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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
D--We are doing an interview with Ed and Gwen McGinn in their home on
Riverside Drive in Cape Coral. It's December 10, 1987 and the inter-
viewer's name is David Dodrill.
Maybe you all could just start and tell me a little bit about your back-
ground, even before Cape Coral.
G--Well, in the beginning I worked at Montgomery Ward for about 20 years
and I was on secret agent on the mail and correspondence department there,
and after I had been there about 20 years I decided that I was going to
retire and in a short while I found out that retirement wasn't my idea
for anything so I quit there and I looked around and I thought I'd find
some place and I saw the Charles Antel ad in the paper.
D--That was in Baltimore?
G-In Baltimore. And I'd thought I'd give it a try. And the first day I
went down there the place was so crowded. We had to climb up the stairs
and people were writing applications all around and all that kind of stuff.
And I thought, the heck with this and I went back home, and I started to
think about it. And I thought, "Well, I'll go down again." And I was
just lucky, because the lady that was in charge of the mailing department,
and in the mailing department we received the mail and processed the or-
ders before they went to the shipping room, and we kept statistics to give
to the statistical department so that they in turn could tell which ad or
which raido program or whatever it was was bringing in the most results
and that way they would !mow how to spend their money. At that point,
she was a heir to some business or something and she had to quit, and by
luck I was in just at that tine so I went in as the head of the mailing
department. Therefore, of course, there were those other girls who had
been there for some time and they weren't too happy with me for a while.
D--About what year was that?
G--It didn't make it too good for me, you know? That was about seven years
before I came down here. That was about '51 or something like that. And
after I got started there everything went great through all that time.
And then when the Rosens told us he was thinking about coming down to
Cape Coral and starting a place down here. So I came up to him and said
"W1hat are we going to do? Sell samples of land to people or what are we
going to do this time?" So .then he asked me if I would come down and get
the operation started for the mailing donw here. That was basically the
same way I did there. WVhen any requests came in I kept a record of their
origin and at that time all the labels and everything were typed manually.
And we made three copies of each one of the labels. One to send out and
one for file and one for file ---. We started out with a 70,000 mailing
list and then they started coming in and coming in so we handled that un-
til early 1959 and then we got a little bit too big then. So then they
called the central office where they had IBMT and everything to handle
it over there, so then he asked if I would come over there and start man-
aging that area again. So I went over there. And I stayed there about
/ a year and three months. I came back in 1960, right before ---. I got
tired over there. I wanted to come home. Ed was over there with me at
that time too and he wanted to come back to Cape Coral. So I came back
here and then I went back here and then I went to the welcome center at
the airport, where they took people out to the rides and everything. The
salesmen would come in there and take their people out.
D--Was that airport out near where the Catholic Church is today?
G--Oh, somewhere in that area. I tried to picture exactly where that area
was, but I don't know exactly.
"P--That's what I understand. It's somewhere in tht area.
G--It's in there somewhere. And when the salesmen came in, they would have
the flights for their people and then I would pay the salesmen off for
whatever they had and then I went down to the welcome center at the
bridge. People would come in there and there I would pay the ---- for
what do they call them, V.I.T., Very Important Travelers. And then I
paid the people. They got a certain amount for coming over. And then
from there I went down to the big building and I was down there. And I
went up into personnel.
D--ihat was the big building?
E-First National Bank now.
G--I was the personnel administrator when I left there so, that's me. And
enjoyed every. bit of it and I made a good salary. Leonard Rosen was very
good to us. I can't complain about that. A lot of people talked about
him, but he wasn't near as bad as people tried to paint him.
D-So, you worked for the corporation until when?
G--I worked there until 1961. And then I retired there in '61 and I went
into real estate. And then you had more of selling real estate to each
other than you had people coming in. I said forget about that so then we
traveled. We did that and that was it.
D--Tell me a little bit about your story.
E-Well, when we lived back in Baltimore, the first job that I had after TWorld
War II, I was in the services, I went to work for Swift and Company in 1930,
somewhere around that. Went into the service in '41. I was just remem-
bering the other day, in Pearl Harbour, I was home on a week-end pass
when the Japs struck Pearl Harbour and since I was in the service I had
to go back. And then came after the war, I went to work for Coca-Cola
company worked for them for a number of years. Then I went to----
Brewing Company and stayed with them until I came down here. WV.en we got
down here, I did a little bit of everything. I was a policeman, a guard
on the gate out there, stopping the airplane traffic stopping the traffic
and letting the airplanes land, deputy sheriff, stopping the traffic and
letting the airplanes land on Cape Coral Parkway, whichever way the wind
was blowing. I had a flag up there that showed the pilot which way the
wind was blowing and then I went into real estate too and I've been retired
for a number of years now.
G-You were a bus dispatcher.
E--Oh, yeah. When we started the bus division I drove a bus for a while and
then went in for the job of bus dispatcher when we had 25 busses driving
people around this place.
D-When was that?
G--Well, it grew. No question about that. If Leonard Rosen got into anything
E--They were ex Trailways busses or Greyhound. I forget. We had 25 of them.
I think they were Trailways. We used to take people all over the place
and ride all over the place.
D-That was early in the sixties?
E-Early in the sixties. Yes. It had to be the sixties. Or the early
seventies. And then when I hit 65, I decided to sit and take my social
security. And that's what I've been doing for the last couple of years.
We did pretty good.
E-No complaints at all.
D--Well, tell me a little bit about Leonard and Jack Rosen.
G--Leonard was the one that was go out and he was the one that could see far
ahead and plan and see things that would progress and Jack, he was more
of a stable. He thought we were nuts for coning down here, but he found
out different. But Jack was entirely different from Leonard. He was a
different type of a person. I can't explain. Tie wasn't basically as
-----as Leonard was. Of course, I wasn't as close to Jack as I was to
Leonard, because I worked with Leonard until the time I went there until
he left down here. All that time. And as far as making promises that
didn't come true, every promise that he made would come true. So they
weren't lies, they were promises.
D--That's what I understand.
G--They were promises. Everything that he promised, he did.
E--They put out an article one time that said, the lies that came true.
G-That's the one that Buck Bernard wrote.
D--What do you think his vision was? Did he want to buld a city here or did
he just want to make money?
G-He was a dreamer for the future. He could see the future and what he
wnated and of course he was also interested in money. He said one time,
"Gwen, when I get this first million, I've got it made." I said, "I
should think so." But he was looking forward to his first million.
But I'm sure that he did much better than that. But then Jack came
down when we bought this house. He came down to look at it. I forget
what we paid for it now.
G-Of course, we got an discount for being employees and Jack came down here
and looking around he said, "Gwen, someday this house is going to sell
for about 20,000 dollars." That was a foresight wasn't it? Even then
I thought he was a little crazy. But Leonard was the one that went out.
He was the seeer and Jack was the stabilizer more or less. They were
D-I heard that they brothers really loved each other but there was a lot
of conflict between them.
G--Oh, yes. Always. They ad been in business together before at Antel, when
I worked for Antel. I worked for Charles Antel-national health aids, cus-
tome products up to Television Advertising Associates, TAA. I was under
five different names. I would guess that people would think that I
couldn't keep a job.
D--Were those all subsidiaries?
G-I was working for the same company but checks came from different places.
And when I came down here I was with Gulf American and went to Gulf Guar-
antee Land Company or something like that. I guess they thought that I
just couldn't keep a job.
D-If you had to describe Leonard Rosen, in just a couple of words how
would you describe him?
G-I don't know.
E-He was adventureous.
G-As far as I know, he was a nice person.
E--le was a guy looking to make a lot of money for one thing. He was always
interested in money, because I knew him when we were youngsters. Because
we all lived in the same neighborhood together.
D-Tell me a little bit about that.
E--Well, I just knew him. ,When she went to work for him years later, I just
remember that his family lived there. In those days, the neighborhoods
were separated, if you know what I mean. They lived down on Iagel St,
somewhere down there.
G-I think they had a store on Street, somewhere down there. From
what I understand.
E--Where I lived most of the people were Irish and German and stuff. I just
knew then, that's all. lWhether he knew me or not, I knew him.
P--His family ran a little grocery store?
E--Yes. A little grocery store. Most of them did back in those days. Of
course, I'n talking about back in the twenties.
D--W;ere his parents immigrants, or do you Tmow?
F--I have no idea.
G--I don't mnow his background at all. 'From here he went to Calveda. He iad
a place out there and I went out there a couple of tines and I said,
"Loonard, how did you find this place?" iHe said, "The price was right."
D--That probably said a lot about him right there.
G--IIe said the price was right. He did pretty good there too. lie had a num-
ber of bypasses I think and so forth. They wore themselves out. Trying
to go, go, go, it wears you down.
D-So, your job when you worked with Gulf American, would you generate leads
or would you answer inquires?
G-I handled them after the people would place, like with radio stations,
newspapers, magazines, all those different areas, we put ads on T.V.
or Whatever it may be and people would write into them. Those would
come to me and I in turn would have those all typed up in triplicate
so that we would have the one to send out and the two in the file. And
we would cleanse the files every once in a while and from those I would
have to give the sales department all the statistics. On this station,
so many replys and so forth and on this magazine, so many. And they in
turn used that to know where to place their other future ads. So the
statistical part was important. And of course, we had to send out all
the brochures and all the information. And I had those girls type those
labels. And I had people, what we call, licking and sticking. I'd see
that they got the brochures and the envelopes and even then they had to
get the stamps to put on them and these people would stuff all these and
they were paid a certain amount per sales or whatever it may be. And
everybody imaginable was in there trying to do their bit. And there for
a while, ny girls were running them through the mailing machine, but they
got too heavy, so we got a couple of trucks from the post office to come
and nove everything. And they would cone after everything vas ready, they
would come at night and bring them through for us and they would take
them to the post office and that was a big relief. And of course they
went right on through the IBI and all that stuff. The rain thing was
handling these things and getting them out to the customers and getting
them to come back and getting statistics and so forth for the sales depart-
D-So, all these people were underneath you. They were kind of like your
division. WEre you the head of all that?
G--On the part of receiving the mail and doing the statistics and sending out
the brochures and all that. That was in my department.
D-How many people worked under you?
G-Well, I had I think ten or twelve girls in there. It was a very small
area. We were up there at 41 and Pine Island and it used to be orange
juice and fruit place there. And in the shop they had the sales office
and so forth and in the back, my little place back there was where they
used to have the oranges and process the orange juice and all that. That
was my location in the back there, so it was a small area. So we didn't
have room for many people. That's why I had to farm everything out to
get it done. Ve were a little crowded, but we got through with it. They
all worked. They took work home with them and I got other people to do
it. We got it done. It had to be done. It got done.
D-Tell me a little bit about what it was like to live here in Cape Coral in
the very beginning.
G--It was much more harder than it is now.
E--We had to go all the way to Al's Supermarket in North Fort flyers to get
some groceries, for one thing.
D--How long did that trip take?
E--Well, that would be a couple hours to go up and do the shopping and come
G--We had to go Pine Island Road and then come back down 41 to the bridge.
E--No. Before the bridge, hon.
G--Not before the old bridge.
F--Like everything else, we had to go to Ft. yearss for everything. There
wasn't nothing out here to begin with. And another thing, getting back
to the busses, we had I don't know how many 990 jumbo jet airplanes that
brought the people in that the people picked up busses at the airport.
D--I spoke to Charlie Cavanaugh. I talked to him a little bit about that.
E--These busses would pick the people up at the airport and then bring them
over here and they would stay in the motels and then we'd take them into
the different sales meetings to sell them the property and stuff and take
them to the rose garden and all that other business. Like you say, we
didn't have a newspaper delivered out here in the very beginning, but it
G--Salesmen would bring it back here.
E-Yes, we had to go up to the office to get a newspaper and stuff. It was
just kind of adventureous.
G-It was more fun. People were more neighborly. If you read that thing of
mine you'll see that they wanted to go bowling or go to the show. Ve used
to go over here on the beach. That's where we had our sunrise services.
It was beautiful with the sunrise services there on the beach, lovely.
And there was a much more friendly attitude. Now I go to the store and
I hardly see anybody I know anymore. They are either dead or gone away.
D--TVEre most of the people that bought and build here, were they really happy
about it, really excited about it?
F-Most of them were. W'e had a few complaints. You have complaints with
everything. If you gave everybody a million dollars, some of the would
D--But most of them felt like they got their money's worth?
E--Oh, yes. WTell, in the beginning, things were reasonable. 29 years ago
a riverfront sold for less than 5000 dollars. Now you can't buy one for
100,000. So that makes a difference. Back in those days people came and
it was a new city being built and they took pride in it.
G--When we came down here we had a beautiful lot on the river and we bought
it for like 4000 and then they wanted to buy it back and wanted to sell
it to somebody. It was like about 2 years and we made like 11,000 dollars
and thought we were doing good making 11,000 dollars. Now they go for over
D--VEre most of the people when they built houses here, did they think they
were building and buying their retirement type city, or did they realize
they were building in a...?
G-There weren't too many retired people.
E-Everybody that came down here, came down here and went to work. The re-
tirement bit didn't come until later. In the very beginning, most every-
body came down here and went to work for the company or somewhere they
went to work.
G-I can't remember really any retired people when we came down here.
E-I was thinking like Wally Pearson up the street there, he came down here
with his family, with his wife and three children. He was harbour-master
and he drove the Volkswagon Bus and drove the kids to school and every-
thing like that. Butch ---, he came here as a builder. He was in the
second four houses, his wife and his three children. We're the only ones
that came without kids. We didn't have any children. Everybody else had
kids. The fifth resident over there, Arma ----, what did her husband
G--Ie had the one son. ---- had three. Pearson had three. Schwartz had
three, Kathy and the two boys. Petrie had three, I think it was. All
of them had kids, except us. I had a cat. And he ran the place. Some-
body down here killed or something, I couldn't tell you, the poor thing.
D--How long did it take before there was a hundred or two hundred families
C--I don't know. You can see by the pictures in there, the progress. I
think I have the years on the back of all those photos and you can see
howv far it progressed through the years, it would hard for me to say ot-
herwise, but you can see the progress that was made. It moved along.
D--Y'ere most of the people excited about the fact that the Cape Coral bridge
was being built?
G--I think they were mostly pleased with it, yes.
D--I heard that some opposed it.
G--Oh, there's always some who oppose everything. But some people you
couldn't please. But the new Cape Coral Bridge now is a controversial
thing because it, because I feel sorry for the people across the river
who have sat in those homes all the years. I feel sorry for them. It's
needed. You try to get out of here around 7:30 or 8:00 in the morning,
you see how far you get. It takes you fifteen minutes to go two blocks.
D-Tell me a little bit about Hurricane Donna. What happened during that
G-Well, as we were concerned, there wasn't much of anything that happened.
E-The wind blew and the river didn't overflow. They were afraid that the
river might flood, but it didn't. And the only thing that we lost was
a little ---. We spent the time in the motel up there. Everybody did.
That was September 10, 1960.
C--The only thing that we had was some windows that we had done for the rugs.
E--And this room wan't here then. We didn't have this room on the back.
G-That house over there, their roof was laying over here next to us.
E--We had some damage, but not that much. Of course, there wasn't that many
houses here then.
D-Did the houses generally hold up during the hurricane?
G-This one here doesn't have a crack in it. But that Raymond was a wonder-
ful builder. He did things right, so he went brokee. He did them too
right for his own good, I'm afraid. From what I understand, he went
bankrupt. He did a wonderful job on these older houses. Some of these
newer ones you'll find crack in the floors or you Inow.
D--Did the corporation really help out during the hurricane?
G--Yes. I've got it all written down there. They found housing for anybody
that needed it. And they had food for the people up there for two or three
days. Some people complained about the food and weren't paying a penny for
E-They fed us all for a week at least. After the hurricane was over. They
went around and checked the houses. They were very...we did O.K.
G--They said if anybody needed help with their houses, people were taken care
of. They would see that it was fixed.
E-If the houses weren't inhabitable, they stayed in the motel at no charge.
D-So, Gulf American really took care of the people. Not only during the
storm, but afterwards.
D-So in other words, Gulf really took care of the early residents here.
G-They were taken care of.
D-So, the people felt like the corporation really....
G-I don't know what they expected of them. YOu can't baby sit people for
all their lives you know.
E--Most of the people came down here and the man went to work for the com-
pany. They started everything. You know, they had the water division and
the bus division. We had all those guys around here that drove the busses.
We had twenty-five busses. You've got to have twenty-five people driving
busses. And people working on busses in the barn. We had a big bus barn.
And like everything else, I was like the deputy sheriff. They looked
out for the people.
G--Of course, the mail boat would come way over here and drop the mail. It
was about right straight across here where the tennis courts are. About
right there. And....
F--We used to get our mail by mailboat.
G--And then sometime you could get on the boat and ride up to Sanibel and
back with them. It was really enjoyable to start out like that.
F-Of course, now we're a big city.
D--55,000 front what I understand.
D--What do the people over in Ft. M.yers think of Cape Coral?
G--Oh, they didn't like us a bit.
D-Tell me about that.
G-Cause when we write something in a paper saying that we thought Ft. MIyers
was across the river from us, they didn't like that. Cape Coral was ac-
ross the river from them. They weren't a bit pleased with us. I don't
E--I think Ft. Myers wanted to stay a small town and it didn't want progress
to show up as soon as it did. Maybe later on it would have been different.
But back in 1958, they were scared.
G-They were all the old fathers of Ft. Myers and they wanted to keep it
what it was. They used to those bottles and that was the big thing. I
can;t remember what it was, I think it was coke. I remember when I first
came donw, I came down for ten days. Three months later I asked Leonard
if I couldn't go back home. At least I'd like to be home with my hus-
band once in a while. So I went back up there. But in the meantime
when I was down here by myself, I went to the little movies up there on
First Street, or whatever it was. I was coming home about 10:00 and I
was coning out and I just crossed the street and somebody tapped me on
the shoulder and it was the police and he said, "You were jaywalking."
There wasn't a car in sight, there wasn't an apartment in sight. It ,as
nobody but he and I. He told me I was jaywalking.
D--Did he give you a ticket?
G--So after I went back hore, in two weeks, Leonard gave me a call and asked
if I could please come badc down again. They were having some difficul-
ties in the mailroon. In fact, they put somebody on ---- and I told
them that would not work.
P--So, after that you had to come back down from BIalti.iore?
G--Baltimore, yes. That's when I ca:ne back down. A couple of more days
and then I cwme back, and so they called re dovn here so I could find
somebody. I had to do that. And then rd cane down at the same time.
And he fell in love with the place. So we cane out here and in .arch
we paid our deposit. That do you call those things?
G--Cement pad, in .Iarch of '58. So then I stayed down here until June and
then I went back up home. e had sold the house and what we wanted to do
and in July we move into this house. So, I've been here almost thirty
years. Ever since Ed came down that day. I haven't been sorry. And
I wouldn't want to back and live up north, no way. Not with bars on my
window. Although, it's getting to be that way some places in town here
now. That's rugged.
E-That goes along with growth. And the time of year. People go around
robbing getting Christmas presents and stuff.
D-If you had to point to one person, or maybe two people besides Leonard and
Jack Rosen, who do you think were maybe the one or two most important
people in the corporation? The one or two most important people in the
corporation besides Leonard and Jack Rosen that helped to make it suc-
E-Connie I.tac carried a lot of weight. His name carried a lot of weight,
not him personally.
G--Connie iack was just Connie acIk and his name, it was just like all those
movie actors and all. The ones that used to have their television shows
down here. Route GG and all that kind of stuff. A lot of big stars down
here. I've got it written down here in that thing of mine.
E--Kenny Schwartz wvas a driving force, wasn't he?
C--yes, he wa;. I never saw Kenny Schwartz until I got down here. I'd
heard of Kenny Schwartz. He was in management. Hle was a manager. He
was a boss.
7--A lot of people was in the higher ocholons of the com=rny that did their
part to imaLe this place go.
G--There wasn't anybody there but Kenny Scirvartz and leonard Rosen and lilt
D--Tell me about I lilt i endelson and how Leonard came to find Cape Coral. Do
you Imow -much about that?
G--I told you at first, he met him up there at a spa or something. lIendelson
was at Harbour Heights. lie got Leonard interested in this area, Cape Coral.
He had this area in his mind and he told Leonard about it and he brought
Leonard down here and evidently sold him on the idea. And somebody asked
me why it was named Cape Correl. I said, it isn't Cape Correl. It's Cape
Coral, C-O-R-A-L. And it was named after coral rocks and it's a nice
name for a place, isn't it? Cape Coral. hat else would it be?
D--Iilt Mendelson, did he ever hold a position with the company?
G-I presume he did. I presume he was there in business with Leonard some-
how or the other. But I don't know the details of their association.
That I don't know. But I know he was close with Leonard and with Leonard
quite a bit of the time. Even after, I think. Now that part I don't
Imow because I wasn't in that. But iilt was the --- of a person.
D--How' s that?
G--Yfell, he was nice. But he would say, "Now, Gwen, would you give me your
educated guess on such and such a thing?" What's an educated guess?
He was a nice person. Ho complaints.
-I read, was it ---- that had quite a lengthy section, she had quite a
lengthy section and you all made some comments in there. Have you read
that section in the book?
G--She gave me an autographed book and Ilene Dernard because I gave her an
awful lot of information. uAnd an awful lot of the pictures that they
have in there are a lot of the pictures that I gave her. They both gave
me an autographed copy of it.
D--Vo ll, that's great.
G--It'll be worth a million a year or two front now.
D-One day, maybe I'll be able to do the sane. You never can tell. Did you
Imow }olb Finkernagel?
C-I knew Dob, yeah, from coming in and out.
D--What was his contribution?
G-I don't really Inow. I don't really know what he did. He was there and
I'd see him, but I have no idea what his contribution was. I didn't
realize that he did anything with the company, I didn't know anything
D-Anybody else that you knew?
G--Well, there was Colonel Crawford.
D-Tell me about him. What did he do?
E--He was a colonel in the army.
G--le was in the news. He was a very nice person. They were all very nice.
I didn't have any trouble with anybody.
D-Crawford worked for the corporation?
D-And he would prepare news releases?
G--He was there for the news there for a while and then later on. I don't
Ikow where he xwent. Dick Sayers took over the news department and he was
with them for quite a while. I don't know what happened to Dick. I think
he was in some political thing there for a while, what was he?
D--lie was a county commissioner. I've been trying to get in touch with him,
but I can't get a lead on hin.
G--I think he and his wife separated, they only had seven children. Separate
after seven children?
r--Anybody else that you cIkne in the corporation fairly well.
C--Joe Gibson used to be our pilot. 11e used to fly people over there and
we went up a lot of tines with him and ride around. An'd he like to go
out over the river and go fishing. He'd go low. Joe called every other
day. ie was a real Floridiza. Real southerner. And I can't reme::ebr
who else. That's a long ti"l back now. And you never see anylxoy anymore.
You just don't buip into them.
E--Yeah, you never see nobody. See, there's one of the busses.
E--1e used to send them over to i.iani and pick them up and bring then in.
D-So, you all retired in what, 1961?
G-Yes. It was time to collect social security, so we did. This tells
you an awful lot. You can make copies of that because I've given away
everything except what I have now. I gave Betsy -- a shopping bag just
full of stuff. And then I had given Ilene Bernard an awful lot of stuff.
I Inew in the future it wouldn't be any good to me and Betsy was study-
ing up. And she said she vas going to use that up there, in Live Oak.
And give me credits for whatever. I just gave it to her.
D-V-ell, I've looked through much of that stuff and I didn't realize that
it came from you.
G-You see, I was in the mailing department. All the photographs and every-
thing came there and I kept a file of all the photographs and everything
that we had and naturally, I always got a copy of everything to them. And
then when we had the hurricane they said, "Now, be sure and take every-
thing from out of the drawers and put then on top of the desk because
when the waters is raised it will ruin everything." I did it. The
roof cane off. Not a thing got wet on the bottom and everything on top
was soaked. I did what I was told. 7e were there dropping up the floors
and everything from the rain. You inow, it was a soggy ness. because the
trees were loaded with Ywater but it di don't rise. They say the water blew
down river because of the w.ind.
--The river was dry except for in the channel where the boats go. There
wasn't no water in the river at all.
2--I didn't try it, but they claim that you could.
--That' s incredible.
G--It was a little scary and I wouldn't 1 want to have it agina, but it
wasn't really bad. ].ut vw were very fortunate, very fortunate. And we
have been for the last twenty some years now.
D--Well, good. Vell, thanks a lot.
G-You are quite welcome.