This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of
Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.
This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
materials under certain conditions.
Fair use limits the amount of materials that may be
For all other permissions and requests, contacat the
SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
D--We're doing an interview with Gunter Przystawik in his home in Cape Coral,
Florida. The date is January 25, 1988. The interviewer is David Dodrill.
Gunter, tell me a little about your background before you ever came to
Cape Coral. Where you born and when and where you grew up.
G--I was born in Berlin, Germany, 1938, just when the big mess started over
there. We went through some rough times, naturally. But my dad, he built
these musical shows. At that time, 1945, they put up a place called Resi
in West Berlin. It was a dance type restaurant. They used technical
gimmicks there to entertain the people besides having a 25 piece orchestra
and a huge dance floor. They had like the Waltzing Waters dancing
fountains on a stage like a big stage show. They had telephones on every
table. The people could call each other. They also had these tubes
and you could send presents from one'table to the other. He was in charge
of this. He did all kinds of technical things to entertain people. One
of them was light effects. Later on water was added and it became more and
more like a music show.
D--What was the name of that place again?
G--R-e-s-i. This is short for Residence Casino. It was very well known. It's
amazing how many people I stillmeet now who saw it. I cannot understand that
so many people know about this place. It is not there anymore.
D--That was in Berlin?
G--That was in Berlin. That was after the war started again. He did it
before in the 1930's, but then the war came. At this place there was a
bigger on stage water, llive music shows. Form there, people saw and it
took off. The biggest breakthrough on what he created was to make the show
portable, you could take it in hours and store it, operate your show, take
it down again and move it to another location. That became a pretty big
business in New York and in other states, in fact, world wide.
D--Would it travel by itself as a feature show, or would it travel with other...
G--You name it. Together with stage shows, by itself, in tents, in restaurants
and movie houses, on balconies, on roofs of buildings. We alone in
central Europe. We did mainly only Germany and the,surrounding countries.
We did like 300 engagements yearly. That means being stored in 300 different
locations. About the same, half, in the States which was done through another
company called Dancing Waters from New York. We had agreement with them. They
would buy from us. We had 5 year agreements. They had to buy so many units.
They would be the only ones that would do it in the.western hemisphere. So
that's how that started and it became very, very well-known. We-had built,
before I came to the United States, about 100 plus of these units of all
various sizes. In fact, even today having built that many units, there are
no two exactly alike. What happened is you build one and you like to improve
the next one, even if it's just a little something, but you always do something
different. The big change came:- breakthrough came until then they were all
hand operated. Even the one I brought here to Cape Coral. But I knew there
would be abig market out there to sell these shows if it wouldn't take
specialized people to run themAbecause labor became extremely costly. That's
what happened. Then this computer age was coming along. Devices came along
that could easily run the show. Somebody would have to program it and
it was done like playing music* you just play it by hand, you recall it,
and now you can play it as often as you like. I began to.market them and
built most of these units.
.D--When did that take place?
G-- That developed over several years I started out here on Pine Island
Road with a roller type. They used to have them in pianos all these little
pins. It was the first step. Then I devised what you would call a piano
recorder, which was an electronic mechanical device to play the piano. It was
installed into the piano to actually work those little Solenoids. It hit
different keys and you could record that. I had to adopt that to operate the
Waltzing Waters. But in the meantime computers really took off and we had
a computer in the meantime, but now our tapes would control it "as it was
called was not even a computer anymore, it's a very simple electronic device.
All it really does is take information which you create by playing the
Waltzing Waters by hand, and translate that into a language and puts it on
tape. You recall it. All you have to do is play it back and it plays
exactly back to that device, what you just did. In the meantime we bettered
it more and more until now you can add things, take things away, and it became
almost simple. But still somebody has to be able to go out and program
the lights, the water, and the music so it fits all together.
D--Your father invented this type of Waltzing Waters idea and all that.
G--Right. To have the water go with the music and later on to make them part of it and
how quickly we could change. People were always amazed at how quickly we
could put these things in and take them out again. In fact we did some
engagements for one show only. There was a stadium in Berlin that half
stadium was just like they have in bigger cities -
these amphitheaters for big bands. There's a half on stadium and you have
a big bandshell. We had the show there on a Saturday, I believe, there was
only one performance. We had to install the equipment, run the one show, and
take the equipment out again. People just couldn't believe that it could be
done that quick and that fast.
D--So you kind of grew up with this type of thing. Did you help your father at
G--We manufactured them. We had that leasing business. I travelled with the
shows. Infact, in 1954, was 16 years old then. I travelled
and operated the show in many cities. I was in the middle of the country
in St. Louis, Kansas City, denver, Cheyenne,
Memphis, and did all of these shows. This leasing I mentioned we
did it for 12 years.
D--So it was a family business.
G--Yes. We had a lot of people working for us, but still. I liked it very much.
I still enjoy creating these shows. Getting a contract, signing it, to
fit whatever' you have there. You do everything. It's like
we say, turn key. We had done all the installation. All the people had to do
was have somebody there to turn on a tape recorder and everything happens.
I really enjoyed that part. There's nothing nicer than getting the opportunity
to do a thing like that. It's like somebody paying you for your hobby.
D--Tell me a little about how your family or you came into contact with Gulf
American and the Rosens.
G--Somebody from Gulf American saw our show in Saarbrucken, Germany.
They had there what was called the German French Flower Fair. I could give
you all the German names too. I have to translate them right now. There was
a unit very similar to the one we eventually sold for Cape Coral. The Rosen
brothers went there to see it and they liked it very much. They hired us to
build one for them, for the Rose Garden.
D--What year was that that they hired you?
G--It was in 1963. The contract was written in 1963. We built the unit and
it was shipped here and it was installed February/March of
1964. At that time, what I heard, was they decided to buy the show. They
wanted to put it where Cape Coral Bank is in the median. While they saw that
Garden Show at a nice big beautiful park, they got the idea to do something
similar, and that was supposed to eventually be the rose garden. By the
time we built the equipment they got working-here on
signingia big attraction place. Things at that time for Gulf American were
kind of hectic. Amazingly, they had plans for a huge place.,..a giant big
attraction place put together in the matter.
They decided to put the Waltzing Waters out there in the Rose Gdrden.
In fact the equipment was sitting in storagehere for several months. Nothing
was really hurting. In fact, when I came, and they showed me where they
wanted-to put the Waltzing Waters, I thought; they must be kind of nuts
in the middle of the desert? Because in that Rose Garden, there was not
one green thing. It was all sand. The whole area was raised and filled in,
up to 30 feet high. So there was nothing. I have pictures, too. Slides
from all these different phases. When you look at it now. But anyway, they
had that basin built from Marl, which was a road material they used
underneath the roads. There was some concrete or cement added and there was
a concrete like base for that big lake where Waltzing Waters was installed.
While we did the installation there really was nothing except big equipment
moving dirt, raising and scaping and so. When I left, they just had started
to try a few things to plant some trees. They had a not too big square area
where he put grass to see how it would grow on that sand. To test it. My
show was operating and people came mainly at night, because it was so much
more effective. They'd be standing in that sand watching the show. When I
came back 6 months later, I almost didn't recognize the place. It was amazing.
They had brought in these huge big palms, grass I couldn't believe it was
the same place. It was very nicely done. It was one of the nicest man-made
gardens, made under these conditions, that I ever had seen. From nothing
really. Usually when you plan a park you have already something there. You
fit it into a landscape. But everything was created.
D--Originally, was it you that met with the Rosens, or was it your father?
G--Me too. We met them in Germany. They came over there. They started, at that
time, to look at Europe to market properties. They had an office in Frankfurt.
They came to work out the agreement and they only came once more to see their
show in operation. It was a stipulation in the agreement. They weren't so
sure about what the Przystawik's told them would all work. So they put in
the contract that we had to run the show at our factory for them to approve.
They paid us for building a pool on our factory grounds there, which was not unrea-
sonable at that time. So they came again after we had it manufactured. We
had it all assembled and ready to operate. They saw the show there. We took
it apart again, and brought it over here.
D--The Rosens had already come up with the idea of the rose garden when they saw
this over there in Germany.
with the fountains,
G--It happened together. They saw that big place'and they thought that was
probably the way to go to promote Cape Coral. It would give the people good
reason to come. At that time period, they didn't have much. The golf course
was finished in 1964, I think I saw the clubhouse go up & they had just finished
the yacht club and the pier to have something for people to do. They brought
thousands of people in and there was no place to take them. They just had a Nautilus,
a -motel & a restaurant. The garden idea was good except nobody really was
interested in the -garden itself. It they would have gotten somebody in with
experience then they would have become one of the major attractions in Florida.
But it was never really fully developed. What happened was they had two
attractions, plus the gardens. But people didn't come to see the gardens
because in the hot sun, who walks for miles through gardens. They probably
looked maybe a little at Cypress Gardens but it was entirely different. First
of all it's not that huge, and it's very shaded. They had these huge cypress
trees. They tried here to eventually have rides and to invite people to the
park, but it was not laid out well enough to do that. So people never really
came to see the gardens. I know many areas in the gardens that people never
saw, which were great and beautiful, but people never saw them because it was
too far to walk. People are too lazy. Another positive point of Waltzing
Waters was it was operated at night. That was really the main attraction.
It took away from the day business because people thought why should they
go in the day when they could go in the evening. The way the gardens was
then developed, they put all the lights in becausewe needed lights for
people to see. It was such a beautiful place at night. The daytime could
not compete. It was the only dolphin show you could see at night in all of
Florida, and it was spectacular. The background, the setting, and the water...
there is still no better dolphin show surrounding anyplace. And I have seen
many shows. The same with Waltzing Waters. It was just outstanding and
spectacular. What they probably needed was more attractions. I have to say
now that it was not managed good enough.
D--Do you feel like the primary reason it was put in was to promote sales of
G--There is no question about that. The gift shop, which was right in the parking
lot, was put in as a sales office. It was the sales office for a while. Then
something went wrong with it. For instance, that place that was later changed
around and became the ticket booth and gift shop, they could not use as a
ticket booth because after this, you had the Iwojima and the Liberty, Garden of
Patriots. You cannot charge for things like that. So they had to put the
ticket booth on the end from the garden. That was just one of the problems.
Whoever made the decisions didn't think of the attraction place to stay on its
own and make money. It was used as a showcase to draw people in to Cape Coral.
The way things went, it never really was finished. From the gate to the parking
lot, it's about 1 miles, and that whole area was supposed to be gardens. There
were plans to bring people by boat and that's why we had that big bay there.
What happened was Cape Coral sold out quicker than they could develop that
attraction. It never really produced because it never was run properly.
Even the internal bookkeeping wasn't done right because the garden didn't get
credit for all the people who were brought there from the sales division.
Later on they tried to do it that way, but everybody lost interest because
it was just too much of a ... an effort to run an attraction from.here to
landsales at the time. They were making money left and right fr6m selling properties.
Nobody had any real interest. They tried here and there, but not really.
D--Was the attraction free, originally?
G--That's how it started was free because it was not finished. The Waters show
operated as I told you before while you were standing in the sand. You cannot
charge admission. There's a few things in life you never forget. One thing I
will not forget is we had a temporary control house which was down below on
the lake on the right hand side. The people stood behind us looking past us
to see the show. We had a temporary setup. Temporary speakers were set up
on top of the building and the sound was just awful. But anyway, people came
to see the show. One evening, I looked back to the people at that time you
had to stay in the control booth because you had to operate it by hand and it
looked to me like that whole hill was moving back and forth. What happened was
the mosquitos were bad that night and the people took whatever they had out and
were slapping and chasing mosquitos away, and it looked so funny. It looked
like that whole area was moving. What a sight! That time we didn't charge
there was nothing there. When I did my installation, and they were just bringing
in the power lines, I said I also need water. They said, "Oh my goodness, where
do we get water?" So they had to drill a well in a hurry. And the well happened
to be on the other side of the hill. So when I was installing my equipment,
they had to move part of the hill away again to get the pipes put in. Every-
thing went just shelter skelter because...that was not because it was not -
they didn't have the people who could not plan, it was because everything
moved so fast. All of Cape Coral. They had just overran. They had some
good people. Tom Weber you mentioned before was one of them. He's a good
engineer and a smart man. That was really some project. Still it's amazing.
D--Who oversaw the development of the Rose Garden?
G--They had Fort Myers Construction in charge of the construction of the roads,
canals, and also the gardens. They had all the equipment, bulldozers, the
drag lines. Tom Weber was the head man of the Fr. Myers construction division.
Then he had some other people working for him engineers. One was Dick Attabrut
the other one was Frank Navarra, some Spanish name.
D--Were there any particular people who became associated with the Rose Garden
as far as managers or people that just were there?
G--Not for the longest time. That was really one problem. There was really nobody
in charge of the gardens. They had an architect who was in charge of the
layout. He did a marvelous job. He had some tremendous ideas. Fort Myers
Construction was in charge of the construction, but there was nobody put in
charge over all of the rose gardens. There was no real concept what to do to
make it a business. Like not being able to put the ticket booth where it should
be and all these things. The idea was...they had that building put up and
it was for a short while for land sales. But they discontinued that because it
just didn't go together. There was too much resentment. They changed
it, but it was not planned.
D--If you had a particular problem, who would you to to?
G--Then, when they started, and later on, about maybe a year into the operation,
they had the dolphin water show there. Tommy Thomas, who was in charge of
maintenance and supplies for Gulf American operations, took care of fixing up
that big office building and some other facility. He was in charge of the gardens
to see that the supplies were there. I don't think he was in charge of selling
tickets. Somebody else took care of that. The fact that we hadn't sold any
tickets. Then they started to charge like $1 a car. They used to charge that
right there at the little bridges that used to be there that are not there
anymore. They had a ticket to stamp. People who come in by car had to pay
right there. Then later on the ticket booth was moved into that building with
the sales people. But that had to be stopped. Then they put up that little
ticket booth right in the end of the garden. There were many changes and they
tried many different things, combination tickets and special tickets for
residents and it was kind of a mess. The first manager of the gardens was Larry
Rosen. He came down from Balitmore and he was in charge of the department stores
and so forth. And he was the manager of the rose garden.
D--How long did the rose gardens last?
G--I did the installation in February and we started in March to operate the shows.
Then they were run off and on. Then they had all the people to show it. Then
I came back in 64 and they still had not totally organized this admission deal,
because they had still been building a lot of things.
Nothing really was finished. For instance, the dolphin show wasn't there
yet. And they were adding other parts of the gardens. In 65 they started to
charge $1 admission. The different things and admissions. They were not really
able to stand on its oun feet. Somebody said they lost a half million dollars
a year on this operation, which I think may be so. They decided that the side
that was not the Rosen's anymore because in the mean time we ran into all these
problems with the Land Sales Boards. They had sold out to General Acceptance
Corporation. GAC ran into problems. All the different things they had and they
had to close some thing down. And one of them was the gardens. I had a group
of people who had tried or attempted to maybe take over the gardens and run it.
Ten investors. They negotiated with this General Acceptance Corporation. The
problem was that they could not give us a good contract because there was a
question as to who the property belonged to. The state still claimed, at that
time, and later on was settled, that the high water line which was the line
where the state property starts. Right in the middle to the rose garden, infact,
it split the dolphin pool in half, so they could not give us clear title to the
property. The copy negotiated was so bad that our attorney said to us, "If you
people would consider signing this agreemgn I'm not your attorney." So we
finally let go of the man. They sold everything. Like the dolphins were
bought by somebody. I bought the Waltzing Waters equipment. That all happened
in 1970. As soon as the decision was made, in September of 1970 to close down.
D--What happened to the different things there? You mentioned the dolphins.
G--Some things were sold like the dolphins, Jack Scapuzz, the dolphin trainer, bought
and moved it to Ft.Myers Beach and eventually did contracts away from here like
he has one at a place in Canada, Niagra Fally where he had a dolphin show.
And he had a place here in Ft. Myers Beach whare he trained dolphins. I
bought the Waltzing Water equipment and moved it to Pine Island Road on the
property of the German-American Social Club. That was the
whole story as far as Waltzing Waters.
D--When you moved it up on Pine Island Road, how long does that stay there?
G--The way that worked was since the German-American social club was a social
club non profit, and he didn't want to burn the club financially.
We formed another corporation to operate the show. The investor people who
came up with money and we paid the club, German American Club, a lease for the
piece of property to utilize. These investor people were mainly retired people.
We later on added another show, bought us the show called Aqua Follies and John
Holiday, who is still out on the Cape, was in charge of this show. Jack
Scapuzzi was not happy. This is beach location. He looked for another
location. He joined us eventually. We put in a gift shop and we came up with
some pretty neat tourist attraction. We were, in fact, one of the better ones
in the whole southwest Florida area. We had all of them here. Our problem
there was, number one, the location was supposed to be the center of Cape Coral,
but after ten years was way out. The German American club, in the meantime built
that monstrous club house right in front of us. We were not invisible from
Pine Island Road. We had a sign on Pine Island Road, but this city came into
having a sign ordinance and you could not even get a decent sign to let people
know that there was an attraction place. Being on state road property, the city,
for instance, okayed directional signs so that people could find us way out there.
You have to realize we operated at night. Strange people tried to find us in
Cape Coral at night. You can't even find anybody in the daytime in the boondocks
out there. So the city realized that so they allowed us these directional signs
but then you came to Pine Island Road. The state would not do that for us. So
now they came to Pine Island. We lost so many people. We had so many complaints.
It became more and more difficult. John Haroway, the ski show guy, he got
disappointed with the whole situation and Jack Scapuzzi, he ran into
all kinds of problems. He lost dolphins. He did these shows
like he would go in the summer time to Myrtle Beach and operate a show there.
He lost dolphins and he didn't have a dolphin show at times. They just got
a bad situation. They tried to work something out with the German American Club
that they maybe would take over the operation because he felt that if a 1000
members would support it, then it maybe would have a chance. But there was
nobody really interested in the club to assume any responsibility. So we more
or less had to go. I, in the A had opened the other attraction on U.S. 41,
my indoor show which operated in the daytime. We worked together. We sold
a lot of tickets to people who came to see the daytime show to come to see
the nighttime show in Cape Coral. But altogether,,it just didn't work too
well. I was really the only one left. Aquarama, that was the name
of the corporation, the investment group, and these men all died and I had
less and less partners. And I had a great partnership.' I know never will I
have a partnership like I had there. They were all experienced business
people. They had tremendous input. And 'hdeip clever, he did a lot of good
and right "things. But life goes on and I had less and less of these partners
left. And I just knew by myself that I woulo not survive on that property.
So I...then we all decided to run it out and we took one more
season and closed up. This was,'ApFil 1990?
D--I think it was 82.
G--I always thought it was...yes, I think I was there 12 years. It would have
been 83 probably. 82 or 83.
D--And then you moved everything over to...
G--I moved my Waltzing Waters which was highly portable. People always thought
I must be crazy, but that was nothing. I could do it every month if I had
to. That's easy, ,
D--So the same Waltzing Waters that was built in Germany, transported to the
Rose Garden in Cape Coral, went to...
G--Was once installed in Germany, at the factory.
D--And it went from the Rose Gardens to the site on Pine Island Road and now is
the Waltzing Waters over on U.S. 41.
G--Yes. But it is not all the same. For instance, already at the Rose Garden, I
worked on improving. I made many of these formations movable. In fact, at that
time, there was no show around which was better than what we had at the gardens.
No place in the world. I know who was in the business and who was doing what
because of patients and things like that. I was fully aware of it
and it was really outstanding. The setting, if you hit a perfect night, it was
a spectacular show.
D--How big was Waltzing Waters.
G--The measurement was 45 meters or 170 feet.
D--How high did the water go?
G--Approximately 60 feet in the air. We said up to 100 but that was stretching
it a little, but it sounded good.
D--Was a show ever put on during the daytime?
G--No. I liked to think this: If we ever would have started to run Waltzing
Waters in the daytime, the waterS'only : you cannot see the lights, this
show would not be in southwest Florida any more. I go through that experience
now on 41. We decided three years ago to also run the other show in
the daytime, and it is disappointing to people because the colors are not
there. It's like seeing fireworks in the daytime. We do it on 41 and it's
a little bit different than it would have been at the rose garden. They had
the people in the daytime that's all you would have seen. The other shows
in the daytime, just in white.' On my location on 41 is different. You
see a colorful indoor show. We show this show in the daytime because there
are a lot of people that cannot come back at night. But the main reason we
wanted to see how big the show would be compared to the indoor show. You
don't want them to say, "Oh I've seen the indoor show, it's a lot bigger
outdoors." It's an entirely different viewing experience outdoors. Not only
that it is outdoors, but the show is a lot bigger. For that it looks entirely
different. The lights are from underneath. You have a landscaped area,
sometimes the moon and stars are out. It's an entirely different experience.
Knowing what I know now, and I tried before they closed down the rose garden,
I said to the people in charge, and Larry' Rosen was one of them and they
had some other people that were in charge of the gardens, "We have to do
something for the daytime. What we maybe should do is also have a Waltzing
Waters show indoors, so that the people will come in the daytime, not only
at night." I couldn't sell the idea. I didn't do a good enough sales pitch.
Knowing what I know now I have a hunch that the gardens might still be there
if he would have done that. That was one of our problems, everything was
outdoors. There were no indoor things. We should have had some indoor things.
You look at Disney. Everything happens indoors. You think there is beautiful
weather in Florida, but not always. Most of the time. But in the-summertime
it's so hot. You look around at what people do without air condition these
days. I say nothing anymore. They go to the beach for a few hours and then
they go and fnd themselves a place that's air conditioned. The car is air
conditioned, the motel room is air conditioned, the restaurant, everything is
air conditioned. So that's one mistake. They should have turned it around
slowly and created more indoor facilities, and the place might still be there.
D--So do you still hold the patent on the Waltzing Waters device?
G--Mostly my dad's patents but they are history now.
I still have two patents. One I got on my moving formations. Which is a
new idea, and I have one that's on the controls, which I had to change around.
When your in any business, especially show business, you cannot create a show,
sit on it and have it forever. You have to update your show. That's very
true with my show. I did this at the rose garden. There I had a lot of time.
All I had to do was actually run my Waltzing Water show, which ran only at
night. I had a helper on top of it, so I didn't have to go out every night.
So I had a lot of time to make new programs which I did. I created my better
prdgrafns at that time. I still use them. But I also improved the show itself
,%/ to have more moving formations. When I started to automate it, I started to
think about it and try it on a small scale already at the rose garden, I knew
that the technical principle used to operate the show would not even work
any more. In order to bring the water up in stages, we had this big reostate
knobs which we had to put up by hand. The computer cannot pull up a big
knob. You need something else which makes a thing go up and down. I just
knew in order to computerize it or tape control it, you could not do it the
way this technically operated the show. You had to do something-entirely
different. That's where I developed that new idea I got a patent on. How
to control the water and get the different heights. I accomplished this with
my two pound system. For every formation I have, I call it a busy formation,
there would be at least two pounds. That gets me three different heights.
Now to get my different heights all I need are two on/off functions. That's
easy for a computer to do. Let's say the first function is the low pump.
The second is the high pump by itself, which means you're in your second height
and it you have both on, you have your full height. The same was true with
the lights. The lights were changed by having these big long filters which
would move over the lights back and forth driven by gear movements. That's
very hard to program or computerize also. Now I have many more lights and
different colors and just turn them on and off. I can mix the colors a lot
better than we ever could before. It's so much more spectacular. But those
were a few things I had to do to improve the appearance and to make it a lot
simpler to program and control the water.
D--So this Waltzing Waters here was actually built and setup in Germany to begin
with. What happened to that manufacturing plant there? Was that discontinued
or did they keep on going when you came over here with the Waltzing Waters in 64?
G--Already, before 64, our business wasn't doing as well as it used to do. It ran
pretty paral'lerthe movie houses. We moved across town, they didn't even
have 10% left from the ones they had. They was not quite as bad as us, but
you could see the handwriting on the wall. That part of the leasing business
would not be as good as it used to be and it became too difficult also from
the manpower. You needed some highly specialized, hard working people and there
was hard work. Looking back now I always say, "How did we do it?" When I
move an installation now it takes me days weeks sometimes and I always
think how did we used to do this...we worked very hardand nobody has been
able to work like we did in Europe. It's hard to understand. They always
kid me when I say it. There are not that many people willing to work that
hard anymore, plus traveling. It was a rough business. I had no interest
in it because I knew in the long run that's not the way it would work.
So we should have concentrated more on manufacturing. We had actually two
businesses, manufacturing and leasing. So when I left my dad to operate
"a show here in Florida, I really didn't know how long I would be here. I had
"a half year agreement which would renew itself. Our son was three years old
at that time and we figured maybe we'd stay in Florida for three years and
have a nice time. But then the three years became five years and we went
back to Germany and now I talk to my dad and he asks me if I want to take
over the company. I said no. I don't think I would fit in anymore because
I just like the United States. I liked it and was crazy about it in 1954.
In 1969 when we went back, my wife also made up her mind that she would like
to stay here. So we made up our minds and became American citizens and stayed.
Then they closed down the gardens in 1970 & A I knew all along that that
job I had would not last forever. I knew many things were not the way they
should be. In fact, all of Gulf American I knew would not last forever.
D--Why was that?
G--You saw how many they sold and how much had to work. You saw that
they fell behind more and more. This thing was more like a sham than a
business. They used money. People invested in something that was not there
yet. To sell more to people to again do the same thing, and they just
didn't catch up. You said one of these days there is not enough property
to sell anymore. Cape Coral was all sold out. I just knew, at least I have
a business mind, that I looked at the gardens and looked at the operation
and saw the customers, and sometimes we had more people walking than we had
people that paid admission, and I knew it was no good. It will not work.
When I started to develop some ideas what to do to increase sales, that's
why I developed that idea of putting in a daytime Waltzing Waters, but I
just didn't have the chance to talk to the right people, because when I did
that, Gulf American wasn't around anymore. I'm pretty convinced that if
Jack Rosen...my contact man was more Jack Rosen, not Leonard. Jack was the
one that liked that attraction and when he wanted something it got done period.
If he would have been still around and there would still have been an interest
on their part to make something out of the place, he maybe could have turned
it around by first getting us a manager who had experience in the attraction
business, whichARosen never had. He was a very good sales gift shop manager,
but he didn't know the damnest thing about the gardens itself. In fact, he
never saw the gardens. He was sitting in his office in the gift shop. He was
interested in increasing sales in the gift shop. He was not a good attraction man-
ager. That's what they should have gotten. An attraction manager and turned
it around so it becomes a summer day business because you just cannot operate
only night attractions. It will not work. In all of Florida it doesn't work.
The big attractions like Disney and Sea World operate at night, but only at
their peak season.- We were depending on a night business only. We have been
through the same experience on Pine Island Road, which was more and more a night
business. By having the ski show there and the dolphin show we thought we
could start to build up a day business. But it never worked because Waltzing
Waters at night was always the main show. The same in the rose garden. They
had spent millions of dollars giving us a beautiful garden with lights and
everything, and that didn't draw the people. It was the Waltzing Water show
which drew the people at night. If they would have put up a good building with a
a good indoor show, the rose garden might still be there. I'm convinced of that now
and I'm just convinced of that this year. I did a job in Tiawan. There we had
just a gardens, no attractions what soever. So they get the idea to put in our
Waltzing Water show outdoors. There's a nice beautiful stadium. Everything
done right, fantastic sound equipment and they made more money at.night than they
did all day long. These people are very smart. The first thing they asked me,
they knew I was in the business for a long time and I had a place in Florida,
and they look at the United States as the country...and Disney. So they asked
me, "What can we do to improve out place?" At the time I was there I said,
"You do pretty good. I see all the buses and the attendants. You do okay.
There is really not much I can tell you except you may want to add or show more
excitement like Disney or SeaWorld." So when I got back I thought about their
place and heard they they had paid for the whole facility. That's how well they
did. So they need an indoor show too. So I sent them that idea. It took them
right away. I was by there. I had to go to Singapore, Hong Kong anyway, and
we stopped by there and negotiated a sale so that they would have an indoor
show too. And they just do super with that Waltzing Water show. It makes me
so happy. And knowing the work there, what's going on. I feel now that the
rose garden, if they would have done something better or the way it should have
been, that place would be still open.
D--What other places in the world have you installed Waltzing Waters?
G--There really are not too many places which didn't have one of our portable
shows at one time or other. I don't even know all the places. Like the
United States, I don't know too much about it because this was run through
another company. I believe they did their thing and we did our thing. They
had 58 units at one time in the United States. We run into people that say,
"Oh, I saw it there and I saw it there." I know Disney had one unit in
Disneyland at one time. I know Sea World had three of the Dancing Waters
in the United States. One was in Ohio all along. They had already bought
one of our units to Dancing Waters for Orlando, but there they had some other
people building them one show. They had so many technical problems they
discontinued it and put something else in. I learned a little too late about
it, otherwise I maybe could have saved that show for them. But I really
haven't done much. I grew up here in Cape Coral and had my show on Pine
Island Road on 41 to sell or market these shows because my dad still did it
D--So while you were doing it here, he was still selling them. Is that company
still in existence?
G--No. Not like this one. He sold his leasing business,
his portable show business, he sold out because it just got too difficult. In
fact, it's not in existence like it used to be. There's still a few people
doing it and they have one show. The manufacturing plant, he sold the
facility and he sold...he had an agreement there...this young man who worked
for him to still manufacture the show. He would sometimes get a contract and
this young man would / the shows. And he's still doing it. But not in
the scale like they used to do it. He is still doing it the old fashioned
way. He hasn't really come up with any new ideas like I did here. In my show
it does so many things. The one they're using, you cannot program. But there
are some other people who use similar things. The Japanese company I saw they
had one put in Singapore in a department store. It's a musical fountain, but
it's not quite what we do. People come up with all kinds of ideas that you
can call a show and try to describe it, it's very hard to do. Some say you
show music using water and lights. There are other fountains that use music,
water, and lights, but they just don't do it together.
D--Tell me a little about Leonard and Jack Rosen. You knew them, right?
G--Yes. Not too well though. I saw them once in a while. Sometimes they brought
people to show the Waltzing Waters show. And I met them twice in Germany.
What can you say? I think they were very clever business people.. They were
just super promoters and super sales people. Too bad they couldn't build
up the organization to have a corporation who could follow and backup what
they sold. I think they just sold too quick. There are people who say
they never planned to get into the business like Cape Coral. They wanted
to get in their make money quick, and get out of it again. Well, maybe so,
I don't know that. Maybe that's talk. All I know is, I don't want to sound
like a smart guy, but when you look at Cape Coral, it's really a shame that
it wasn't planned better than this. I mean, you have a lot of problems in
Cape Coral and part of it is that too many pieces were sold as small building
sites. If they would have kept bigger areas and set up Cape Coral for future
development, business, shopping centers, industry, they could have made a lot
of money. But it was all pieced up. In fact, the only stretch left to do that
now, to have shopping centers, is the Pine Island Road area which is not
under their control, but belongs to other people. That's the only thing we
have now left lacking in Cape Coral is shopping centers. That tells you that
they really didn't plan there. Nobody really expected it. They just sold
quicker than anybody expected, including themselves.
D--Can you remember any particular instances...were the Rosens really excited about
G--Oh yes. I have to say almost everybody was. Some people say Waltzing Waters
was part of the reason why Cape Coral sold so fast, and that could very well
be. I now, for instance, am having a show and a gift shop. I watched it at
Cape Coral Gardens and later at Aquarama. People buy on their way out. It
happens because they're happy. They have seen something nice that they enjoyed
and that's probably not only true in selling gifts, it's probably true in
selling property. You show them a lot of nice things and Waltzing Waters
was one of the new spectacular things they could show the people,
who would buy property in Cape Coral. Everybody liked the show. They still
do. I'm not aware of people that say, "Yuk." I would not try to be
100% and I know some people don't think as much about the show as others, but
I don't know that people say, "Oh, that show is terrible." People criticize
maybe some other show. I heard for instance that the ski show we had at
Aquarama, people that knew me said, "Gunter, how can you do that. How can
you team up with a thing like this?" I thought in the beginning it was a
really neat ski show. It was very unique. Sure, it was not a Cypress
Gardens type show, but it was a neat show.
D--I remember seeing it.
G--The Rosens liked, especially Jack Rosen, he knew that show ran well too. He
noticed that Imade improvements and would say, "Gee, that show is getting better
all the time." At one time, he had promised us the amplifier equipment. He
was there to watch the show. He questioned me about the sound because it
wasn't too good. I said, "I know. It's terrible. We have problems." He said
to Larry Rosen, the manager at that time, "Get him a new amplifier system."
Just like that. And rightly so. For what good is it to have the most
spectacular water and light show if the sound 'is territfe. And that's
what these people in Taiwan did so well. The sound is outstanding and everything
fits. And that is so important. That's why I give that man credit. That's
really the only contact I had with him was about my show. But he said, "Let's
do it right. What are you waiting for? We need good sound equipment. Get
him a new one." So they were smart good business people. No question about
it. Sure I can look back now and say this was wrong and this was wrong.
They were in the business to sell property. Did people really get hurt by
buying property here? I really don't think so. Naturally they had to overse11
a little bit, but, my god, everything I buy is ..you look at the car commercials.
You know very well the cars are not as good as they say, because I had the car
and I know what the problems would be. You look at promotion. You have to
6 ') 22
compete with others. What does that mean? You have to make yourself
look better, and sound better. You cannot say...you cannot be absolutely
honest about an advertisement that's not how it goes. I don't know that
the people really got hurt by buying property. Maybe they didn t make as
much money as they wanted or maybe the value didn't increase as quick, but
whose fault is that really? If more people would have moved in here and
built quick, the values would have gone up faster. If more business people
would have moved in here and realized the potential and bought big pieces
for shopping centers. The shopping center operators were sleeping too.
They should have really seen their hope. You can't blame the Rosens. You
can't blame them for everything. They did build something here which was
new for them too.
D--Was there a feeling in Cape Coral that the city would. actually succeed? .In
other words that it would actually.come to pass?
G--Since I am 64 everything was positive. We grew. He got the Breeze here.
It was the Weekly Breeze at the time. We saw all the people moving
in and we saw all the building
going on. So everything was growing. They were sitting in the house
and once in a while your whole house would" shake. You know they were
digging and blasting canals. You saw the big drag lines and the trucks.
This place was booming and busy.
D--So there was never any doubt in peoples minds,
G--Not in Cape Coral. Even later when the problems developed with land sales
board and they had sales suspended. In Cape Coral, we knew...why would it
stop after you have 5,000 or 7,000 a,t this time, and they run into a
problems. Why should it go backwards?
D--When they suspended sales, when the Land Sales Board suspended sales in 67,
did the rose garden close down too?
G--No. It was being operated. They kept building roads but they 4eredri't allowed
to sell for awhile.
D--One other question. You mentioned the mosquitos at night. What did they
ever do about the mosquito problem?
G--Gulf American did have their own spray equipment. They had the airplane
equipped to spray. I forget his name. He would be a nice person to
interview too. He was kind of a daredevil pilot. He came to spray for
mosquitos out there in our area. We had just the one power line. There
was no power line, it was just developed here. He would come, hop over the
power line, and go like so. He would knock that down. He tried to fly as
low as possible. We had our own equipment at the gardens. We had a guy
who...it wasn't that bad anymore. Actually, most people say mosquitos are
no problem in Florida, is crazy. I tell you mosquitos in Canada are a
problem too. Don't tell me. I know. I did a job there. But now with
mosquito repellent you really don't have a mosquito problem anymore. It's
nothing. Some people get tremendously bothered. I know. I have a sister-
in-law. When she gets bit by a mosquito, she gets a lump like so. Me, it
doesn't bother me. So it was bad at times, but not too bad anyway. Some
people are really ridiculous. They see one mosquito and they complain.
But Cape Coral really doesn't have a mosquito problem.
D--One other question that is just totally off the subject. When I taught
in the high school, I noticed how many Germans had moved to Cape Coral,
emigrated, bought property here and everything. Was there a particular
reason for that?
G--I don't think there are any more Germans in Cape Coral than in Naples, or
Ft. Myers, or anyplace in the state. I,think 7% of the American population
is of German descent. So you run into these people..."Oh my dad was German.
"My grandmother was German." The difference is with German people, I think,
I find they're not only here in the United States but it's true many go to
other countries. They fit in a lot quicker than, for instance, Italian
people. Italian people are more family oriented and stick more together.
German people are not. They mix in. They learn the language. They become
part of it.a lot quicker. That's why they're maybe not quite as noticed
as Jewish people. You always will know Jewish people because they say,
"I'm a Jew." They tell you that. I mean, I never go around saying I am a
German. But Italians do that too. You find them often, "Oh I'm Italian."
I never hear about Austrian or German or even the Swedes or English don't
say that. I don't know why. There is a difference.
D--Was there quite a bit of sales by Gulf American in Germany?
G--There is the one reason why more German people bought property in, not only
here, but in the United States is the German people (I don't know about
the English or the Nordic people) but I know that in central Europe
or France, Italy, Spain, German people save more money. They are rich.
They all have a savings account. That's in part built into the system.
The government is doing certain programs to encourage people to save money.
So they have money to invest. More than maybe Italian people, or Spanish,
or French. So that's why they invest into property. The other thing is
German people bought properties in Switzerland, until Switzerland had to say no
more sales to foreigners because they're buying all our land. The same
happened in Austria and Italy and Spain. They own a lot of property there.
You buy for investment. Or like my sister. They have, for instance, an
apartment in Spain. They live in Bren&e-rr. So they do that a lot anyway.
And Florida was just one of the other places they could buy property and it
was made easy because it was all organized the sales. You didn't have to
hunt around yourself to try to find it. They made the presentation and that
sounded good and you bought. That's why maybe German people bought more
than maybe the French, Italian or Spanish. Plus most German people are better
off than Italians or Spanish people. They have more money to spend.
D--Well. Is there anything else you can think of that you would like to tell about?
Your experience here or...
G--Well, we like Cape Coral very, very much. One thing that's a rotten shame
is that southwest Florida as a whole, and Lee county doesn't draw closer
together, and that we have some of these problems we have like the bridge here
and the road problems. But I think that's our own fault. I still believe
that the State of Florida has certain obligations to put certain major roads,
throughout southwest Florida. That's theirjob. It's in the law. What the
company does wrong is, they spend money on state roads.
Instead of getting a voice in Tallahassee, working
together with Collier and Charlotte county and get some power and weight there,
they go and spend our county money which is supposed to be spent for county
roads and they spend it on state roads. So now we don't have enough money
to build county roads. And the county doesn't do their job in the cities.
Like in Cape Coral. They should fix some roads in Cape Coral. There should
not be only one county road in a big city like this. There should be three
or four county roads by now. They don't have the money to spend it there
because they spend it on state roads. So now the city has to go-and spend
part of the city money which should be for the other roads they spend it
on county roads. That's where the problem funnels down all the way to
the city. Everybody knows. Everybody that has a technical mind like I have,
I have some engineering background, there will be a bridge. If
I would give you an example...ask an electrician or a plumber...and I hit
you with the problem we have with our : .traffic. And I have to
come to a solution of how to get power to .the other side or get water to
the other side. There's only one place it's going to be. And that would be
midpoint. The shortest distance. Eventually there will be a midpoint
bridge and I don't care what these guys do in Ft. Myers. It has to come.
But what will happen is...these are not my ideas, they are ideas I pick up
from other people who have a lot more experience and who are a lot more
smarter when it comes to these things. They should.go at the state's expense
across the road. Go over and buy a little shelf like we talked about and
swing it over to Lehigh Acres. And make it a State Road and
let the state pay for it, including the midpoint, That's what should be done.
That would make a lot of sense. Then you wouldn't have to pay for it
with tolls. Why should the state go ahead now and put
in a bridge north of the Edison Bridge, a 6 lane bridge. They just put the
4 lane interstate bridge there. Now they put another there? Force the
state to spend their money here. Now they're starting on our parallel
bridge and that will be a mess for a while. I feel sorry for all the
people, including me, who have to go over for the next year there. Can you
imagine? The guy just wrote to the newspaper about having them put in a pontoon
bridge. Makes sense you know? I think it's maybe not such a stupid idea
to have one temporarily as long as they have the construction going on
D--Well, thanks a lot for your interview, I've learned a lot.