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Title: Interview with Richard Crawford (December 10, 1987)
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Title: Interview with Richard Crawford (December 10, 1987)
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: December 10, 1987
 Subjects
Spatial Coverage: 12071
Lee County (Fla.) -- History.
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Funding: This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00006610
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location: This interview is part of the 'Lee County' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
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Resource Identifier: LEE 59

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        Page 11
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D--We're doing an interview with Colonel Richard Crawford. It is December

10, 1987. WE are doing the interview in his house on Nautilus Drive in

Cape Coral, Florida. The interviewer is David Dodrill.

Tell me a little bit about your background, before you ever came to Cape

Coral.

R--Well, I was an army officer. I retired from the service in 1957 and we

had gone out to Denver. Not a very nice place to live. I'd been stationed

in Columbia, South Carolina before I retired. And we'd been to Florida

three times, I think. And we also sort of liked Florida but we just

didn't know if we wanted to live there. My wife wrote, after we retired

to several Chambers of Commerce. Because we really didn't know where we

wanted to go. And the Ft. Myers Chamber of Commerce was one. We had

spent a vacation here. And they, apparently, any inquiries, they just

sent them to Lehigh Acres and Gulf American. So we started getting all

this literature from the two developers. And I knew where Lehigh Acres

was and didn't want any part of that, and we knew about where CApe Coral

was. Because we had spent quite a long vacation out at the beach. And

you could see all this undeveloped land over on the other side of the river.

And the prices were very, very reasonable and we only had to put down

seventy five dollars and seventy five dollars a month. No interest. So

we decided to do it. And we initially bought a lot on this same street,

but up a street. We had also bought a lot a couple years before up in

Crystal River. And we decided we liked DEnver in the spring and I had a

son that was a Navy pilot in Pensacola, so we decided to come down and

sell the place at Crystal River and come on down to Cape Coral, and try

to get our money back so we could move back to Denver. And we got down

here and I don't know what attracted' us because this was pretty barren.

D--That was in 57, '58?

R--1959. Cape Coral didn't really start, the first houses were finished in







2

June of '58, the first four houses down by the yacht club. And there

weren't a whole lot more in 1959. There were about, probably twenty or

twenty-five houses. And we looked the place over and decided that we

liked it and went back to Denver and sold the place in Denver. Just one

of those things.

D--Now, did you, tell me a little bit about your connection, your association

with Gulf American. Did you work for them or were you...?

R--Initially, yes. I came down after we got here, I didn't really intend to

go to work for them. They offered me a job as community relations direc-

tor. And I worked at that for, well, I went to work for them in September

or maybe October of 1959. And I stayed with them until I started the

newspaper in 1961.

D--And that's the Breeze?

R--Yes.

D--What was your job as community relations director?

R--Trying to keep people happy.

D--Tell me a little bit more about that.

R--This was pretty isolated, of course there was no bridge. Initially, there

were no stores. The company operated a small store in about a 10 x 12

room. YOu could buy a can of milk or a pack of cigarettes if you didn't

care what you smoked. Or a loaf of bread, that's about all. To get into

town you had to drive up to Pine Island Road, down Pondella Rd.,to 41 & that was the

old 41 that crossed the old Edison bridge. It was about a twelve or thirteen

mile trip.

D--How long would that take back then?

R--It depended. If the road was not flooded, maybe 45 minutes. If the road

was flooded, it might take an hour and a half. It was a dirt road.

D--Each way, or is that round trip?

R--One way. Del Prado was essentially a one land dirt road. In some areas







3

you could pass and in some areas you couldn't. It was pretty rugged

trip. And the idea, as I say, was to give people enough to do out here

to keep them happy. As content as possible. The community relations

director was sort of the connection between the company and the people.

If they had a gripe or a problem, they came to me. And usually I could

settle it. But I worked more for the people than I did for Gulf American.

And on top of that, little by little I seemed to inherit other jobs. I

took over the security force.. There were six men deputized by the Lee

County Sheriff's Office. They were paid by Gulf American. And I also

took over the publicity. Eileen Bernaard had had it. Eileen wasn't

happy with it, so I wound up with it.

D--And when you say publicity, all the advertising?

R--No. Not advertising. Gulf Amercian was very strong on publicity, a little

column in the paper, news.

D--So, she would arrange press releases and let the papers know?

R--Really the press releases for the most part came out of Miami. We had

public relations through Woody Kepler & Associates. And actually the

one that did most of the publicity was a young fellow named Mert Wetstien,

I think. Woody Kepler handled all of their major publictiy for their

advertising, of that type.

D--So, you basically kept the people happy if they had a complaint with some-

thing?

R--If they had a complaint. My wife, now when I say my wife, my first wife

Sally died fourteen years ago. Carol and I have been married since then.

But Sally went around and gave them a potted plant or something like

that. At the time we would interview them and find out what they liked

and what their problems were and things of that type. We also ran a

Bingo game every Wednesday night, I think it was. That's what most of

our community activities. We had a dance every month, pretty good orches-






1(l
4

tra. Took trips to Miami. We went to the Orange Bowl in 1965. And we

went to the races at Hilaleah.

D--So, you would organize a lot of things? For the residents of Cape Coral.

R--Right.

D--How long did you have that job?

R--Well, actually until early 1962 when I started the paper. Leonard Rosen

talked to me and wanted to know if I wouldn't keep an eye on it until they

got a man in, and they had somebody they wanted who wasn't availab# right

then. And I told him if it didn't interfere with the paper, I would do

what I could, but the paper came first. So, I guess I stayed with it for

maybe three or four months after I started the paper. The man they wanted

got here and he took over.

D--Who was that, do you remember?

R--That was Paul Sanborn., Paul is now with a bank. -

D--Yes, I've talked to Paul. Tell me a little bit about what motivated you

to start a newspaper.

R--I started that by accident. We had been running a column, as I told you

I prepared the publicity. WE had been running a column in the Ft. Myers

news press. We had visitors and we had children coming down to visit and

they wanted to be in this little column.

D--What was the column called? Did it have a name?

R--No, I don't think it had a name. They had a column for Lehigh Acres, they

had one for Pine Island. They had one for Cape Coral. They had two or

three others. And the news press just decided they were using too much

space on it and they stopped. And we were, I was putting out... by that

time, the community relations job was getting pretty big. And I was

putting out two, three, sometimes four bulletins a week. Dances, a lot

of things.And people were griping them because they didn't have any way

to get their news out. And one morning Sally had wound up with the job of







5

writing the' column, which people read to start with. One morning I just

mentioned that we get a lot of flack about people not having a column.

We're collecting this news but not putting out a newspaper.



D--So, it kind of came about as just a need for the community.

R--Yes. It did. We did the first one, it had four pages. WE would put

in advertising, if you wanted to sell a lawnmower, we'd put it in the

paper, but I didn't take any money for it, of course. Well, they

started the Citizens Mutual which is the shopping plaze, that whole area.

They had opened up and had a few stores and two or three of the people,

particularly, Andy Anderson talked to me about starting a regular paper. By

this time our weekly newsletter had grown to about 20 or 22 pages. It

had really grown quite large. And we put out the first paper in December

of 1961.

D--December 16th?

R--I believe that was the date. And it did well right from the start. Of

course, I got help. Gulf American was desperately anxious to show how

much things were growing. Any time anybody opened any kind of a business

they would put it out, the Cape Coral Sun was the promotional paper. Well,

I guess about the middle of February they came out with an article in the
And Mert Westein, Woody
Cape Coral Sun that Cape Coral now had it's own newspaper. Kepler's

man, was really responsible for this. He asked me how much a subscrip-

tions was, but I sold it off to him. And this thing went nationwide. We

jumped from approximately five subscriptions to over 2,000 in one week.

I mean, we just went crazy. But it was a very successful paper. We did

well with it.

D--So, it was owned by you at the beginning?

R--Yes.

D--So, Gulf American really didn't have anything to do with...?







6

R--Gulf American didn't have anything to do with it. It never did have.

D--Well, tell me a little bit how it grew. You just said it grew from five

subscriptions to approximately 2,000 practically overnight. Did it con-

tinue to grow overnight?

R--Yes, not as fast. But I don't remember what happened. I don't remem-

ber how many papers we were printing. At the time that we sold it. But... 7000 to
8000.
D--And when was that. When did you sell it?

R--Originally I sold it to a fellow by the name of Tom Cassdl in 1962. Tom

ran some radio stations up in Orlando. The paper got in trouble. I came

back briefly. Got them a new editor and it started going down hill very

badly.

D--IWhen was that?

R--I came back to stay in 1966. And around 1968 or '69 Tom died. A good

friend of his, Finkernagel. Tom willed part to him, sold him part. But I would still

run the paper and Tom had a pretty iron clad contract with me. So I

bought part of it back from Bob and we ran it until 1974. In '74 we

sold it. At that time I would say we were probably printing 5 maybe

6 or 7000., twice a week.

D--Was it profitable?

R--Very. It wasn't as profitable as selling it.

And I was getting tired.

D--I can imagine. How old were you when you came to Cape Coral the first

time?

R--I was 48.

D--You were a young man. \I put 26 years in the armed forces and I had been

out almost two years when we moved here.

D--You knew Leonard Rosen?

R--AFter I got here.

D--Tell me a little about your impressions about Leonard Rosen. What was he

like?







7

R--Hard to say. Very hard thing to say. He was a very dynamic person.

Probably one of the most profance people that I have every encountered.

I personally liked Leonard, most people didn't. But I wasn't a close

friend of his. I knew him, he liked my work, I had a stock option with

the company. But I didn't know Leonard all that well. My acquaintance

with him was mostly meetings and when he dropped by the office he would

talk with me. He was a driver, though. I'll tell you that.

D--What I hear from people, the people that he respected the most were the

people that could do their job and do it well.

R--Yes. He didn't have much respect for people who didn't. Jack Rosen,

you wouldn't even think the two of them were brothers at all. They

didn't even look alike or act alike.

D--What was different about Jack?

R--Jack was very quiet. I never really, I don't think anybody really ever

got acquainted with Jack. He died pretty early in the development here.

D--WVas Jack not around very much?

R--No. He was in Baltimore. Actually Cape Coral was run during the early

days by a young fellow by the name of Kenneth Schwartz.

D--I sat down with Ken Schwartz. I'm going to sit down with him again.

R--Where is he now.

D--He is in Miami and he is working with the Pembrooke Pines subdivision,

development over in Hollywood.

R--I haven't seen Kenny or heard from him in over ten or twelve years.

D--He's looking good.

R--Kenny really ran the Cape Coral. The two most important people in my

opinion in the early development was Kenny Schwartz and Tom Weber.
built
Tom Weber was the engineer. He was the man thatbu : the houses and

also built the roads.

D--Do you know what ever became of Tom Weber?







8

R--No, I do not. I wish I did. Of all the people connected with the

company, I thought the most highly of Tom.

D--Nobody seems to know where he's at. They think he's still alive, but

they don't know where he's at.

R--I never heard. I thought Kenny would've known.

D--He did not know. What age was Tom Weber?

R--Oh, I would think Tom was in his middle fifties when I first met him.

Fine engineer. He kept track of a tremendous amount of equipment here.

D--So you'd say Kenny Schwartz and Tom Weber were the two significant peo-

ple building the city.

R--They were the ones taht were here. Leonard Rosen came over occasionally.

I'm sure that Leonard looked at the balance sheets frequently but he

didn't get over here all that often. Jack Rosen, I don't think that

Jack was here more than a dozen times in the whole development period.

But Kenny was here all the time, fortunately or unfortunately. And

Kenny was a nice boy. He had one gift that I have never seen anybody

equal. You and your wife, if you had one could come into the office

meet Kenny, talk with him for ten minutes, come back a year later and

he would know you first name and your wife's first name and if you had

kids he would know their first name. Absolutely phenomenal. And I

mean he had hundreds of people, dozens of them everyday, and he would

know their names. How he did it, I don't know. I can meet somebody and

I've forgotten their name before they leave.

D--How did the people that lived here view the Rosens? Did they view them

as the rich old men kind of distant maybe.

R--We had two different groups. You had one group that absolutely totally

hated the Rosens and anybody connected with them or the company. They

were what I would call radicals. But I think that basically most of the

people felt that they were doing a pretty good job. There was a small







9

clique that anything the company was for, they were against.

D--That was pretty much a minority?

R--Yes. Not too big a minority though. They had quite a few followers.

They fought this bridge.

D--Tell me about the bridge.
R--Leonard wanted to build a bridge.

D--Had that always been the plan? Or do you think that kind of came along

naturally?

R--I think it came along naturally. I don't really think that he realized

that's how successful the development was going to be when it first started.

They started on pretty much a shoestring. One of my first jobs as commu-

nity relations director was going around delivering checks to about a

dozen people that had built before Gulf American had clear, title to their

land. And they couldn't get homestead exemption. So Gulf American would

send them checks for their homestead exemption. That was how tight they

were working. A couple of those people are still here. The bridge, the

first I heard about the bridge was about 1960 and Leonard wanted to build

a bridge. No questions about putting tolls on it. And he couldn't get

any support from the county whatsoever. The county finally said i'f we

wouldvote in here a bridgelroad and tax district so they could come back

on the various taxpayers if the tolls didn't meet the expense, then they

would do it. And it became a very devi-ive' thing.There were three people,

primarily. All of thme had business interest. One was a man by the name

of Chester Berry and Chester had a bunch of buildings at the intersec-

tion of Del Prado and Pine Island Road. Chester felt that it would

divert traffic and take it away from his area. It did. A second one was

a fellow by the name of Fiori who had a serious newspaper for a while

until it went out of business. He had interestS in north Ft. Myers. And

he felt the bridge would bypass his business interest. He was right. It

did that. The third one was a gentleman by the name of Al Sutphin who







10

lived across the river where the landings are now. He thought that the
Braden Sutphin Farms,
bridge was going to destroy the tranquility of their A =, which it really

didn't But he fought it. And those three used scare tactics to convince

people that if they voted for this tax district they were going to be

taxed out of their homes. And it was really a very bitter squabble. I
repeatedly
-ran' editorialsAfrom people promoting the bridge. And there's still a

couple of people who had been good friends of mine and we still don't

speak. This is from a long time ago. But the Rosens offered to put

up 100,000 dollars and replace it dollar for dollar if at any period the

bridge tolls didn't meet the bonded indebtedness he'd pay it. And they

took the 100,000. But that still wasn't good enough, for the county.

Once we got the election and the bridge district, and by that time the paper

had grown enough that they were sure it was safe, they abolished it. But

we had to vote it in.

D--There was a group out here, the Cape Coral Civic Association. They had

something to do with all that. Who are they?

R--It was the Cape Coral %xpayers Association, initially. Which I was the

directro of and we didn't watch what we were doing closely enough and

Chester Berry got to be president of it and along wiht him two of his

other cohorts. And they fought the bridge tooth and nail. The Taxpayers

Association. And when they lost I suggested in an editorial that they

resign and if they didn't resign we would eliminate the Taxpayers Associa-

tion. They didn't resign. So a half a dozen of us formed the Civic

Association and they were eliminated.

D--So the taxpayers association just died away.

R--Yes. I wouldn't print anything in the news, when they were having a meet-

ing, I wouldn't mention it. So, I told our then president Ed Tohari, who

used to be in charge of the midpoint bridge association years later.

He said, "Colonel, you have to print our news" I said, "Ed, I don't









have to do nothing." I'll just let you people sit there and argue and

eventually you will die. And they did in about six months. The nice

thing about having your own newspaper, you can print what you want.

D--That's right. So, these three people really fought the bridge. Who were

some of the big supporters of the bridge, besides the Rosens, obviously.

R--Oh, gosh, there were a lot of us. Butch Duffalo Otis Schroder, Andy '

Anderson, myself. There were a few others. I was probably the most

vocal because I had the newspaper that I printed in and that helped. But

it was a very close vote. I could tell you exactly what it was. LIke

214 for it and 202 against it. It was a close vote. Most of the people

weren't against the bridge. They were just frightened by the possibility

of being taxed out of their houses.

D--On the Ft. Myers side with the Lee County government, commissioners and

stuff. I don't know if you are even familiar with that much of what went

on over their, but were they generally not convinced that Cape Coral would

make it.

R--Well, I don't know.

D--Did they just not care?

R--Lee County Cammission had always done things tomorrow that they should

have done last year. I don't think that pertains any more to Cape Coral

or anyplace else. Although, Cape Coral has more consistency. We got the

short end of the stick.. But we just haven't had very thoughtful people

at the job. Why? I don't know.

D--Were there any commissioners at the time that supported the bridge?

R--Not unless we wanted to vote a tax district, as far as I know.

D--You were not involved with sales or anything like that?

R--No. I knew a lot of it, but I didn't get involved in it.

D--What was your impression of Gulf American as an organization? Was it

pretty well organized or was it sloppily run or was it just basically

people were not...?







12

R--It was strictly a high pressure organization. In that respect they were

well organized. They got people in here and they just badgered them until

they bought. In that respect, I would say that they were well organized.

I think it was a reasonably well-rounded company. But they did some very

foolish things. They forgot that they didn't own the land once they

sold it.

D--Explain.

R-Well, if you drive up here off the south of Cape Coral Parkway where all

the lakes are? The biggest part of those lakes had been sold. They were platted,

set out and sold. They found marl which you need for road building in

that area and without any discussion of the people that owned it, they

dug lakes. As I say, the land was sold. They got in a lot of trouble

over it. But they got out of it.

D--That's the trouble they had with the Land Sales Board.

R--Yes. That's part of it. As I say, they were honest about it. They really

thought they owned it. We had an unfortunate case where Kenny Schwartz
an old enemy
decided to placate the family of who had died and change the

name of a street. And I told him, I was still working for the company

at that time, "Kenny, you just can't change the name of that street." They

don't own that street. He said, "OF course we do." I said, "You sold all

that land, that street has a name." They changed it. In about six months

they had to change it back. It's got its old name back. Kenny's reasoning

was that they still owned it.

D--Do you think that some of the problems that they had with digging lakes

where-they had lots that were already sold, there were accusations that

they misrepresented how fast the land would go up in value through the

and stuff.

R--They didn't do that, the company did that. Print.these maps about once

every six months and they were coded,with the price of the lots. About every six






57f(
13

months the land would go up in value but you could still buy it cheaper

if there were any in the area. Usually they tried to code the ones

that had mostly been sold. On the other land, the lots were ridiculously

cheap to start with. When I first came down here, these riverfront lots

were going for 5,000 dollars.

D--That's pretty cheap by today's standards.

R--By today's standards that's very cheap. But I can't tell you anything

about their innerthinking, because I don't know what their innerthinking

was.

D--Did you know Connie Mack at all?

R--I know Connie really well.

D--What do you think, people said his role was basically that of his name?

R--That's right. Connie is a true one hundred percent, gentleman. And Gulf

American wanted Connie for one thing and one thing only, and that was his

name. And I might add if I hadn't seen that Connie Mack was connected

with them, I didn't know Connie at that time. But I knew that name. If

I had not seen that Connie was connected with it I had never bought a lot

sight unseen. But I discussed it with my wife, and Connie Mack couldn't

be in any fly by night organization. And it's not that much money so we

took a chance on it. But there was no question, they wanted his name.

And Connie was constantly at odds with them over some procedures, I

don't know. It really disturbed him. WE had one in the very early days,

one of their schemes was that when you bought a lot they would seed the

lot in lawn grass and plant two or three trees. And you paid twenty five

dollars for that, twenty five dollars a year. When you came down your lot

was all ready. It had lawn on it. It had the excess lawn that you didn't

need that you put you house on. They would sell that. It sounded great.

I didn't do that because we came down too soon. As soon as I got down

here I saw that that wasn't quite right. They didn't know where the lots







14

were. You'd come down and say, "I bought a lot, so and so." They could

show you about where your lot was. But they couldn't possibly.... The

time they could tell you exactly where your lot was was when you got

ready to build. Well, Connie was handling all of that correspondence.

And I worked right with Connie. I worked more with Connie than anybody

else. Connie took a vacation so I had to handle his correspondence until

he came back. I said I'll handle all of it, Connie, except this busi-

ness about the lots. I won't touch that. He says, "Why not?" I

stayed out of the federal pen all these years, I ain't going to one now.

That's mail fraud, pure and simple. Well that got Connie kind of worried.

He got out of too. It was just an idea that somebody had that sounded

good. They never sprinkled the first grass seed or planted the first

tree and they had collected quite a bit of money. As I say, they gave

it all back. I don't know if they gave it with interest. Connie is

still here. I see Connie every now and then. He's a blue Knight at the regional

hospital. I saw Connie there just the other day. Of course, I know his

son real well.

D--I taught the Congressman's son at Cape Coral High School for a short time.

Did Connie ever feel like he was being used?

R--I couldn't tell you that. You've got to ask Connie. As I say, I couldn't

say too many good things about Connie Mack. I thought he was one of the

finest gentlemen I've ever worked with.

D--You mentioned Bob Finkernagel. Did you know him very well?

R--Yes. Real well. Bob and I were partners in the paper. For many, many years.

D--What was his job?

R--Bob was a publicity director. He was a publicity man. He came down here

from the Chamber of Commerce club in Gainesville, but I'm not sure. Just

about the time that we were working the bridge. But I knew Bob real

well. Bob probably knew Leonard Rosen as well as anybody in the company.







15

They did a lot of traveling together. As I say, I would class them as

pretty close friends. I wasn't close friends with Leonard.

D--Is there anybody else that you can think of that was really important in

the corporation?

R--No, I think that we've covered most of the important ones. This started

out as sort of a poorman's area. They were selling lots a lot cheaper,

attracting a lot of people. Quite moderate incomes. And if you look at

the older houses, you can tell that they had quite moderate incomes.

Small houses. And I say it was very successful. One man that was in-

fluential but he was gone by the time I came here was a guy by the name

of Mendelsohn.

D--Yes. Milt Mencelsohn.

R--And I don't know where Milt is now.

D--As far as I know he was still loosely associated with Leonard and he died

a couple of years back.

R--Milt did?.

D--Yes.

R--Well, he did most of the plans. I think most of the plans were Milt's

brainchild, or all I could gather.

D--Plans?

R--The idea of building houses and so forth.

D--Did he actually bring them out or did he just come up with the ideas for

them?

R--I don't think he laid them out but he had a lot to do with it. I say

I knew Milt reasonably well. He was a dreamer. But unfortunately none

of his dreams were....

D--Tell me a little bit about him.

R--Well, I can't really tell you very much either. He was involved in the

Harbour Heights development which went bankrupt. He was an interesting







16

man to talk to. He got in trouble with the authorities on more than one

occasion. I don't know how serious the trouble was, but he was a dreamer.

D--He always seems to be somewhere in the picture when Leonard's there.

R--I think they all came from Baltimore. I believe that Milt was with the

Rosens when they had the Charles Antel Cosmetics. And I think they

had been associated for quite a long time.

D--Some people had said that Milt gave Leonard the idea for Cape Coral.

R--That would' t surprise me.

D--He even brought him down to this area and showed him the land.

R--No, I would not be surprised. I think that Milt had an awful lot to do

with the early planning of Cape Coral. The layout here and so forth.

Of course, the actual layout is done by engineers. Tom Weber probably

did more on layout than anybody else.

D--Did you know Berneice Freiberg.

R--Just slightly.

D--Well, I think that;. covers pretty much everything unless you can think

of anything else.

R--I hope I could help you. I'll tell you one person that might be able to

help. That would be Gwen McGinn. Have you ever heard of her?

D--Yes.

R--Gwen worked with them up in Baltimore and she was in the newsrooms when

we got dbwn-here.

D--She was one of the first ones that they brought down.

R--Then they took her over to Miami. Gwen is in pretty bad health, I

understand. But as far as knowing the people in the company, the Rosens,

Mendelson, and those, I would say that Gwen probably knew as well as any-

body. Bob Finkernagel knew a lot of the later ones. But Bob was not

with the company until at least 1962.

D--O.K. Well I think that takes care of it then. I appreciate you talking





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