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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
D--We are doing an interview with Connie Mack, Jr. in his home in Ft. Myers,
Florida. The date is July 20, 1988. And the interviewer is David
Connie, before we even get into talking about Gulf AMerican, tell me a
little bit about your personal background, when you were born and where
and all that.
C--I think I've forgotten that. I was born in 1912, November 2, in Philadel-
phia. And I was raised there and went to school in the Germantown
Academy. One of the oldest schools in the country, a prep school, not
a boarding school. From there, I went to Duke for two years. Fortunately
for me I met my bride, my wife now, the first week I was there, as far
as I was concerned and I think that she said the same. We should have
gotten married right then. But we did wait. She had just two years to
finish and she would graduate. And her father, the first time I met him
was in Washington, in the Senator's office building. He was the Senator
from Texas. Senator Waon Shepherd. And the only thing that he asked
me, of course I say that this is the first time that I met him, can I
marry your daughter. And this was after our first year at Duke and we
were getting ready to go back. And we said we're not going back. But
he talked me very quickly into, one more college year wasn't going to
hurt us that much and if I would do that he would agree to our getting
mailed. So that's what happened. From there I went to, from there, I
was a coach on my dad's baseball team for one year. He was just having
to break up his ball club at that time. He was sitting under the dugout,
I was on first base where they could all get to me. And I had a very
miserable one year as a coach. Fortunately we ran our own food con-
cession and they decided that I should move in to that, which I did and
enjoyed very much. I was there and that was my main job with the company
from then on.
D--What year was that?
C--1935 was the year that I was coach and '36 until '50, I ran the food
concession, which was the only profitable part of his whole business.
D--Which was in Philadelphia? For the Philadelphia Athletics?
C--That's the Philadelphia Athletics. So, you don't want to go into all my
D--'.,11.., just a little bit.
C--Well, to bring it pretty much to a close, I sold to my half-brothers.
I had two half-brothers, Roy. and Earl, that were both about 25 or 26
years older than myself. And we moved down here in '51. I got into the
shrimp business to start with. Did beautiful the first year, like a lot
of other people. The market crashed and I got caught in it and lost prac-
tically everything that I got out of the ball club. So it put me back to
work. Fortuately, Leonard Rosen came along at that time, which was in
1958. And he asked me to join the company. And that's how I started.
Now, I figured I must have been about the tenth employee in the com-
pany. Tom Weber was first, our engineer. At the time that I got there,
Mary Anderson, have you talked to Mary?
D--Yes I have.
C-- Mary Anderson was there. There was bookkeeper by the name of Billie
and I can't think of her last name. But she started Pine Manor, believe
it or not. She owned a lot of land out there and started Pine Manor
shortly after Cape Coral was started. Kenny Schwartz was there, have
you talked to him?
D--Yes. I talked to him.
C--Who else? Of course, Milt Mendelson. You didn't get a chance to talk
to him. He died, a couple of years ago. And I can't think of who else.
Surely there was another person or two, but that's about what I remember.
D--Was Gwen McGinn there in the beginning?
C--Gwen was brought down after I started. She was brought down from Balti-
more. She had been working with the Charles Antel company. You knew that
they had the Charles Antell Company and they sold that shortly after they
got into this.
D--How long after they got into Cape Coral until they sold Antel? Do you
have any ideas?
C--Certainly within the first two years.
D--That was my recollection, but nobody really knew for sure. Well, a
little bit before Gulf American again, how did your family ever come
to being connected with Ft. Myers?
C--Well, see the year that I came on as a coach for dad was the last year
that the A's trained here in Ft. Myers. They trained for twelved straight
years here in Ft. Myers. So actually, my father knew all sorts of people
here. We had friends right away, and then even after that, the next year
the ball club trained in Mexico City and after that they were in Lake
Charles, Louisiana for '37, '38, and '39. And those three years, I
remember we would come here. Mother and Dad would rent a house and we
would come here before going over to the spring training camp over there.
So, we had those three years. In October of 1945 I was honorable$ dis-
charged from the Army and we decided we would take the winter down here.
And we rented a cottage down on Ft. Myers beach. So that winter of '45
and '46, again we got to know more people in the area. When the decision
was made that I was going to sell, we quickly decided that we were going
to move and would love to live in Ft. Myers.
D--What was the first year that they started doing their spring training
C--That would have been, I think, 1924. I'm not quite sure. It was twelve
years anyway and '35 was the last year. Now, '35, of course was the win-
ter of '34, '35.
D--Do you have any recollection of what Ft. Myers was like at that time?
C--Oh, it was just beautiful. Ft. Myers Beach, just to think what was
allowed to happen to it. But there were no regulations. Oh, I could remember
in that year, you could pick up thousands of front feet on the Gulf for 25 dollars
a front foot. Of course, who had any money then? I had four children.. While
I was in the army. I got a letter from the President inviting me to join, and
I had four children.
D--They didn't let you off for four children?
D--Tell me a little bit about Lenoard Rosen. What impressed you the most about him?
C--Well, he was a very dynamic person. I don't think I've ever met anyone like that.
He just had to be doing. He wanted things done. And he got things done. The
Cape Coral-Bridge. He's the one who got that bridge built, or we might still
not have a bridge going across. This was the type of person he was. He was
tough. He scared a lot of people, physically. He was very, could be, very rude.
Very crude if he wanted to, and very often he wanted to.
D--Do you think that he did that to intimidate people?
C--Oh, yes. No doubt about it.
D--What was your first contact with Leonard Rosen?
C--Apparently, he had gotten in touch with a good friend of mine, Bill Reynolds,
a real estate broker.
D--I've spoken with him, too.
C--And he was asking whether or not he thought I would be interested. And
as it turned out, Nat Briscoe and myself had sold for Bill at MacGregor Groves.
That was my first venture into real estate.
D--Now where was that located?
C--McGregor Groves was just up here. The Baptist church used to be right
up here. Now there is McGregor Baptist down on Colonial. But that's
where it was. Of course, they weren't ther-when we started. It was
just a big old homestead there. And we built around the orange trees.
And I say, we built, we just sold it. Nat and myself sold about 140
homes in about 16 months time.
D--What was Nat's last name?
C--Nat Briscoe. He is God here, just about. I guess Nat's been gone about
three years now.
D--So, what did Leonard say to you?
C--Well, he just said, let's sit down and have coffee and he told me what he
was going to do. And he could certainly build a beautiful picture and
wondering just what I was going to do. I had a broker's license so I
wasn't that concerned about it, but I was looking for something and when
he came along with this, you know, it sounded great. And of course another
person, who is no longer living either, is the president of the first
National BAnk, Harry Fagan. I talked to him, and apparently he was
really taken by Leonard Rosen. He really thought that he was going to
do something good for the area.
D--Did you introduce....?
C--No, they had already met but Harry if there was any question in my
mind, should I go with Leonard, any question went out of my mind
immediately after talking to Harry Fagan. He built him up as a very
wealthy man which I understand now that he was nothing like what he was
built up to be. So, but anyway, we developed into this thing. I was
hired to sales manager, which Kenny Schwartz was. I was really for
p.r. They used my picture all over the place. And he made a deal
with me on flat salary plus percentage of the sales which the first
year I did get, but after that, that, I was told that that was just
more than the company could pay. I won't go into anymore about that.
That was Leonard.
D--I heard that Leonard had a hard time of giving employees money or some-
thing for the work that they did. If he agreed to something he would
do it, but it always, when it came time to give raises out, he was hard
C--Well, I understand, now I heard this from some of the boys in Miami, that
a lot of them would go to him for a raise and he'd say, do you know what
Connie Mack is getting and he would use that as a block that they could
not get passed. Now Jack Rosen was entirely different. I don't know
whether you heard this.
C--Jack's people were all paid much more, much more.
D--So it was kind of up to each of the brothers what they paid their people.
C--Yes. Of course, I think that was one thing that they fought over a lot.
Jack was so generous. He really wanted to pay more. I could have been,
should have been paid much better. But the silly part was me, When I got
to where I didn't really know if I should stay with the company or not,
the way I felt about their operation. And I thought that I'm certainly
not going to ask for a raise. Never ask for a raise. Leonard, every
once in a while would say, "you've never had a raise." And I would say
"no I haven't, Leonard." And I still wouldn't have a raise. Never got
a raise that whole time I was there. But Of course, I had a lot of
freedom that no one else had. I could say anything to him that I wanted
to say. We had some great ones. There's one cute story, but go ahead.
D--When you first really started talking with Leonard and got to know him
the first few months, were you really convinced that he was going to be
able to pull off what he said that he was? That they were actually going
to be able to build the city of Cape Coral?
C--Yes. I think anyone that talked to him. Now, don't forgot I saw it and
apparently Harry Fagan saw it. They had a lot more behind than they
really did. There's no way today. I would guess that if their net worth
between them was four million. I'd be surprised from what I've heard
since if it was even that. I would tell you this, I would bet anybody
that they never gambled more than a half a million dollars between them.
Never. But they knew how to handle that money and they always had scxne-
body else involved. They had people buying land for them, they would
form a group of people and they would buy land for them. And the com-
pany would buy for them and they would make a little profit that way.
And they certainly do have, no doubt about it, a great business sense.
D--Tell me a little bit more about your job with the company. What are
some of the different things that you did?
C--Well, I started out in sales and we had our first sales office at Weaver's corner
And on January 14th we started selling. It was mainly Kenny and myself and
Mary Anderson. That's all we had to start with. And we would take
people down in our cars. It was just a dirt road. And we would take
them down and believe that they had to be impressed with the equipment
that was down there. And they had already dredged out the yacht basin
itself and they had laid our roads around that area. And this was the
beginning. And we told the people, and we were told that we could tell
them, that we were going to have a quarter of a million dollar yacht
club there which turned out to be better than a million. Way better than
a million, by the time that they finished. With that swimming pool and
the clubhouse and all. We told them that we were going to have a
championship golf course which we did have and this was about our sales
pitch. And it was quite easy. So anyway, everything went along fine
for about a year, year and a half. And then we started getting in some
of the boys who had been in the business. Some of them had been in around
Miami and Ft. Lauderdale when the boom was on. They, what some of our
young salesmen didn't know, they taught them. They could just tell you
anything, look you straight in the face and you would say, it's got to
be true. It just got so out of hand that you know I finally just started
raising so much cain about it. But, you know, people would tell me wt
the salesmen told them.
D--What are some of the things that they would tell them?
C--Well, they would say, "You see this equipment right here? Well, your
property that I'm selling is just on the other side." And of course,
it was seven or eight miles ut the road. That was one of the main
things. But they just, they had a beautiful thing to sell. Of course,
later on when we had people living there and they had canals. They'd
get on a canal and maybe it had a couple of houses on it. They'd look
across the canal and say, see that property over there, that's what you
are buying. They were buying something miles away. So, anyway, I just
raised so much cain. So Leonard thought I ought to get out of sales and
just be in public relations. So I was sentenced to be his assistant.
D--So, Leonard really didn't want to stop that kind of sales stuff.
C--Oh, no. He wouldn't listen to me. I would tell him. As a matter of fact,
just before one of the meetings, in fact I took about a week off and just
got with my secretary. In fact, I went over to her house, Bea Cleaves.
Have you talked to l'3ea?
D--I have not. I wish I could.
C--Well, she's pretty old and she's over in the hospital now. But I don't
think you could get a hold of her. But I dictated to her and we finally
came up with about a three page of what was going on, things that we knew.
Dick Crawford was one of them that had an office there and some of the
things that he heard, I quoted to him and everything like that. But
Leonard and Jack were so upset that I was upset and of course they
thought that right then I was going to blow the whistle and you know they
said, we're going to straighten up. Jack told me all his plans and how
they were goin to make sure that the salesmen didn't do things like that
anymore. It was forgotten the next day.
D--So you got more into the public relations?
C--What ended up was of course that I was the only executive that anybody
could get to. Of course, a lot of the salesmen would like to bring the
people in and they knew that I was associated and they knew my dad's name.
And they wanted to come and talk to me. So, of course, the first year I
was mainly, I had an office where I met people from all over the world.
I met people from Alaska that were baseball fans. That said, "We love
what your dad stood for." For honesty. So, right away, if you're here,
why not buy? Fortunately now, most of those people bought something
good and they all did well. But of course, later on, when they started
getting into Golden Gate, and River Ranch, that's where I told Leonard
that you're just going to run into trouble that you're never going to
get out of.
D--I think that it proved true. Who else besides you, you were kind of a
spokesman for Gulf American. W\ho else besides you was kind of a cele-
D--Tell me about him.
C--Well, Bill is quite a guy. I like Bill very much. He would come down
here and of course, people would make a fuss over him, which he loved.
D--What had Bill been before that?
C--Oh, he was a sports caster. He was quite a wellknown football announcer.
Now this was back in the radio days. And Bill was the kind that he could
exaggerate. And he had a great voice. So, they used Bill to en- -'
dors. it and he would come down every July for the big parade, be the
marshall. July 4th parade. We still hear from -Mildred, ils wife. Of
course, Bill has died. But you know, towards the end there, I talked to
him. I hoped it wouldn't ruin both of our names, and
it shook him up. Because he didn't need that anymore than I needed it,
D--Anybody else besides you and Bill?
C--That was about it. We used to have these parties all over the place, you
lmow? They'd send out invitations with our names. There for a while it
was always in my name. But I started raising so much cain about the way
they were treating people that Jack switched over to Bill Stern. They'd
send me letters about what it cost for a babysitter and everything like
that and then they would get there and they woudln't have a place for
them. So, I said, I had a little company funds and I would send them a
check for 25 dollars and cover the babysitter. And, of course, Jack
found out about that and he wanted to stop that. Fortunately, I can
look back and laugh. I would have some of those poor old widow women
come in, particularly when they started selling River Ranch. People who
had wonderful experiences with Cape Coral. All the people had to do was
call them on the phone and sell them two and a half acres for 2500 or 3500
dollars. Youknow, they come down, where is it? I can't do anything with
it. And I'd say, you're right, you can't do anything with aht property.
And it was true. There was no promise of a road being put in there.
D--So, a lot of people who bought land in River Ranch and places like that
had no idea that they couldn't build on it.
C--Oh, you know it. How did the salesmen sell it? They had to tell them
stories. That was the beginning of the end. Of course, Golden Gate,
I knew it. The minute we got into Golden Gate. Of course, they started
a community down there, which was a little bit different than what they
did at River Ranch. They never even started a community there. But it
was mainly acreage. Golden Gate too. They would sell five acres, ten
acres. If they had sold to those people, they would have done all right.
But that was twenty years ago.
D--You were talking about the dinner parties that they used to have around
the country. Did you ever speak at any of those?
C--Oh, yes. When we first started out, as a matter of fact, Jack used to
tell everybody whenever we would have a big company meeting that I was
the greatest five minute speaker. Because that's all that I would talk.
I would just tell them a little bit about our background, how we got
started and that was it. Then I disappeared. They tried to get me at
that sales table, but I would have no part of it. I travelled around
quite a bit. I went to Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, were very active.
D--I heard from several different people that they gradually got other
speakers because all of the people wanted to meet you instead of buy
land. Is there any truth to that?
C--That's what I heard too.
D--So you were in public relations, mostly.
C--I was the figurehead there that the people could get to. So when people
bought homes, built their homes, any complaints that they had, there I
was. EVery Monday morning I would go in to this beautiful office that
I had. Did you ever see it?
D--No, I didn't.
C--Oh, I had one corner of that big building, First Federal. On the second
floor, that back office there right on the corner. I had a waiting room
outside my secretaries office. Now Bob Finkernagel had the office across.
Because she was the secretary for both of us. But all these chairs were
all around and everything would be taken. I'd have to walk in "Good
morning, good morning...." Everybody waiting to come into complain.
D--Would there be a large number of people that felt like the salesmen had
lied to them, would they get refunds? Or would you basically say I'm
sorry. How would that work?
C--Well, they would get nowhere except through me. That was the beginning
of the end. I decided that if I was going to stay there, particularly
these poor older women, widowers. I would know when they told me they
weren't lying. And so fortunately at the time Bill Carmine (and I don't
know if his name has come up,) was an attorney here and Leonard liked
him very much. He was a very likable person. And very capable. But
anyway, he went over as counsel for the company and he was in Miami and
I could get hold of him and tell him, look, I'm sending over a request
for a refund and he would put it through. I would say, the last two
years that I was with the company that I got back, through Bill, close to
two million dollars. But that was the beginning of the end for Bill.
Because when Leonard realized what was happening he immediately took
that away from Bill. He was no longer able to do it. And he brought
Bernie IHerzfeld. Have you heard anything about Bernie Herzfeld?
D--I've heard a little bit.
C--The biggest disappointment of my life.
D--Why was that?
C--Well, he just turned out to be completely two-faced. He would listen
to me about my complaints and I thoughfsure he was going to Leonard and
telling Leonard you've got to do this and that. The only thing that
he had, the only interest that he had was that company kept going so
that his stock would make him money. It did. I would bet that he got
out of the company at least a million dollars. And so anyway, he was put
in charge. I had to go to him. I'll never forget, he turnedfe down.
A very attractive mother and daughter came in for Newark, New Jersey
and told me their story. And I said, "I believe you. I will se
can get you a refund." I went to Bernie Herzfeld. I said, Bernie these
people are not people you are going to push around. If you don't give
them a refund, you are going to have the company in trouble. He refused
to give them a refund. It wasn't three months later that we were out of
business in New Jersey. They took it to the real estate board
there and we were all out of business. I forget how many months it took
them to get back, so they could get back. Now this is getting close to
my 1969 or '70.
D--So you were with the company all the way until...?
C--Where they sold to G.A.C. The funny thing is, G.A.C. never talked to me.
They never talked to me at all. And never talked to Bob Finkernagel.
And this was because of Mallatrat Mallatrat was the one, he got
"a finder's fee out of that sale I'm pretty sure. Something like two and
"a half percent. But he told the people, he told wills, Bob Finkernagel
and Connie Mack are nothing but figureheads, don't bother with them. He
knew that if they talked to us we would tell them straight. So I finally
called, it sort of bugged me that they hadn't. There's no way that they
could've, but I wanted to find out just atwhat was going on. So I called
them one time and I went over there. And I think it was a week before
the papers were signed. The final deal. We met and we talked for about
an houre and I told him all the problems that they had. This flying peo-
ple in, what it really cost them. I'd hear the end of a three day stay
with theses people that they sold a half a million in land and housing
and what I also found out as the time went on, that within six months
that sale if it was half a million dollars it was down to under 200,000.
And here they had all this expense, the airplanes and putting people up
in the motels. Feeding them, giving them a party. So at the end of
the period, Mr. Wills and he had one of his vice-presidents there
taking notes, and he said, "Connie, we can still get out of this thing."
I just wanted them to know that they had problems. You know, I talked to
him I guess, I saw him one time when it was still about six months after
they wentin and he was still sure that they could make it. And then I
talked to him at maybe about a year. Aid he said, over the phone, "Connie this is it.
I wish I had listened to you." But Bob and myself find out Mallatrats
secretary hated his guts. And she knew everything that he said about us.
And she's the one who told us. She told Bob. This is what he tells
everybody. And she said, "You know what he does everyday? He's
trading the stockmarket." He had helped Rheem Manufacturing Company.
I think it's up around Connecticut or somewhere. But now this goes to
back around '67 or '6S. He arranged, their company vas going out and he
made money on that. He's a big wheeler and dealer. And so then Leonard
brought him into our company. And he's the one who got ahold of G.A.C.
and made the deal for G.A.C. to buy the company.
D--So, Leonard brought Mallatrat into the corporation in order to find
C--Oh, no. Just because he thought he was a good corporate man.
D--And he made the contact?
D--He still got a finder's fee for that?
C--Oh, yes. He did very well
C-- Gordon Mallatrat, Nobody has mentioned him?
D--I've heard his name but I'll tell you where I saw it. I saw it on some
of the transcripts up in Tallahassee of the land sales board. I saw his
name caoe up several times. But I didn't know who he was. I knew he was
with the corporation in some aspect.
C--You should have heard him around me.
D--What did he say?
C--Well, you know, I was the greatest guy that ever lived.
D--I heard that the phone sales department was using your name. They were call-
ing and introducing themselves as Connie Mack.
C--Who did you hear that from?
D--That came out, I think Eileen Bernard.
C--Oh, yes. Eileen, yes. I think it was Eileen that was over there. Well,
if she told you, then you got it first hand. Somebody told me that she
stood there and listened to them. These boys with the Jewish accents.
"This is Connie Mack" Oh that's... Well, of course, that's one of the things
where I finally got wrote out on this thing about what was going on.
D--What would Leonard say when you would say that?
C--"Connie, you just worry too much. You are the biggest worrier that I've ever
met." He said, "Don't forget the people that are buying, they are worse
liars than our salesmen." He didn't want to hear it.
D--What are some of the problems the company had coming down here to Cape Coral?
I'm not talking about the abuses by salespeople. What were just some of the
normal everyday problems in putting together an operation this big?
C--Well, as I told you earlier, to me the housing brought in about 90% of the
problems that the company then had. Because there were people coming on to
the property, living on the property. And there's the company right there.
So any complaint that they had they thought it was the company's fault.
Now, I'll have to admit, there were a lot of times that. they were unreason-
able because they were unhappy people, particularly the wives. You-know, the
wives would come down from where they had lived most of their life. Left the
daughters, sons, grandchildren and for the first couple of years I don't know
how many people I had come in my office. They were couples and I don't know
unhappy they were. And I would try to get across to the wives, give it a little
bit more time, but if you possibly can't avoid it, go up every year, if
you have to go twice a year. But mark my word, after about two years,
you will tell your friends to come down here. And it usually worked
that way. Let's see this is what the company had to put up with. All
these unhappy people.
D--Let me ask you a question about the housing. Was Leonard and Jack, were
they trying to get people on the land. Basically, were they building
houses to get people living there?
C-Definitely. Of course, if you are going to build a community, that's the
only way that you are going to get going. You've got to get families in
there. Oh, they did everything. They did a lot of good incentives for
the early people to come in.
D--Do you think Leonard was really just proud of the fact that he was building
a community or was he building a community to make it look better so he
could sell more land? It seems like if it really hadn't developed his
land sales would have really stopped.
C--That's the reason that I was sort of shocked that he would go into this
other operation of River Ranch to just sell the land. And of course that
I'm sure that he knew because of our sales record and because of our beau-
tiful community in Cape Coral he was able to do that. But it was the
beginning of the end. It was what caused the company to fail as far
as the Rosens. That was it. Once we started doing that, then the
sales 'board, they would not stand still. They got so many complaints
D--So, there were a lot of people that felt like if they had stuck with
something like Cape Coral where they were actually building a community
with streets and stuff likfe that, then they might have survived.
C--Well, yes. I think so. Leonard & Jack were never going to be satisfied with
Cape Coral and doing a beautiful job with that and we're proud of it
and glad that you are proud of it. They were never going to be satis-
fied with that. Jack had to be ahead of the greatest land sales com-
onav that ever was on this earth. That was his goal.
D--Would he say that?
C--Oh, yes. If he didn't say it in so many words, everybody that worked
around him knew that's what he wanted. And how he got there, he didn't
want to worry about that. Just get me the sales. LEt the salesmen do
that. They knew that all they what had to was sell. ilHow.they did it, 'that was their'
D--Did Leonard feel the same way?
C--Oh, definitely. But of course, Leonard was the finance man. He's the
one that had to come up with the money. How he did it, I don't know.
He did it.
D--Do you think that Leonard was surprised that Cape Coral was succeeding
at the beginning?
C--Oh, I don't think so.
D--Do you think that he was pretty confident that it would go?
C--Oh he was surprised that it didn't take over faster than it did. He
never stopped. He went out to Nevada and started the same operation
out there and get in the same trouble and he sat there with Bob Finker-
nagel and myself for about two hours waiting for a plane to Las Vegas,
telling us all of his problems. And they were the same problems that
he had here. You know, I got a kick out of Bob because Bob would just
go along with it. I just kept my big mouth shut. You know, there was
no way I was going to hurt his feelings. Too late for that. But you
know, I'll tell you, talking about Cape Coral now. EVenthough he was
mighty proud of what he would come back here. This was after he sold
the company. And go over to the Cape and drive around. Drive over that
bridge alone. If it wasn't for Leonard Rosen, no telling when the bridge would
D--Do you think that there was always that idea in his mind that they were
going to build a bridge?
C--Oh, he started on that almost the first year. It's just a shame that
he didn't temper it down a little bit.
D--Why were some of the people in Cape Coral opposed to the bridge? I was
just reading and it seems like they had a vote?
C--Why are people opposed to most anything? Of course, they had a couple
of landowners over on this side of the river. Al Sutphen,as matter of fact,
he wrote me a letter and my wife tore it up and I never read it. But he
blamed me, because I couldn't stop the Rosens. He called me on the
phone one time and I said plainly to him, "Al,"' he's quite a guy." He
thought that since I was Connie Mack, Jr. I could tell Leonard not to
build that bridge. I couldn't. When he found out I couldn't, he blasted
me. And of course, we always had several people unhappy over there.
And they thought that one way they could hurt the company was to go against
D--Who were some of the big opponents of Gulf American out there?
C--Oh, I don't even like think of it. Some of them were pretty sick people,
very sick. Let's stay away from that.
D--A name that came up, and I don't know if you knew anything about the sit-
uation. Somebody said that there was a Congressman named Harrison Williams
that criticized Gulf AMerican. I don't know if it rings a bell at all.
C--Did Bob Firnkeragle know about it?
D--I found out after I talked to Bob so I would have to go back to Bob.
C--Talk to Bob about it. Weren't you impressed with Bob?
C--Unfortunately, Bob is not the Bob he was ten years ago. Bob was one of
the smartest young men that I've ever met, that I had the pleasure of
being in business with. He was great.
D--I understand that Bob at one time owned the Cape Coral Breeze.
C--Where did you her.a about that?
D--Well, he told me that he bought it for a dollar or inherited it from a
guy in Orlando or Ocala.
C--He had a pal that lived in Leesburg.
D--Tom Cassel isn't it?
C--Yes. Tom Cassel. Terrific guy. He's just crazy about Bob. And he
started the Breeze. No. Crawford and his wife started the Breeze.
And so then they bought it for 30,000 dollars, the Castles did. And
kept Dick Crawford as editor. And then, of course, he knew even at this
time that he was dying. He had some blood disease. Leukemiaor something.
And when he died Bob bought the Breeze for 30,000 dollars. Is this about
what he told you?
D--Yes. That's roughly what he said.
C--He got 1.2 million.
D--That's what he sold it for?
C--About two years later.
D--Who did he sell it to?
C--I don't know. A company that owns a lot of newspapers. I think that
Dick Crawford, I think he let Dick buy 20% of it. That's what I under-
stand. Who cares? Dick made out very well with it. Dick's a nice guy.
Did you enjoy him?
D--Yes, very much so.
C--Very much black or white. Ther's not much in between, you know. I'd
be tempted to say very military but I hope our military isn't all that
D--Who are some prominent Lee County people who were big supporters of
Gulf American, in other words, very pro-Gulf America? The county
commissioners. You mentioned Harry Fagan of First National Bank.
C--I tell you, I don't think there were too many. I think a lot of the
businessmen knew that it was going to be good for them and therefore
they certainly didn't throw any roadblocks. But they knew Leonard and
of course they didn't know Jack. And Leonard wasn't very popular with
anybody. George Allen, an attorney. He's been an attorney an FBI man at
one time. He's quite a man. He did a lot of legal work for Leonard. And
he like Leonard, he could see where Leonard was going to get things done.
Probably forgetting some, but there weren't too many others.
D--Were there any people that just took it on that they were going to oppose
Gulf American, any Lee County people?
C--I don't think anyone of any prominence.
D--How about the County.
C--I think a lot of them were opposed to him because he was Jewish. I think my
wife was somewhere one time and she heard two older women talking about the
Jews and they have that guy Mac. They say he's not Jewish, but he's Jewish.
She just sat there and listened to them. You know, it was everywhere at
that time. Down here the Catholics, really, we were brought up to
believe that Catholics had tails. Not only horns, but tails.
D--Different time period. There weren't very many Jews down here?
C--Not when we first came down here. There were very few. And there were
only about 400 Catholic families. There were only 17,000 in the Ft. Myers
area. The whole county in 1951 was about 40,000.
D--Did you feel like there was kind of that sense that people just didn't
like them sometimes because they were Jewish?
C--Definitely. And unfortunately, Leonard had a chip on his shoulder all
the time. You were anti-semetic until you were proven, and you had to
help prove to him that you weren't. That was the sad part of it. If he
thought you were against the Jews, lookook. He would try to go after you
if he possibly could do it.
D--Your impression of Leonard and Jack as far as their Jewish religion.
C--Very orthodox. We went to the children's, two of their children's weddings.
Completely, up on chairs, dancing all around them. It was exciting. You
know, I have to admire them. Leonard I thought of more than Jack for
looking out for his church, raise money. Help them raise
money. And he always had some rabbis around him. That was never a pro-
blem with me. But apparently, it bothered a lot of people.
D--I understand that Jack kind of had a entourage that travelled with him.
C--Yes, with Jack, if you were going to work with him, that was the only way
that you could work with him. So I, looking back on it, I'm glad I didn't
get my salary.... Had my freedom. I couldn't have taken it. And yet
Jack never said a meam thing about me or to me. Always just as nice as can be.
Two different characters, entirely different, unbelievable. Jack was
this little dapper, quiet. He had one small problem. He was sure, if
he was at a football game and he saw a huddle down there, he was sure
that they were talking about him down there in that huddle. Which Leonard
couldn't have cared less. That was the difference in their character.
He might have look over and they might be talking about me, but I don't
give a damn if they are or not. Let them talk.
D--I heard that Jack used to have a psychologist or a psychiatrist that
travelled around with him, was that true?
C--I don't know whether he did or not. I think that he needed it. You are
not going to quote me on that are you?
D--Some of the other people that 'I talked to said, "yes he did." One guy
travelled with him pretty much all the time.
C--I wonder. I know that it might have worked for him, gbing to a psychiatrist.
I've known plenty of guys that worked for him had to end up going to a
D--Of the people at Cape Coral that worked for Gulf American, besides your-
self. 'iho do you think saw clearly what was going on, as far as the
good and bad? Some of the people you get kind of one side of the story.
C--Well, Bob certainly being around me as much, he certainly had to know both
sides. But Bob and I guess he certainly wasn't in the same position that
I was. They were using my name. They weren't using Bob Finkernagels'
name. So he could look at it a lot differently than I could. Just
mainly, let me do my work. He was our public relations man. I was
mostly vice-president in charge of public relations. He was public relations man.
D--What did Paul Sanborne do?
C--He was under Bob, public relations.
D--Dick Sayers was publicity?
C--Same thing. This was all Bob's department.
D--Do you remember a guy by the name of Joe Miller?
D--What did he do? Do you remember?
C--I'm afraid that I can't help you much there. Bob could tell you more about it.
D--Tell me a little bit about Milt Mendelson.
C--Milt, now you're -talking.
D--Today I drove through Harbour Heights because I just wanted to see what
it looked like. Terrible.
C--Well, I guess that you know it was through Harbour Heights that Leonard met
Milt Mendelson and fell in love with them. Said "you're my man." And of
course, he put in all the planning of Cape Coral in Milt's hands. And as I
understood it, Milt's background was advertising. He handled our advertising
and handled the laying out of Cape Coral, He worked with the engineers. What
was the name that I told you?
D--Rader and Associates?
C--Wasn't there one before that? Who did Tom Weber first work with?
D--The only name that I've heard of is Rader's. Out of Miami.
C--This was Rader. Isn't that funny? I thought there was another. But
they were the ones that Milt, the greatest dreamer you ran across.
Just a dreamer. He led us there for a while until he led us into so much
D--How did he lead you guys into trouble?
C--Well, of course he was in everything. He was insales. I'll never for-
get the first time I realized that we were in real trouble with Mendelson.
OUt at Weaver's corner. If it wasn't the first month of our sales opera-
tion it was the second month. And a man came storming in there. I
could tell he was ready to chew nails. "Where's MIlt Mendelson?" Fortunately Milt
Milt was not around at the time. So I said, "I don't know. I don't
believe Milt's here. Let me see if I can find out where he is." So
I went.... They thought he was in Miami with Leonard. So I said,
"I think he's over in Miami." 'I'd like to get him.' Oh, he's telling
me how he lied to him. I think he got him to start a business up there.
And he said, "IT's just cost me e'er":':hing that I have spent my whole
life building up." If it's the last thing that I do, I'm going to get
that guy." I think he was finally one ofe the ones, they finally,got
Milt on that operation.
C--Oh, they got him on that one, but they got him before then on Harbour
C--Oh, yeah. And I tell you that Leonard, through the whole thing Leonard
was always saving him, going up to bat for him. He was a good friend
to MIlt. He was a true friend. I understand that he would've gone
to jail that time And this is early in our operation. Maybe the first
second, or third year. But I don't who, the real estate commissioner or
what. I think Leonard had to put up something like 100,000 dollars to
keep him from going to jail.
D-So did Milt name all the streets in Cape Coral?
D--There's stories that Milt was a little bit drunk when he was naming all
of them. Is that true?
C--Well, every once in a while we'd get together and have a drink and he
would start telling me about all the things that he's done. All these
successes. I mean, he really believed Harbour Heights was one of his
big successes. And that was, you know. I don't think I ever finished
my second martini when I was around him. Oh, Milt, I can't stand this.
I'd tell him off, and of course I didn't tell him what I was doing.
D--Did he ever hold a position with the company?
C--Probably made more money than I ever did.
D--So, he was on the payroll?
C--Oh, yes. He was on the payroll and of course, I found out that he was
getting a kickback on all the advertising. ANd told Leonard, this was
during the first year of operation. I told Leonard about it and he said,
"I thought that." So he probably just stopped that, cut him out of it.
He was writing a life story of Leonard when he died.
D--I don't anow either. I heard that from Kenny Schwartz. He said he read
the rough drafts of it. He said that it was pretty bad. But he said he
doesn't know what happened to it either.
C--I don't think anybody would think enough to pass it along. Last I heard
when I was trying to get ahold of Tom Weber for you, the secretary said,
of course this is shortly after the dad had died. Said he wanted to talk
to Linda. Here she is running the company. But I understand they sold
D--Oh, I didn't' know that?
C--Yes. That's what I understand. She sold the company. Good for her.
Get out of that. I had a Christmas card from Ronnie. It was an announce-
ment. I sent him a Christmas card. He was in this new venture someplac
D--Aspen, I believe.
C--Yes. He started something. I used to talk to that kid about how what an
awful operation we had. He was only 18 or 19 years of age. But I understand
he gave Eddie Pacelli hell one time when he heard that he was working for
Cavanaugh. He said, "how do you have your experience with our company, how
can you possibly look yourself in the mirror and continue to operate like
you've been operating?" He was telling him what an awful operation that
his dad had. And Eddie was part of it, which he was.
D--Tell me about Kenny Schwartz.
C--I never saw anyone admire another person anymore than Kenny did Leonard
Rosen. This is an exaggeration, but it would almost be true. Leonard
said, "I want you to take care of that guy." And he would get a gun & do it.
He adored Leonard. And Kenny was a hell of a salesman. Great salesman. And,
now he didn't want to hear what the salesmen were doing either. But I'll say
this for Kenny, he was so sure of what we were doing where I was concerned
that somebody buying the property up on Pine Island Road that I would be
concerned, well they are never going to live to see any profit out of it.
Denny would say, to himself, i'm sure, "Well I know that their grandchildren
are going to make a fortune." This was the difference in us. I think that
we are friends. We had a lot of battle because I would talk to him and
tell him something that I heard from some of the salesmen.
D--About how old were you at that time and how old was Kenny.
C--Well, Kenny, don't forget we're going back 20 years. I'm 75 now, so
we are talking about....
D--'58, you are talking 30 years.
C--So let's go back 30. That was back when I was 45 and Kenny must have
been 31 or 32, something like that.
C--Quite a bit younger. As a matter of fact, I'm told that when Leonard
died, I didn't know that Leonard was in his seventies. Leonard was
quite a bit younger than myself. Much more than five years. EVen less
than five years, now that I think about it.
D--You were 72 when he died.
C--I guess 72. Yeah, I was probably only three years older. But Kenny
had done very well for himself. He certainly, if he was going to follow
LEonard's footsteps was not going to get away with it. And I think
Kenny is a very honorable person, was a very honorable person then.
Then unfortunately, he was under sales, so he was really under, though
he was hired by Leonard. And did a lot of the work for Leonard, he was
under Jack. And this he would not accept. And it finally got to where
he put the two of them where they had to decide. Jack said he goes and
Leonard didn't want him to go. But he finally gave into Jack. So
that's how Kenny lost his job. Did he tell you that?
D--Yes. Something to that effect. It seems like in Gulf American, you had
to know whose camp you were in.
C--That's right. And there were very few Leonard. Most of them were Jack.
Jim Layden, oh there were few of us, Bob Finkernagel. And our depart-
ment was pretty much. Most of what we did, we had to do too for Jack,
but fortunately that never came up.
D--IHow early on do you think Leonard started getting the idea of expanding?
LIke Golden Gate, River Ranch and stuff like that.
C--Knowing him, the day we started Cape Coral he was thinking about Golden
Gate. He had to be going all the time.
D--Who were some of the people that you knew that the Rosens brought from
their Charles Antel operation to Gulf American?
C--Well, of course Charlie Hepner and Bob Carroll. Paul Venze was related
to them. Have you talked to Paul at all?
D--I have not been able to get in touch with him.
C--It might be interesting to see what you can get out of him. He might
be able to give you the insight that you can't get from any of the rest
of us. If you want to you tell him that I told him that it wouldn't be
complete without him.
D--I hear that he's out in California somewhere.
C--I think so. I think he was very much involved with the family out there.
Now Sol Sandler, have you talked to him?
D--Yes. I sat down and talked to Sol for about two hours.
C--We were always great friends.
D--He's doing real well. He's going to get back into real estate. He's
bought into a firm in Boca Raton, I think.
C--I remember Charlie Hepener saying to me one time, of course he knew how
I was so upset about our operation and everything and I remember him
telling me one time. He said, "COnnie, we're almost over the hill.
WE've almost reached the peak where we could really afford to be really
policing our own operation." Which at the time made me feel good for a
while before I realized that he was dreaming. That was never going to
happen. I always liked Charlie.
D--Who was anybody else that came from the old Charles Antel days?
C--Some of the pitchmen that they had. Harry Dempsey, character, character.
Who was the other one? I think he was from Atlantic City. He was with
the Charles Antel Company as a pitchman. You know what a pitchman is?
C--I didn't. But I heard so much about it, that later I did.
D--Was he here locally?
C--No, he went to the parties. He was with the party people.
D--There was Morris Green. Was it Green?
C-I thought it wassometh'ihg Morriss". But Dempsey and Morris whether it
be his first name or his last name, I don't know. I can think of them,
but I can't come up with their names.
D--Where did Sy Reis fit into all of this? Did you know him?
C--He was in sales.
D--Was he from...?
C--I think he originated from Baltimore, in that area. Now whether he was
every with the other company or not, I don't know. Berneice Freiberg
did you see her?
D--I went to Baltimore and spoke with her.
C--How's she doing?
D--VEry well, very well. Still sells a little bit of real estate every
once in a while.
C--She was one of the original stockholders. She got out pretty well.
D--That's what I hear. AFter the Rosens sold out to G.A.C., what happened
to you? I know they didn't take to you, but did you just quit or did you
C--When I went over there to talk to Hayward Wills, he asked me if I would like
to join them. I told him that I appreciated it, but no. I didn't do
anything other than put my license under Bill Reynolds. Fooled around
with some real estate purchasing. As a matter of fact, that's how I met
your dad. By the way, I'm crazy about your mom and dad. They are two
wonderful people. You would agree with me on that.
D--They're all right.
C--And then for two years, my son had started, my son Dennis has done very
well on the cablevision business. He was a law graduate from the Univer-
sity of Florida. And for a year went to Hollans firm, one of the largest
firms in Lakeland. I think he was there for about a year, and a law
professor that he had, Larry Silberstein, got ahold of him and he had
gotten interested in cablevision in some of the small towns around
northern Florida. And he talked Dennis into going with him. And they
are both -multi-millionaires today.
C--For two years I worked with them, going around, talking about their
company. Starting franchises in different cities and counties, things
like that. And then I mainly retired, but also getting into real
estate deals. That's the only way that I can sell somebody is if I buy
stuff and then sell it.
D--One last question, who do you think was the most important person in
the success of Gulf American besides Leonard and Jack?
C--I don't think that there is any question, there isn't ANY question
about it and I would argue with anyone, Tom Weber. What would have
happened to our company if it hadn't been for Tom Weber? It would
have gone under way before it got into trouble. He had this whole
building in this city in his name. He was great. He was great and
Leonard knew it. I tell you one story. Leonard, we'd get into finan-
cial trouble every so often. I mean we would be in it most of the
time, but every so often we would get so bad that Leonard would really
be sweating it out. So he'd come over to the Cape and he was going to
economize. Cut down everybody. I'll never forget one time he cut
one of the offices on the same floor that I was on. He called me over
and I had at the time been in charge of the golf course. As a matter
of fact, that was one of the things that I did. Brought the golf
course along, hired Ed Caldwell, as a pro. And followed that
along. So he said, "I want to talk about Ed Caldwell." He said, "Now
it says that he did $700 in lessons. My deal with Ed to start with was
that I would guarantee him a salary of $10,000 to start with." This is
all, $10,000. And that as soon as his lessons and his pro shop would
go over that, he would be on his own. We wouldn't subsidize him any
further. So this is what Leonard is getting around to. That he is lying
to us. That he is doing a lot more than any $8,700. I tried to be as
basic as I could in explaining it to Leonard that he probably was the
greatest salesman that we had of all our salesmen. Not only was he tell-
ing the truth, but that he sold, actually sold people that were living
at the Cape because he would go outand play with them. And they like
him. He had a wonderful personality. That is the reason he is not
giving any lessons. I said, "If you were around here, Leonard, at all,
certainly much more than you are able to be, I realize that. But if any
of us that are around know that we have never seen or hardly ever
Ed Caldwell give a lesson." He says, "If he's not stealing from us
I'll jump out that window." Look here's five or six of them. Kenny
Schwartz. Others. All of them nervous. I said, "Leonard, you
might be doing the company the greatest favor you ever did if you
would just jump out that window." And walked out. Left him.
Tom Weber, he saw me later on, maybe a week or two later. He said,
"Connie, I've got to give it to you. You're the only one in this whole
company who could tell Leonard off."
D--That's great. Well, good. I think that we are just about of tape
here. Anything else you can think of?
C--No, I've been talking too much.
C--Oh my gosh.
D--We've been talking a while. Thanks a lot.