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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
This is an interview with Edward K. Hansen, the dockmaster
at the Fort Myers Yacht Basin. The date is May 3, 1989.
It's approximately 12:45 PM. The interviewer is David
D: You were telling me a little bit yesterday about Ogden
Phipps. How well did you know him? Did you know him at
H: I spoke to him. He was always Mr. Phipps to me. And he
had too sons, a daughter and a wife. They all hunted. The
whole family were sportsmen. And I would see them early in
the morning or late in the evening when they came in from
going hunting and so forth. Denny Phipps, his son, bought a
motor company over in Miami. At one time, he was into off-
shore racing pretty heavy. They had race horses. In fact,
the race horses were all in Mrs. Phipps' name, the best I
recall. On the boat, they had pictures of winning the
Kentucky Derby, I don't .remember which horse it was..
D: Do you remember what her name was?
H: Mrs. Phipps was all I knew her as. You were expected to
go by that name. That's all I ever knew her by. Mrs. Ogden
D: Tell me a little bit about their boat.
H: Well, their boat was the Defoe.
H: Yes. D-E-F-O-E. Their were five of the hulls made.
They were started during World War II and the war ended.
They were going to be captain's gigs. You know, special
boats for the admirals and so forth. And Defoe finished
them as private yachts. One of them bought was Schanacleir,
which was bought by Ralph Evinrude.
D: What was the name of that again?
H: Schanacleir, I believe it was. And when Mrs. Evinrude
died, he met Francis Langford, and they went on their
honeymoon on that boat. So he maintained it all those years
because that was the honeymoon location. I remember they
spent a fortune on that boat, way beyond its normal life.
And Mr. Phipp:s' boat, which I don't know where it went after
he got rid of it. Governor Wallace had one in Alabama. And
tLe:: we.,e wo o. t nen. uu on the Grea Lakes, but ; don't
remember the names of them now. You're going back too many
years now to remember them all.
D: Do you know what the name of Phipps' boat was?
H: The Phipps' boat was the Virgemere.
D: How big of a boat was it?
H: 118 feet, all of them were. There were five with two
671's sitting above one another, going into a gearbox on
each shaft cause they were too narrow to put four across.
The boats were very narrow. They were only 12 or 13 foot
beam for all that length. They were very rolly boats, I'll
D: How long would he keep it over here when he was here?
;i: He was here every winter when he hunted and then he
would take it north to New York City. That's where he spent
D: So it was like a month he would be here?
H: Oh no. He was, see you can bow hunt in Florida for many
many months and it was here for five or six months every
year. He used it mainly for a residence while he hunted
over in the Cape Coral property.
D: What years was that, in the late 1950s? Or early 1950s?
H: Well, the boat was docked here when I came here in 1957.
I think it was about 1960 or so that he sold the property
and phased it out but he hunted on it a little after he sold
the property. I don't know the exact years, I can't
remember that much about it. Phipps didn't sell them all at
one time. They edged their way into the property, the
D: Who were some of the guest that he would bring over?
H: Oh, yes. Very famous people were guests aboard. I
can't remember that now. First of all, I would not tell
you, alot of people come in here and part of the reason I'm
known is that I don't tell who comes in here. The Chamber
of Commerce gets so upset when different people are here.
You may have the Vice-President or something' here and you
just don't talk aJbout it. Otherw[l s they just won't come
back. If you know what I mean. Privacy is valuable to
D: Tell me about Fingers O'Bannon, his job, tell me a
little about him.
H: Fingers was wonderful. Best character I ever knew. I
think he got his name from playing baseball, the best I can
recall. He was a guide from Naples when I first remembered
meeting him. He was raised, I think, around Arcadia.
D: A hunting guide?
H: No, he had a small fishing boat guiding out of there.
And that's where Mr. Phipps hired him. He was a crackerjack
fisherman and Fingers blew part of his right hand off down
there in a hunting camp down in the Everglades. When
Fingers worked for Mr. Phipps, I don't guess there was any
accounting for the money, and Fingers made swamp buggies and
he took Denny Phipps, the young boy, out in the woods and
they had a camp, pretty close to being in the Everglades.
So I got to see them down there too. The day Fingers hurt
his hand, he came by my caom driving a buggy. He -ha h.ad a
t- t ioo vch to rink a' %vas jhtin- 2rry >b'iis ,''ith
a cigar and made a mistake and threw the cigar instead of
the cherry bomb. That's what happened to his hand. But then
the Phipps sold all the property. Fingers was gone. The
Phipps supported Fingers in running a bar called the
Warehouse here. Remember the Warehouse? And then Fingers,
through his connection with Phipps, met Mr. Holtzer, I think
it was, who put the two houses together over here where the
Veranda is now. That was Fingers' deal too. He's a
promoter, boy, from the word "Go".
D: Is that why that restaurant used to be called O'Bannons?
H: Yes. That's Fingers. He's always into something. He
had a fine wife and family that he raised, of course. But
he is a partyer. Fingers drank up most of the profits over
the years. Both of his boys are excellent fishermen. One
of them runs Mr. Sharp's boat at Boca Grande now. And
Ricky, who I gave you the number, lives here in town. But
the older boy runs the Dupont family's boat over at Boca
Grande. And he comes in to see me about every six months to
ask me about this or that. We've always been friends. I
saw the boys coming up. Fingers, he could teach you more
about fishing than anything but when it came to passing a
test and so forth, he used to come and talk to me.
D: What would they hunt for over there? Was it mostly bird
1: Mostly bird hunting. There were some turkey and deer
here, too. I can remember see both deer and turkey on the
property over there.
D: What kind of facilities did they have over there?
H: They had a barn for horses and they had a tremendous dog
pen. Fingers had some of the best bird dogs I ever saw. He
had his uncle or his dad, I can't which it was, they called
Preacher O'Bannon, all he did was take care of all his dogs
over there. They had dogs that would run deer, they had
dogs that would quail hunt, dogs that would chase turkeys.
He had a hell of a kennel over there that was unbelievable.
D: How many people could stay out there at one time?
H: They had a lodge built later on. That's where that
party was. I never thought about how many there was but it
was mainly a partying lodge, it's what it was. I don't
think it was a sleeping lodge. I never got into that kind
of stuff, so I don't know. I went to a lodge out there once
or twice and that's it. I went in and got out as quick as I
D: You said that the Phipps' liked to party?
H: It wasn't so much that. They were entertainers. They
had a ten or eleven man crew on that boat over there and
they had a chef that was unbelievable. They had two or
three waiters and they had personal maids, when they flew in
that took care of them. And they lived there well. It was
not just the average boat customer that I had over there. I
guess the minimum that they had was a seven man crew for the
boat when there was nobody aboard. Just to try to maintain
it. IE you can't get ahold of Fingers, Mavis O'Bannon.
Mavis was the engineer and he's an uncle, I believe, of
Pingers. And Mavi:; works for George Sanders who used to
have a boat here. He works at Owl Creek. He was a very
capable boatman, I thought, one of the best around here.
And Mavis O'Bannon probably would tell you more factual
information. He's a very religious person, too. Some
people call him Preacher O'Bannon. He's not the one who
kept care of the dogs though. Several of the O'Bannons are
preachers. Revival-type preachers, if you know what I mean.
D: The boat itself, did you ever hear any estimates what it
H: It didn't cost much in those days. That boat probably
sold right after the war for, prior to World War II, you
figured about $1000 per foot. So $150,000 was about all.
But 1 know in the middle 1960s or early 1960s, Ralph
;vinrude told me that he spent $200,000 Just :eplating the
bottom of his boat because he didn't want to do away with
it, keeping it for sentimental reasons. If you know what I
mean. Of course, you maintain seven men, it's alot of
expense. They were all well-paid and all that dining room
and the whiskey bills and all that. That's what counts.
D: You were telling me about this party you went to out
there? Phipps was there and Leonard Rosen was there?
H: No. Rosen wasn't at this one. The best I recall, there
were people from Reynold's (William H.) office there that
Fingers was friendly with. And they were the ones who got
Mr. Phipy' to arree. I didn't even know who Rosen was at
the time and I didn't meet Rosen until after that when he
had closed the deal. And he came in the office and wanted
somebody to take him over to see the water side. He had
seen the shore side, he wanted to see it from the water.
D: The people from Reynolds' office were over there
basically talking to Phipps to see if he would sell?
H: They were at the party that Fingers was putting on, the
best I recall, that's what was going on.
D: And they were seeing if he would sell?
H: I kind of think so. Fingers at one time worked for
Reynolds, too, you know. When Phipps first sold out, he
tried to be a realtor. He's tried everything. But mainly
he's a guide but he keeps going back to halfway being a
promoter. Like talking this man into, I guess, spending a
half million dollars building the Veranda over here. It
turned out OK. He put O'Bannons name on it but O'Bannon
couldn't run it. The boy that bought it has done an
outstanding job. One of the nicest restaurants in town.
D: You met Leonard Rosen eventually?
H: There were two of the Rosens the best I recall. Leonard
was the first one to come over.
D: What were your impression of him?
H: He didn't impress me. I thought he was bull-shitting
me. In this business, we see an aweful lot of people come
in who want to take advantage of my customers and he told me
all he was going to do over there. And I thought that was
beyond imagination. I thought he was full of shit. That's
what I thought. But he basically did what he said he was
going to do that day in the office. He was a sharp cookie,
I'll tell you that. He was also a real promoter. He scared
me. Promoters scare me. I'm just an old cracker boy and
they get ahead of you quick.
D: Did you ever meet Jack Rosen?
H: I met two Rosens. I don't remember all the names. And
they had an office at one time right downtown Cape Coral.
And one time when I was having a problem boat, I met over
there with Bill Carmine, who was actually the county
attorney until he got into trouble and then he went to work
for them. The reason that Cape Coral got developed the way
it did was that Bill Carmine was county attorney. Whatever
Rosen wanted, Rosen got. Why he didn't wind up in Federal
jail, I don't know. He's dead now, I think. But he, when I
was trying to stop the operation from loading passengers
here, I met with all of them. I was threatened with what
they would do to me with my job. I do a good job the best I
can. And I knew the council didn't want any problems and I
told them how I was going to recommend.
D: What were they doing here? You said they were loading
H: They would fly...First, one year in the middle 1960s, I
went to Cleveland, Ohio, before Cape Coral ever really got,
maybe it was the early 1960s, anyway I went to Cleveland,
Ohio, for the Chamber of Commerce. They needed help and I
knew the area, so I went to work for the chamber. We went
to the Sportsman's Club in Cleveland. On the way, they were
selling property in Cape Coral and they had a picture of the
(Fort Myers) city yacht basin, showing that this is the
yacht basin in Cape Coral. Well, I went over and I heard so
much c.'ap gooing on thaC I knew were bald-face lies, I tried
to conv i Cice the peop le. I hadh brocho.re.; of ':he yach basin.
I knew they were lying. I didn't get anywhere. And they
were on the radio at night, I would go in the hotel at night
and you'd hear,"Free trip to Florida". Vacation, hotel,
accommodations, the whole thing. And they had in this
sportsman's booth and you just signed up and they flew you
in. They had a whole fleet at the time. They'd fly you in
back on the back pad of Page Field. I don't know how many
planes, they had quite a few flying in here. They were
flying so many in here that they couldn't take them all
through the sales office at one time. So, Rosen rented a
boat and it would old sixty or hundred people, whatever it
held. And half of the planeload would get in a bus and go
straight to the sales office. And the other half would' cet
in the bus and go to the yacht ba :--inl Jn ; on a Ibo-t Now
the ones that got there first would go all through che sales
office and were wined and dined and they were out by the
time the others got through touring the river and get down
there. And then they the ones that went by bus to begin
with come back by boat.
D: They went from the Cape Coral yacht basin or from here?
H: They went from my yacht basin to Cape Coral. They went
to the yacht club there. That was all part of the sales
office deal. And I remember many a night, I heard the women
crying,"You shouldn't have paid that money down. That was
our life's savings," and blah, blah, blah. I knew something
was going on. The more I kept finding out about it, and
a after I went to Cleveland and saw how bad they were
misrepresent ng It. And theI ahter 1 talked to some people
who actually went through the sales presentation, they came
over and asked me if that was for real, I knew it wasn't.
So I convinced the council to refuse them dockage cause we
would have been a party to fraud. And this is before the
state ever shut them down. My city shut them down because
of what I saw. Cause I didn't think this city should be a
party to this fraud situation. They called me into Cape
Coral, which I went when I was asked, what all they were
going to do to me, I work for the city. I don't work for
Cape Coral, Mr. Rosen, or anybody else. That's before the
city (Cape Coral) got incorporated.
D: Anything else that you can: reme-ber about Phitrps that
might be interesting? I understood from one person that he
sold that land to the Rosens, he never thought it was going
to take off. He thought he was going to get his land back.
H: I personally stay out of these things. The best I
recall, there was a discussion going on. "Would you take
that?" and "Would you sell that?", and Mr. Phipps made a
flat statement about something and the next thing I know,
they were all laughing about these people paying that
ridiculous price. And to tell you, $200 an acre for swamp
in those days was a pretty good price. That was a long time
ago. And that was swamp out alot of it out there. The only
way they developed it was, well, they'd put you in jail
today. I don't know whether you know it, in front of Cape
Coral, there's some holes that are ninety feet deep out
"there. See, they sat out In the ver and once they broke
through the rock, they went down as much as ninety foot.
And you talk about Cape Coral having problems, once you
break through the aquifer and you dig that deep, that's
where your saltwater intrusion comes from. If Bill Carmine
had not been the county attorney, we could have stopped this
along before it happened. I was getting as upset as hell
because I knew what it was doing to the aquifers. But I
couldn't get anybody to listen to me. I was none of my
business, county-wise, and it was a county project. It was
not an incorporated town. But it doesn't show on the chart
because they never got a permit to dig it. They took all
that state fill without a permit.
D: I uniders:tancd they had to pay a fine?
H: They paid a fine but they never did correct the problem
that will cause saltwater intrusion. Anytime you did
through an aquifer and let saltwater enter it, it goes all
over. And that's why they're having all the trouble in Cape
Coral. The people in Cape Coral know that. They don't even
know that there's ninety foot out there. But I took two
barges from Fort Myers Shell when they went out of business
and took them over there and sunk them. I know the water
there and that's where we got rid of them.
D: And you think that O'Bannon would be able to give me
some more information?
H: Mavis O'Bannon would give you an aweful lot of
information, if he'll talk. Fingers can too but Fingers has
gone to work for Sam Galloway. I just found out a couple of
weeks ago that Sam remarried and had bought a new boat. I
didn't know anything about it. You know what's going on
now. He doesn't have the boat here. I don't know how you
get ahold of him. Sam Sr., is who it is. You can go out to
Galloway and talk to Jr. and he'll probably tell you how to
get ahold of his dad. I know he has a condo down towards
Naples and I think out at the Landings yet, he has a condo.