attractions Association. Well, we had no public attractions at the time. So
we should get into the public attractions. As a result we bought a place
called Musa Isle Which was an Indian Village, Alligator wrestling
type of thing across the street from the Orange Bowl. And that went
defunct, so we bought it. The company bought it, another grand plan. And
we went in there and completely restored the place. Cut a deal with the
Grey Lines for their jungle cruiseboats, because you could go right up the
Miami River, right there. And I enlisted my dad. My dad got involved
because Jack Fish was the project manager and he knew my dad. And had a
pgeat deal of respect for my clad. And he had a problem, he couldn't get,
he needed somebody with a theatrical background to produce shows. So,
he got my dad and my dad lined up the, well they had the guy with the
prancing parrots that would ride the little tricycles and all that. Iad
all of these various carnival acts, so to speak. And also nobody could
get along with the Indians except my dad. They liked my dad and so they
would do things like get a hut put back together. And get the alligators
there and do the alligator show. So we did that. We opened that up and
that was very successful. So then we did the thing on Miami each
called the Pearl Lagoon which was just an obvious trap. So the Florida
Public Attractions Association would not approve that. Then they hit us
with, well you've got to be in business for over two years. For you know,
they knew who we were. We weren't kidding anybody. They knew why we
were doing it. And they didn't want us. It was that simple. They didn't
want Cape Coral literature at Cypress Gardens, which was the biggest attrac-
tion in Florida. Or anywhere else. So, apparently Jack came back from
California, from Disneyland and decided that we are going to have a major,
major public attraction in Cape Coral. Becuase of this and the .usa Isle
thing and maybe my dependability, or at least "He's not stealing;" anyhow I got
involved in that. And they had just an astronomical sum of money sunk
into that thing. We brought, we got Bob HOpe in one year. That was the
best year we ever had with the Cape Coral Gardens. Both attendance-wise
and publicity-wise or whatever. So we moved the National Hobby Institute
to the Gardens. That's what I'm leading up to. And we had the Garden of
Patriots. This is what we were doing. We did a model rocket. You can
see, we did pretty good there. Dick Sayers and I and the photographer, Bill
Mayler would do all of this and it was a labor of love. And I think my
D--Pretty good photography.
J--Oh, yes. My budget was like fifty bucks a month for Dick I think. Or
something like that. Maybe 500 a month. To be the editor. And for Bill
Mayler, I don't know. Maybe 100 dollars a month, 200 dollars a month,
to be the photographer. Now of course, Dick worked in the metro and you
know we had our own publicity department area at the Cape. And Mayler
was a photographer there. One of the photographers that Dick had. And
Dick had this gal, she's written a book.
J--Eileen Bernard worked for Dick and he had a couple of other writers.
J--Oh, yes, Vinch SMith worked for him. Vince was the other photographer.
lie wasn't a writer in those days. lie became a writer after. And then the
young lads, remember the two brothers? They adored me, the younger of the
two, they started up the ad agency. I gave them my account. lie was the
other photographer. Then we started, you could become a member of the
National Hobby Center also, we gave away membership cards you know. A
non-profit organization. So we did these crazy things like this. This
rocket thing here. And we'd stretch everything. VWE formed two rocket
teams. We had a rocket team and I put out all of these promotional things
like, we had powerboat racing long before I saved the regatta five years
ago in Cape Coral. WTe put on infinite, thirteen annual international
drag races. The model powerboats regatta. I had a three day model air-
plane meet there. And part of that, I got some of the local people over
there and I performed with this one guy who was a banker, he got fired
for the job. But here was the idea. We're going to shoot down the
model airplane with the model rocket. WEll, I want to tell you. One
of the asides was I got a call from the FAA in Miami. We built a
bunker outside the national Hobby Center. THis photograph appeared in
400 publications throughout the United States. We built this bunker and
after work we got out there with these model rockets and I'd get the
rockets from Estes which is out in Colorado. You know, and all that
stuff. You know, I'm wheeling and dealing like crazy. And get on the
phone and tell this guy, I don't have any money for this project. FAA
calls me. In those days the only airline that came to Ft. Mlyers was Na-
tional. Well, a pilot for National turned us in. We had exceeded 2500
feet. In fact, the guy in the FAA said the pilot was a little pissed off
it went by his window. So he read me the U.S. Code. I told him,
2500 feet don't be silly. He said, "Mr. MIller I don't want to have
to call you again and most of all I don't want to have to come over
there." Here I am, I'm at the SMithsonian in New York as an attendee for
Cardinal's Speiman's on his coins which are world renowned.
D--So this National Hobby Center and stuff generated a lot of publicity.
D--Did it go into sporting events too?
J--No, no. Just hobbies. Here's Dick Sayer's hand. We did the match cover
convention. You'd be surprised how people get into collecting match
covers. Adn the parameters to establish.... See, we were promoting
the three day event. Now, this was the second airport in Cape Coral.
D--That' s wild.
J--You're not even old enough to remember it.
D--I've heard about it. That's the one on DelPrado.
J--On what is now DelPrado. Harney Point Rd.,which was the second airport.
The first airport was the parking lot of Big Johns. That's where the
very first airport. And National Hobby Center was the buidlign where
Wonderland Realty went. That whole building was National Hobby Center
which was originally the conniisary for flights. That was the first, bring
the little planes and land them. right there, right in the bacl, bring the
people in to that building. While they were building the Tiki and the
Nautilus across the street. And the motel, the first motel.
D--On that picture there, this is DelPrado?
J--This is DelPrado.
D--When would that be? Do you have any idea?
J--Oh, this is the landing strip. This is DelPrado here. There's DelPrado
right there. Two lanes, that's all. And my V.I.T. people used to have
to drive the people from our NOrth Ft. Myers Welcome Station, down that
road down to which is now downtown Cape C'oral. Down to where my office
ended up being. So, this was a major, major hobby event. We, and I got
the Civil Air Patrol out, I don't have any staff. I had one secretary.
I got two secretaries, I actually had three secretaries, but they were
parttime. I had four at one time. But I only had one fulltime secretary.
"Two of my secretaries and the older one was my fulltime secretary whose
father worked for me in the V.I.T. program. Colonel Jenkini. And who
was one of the original settlers in Cape Coral. ils v.ife, !elle, still
runs the DelPrado Inn, I would imagine. They could also tell you some
stores. lie was another one who I knew how he got to be a colonel. lHe
knew when not to say anything. And he was a very fine gentleman. But
his daughters worked for me. I took my secretary from here over there
wtih me and moved her over because she knew, she was a young girl, very
very efficient. She wasn't much younger than I at the time. .iy father used
to introduce,,.m to people as the youngest forty year old he ever lknew.
She was a very young girl, but very very capable. And very career minded.
ANd I thought that some day she might become a good executive. She got
over there and out of lonliness and boredom because it was kind of confined
those days for young, unattached girls she ended up taking horseback
riding as recreation and relaxation. She met some guy who owns the horses,
fell in love with him and married him. That was the end of that. This
gal is married to, not married to, her father owns, well her dad is
who is a sales:man, you don't Imow hbi. lie had some problems with the
state and went out and started his independent brokerage. Another, I
would say, became another millionaire from Gulf American. The company
made a lot of people wealthy. Not that the company wanted it to happen
that way, but they'd leave the coxoany and open a business. But she is
married to, or not married, she works for the general contractor over
J--Stillson. This girl was fifteen years old when we took that. And that's
a testimony to Bill Mayler's photography. I'm building up to the
crescendo. We also went to slick (paper),This covers the three day event.
Let's see, here we are. WE lost. fWe tried to shoot down the airplane
and the airplane destroyed us. But now, if you wanr to take thi-s feel
free< to do so. But if you do, you'll see, people came from Colorado,
Hawaii to attend these events. At the model powerboat regatta, we had a
guy drive from Texas in a Rolls Royce with a chauffer. From Texas. Vfhen
he came out to do his thing, he came out with the Rolls Royce, the cheauf-
fer gets out, opens up the trunk, puts on the rubber hip boots, takes the
model boat out of the craddle in the trunk, walks into the lagoon, again
publicizing the Rose Gardens we did all these thing to generate....
VWe all had an overall scheme. I don't know how we kept track it all.
D--Did a lot of people that came down here for events like that, did they
J--Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And it had the program that followed through
to the end where I envisioned, I'm not one to resist the future. So, I
envisioned our salespeople getting a computerized printout and I could,
I put myself in that position. H-ere I am, a land salesman and somebody
hands me, not a lead, I don't iwasnt a lead. But hands me a printout on
a model railroader that lives in my town. 1Phat better repore could I have
than to call on this chap, have you been to the model railroad layout in
Cape Coral. Are you a member there? I mean, that's the way to sell in
my opinion. But of course, it never came to that. And then to carry
that through. YOu see, I had access to the names of every buyer from
every hobby store in the world. I had access to the subscription list
of every hobby publication. So I mean, it wasn't a half-baked, not be-
cause I though of it, you know or that I was pushing it. I really wasn't
thinking in terms of building a dynasty. And then, here again, we take
a pass. Here's the old mill railroad from Italy. And I, of course, found
all these people and would send them a pass back, so on and so forth. I
mean, I really felt that probably for the two years that the thing was
really pumping, now we are doing this, plus the gardens, plus out flying
all over the country, making speeches and introducing Cape Coral to
people who never heard of it before, that was nice. I really enjoyed
it and I really felt.... We did the drag races, we had, Cybil Burton
and the Jordanaires to teach them how to run slot cars. Christopher.
Here's this guy, he was 72 years old. He flew his own airplane, learned
how co fly and got a license at 70. Flew his ovn, homemade airplane from
someplace in New York to come down and enter his model powerboat. The nuns
form Dominican. Promote, promote, promote. This is the chap I think
that came, the fellow from Texam with the Rolls Royce. Also, I wrote
all of this, everything in here, I wrote. And Dick would correct my
spelling and punctuations. Here's a fellow from Palm Beach. Hobby Craft
and Leisure Time Show in New York. I went there for three days. I'll
show you our booth. Here's Jack E. Leonard and PHyllis Dillard. I had
to take care of all of them when we were doing The Fat Spy there. Plus
I get shoes for the the writer that came from New York with no shoes.
Find all of the props that hey needed. Dick and I had to take care of them.
Brian Danlevy got drunk and sent him to the hotel room. Jayne Mans-
field was pregnant. Bill Mayler, his job was to take photographs.
Hooked her up in a corsett every morning. Every day. I tried to keep
Jack E. Leonard from talking to the press because all they talked about
bugs and mosquitos, heat. Don't step outside the door. He couldn't get
out of there fast enough. Phyllis. Diller of all of them, she was the
easiest to manage, the easiest to get along with and the most cooperative.
She was professional. She was there and she was being paid to be there
and she knew that part of the routine was to cooperate with us becasue
we are putting up with them. Unfortunately, Agnes and I went to the
premeire. It premeired in Ft. Myers. The theatre is no longer there.
And after the third day, the owner of the theatre called and told me that
he was not showing the film anymore because nobody was coming in to see
it. But that was another one of my jobs to, oh that was the second one.
The first movie they sent me the script to be reviewed to get ready for
it. And on that caper we were going to recruit the local little theatre
group to participate. Of course, the heirarchy didn't realize that you
just can't do that. Screen Actors Guild doesn't permit it. But be that
as it may, it had gross vulgarity and nude scenes in it. And so I sent
a memo back to Leonard and told him that I strongly recommended that he
reconsider about doing this thing in Cape Coral having Cape Coral's name
in it. Not because I'm against nudity or vulgarity, I just don't think
that that's the image that we wanted to create for Cape Coral. And
there was an internal battle over that one. I was told that we dumped
a quarter of a million dollars to get out of it. That one they did not
do. And the Fat Spy we did do. Also, running around while they are
shooting making sure all the street signs said Cape Coral. Every
street was Cape Coral. Every office, every building, everything. It
said Cape Coral Bank, Cape Coral this, whatever.
D--You did all the changing of the signs?
J--Oh, yes. Or directed it. Orchestrated it. I think we saw Cape Coral
in the entire movie one time at the end in the credits. BUt....
A--Have you ever seen the movie?
J--Don't waste your time. Don't bother. I write articles for publications,
"You are never too old for a hobby, at 79 or 86," all these crazy
promotional, "Pow Wow with the Chief." Osceola would come out there.
"Even Indians have Hobbies." Now that was our hobby had of fame, you
see? This is in the Gardens and we moved all the exhibits there. And I
A--Say what Jack did.
J--Jack Rosen summons me to Baltimore. He did that frequently. Usually at
2:00 in the morning. He would like to see me at seven. And so I'd call
Dick Sayers and he would call the pilot. The pilot, and then somebody
would get me and pick me up and take me to our airport, the pilot would fly
me to Tampa and i would connect with a commercial flight to get to Balti-
more. And then Bill Vivasher from Bernie Frieberg's office would be
there to greet me. Bill and I became very good buddies while I was still
with them. Then he later departed and I heard from him. His family owned
half of Antigua and wanted me to go down there and party with them. But
we moved into the gardens and got involved in even crazier things. Here's
a part of our exhibit, Bunny. These are all publications that, just a
handful. But these are the major articles that I wrote, that Dick edited
so they didn't looktoo honkytonk, right? Not just once, but frequently.
And in those days, well some of these publications are still very big.
Coin World, Hobby Happenings. You know, I never kept track, So, all of this
was going on at the time and we were getting an awful lot of mileage, a
lot of mileage. Now there was a young kid who was the son of one of the
vice presidents he flew to the Chicago show just to really see what Miller
does. It was then that I figured out, well, here's the new Joe Miller, you
know if you don't make it in six months, you are not going to make it at all.
D--So how long/
J--I was with them for six years. I had one of the longer tenures. Very
few people were with them for six years. Very few. They would come and
go, frequently. And usually, it was my job, in some instances to make
sure that they were gone. Guys would promote, Jack was a supersalesman.
'Tere was one Jack that crashed. lHe had, apparently, he had studied
Jacks'.... He lived in Baltimore and worked for the telephone company
there. I think he was in installing, lie apparently found out that
Jack was travelling, as he frequently did to the Hebrew retreat in Den-
ver. The Hebrew Society has a hospital there and I suspect it's an
asthmatic hospital. Anyhow, I"m told that he caught Jack in the means
room in the airport in Denver and promoted hin on installing this sophis-
ticated ca'inunications system. And eavesdropping situation system. So
he was given a contract. INow, he told me that he had taken a leave from
the telephone company which he probably did if he was an installer he
probably had some accrual time. I don't know. They bought him out of
that contract. They had a lot of people like that. I guess my frailty
was I never asked him to sign anything. It's not my nature. But they
%would be promoted, Jack particularly would be promoted by somebody or
impressed by somebody and on the spot make them an instant hero. Or
instant executive. Afterall, in those da ys we were the sixth largest public
corporation in the state of Florida. Probably had 6,000 employees.
D--So you were with Gulf all the way until the time that GAC /bought them
J--No. I left them, when did we get married dear, 1966? That's when I
left them, right? These are some of the sampling, here's an article
for Craft Model and Hobby Industry. Hobby Merchandiser. Here's some of
the clips. The office, the clipping service, which was an afterthought.
I think it ;was Dick that told me to got a clipping service for the rec-
ordc books. But they would come to the news bureau, Dick's office. And
he had boxes of them there. And then also, another job that I had, kind
of on the q.t. To make sure that those who wanted to incorporate would
get more involved in the community. So I volunteered to run the youth
center which had which had to be shut down because nobody ,would go there.
Because the kids were too rowdy. So I went down and I organized that,
then I took local teenagers and got them involved in all these hobby
events. You know, and turned some very very bad boys into some very very
good boys. And one of them, Damien Mico, the last time we saw Damien he
had made manager of PUblix which is worth about 80,000 a year. You
D--I remember the picture on the wall in PUblix. I got them all, you know
J--the Catholic church was at the yacht club and they sent us a Spanish
priest and I was the only one who could tranlate so I became his: accolyte
And so I formed the first choir at St. Andrew's Church. And
Damien was my right arm in that because he was an ex-alter boy. But
surprisingly enough, the choir was made up of Jews Protestants, and
Catholics. And the country boy, what was his name? It was in north Ft.
Myers. And he was a problem at first. lie was going to follow in some-
body's footsteps. His favorite Uncle Iuanc or something. And I never
expected them to become Catholic, I just promised the priest that we
would have a choir. I had the two girls Joe Rosso's girls. And the
older one had a little Latin background and we pulled it off. But
Kathy she was fifteen years old. But we got tons, and tons, just all over the
country. Now we had our exhibits 'in packing cases. And here's our very
first show, when we went to a show. And we didn't have anything fancy.
And the little pipe and a few little articles. And this guy was a
retired policeman. le used to work for the sheriff's department. In
fact, he volunteered to come to my home and help me. I had his gun
collections, very expensive gun collection. Also, I gave the residents
a little sense of participation and the community at that time was very
very small and fell into two categories. Those who were working for the
company in some way and therefore would not say anything and those who were
so pissed at Gulf American that they would stop strangers. So they would
send me on these little p.r. jobs like a 72 year old lady who was told she
was promised a jobif she bought a lot. She was 72 years old. And the guy
who claims that his lot was over here where they dug the rock pit for the
gravel in the road. Which was all probably true. So, you knew, I'd try to
fix things like that, take care of the VIP's and things like that. There's
Jimmy Nelson when he first came to town. There's Jack E. Leonard. Here's
chief Osceloa. Here we are again. That damn photograph was in 400 publi-
cations. Judy Christensen was her name. I brought her over from Miami. She
helped me put it all 'together. She added a lot of the feminine touches. And
she'd run it while I was gone. I'd go off and come back. Here we are with
the slot cars. Channel 11 over there. This is the only thing I saved. And
the only reason I saved it is because this was buried somewhere. All of the
rest ofthe stuff I sent to Miami. And those were happy good days. I had a
lot of fun. I think the gardens were a good adventure. Up in Baltimore one
of Jack's meeting all these of proposals of the gardens and various people
vying for their piece of the world. Finally, Jack looked around, he was
way down on the left side. Let's hear from Joe Miller. Leonard said, "Joe,
what are your thoughts about all of this?" I said, It's all bullshit." He
jumped up. Slammed the decanter down. I can't think of who was there. His
name was Green. He used .to be in the heiracy in Baltimore. He floated
around a lot. I can't remember his first name. Jack said, "But you see,
Miller's the only person in this one who knows whatthe hell is going on down
there." So instead, all right, that's it, no more money, no nothing. That's it.
That's the end of it. This meeting's over with. Miller I want you to stay.
I want to talk
D--Was this Jack who said this, or Leonard?
J--Jack. Leonard really only spoke to me directly two times. ONe time was
in his office on the insurance thing. It was a lengthy discussion. If
I ran into him, he would ac'no..l-. me, nod. Tl[e second time-I'd come
back from Baltimore. It was the beginning of the end for me. I got a
phone call. The way Leonard would call me, Jack would call me direct at
2:00 in the morning. The way Leonard would call me is it would take three
days for the phone call to come through. I would get a phone callfrom his secretary.
first I would get a phone call from the operator, whoever ran the phones,
inquiring if I'm there. "You will be receiving a call from Mr. Rosen's
office." "Thank you very muchh" Now maybe or maybe not the next phone
call would come maybe that day, maybe not. It would be Leonard's per-
sonal secretary, telling me that Leonard would be calling precisely at
a given time, on a given day. "Will you be there to answer the phone?"
"Certainly." Maybe or maybe not, he would call. Maybe three days later
he would call. I wouldn't be there. ANd he wouldn't call, the secretary
would call. Finally, I think maybe at one point, I seemed to double in-
structions again. First my secretary tracking me down, the switchboard,
wait for the call from Leonard's secretary, "Mlr. Rosen would be calling
you precisely at 2:00 this afternoon." That's the end of today, right.
Forget about the afternoon because Leonar ds going to be calling at two
so the world must stop. So, sure enough, he called. The secretary, it
was my secretary that Mr. Rosen was calling. I get another call. The
secretary, "Lr. Miller, hold for Mr. Rosen." "Certainly." Rosen gets
on the phone, "lhlat do you call yourself?" "Pardon me." "Vl'hat do you
I'm not sure I understand what you are asking.
IHe said, What do you call yourself?
I said, Well, here, at the National Hobby Institure, I call myself the
lie said, I mean you name.
My name, Joe Miller, Jr.
That sounds like a baseball player, change it.
End of conversation. I mean here he is talking to a second generation
American whose grandfather imigrated here from Italy who's name was Guisseppe
,iillano who was accosted by an Irish immigration officer to change it to
Joe Miller. I mean, who am I to defy the authorities. So a week or so
went by, I don't know the time frame. And I get a visit from one of the
entourage from Miami. JOe, what have you done about your name, I said,
"I haven't done a goddamn thing about my name. It's the same today as it
was yesterday and two weeks ago." They said, Leonard feels very stong
about that. I just don't understand it. The truth of the matter is that
for what I do, Joe M.iller, Jr. is a showbiz name. I mean, do you want
Ron Miller or something? "Well, Leonard doesn't think that it's appro-
priate. Here you are, the head of all of this." So I said to him
"Look, tell Leonard to to f--- it." So, I get a call from Jim Layden.
I never get a call from Jim Layden. He wants me to choose.
The beginning of the end. So, we are at this meeting in Baltimore, right?
The conference room was just packed.
D--This was in 1966?
J--Yes. The gardens are probably at a 60,000 a month deficit. That's big
bucks. And of course, all of these other people, well half of the people
are there for decoration. They were on the board or part of the entourage.
Jack's psychiatrist. They always called him a psychiatrist. I think he
was only a psychologist. And you had Jack's body guard and Jack's
Chauffer, and Jack's footman. And then you have Jack's male secretary.
And then you have all of these other poople who are all vying for their
little kingdom in the confederation called Gulf American Land Corporation.
Vying for attention and more money. So, and they're talking about throw-
ing some more money up against the wall for the Cape Coral Gardens. This
one kid, his idea was to spend 85,000 dollarsto upgrade the Garden of the
Patriots. The Garden of the patriots was this garden that you walk through
where you have the bronzed busts of the Kennedys. It was all show business,
right. So, there's my dad. My dad started the Connecticut Yankees with
Rudy Vallee. My mother's job was to take care of Rud's girlfriends. I'm an
only child and I'm the only child that travelled withthe Connecticut Yankess.
That's how I was raised. So, Martha Rae wanted to be my godmother when I was
born and my mother would tell people who I wore out my second tuxedo by the
time I was eight. And so on and so forth. So, here they are and I'm sitting
here listening to all this bullshit. That's all I kept saying. And I don't
usually sewar in public because I did a lot of public speaking and you have
to be careful. You get into a habitof cursing, you'll curse. And of course,
the Holy Name Society and all that... So, everytime somebody would get up
and say something I would say to myself, bullshit. So, Jack caught me off
guard with it, so I blurted it out, bullshit. Slams the ice decanter down.
The ice goes, the water goes all over the place. The guy that goes out and
gets the ice was a vice president, Green, that's why. You had vice-presidents
that just wanted to get him water. So, he goes through this routing. "I
want to see you afterwards." Now this meeting was one of those 2:00 in the
moringin calls, be here at 7:00. I'm in Cape coral, he's in Baltimore.
And I'm there, maybe at 8:00. And Bill Vivasher's job was to pick me
up at the airport and get me to the whole office right. The meeting probably
started at 11:00. It's now probably 1:00 or 1:30. Jack was probably hungry.
I sat there until 5:00. In the anteroom, not where the staffers have to wait
for them, their turn to kiss the ring. And was brought into the intersactum.
And of course I had always been told that, but he monitored his phone
conversations and had all of the recording machines going. You never knew
if your phone was tapped. And so we discussed the dilemma and the Teamsters
who were really pushing us. Here I am, I know who Joseph F.D. Fulgo is,
and here he brings me over to Miami. His title is Treasurer of Gulf American
Land Corporations. That's bullshit. He's here for the teamsters, right. And
very mild mannerd, like he reminded me of my grandfather. My grandfather was
never with the teamsters. And very quiet but you paid attention when this
man spoke. And he used to come in and I'm sitting there saying, I know
he's the treasurer, but I know that he's here for the teamsters. And, you
know, my Italian heritage was such that my Italian grandfather had stood
certain principles, whoever signs the check, that's who you are loyal to.
And Joe would be asking me and I would know what was wrong, but I didn't
feel it was my responsibility to point fingers or anything else. I'm not
making enough money at it is. So, Jack asked me, and I gave him an overview of
exactly the whole Cape Coral Gardens situation from beginning to end, from
nuts to bolts. From a marketing standpoint, because I fancied myself as
being a pretty, damn good marketing person. And, he said, "you're right."
I'm turning the whole thing over to you. He said, "Can you handle it?" I said,
"Certainly." "I know you can." How are you going to get some people there
without spending any money? I said, "Well, one of my ideas is I'm going to
print a million free passes to Cape Coral Gardens." He said, "What?" In
order to be in the Florida Public Attraction Association you have to charge an
admission. Otherwise, it's all a sham. So we had a admission booth, nobody
ever paid because they are all being brought in by a salesman. We collected
from some of the local people. That pissed them off because they knew if you
were a potential buyer you could go in free. "I brought. I own a house here.
My relatives are down and they won't let me in there without paying a damn
dollar." So, I said, I'm going
to print up a million free passes to the Cape Coral Gardens, comliments
of the National Hobby Institute." He told me that, "YOu are a genius."
It's yours. OUt he goes. Of course you have to know Jack Rosen. He
was in a corduroy mood that day. IlIs shirt was corderoy. HIs pants
were corderoy. His hsoes were courderoy. I suspect his underwear
,was corderoy. Sometimes he wore a tuxedo during the day. Whatever
node he was in, he was in that mode. That was his cordercy day. So,
I left. Vivasher of course, waited in Derneice Freibergs office for
me to finish because I had to spend the night with him. UWhen I reflected
after I left there, I reflected, I used to say to myself, "MIller, you
really were a dumb dego." Here you are bunking in with Vivasher
because you like drinking with him and he's a buddy. You could stay at
the best hotel in Baltimore. Because guess what. You approve you own
expenses, it didn't make any difference because nobody ever questioned
me, nobody. So, anyhow Divasher is waiting for me at Berneice Frei-
burg's office. So, with baited breath. We have a drink at one of the
watering holes up there that he used to take me to all the itme. WE go
back to his place. He was a nut on Napolean and I was a nut in those
days on war games. And I had the Battle of Waterloo. And he wanted to
know all about, should he get it. So that's how we spent the evening.
I filled him in to the point that I.... And I tell you, he turned the
whole thing over to me. And I told him about my idea which I thought of
off the top of my head. Right on the spot. I figured that I've got to
tell this man something spectacular. He said, this is fantastic. That
will work. It will work. Anything for free. They'll get down there.
So, we're puffed up because Bill is feeding my ego. "Joe, they'll be
bringing you up here, Joe. Really this is it for you. I mean this it
it. You've done every shit job they wanted. YOu've done this, you've
done that, the V.I.T. program, you made a success out of that. You
made a success out of the broker's program. The National Hobby thing.
You are getting more hobbies than we can buy. This is it, Joe. You are it.
You are going right to the top." Let me get back to Ft. Myers. So we go
back to Ft. Myers. Oh, no. I went to Chicago from there. That's when the
kid shows up. The kid who wanted 85,000 dollars to update. His did was down in
Golden Gate. He was a sales manager in Golden Gate. And one of the original
stock investors. You have to know where people were coming from in that organ-
ization, notme. Somehow, I escaped all of that. I wasn't a Jack man, a
Leonard man. Nobody knew who the hell I was, really. So, the kid shows up.
I was doing a trade show. I had to go to the hobby institutes how. Anyhow,
the kid shows up and he had mentioned to me, we were sitting there during
a lull. "I understand you are going to Chicago and will be at the Palmer
House. I'll come and see you." So, anyhow, I go to the show in Chicago.
The kid shows up, moves in my room with me. Again. In retrospect I should've
said, go get your own room. But he probably didn't have an expense account
with the company. Anyhow, I do the show and I get back down to Ft. Myers. So,
I'm waiting for some sort of comumnique from the supreme commander that you're
in charge. I don't hear from anybody. Bernice Frieberg shows up. This is when
she called me. She called me;.the Richard Burton of Cape Coral. We're sitting
at the pool and she says, "What are you doing with the Gardens?" I said,
"Bernice, I haven't done a damn thing." Why not?
Jack said it's all mine but Jack hasn't put anything in writing. Here I am,
I'm waiting for the communique from the supreme commander. Nothing comes.
Bernice Freiburg shows up. We're at poolside. That's when she said, she
wanted to know if I had taken over the Gardens. No, I just can't go in and move
people out of their offices. I said, what I had done is go ahead and have
them printed. I didn't order a million of them. I ordered 10,000. The
first run of the passes. Signed by me. My signature validated it.
It's all reproduced.
Complimentary, National Hobby Institute, to the Cape Coral Gardens. So
she said, "You should understand something about Jack. When he says some-
thing, he expects it to be followed through with." I said, "Bernice, you.
should understand something about Joe MIller, and surely Jack Rosen should
know by now. I'm not a Leonard man, I'm not a Jack man, I'm a Gulf
American Land Corporation person. And I'm not playing games. NOw, I
need some announcement, something that says, I am now in charge." She
said, "You know, I've heard that you're called the Richard Burton of
Cape Coral." And I said, "You know, Berneice, I understand you are the
one who coined that phrase." She said, oh. I don't know. NWhat would Rich-
ard Burton do? Think about that. That's the last I ever saw her. I
started thinking, mayb e she's right. But on the other hand, everything
that I've ever been trained in life starting with my Catholic academy,
the military, I'm not an Oliver North, although I didn't even know who
Oliver North was then. I mean, I need something that says you are in
charge. You give me something from the boss who says you're in charge
or the boss gets up and says you're in charge in front of those people
or whatever. I said, well, I'll just call Jack's male secretary. So
I called Baltimore. Jack's male secretary is no longer Jack's male
secretary. There's a new secretary. So I don't recall his name, but
I had his name. He talked to me all the time. He called me all the
time. Finally, I tracked him down. It's as if he had been exiled. He
was in like shipping, only it wasn't shipping. He went from being Jack
Rosen's personal secretary to the shipping department. Now to understand
Gulf American Land Corporation, you have to understand that those things
happen. Usually, when an executive was being terminated the way that
executive would find out is that the lock on his door was changed. Or
on one occasion, the guy who had his offices next to mine in Miami, his
secretary was reassigned to the secretarial pool. And when he came in
the first day he came in, he kept asking me, have you seen whatever her
name was. No. I knew what happened but I'm not going to be the guy to
tell him, right. The second day when he came the locks were changed on
the door. That's how he knew he was finished with Gulf American Land
Corporation. So I locate the fellow, I say shipping department, they
didn't have a shipping department, but. He can't deny who he is and
he can't deny that he doesn't know me. And I perceive to grunt, Where is
the memo?" The date, even if I had to reconstruct it, I certainly knew
when I was there because I went to Chicago, I got flight tickets. The
conclusion, finally, I get it out of him. lie's denying everything. He
is denying that I was there, he doesn't remember. He doesn't recall that
the meeting ever took place. 12, 15 people in a meeting and he doesn't
remember. lie even was vague about the fact that he was Jack's personal
secretary. But it fit the mold of the corporation because the whole thing
was show businesswith Jack Rosen. It was an illusion, Cape Coral was an
illusion. And I'll give you an aside before we go on, to highlight the thing.
So, finally, he said, yes you are right. And he was a witness, along
with the psychiatrist, the psychologist, whatever. The footman and the
chauffer sat outside, and the bodyguard. He said, I recall now, That's
right I do recall hMr. Rosen dictating that memo. Before I left he dic-
tated a memo to this guy to the effect that I was completely in charge.
I was to take over everything, do not question, like a military command.
That's what I was waiting for, a copy. I had told Bernice, he dictated
the memo, where's the memo. "Well, you know his words should be good
enough." It's coming back to me a little bit clearer now. So the
chap admits to me that that's right, Mr. Rosen did dictate a memo on that
subject. Cape Coral Gardens, you. WThat happened to the memo? Oh, it
wasn't approved, for execution. I said, "Oh, I understand."'. He,sqid
do you understand? "Certainly." "I had-been in mental instituti6ts, before,
as a visitor. I knew the routine and of course, then I realized that
Jack was under supervision.
D--So you were never approved for that?
J--It never happened. It was another figment of somebody's imagination. So,
I realized then that because of the interpolitics of Gulf American, and
it was highly political, that this is it. I'm wasting my time, their time,
everybody else's time. And so I resigned. It took them four months
from the time I resigned to have somebody show up to get the keys to my
office, which is nothing. I could have left them, right. But more import-
antly, take over the bank accounts that I.was the sole signature on. I was
the custodian of the funds. I could have left with them. Gulf American
never sued anybody for stealing. And they must have had a thousand that
stole from them. never sued a person once. Four months to get somebody
that I could turn the bank account over to, the checkbook over to, the money
in the bank to. The keys to and everything else. Absolutely true. Absolutely.
Can you remember what I was touching on? Was it Jack's paranoia?
D--I think that was it.
J--They got Jack a Toronado. It had front wheel drive, something like that.
Brought him a brand new one and they had stored it at the airport. And
we had a terminal built in Ft. Myers for the modern Air. Which was a result
of me saying we ought to go to airlines. Anyhow, so Jack's coming down on
one of his visits to Cape Coral. So the entourage that travels with him
were coming back from the airport and the Cape Coral Bank was under construction
at the time. The guy turns to Jack and says, "Jack look what we are doing
here. We are making believe we got a bank in this town. We've got a
stagefront here, doesn't that look good, Jack?" Jack looks and says, "That
will fool them, good." Now if you told Jack that was a real bank, he wouldn't
have gone for it. he didn't like that showbiz. The genius of the Cape Coral
Gardens, the landscape architect, he was another p.r. problem for me there
to handle. Well, likemany of the subcontractors that exemplified that,
they dangled the carrot, big jobs. Dan Lopolly got
the job for building Cape Coral Gardens.
I wonder if he's still alive. I'll tell you one thing that he did, one
of the major islands of Hawaii. In fact, he flew to Reno when he found
that we were in Reno. Anyhow, Dan Lappla was doing the Cape Coral Gardens.
I'm doing things like turning him on to the fact to hire prisoners. He's
doing everything he can to make a dollar because he wanted the job. Typical
subcontractor. But what he didn't anticipate, he didn't understand the
routine of Gulf American Land Corporation on paying them. They never paid
him. I mean they paid him but in ninety days. He came to my house. They
owe him $90,000. and it's like sixty days overdue, he says. Joe, I've
got payroll to meet. I've got equipment payments to meet. I'm going to
commit suicide. Please call your friend Joe D. Fulgo, the treasurer
because everybody put him off thinking they didn't owe him for nothing.
Kenny Schwartz said, "Don't burden me with problems like that, go through
the normal channels." Leonard Tosens' statement was "I can't afford to do
business with people who are that shaky financially. So anyhow we became
friends. My job was to ingratiate myself in the community. We became
friends, I had put out brush fires, how do you put out brush fires? You
become friends with people. Don't attack them. We are not bad people.
Let's go have dinner togehter. So pretty soon they are living with you.
So Dan's at the house, "Joe, I've got to have some cash." "Dan, I'll call
in the morning." So I called Joe D. Fulgo. I can get into him any time
because he figures I am his ears and eyes over in the Cape for the teamsters.
I have a little background with the operating engineers. He was aware of
that. And Cal Kovens, I knew them from the old days, so we intermeshed.
So, I get ahold of Joe. He calls me back. The routine that they wanted.
I told them, "this is no fooling. The man has to have some cash. It was
ninety some thousand dollars, as I recall. It was over sixty, going on
ninety days. He's got payroll. He's got people to pay. Families to
feed." Here's the routine I got. "Have him take his purchase orders, p.o.'s
to Cape Coral Bank and they'll advance him the p.o.'s. So then it occurred
to me, Leonard is a genius. Now, Finkernagel started the bank, or did
you know that.
D--No. I didn't know that.
J--Oh, yes. Principle stockholder of the bank. lie got a front in there and
he had a general, an admiral, he did everything right. And Finkernagle
had the majority of the stock, I'm sure. So Leonard, now what they did.
W'hy do banking across the river, right? It made sense. It was the res-
idents who lived here who's money started thebank. It was Leonard's seed
money. They sold shares of stock to all the residents and all the res-
idents put their money in there. The initial residents were all affluent
retires. You know, eighty percent of them were.
D--So did what's his name ever get his moeny?
J--Oh, yes. So David Lap'pla got some money, but whose money is her get-
ting? lie wasn't getting Gulf American Land Corporation's money. He was
getting the resident's money. That was the routirn that Leonard used.
So, we sold them the land, we sold them a house, we build a bank and we
get them to put their money in the bank and we use it. This reminds me
of the old movies that I watch, the old wild west. There the bank takes
over the farm. We sold them the lot, we sold them the house, then we
build a bank and we get them to put their money into the bank so we can
land that to our engineers and our contractors so they could build the
roads for us because we can't afford to pay them.
D--I love it. It's a great idea.
J--Really it is.
D--Before we run out of time, I want you to tell a little bit about what
you did with Gulf American with the construction company, tell a little
bit about that.
A--There isn't anything to tell.
J--Well, she built the first condominium. Which will fall into the canal
D--Which one was that?
A--Harbour South, as you go over the bridge.
D--The construction company was Ft. Hyers Construction.
J--Iet me interject this. Agnes was very loyal to her generals. But Jack
shows up in my office one day. HIs name is Joe Erra. In Orlando if he
is still alive, and he is a prince of a fellow. Another dego, he shows
up in my office and says "I'm going to build a PUblix Supermarket." I
said, "Gee, that's great."
"I've been told if I needed something....
I said, "Here we go again, well at least it wasn't a movie." But that was
"my job. So he said, "If you don't mind, I understand, I can use you
phone. I said, "look" and introduced him to my secretary and made him
a little spot in the office. So anyhow, he used my place to get started.
So they are getting ready to build one of the condo. The company is now gbing
to build something commercial, Harbour South. Whatever I had to do I took
care of and I ddint' give a shit about the rest. They put it out to bid.
And of course this general contractor who is building the Publix bids on
it. So, I don't know if he was a low bidder or not. I don't know all
of the data. Anyhow, what they did to him, instead of awarding him the
contract, they offered him the job as being the head of the commercial
construction division. Now, when he came back to tell me all of this, I'm
thinking, "that's Leonard."He's not going to let some general contractor
make a profit. He never did business that way. Bullshit. YOu know, I
could almost hear him. Well, hire him. HOw much would he make? 100,000
on this project. Let's offer him a 60-70,000 contract. Whatever he
wants, hire him though because we are going to build other things, you
know. To show you the mentality. Leonard was a genius, a financial
genius, in my opinion. Absolute wizard of all wizards. I tell the story
and I take a little literary larceny sometimes, but remember the old days
you had a bank account. They gave you a set of checks. You changed
banks, that bank would give you little stickers to put over the bank
symbols. I have seen payroll checks with three stickers on them. That's
from Tuesday to Thursday. That's how fast Leonard changed banks. How
their's a reason when you do that. His financial genius is showing. But
Joe Erra then became that head of the commercial division of Ft. Myers
Construction Company. They built Harbour South, the country club, River
Ranch, Remuda. Oh, Remuda looks like it does because I told Jim Layden
that the V.I.T. Welcome station should look like a mission, like the
California missions. I ,wanted that kind of a design out there so that
people traveling the trail would come upon this place and it would
remind them of the missions in California. That's what they built down
there and that was going to be our V.I.T. But that was the demise of the company.
D--Who was the head of Ft. Myers' Construction?
D--We are just about out of time, but I just mentioned one thing that I
wanted to hear about was the naming of streets.
J--Jack Rosen and Mendelson. Mendelson was, I think he got indicted over
Rocket City. YOu know the name then? The story goes that Jack was drunk.
And they are drawing circles and they are naming the streets based on the
women that they know, girlfriends. Is that the-story you know?
A--Is that the one you told about when they were drunk? Running out into
J--Well, you will have to refresh my memory.
A--I'm trying to remember. EVerybody was sitting around and they had all
J--Well, that's why all the streets all turn like that. Oh, yes. Nobody
could draw a straight line.
J--It was all a scam. YOu know that? Intentional. Originally it was a
scam. Execept that they had no offices in Miami Beach. And the mail
trucks backed up and dumped off these sacks of mail with ten dollar bills
in it. Ten dollar checks and money orders. As a result of the ad that
appeared in t.v. guide because Bernice Freiburg had put in as a re-
sult of the credits in the Charles Antel business. And about two million
dollars in national advertising money.
D--There's a couple of quik questions just to check something. The
J--Lappla. He's Cap Lander from Finland, in the island of Maui. He built
world renowned'gardens over there, for a land developer. Great guy.
D--Well, thanks a lot for your help. I appreciate it.