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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
Co )o 0 o\'o.
Interview with Charles Cavanagh. in Fort Myers, Florida. Nov. 18, 1987.
The interviewer is Dave Dodrill.
D--Tell me a little about your background and how you came to be a part of
C--Well, it was back in 1962. I answered an ad, a very blind ad, and after
I was interviewed by the headhunter, so to speak, who worked for Jack
D--Who was that?
C--His name was Sylvan Abrahms. Sylvan was as I say, a headhunter. He went
out and did nothing but look for executives to fill whatever slot Jack
could come up with. I met Jack and Charlie Hepner, who at that time was
the executive vice president, in the suite that he maintained in the St.
Pierre in Central Park in New York City. Jack was taken with me immedi-
ately and he said "I'm going to tutor you personally and educated you in
every phase of our business because I've got big things planned for you."
At the time, throughout the country, the only way Cape Coral was being
sold was either through homes presentations or a party presentation. He
sent me to Cleveland, Ohio. Now the gentleman that ran the state of Ohio
was named Lou Rosen. No relative, no relation. But he had a franchise
for the state of Ohio. And he said that Lou would certainly educate me.
Not only in the homesit program, but in party, which he did. I was out
there for approximately four months. Doing homesits, going into homes
with the salesmen, being trained, and then doing my own part in the
presentation. From there I graduated to the table at dinner parties.
Handling four or five units. We considered a husband and a wife a unit.
After my indoctrination to the business Jack came back and he said, "Now
we, the company, have our own roving teams." Teams that would travel
throughout the country. He said I'd like you to join one team and spend
a little time with them. This is the Pennsylvania team. So I worked in
Pennsylvania for maybe a month. Every night. This was in 1962. From
there I went to another team in the New England area, into the New York
area. And finally, he said, I think you've got the qualities to be a
speaker. Charlie Hepner and himself. So he said "We want you to do one.'
And I did my first party presentation in Princeton, New Jersey. I'll never
forget it. And it was totally new to me. Yet I had to listen to other
people who were speakers and I happened to do a very good job. Because
I happened to have a very good team. The New York team came over and they
were the men who worked the tables with the units. He then decided that
I would become a national speaker. And now I started to do nothing but
very large parties consisting of about 200 or 300 people. And it was
very, very successful. Time went on. He said "You now have to get into
broker operations. That was going into a brand new city, going to a bro-
ker and saying "Would you like to handle Cape Coral, Florida?" And the
guy would say "Well, how do we do that?" I'll teach you. We set up a
contract for him. I would then come in, take all of their regular
associates, teach them about what we had and how we marketed the land and
then come back after they made a party of anywhere from 10 to 20 units
and I'd put on the presentation. They would do the closing and I would
do the T.O.-ing I would go in put the final touch on someone who was a
little doubtful. Because we had the greatest gimmick, if you would care
for the word--a six month, money-back inspection guaranty. It cost you
nothing, absolutely nothing. You had six months in which to make up your
mind. All it took was to go to Cape Coral, look for yourself and say "I
like it and I'll keep it." or "I don't want it." Either/or--that is the
way we sold it. So people were not really in a position where they were
being forced. They could get their money back.
D--Let me ask you a question. How are people invited to these things?
C--O.K. In Baltimore, Maryland, we had our offices at 2 West 25th Street.
This was like an old brownstone building--if you remembered the old
brownstone.- Well, it was 25th street and Charles. The Rosens kept
buying up these little brownstones. And we had maybe five in one direc-
tion and six going up the other. We cut holes--like tunnels--through
the buildings and you went from building to building. And in two or
three we put our phone room operation where we had anywhere from 100
to 200 people on the phone. We get cross sections of all over the
United States and let's say that Charlie Cavanagh was going into
Zainesville, Ohio, which I did at one time. They would pull the book
out for Zainesville, Ohio, and call everybody they could. Asking them
if they wanted to have a chicken dinner, free and see a motion picture
and a presentation on Cape Coral, Florida. They would say yes. An
invitation would be sent out. And it was stated in the letter that
they received that you must have the invitation to be able to get
into the party. And when they got the returns back they knew that we
had 15 units, 25 units that were going to be there on March 31st. Now
if I was in Louisville, Kentucky, that meant my group and I had to be
there that night, set up that room and be ready to put on the presenta-
tion. Now when I took my first roving team I left Baltimore and I
travelled to Seattle, Washington. But every night I was in another
little town, ahead of me. And then I waited and then came back. What
the team constituted was anywhere from ten to 15 young boys, age 20 to
23, one van that we carried all of our contract, maps, stands, even
liquor for when we went into a dry state and had to bring it. In the
cars there would be 2,3, or 4 of these guys and we go as a caravan. We'd
go straight across the country, turn around and come back. Now if we
went the northern route out, we'd come back the southern route. And
we generally made it in 30 to 45 days. But we'd eat chicken every
single night, because that was the cheapest menu that we had. We'd go
out and come back with a million dollars worth of property sold, sight
unseen. And this is what made us what we were. We were selling land on
a constant basis through owned and operated offices, through a broker--
such as Lou Rosen, who was producing hundreds of thousands of dollars
worth of property per month-the roving teams of our own. The roving
team of Lou's in Ohio. So when you figure there may have been 5,000 of
us working per month. That is why we were selling the amount of land
that we were.
D--So you were part of just one team that was going all over the country.
C--Well, I became the captain of the five teams all over the U.S. that were
going in all different directions. Covering every state that we were
ready to go into.
D-Besides those five, were there others going around?
C--Oh, yes. Individuals went in. Let's say that I went into Rhode Island.
Now there was a broker there. In fact there we had a broker who opera-
ted. And we also had an O & O office that operated. But they had
their own areas. I would take a team in and go through and not touch
their area, but touch the outlying areas.
D--So there were certain areas in various states that were designated for
a certain broker.
C--A broker who owned it bought the rights, the franchise, for that area.
Then the 09O operations. Now for instance, New York was strictly 0&0.
No brokers were there. We had a broker representing Gulf American Land
Corporation. Now, this is what I did year in and year out. For instance
one time (I can't remember the name of the company.) they were handling
Golden Gate. And they were in Chicago. And we had another speaker. He
was the only one that used to go in there. And he flew in and worked
Monday and Tuesday there and then on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning
he flew to Kansas City and do Kansas City on Wednesday and Thursday and
then go home on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I had that for six months
straight. So every Monday morning I'd get aboard a plane, fly into the
Sheraton, two nights in the Sheraton. Every Wednesday morning, hop a
plane and go right out to Kansas City to the Hilton. Two nights at
the Hilton. Friday morning on a plane, home. Home Friday, Saturday,
and Sunday. And six, maybe seven months straight, that's all I did.
D--What year was that?
C--That was in 1964. I would imagine. But, that was my life until 1965.
I can't remember the most.... But I got a call from Jack Rosen and he
said, "I want you in for a very, very secret meeting." He said I'd
be there for at least three or four days, so check with Hepner, who
was basically my operational boss who I reported to on a daily basis.
And he said I understand, come in. Well we were in closed--and I mean
closed, they sealed that thing up--when we were all in that room together,
in Baltimore in the big conference room. Jack sat at the head of the
table, which he always did. And, by the way, an idiosyncrasy of
Jack's. He had a desk as big as that pool table, and he had a chair
that was quite elevated. And the chairs that were in the front had the
legs cut off. So you were always looking up at Jack and Jack was always
looking down at you. It was unique, but it was impressive. And Jack had
every one of his teeth capped it was the most beautiful smile that you
had ever seen in your life. Anyway, he sat there and said "I have come
up with a new idea and I'm throwing it out to all of you. I just want
to make sure that everybody is here." And he went down the list. And
as he went down the list he got to my name and said Cavanaugh, Cavanaugh.
And he looked at Charlie Hepner and he said "How did we ever get a Cava-
naugh in this room?" I was the only Christian in the room at the time.
Everybody else was Jewish. Which of course a standing joke. But, he
said, "I have come up with an idea. I'm going to throw it out to you
and be honest and tell me what you think." Now knowing Jack as I did,
he meant just that. You would offend Jack, Jack would cry. Jack was
a very.... Let me explain the difference between Jack and Leonard.
D--Tell me a little bit about them.
C-O.K. The two brothers, the way they established it I guess from the
beginning. Of course, that was before my time was that Leonard controlled
the state of Florida. Everything that happened within the state. Whereas
Jack was the man that was nationally seen with his assistant, Charlie Hep-
ner. Now, Jack felt that the salesmen out in the field, whether or it be
a broker, or an 00, which the owned and operated. They were the back-
bone of the corporation. Leonard couldn't see it that way because Leonard
was the moneyman. If we needed a billion dollars Leonard would play ten-
nis with somebody or take them out to dinner or take them on a cruise down
to the Virgin Islands or wherever. And he would wheel and deal and wine
and dine and come back with a million, two million or what have you.
But as well as the gentleman who you are going to interview, Joseph
Maddlone. Together Joe Maddlone and Leonard wheeled and dealed in the
financial industry many different ways. But there was a decisive differ-
ence. Leonard had Florida, and in order to get into Florida, if you were
an executive capacity, you had to more or less be interviewed by Leonard,
which I was trying to come into the state when Jack wanted to transfer me.
So it was unique. Well, what happened before my transfer here. We had
a lot of people who were buying property. And these people were unable
to get down on their own. So we started a flight program.
D--Tell me about this. I've heard a lot about this flight program.
C--The flight program started out with the idea of once a month, in an area,
if we could get one of the old four prop jobs. I think it carried about
100 people, I don't remember.
D--What kind of plane was that?
C--Constellation. It was a four prop. Let's say in New York, for instance.
They managed to get 100 people or fifty couples who owned proper(. The
purpose in their mind was to come down to solidify or get their money.
But the reality was for upgrades. Because we sold those people more
property and some of them a home. Because they would find that the
property they bought, sight unseen, was to be built. Because you must
remember, the closer you were to the developed area, the more that it
cost. If you were out in boon docks, so to speak, it was then a period
of a year or two or maybe five or seven years before it would be a
buildable lot. So people came down and felt, "Oh my gracious, I'd
like to be closer because there's no weeds here." And that meant
exchanging that piece of property that they bought for four to a nine
thousand dollar piece that they could build on in a year or six months.
Or that day if they wished. That was the way it started.
D--Of course it was not an even trade. In other words, they would trade
the four thousand dollar piece of property to get four thousand credit
to the new piece of property.
C--That's right. Well, if they bought a four thousand and they paid in
a thousand, they owed three. They bought this piece of property for
nine, which was a five thousand dollar difference in the original. They
paid a thousand, so all they owed is eight. So that's basically what it
boiled down to. And it was successful. We had what we called an H.S.O.
line---home site owner. These were salesmen who were trained to handle
people who were owners so they could take them out and show them their
property and then if they wanted to upgrade or they wanted to add on,
that group would do it. And we had our normal sales line for virgin
people who came for the first time. That's all they did was sell a
piece. So I was saying it was successful. Now, going back to that
meeting that Jack came up with. By the way, during my tenure of being
on the road, many areas because of the fact that I was there making
these presentations. I became very well acquainted with people in the
different cities. New York, Chicago, wherever it might have been. And
I went down with the flights and spent the time there as more or less,
giving them the feeling of knowing someone there. I was the coordinator
for that group. And if they had a problem, maybe a salesman had said
something that they didn't like, they would call Charlie. And I would
more or less solve their problem if I could. Anyway, Jack, after this
introduction that he made said, "I am creating a travel club. It's
going to called the Travel Guild of America. T.G.A. This is my
brainchild. And I know it's going to go." And I sat there and I
listened to the man and I could see snickers on a lot of faces. But
he sold me completely on the idea. The concept was superb. He was
going to have a travel club with a membership of fifty dollars per
person. You have your little Travel Guild bag, you get a free camera
in the bag. You could have photos developed, toothbrush. All the good
things plus discounts on car rentals, discounts on motels, which he
put together through the national scene. And he said, "I think that we
can have a party presentation in a city and ask people to come, show
them a movie on Cape Coral and have a speaker like you (He pointed to
me.), make a presentation and I thing we could get people to give us
the fifty dollars, sight unseen and take that trip." I said, "I agree
100 per cent." Well there was a lot of dissention at that table that day.
And the more I thought about it, the more I got excited. Well, after the
third day--and we were bandying it back and forth, the pros and cans--and
there were a lot. There was a lot that had to be discussed and thought
about. We had to create a film, we had to create slides. We had to do
a lot of things. And we couldn't be intimidating anybody with our land
presentation. Because we weren't selling land. And to get into a state
you had to pass the requirements. Yet, basically, we were going to try
to sell land. So, a state had to be chosen and we had to get represen-
station, first through the real estate division and then get a broker to
7)7 represent that state. Ron .Sandler, Sol Sandler's nephew I believe, was
the lawyer. He went to Wisconsin to set that up. Meanwhile, at the
final day of our meeting, Jack went around the table getting comments.
And it was still mixed. And when he got to me, I stood up and said,
"Jack, I guarantee you that the people will go absolutely ape. They'll
throw fifty dollar bills at you. They'll throw checks at you. You will
not be able to handle it. Well, Jack was loving it because he was
sitting on his legs smiling a big broad smile. And snickers from my
other associates telling me I was absolutely nuts. And Jack turned
around and said, "You're in charge. It's your baby. You are going to
set it up for me in Wisconsin. That's where you're going to go." Well,
to make a long story short I went out around July, 1965 to get the basic
work sit for the first presentation. I brought in cameras and everything
else because we had developed the film using basically our land film, but
taking out the land sales pitch.
D--What would show people? Would you just basically present Florida to
C--Florida. About Florida. All of the things that we have in Florida and
then focusing into Cape Coral, where they would get three days, two nights,
room and board, plus forjoining T.G.A. And that time having the ability
of seeing the potential of Florida. Anyway, all of the key people at that
meeting came out for that first party. You must remember what I said to
everyone. They came out and they forgot one thing--contracts. We had a
party and we had set up three flights. The first flight to be Nov. 20th.
Leave on the 20th, 21st, come back on the 22nd. The second flight to
leave on the 23rd, 24th, and the 25th. The third flight to leave on
3-4 the 26th, 27th, and come back on the 28th. Three back to back flights.
Cape Coral was going to get the band from Fort Myers School to play "Oh, Wis-
consin."It was at the old Paige Field. We had two parties planned.
We sold out every seat on three planes and two parties. People were
writing their name and address on napkins, and they were throwing fifty
dollar bills, throwing checks, throwing five pens, they were throwing
every conceivable thing at us. They were writing on envelopes from the
motel. The Red Carpet Inn is where we were in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I
had two shopping bags of money and pieces of paper, of business cards.
I had to remember and try to set up the three separate flights. I
took the three flights down myself. I stayed there. We had a broker.
I hired a young boy to be my manager. I hired twelve girls to work the
parties because we had other parties planned. But we planned those three
flights back to back. I'm almost positive, but I wouldn't swear that the
first flight produced 141,000 dollars worth of land. The second one was
132,000 dollars worth of land, and the third flight was 168,000 dollars.
And of course, the fifty dollars per person. They were the happiest
people in the world. They ate and drank until they could almost stagger.
Now, getting back to me. I traveled the whole state of Wisconsin. Mean
while, we now had to expand, so we were bringing more of our people from
the land sales into the Travel Guild. In December I quit. Jack said, "No
way are you going to leave. You're going to Florida." And I thought
Miami. And ended up being Cape Coral. I became the national flight
director. And after I got here and saw what we had and saw how travel
guild was building, I said I think we ought to have our own airline.
Good idea. We bought an airline. So we bought Modern Air.
D--When was that?
C--I guess in 1966. Sometime, I don't remember when. But, because we
were depending upon these counties and we didn't have the assurance of
these counties all the time. So anyway we decided and we bought Modern
Air Transport. And they had 6 990's. The biggest that were in the air
at the time. One thing we didn't realize, was that we couldn't land them
in Fort Myers. Now comes strategy. We'll land them in Miami and bus
them. We had something like 26 busses. I had in the neighborhood of
300 people working for me. At that time. As time progressed I had an
operating budget of a quarter of a million dollars a month to run my
program. But we were doing well. We were selling. Now the way I
designed this thing is the planes would come in on Friday. We'd pick
them up Friday, Saturday, take them back Sunday. In order to make that
trip up, we had Coca-Cola on there and we had boxed lunches. We had a
restaurant there so we were doing that. Our own restaurant. Everything
was our own, but you must understand it's got to paid for. I paid for
it through my division. And hoping that sales would offset. I developed
into having five secretaries that handled different things. Who sleeps
where, the bedding. And then the food and the bar bills, the bus bills.
Everything had to be paid for. One day the oldest lady that I had was in
said "You're going to go out of business. You know that don't you?" I
said, "What do you mean?" She said you can't handle what you're doing.
I said explain it to me. She said well if you keep going the way you are
going, flying those people into Miami and bringing them up, the Cola bill
will be a half a million dollars a year. That's Cola. That's not gas,
that's not the sandwiches. So I got with Jack and Leonard and said that
we can't do this anymore. We've got to land in Fort Myers. So we
proceeded to find out how much runway we needed. And Gulf American Land
Corporation made a cash donation to the county and they enlarged the airport.
D--Do you know how much that was?
C--I can't remember. I knew you were going to ask that. But there was a
cash donation. And came the first day. Empty plane, a pilot, and a
co-pilot, and a navigator. I stood there and watched and they came down
and they landed that plane. And he hit the brakes and I saw tons of
rubber going and he ended right at the very end of that runway. And
as he turned that thing I said, "Good thing there's no train coming. He
would've hit that train right off the track." Now we got to put people
on this thing and bring that in.
D--Was that still in 1966?
C--Oh, yes. So the planes came in and at one time I think we were bringing
something like 50,000 people a week. We had those people coming. 80,000
people was our biggest week. It never got cold. We had the country club,
the golf club, the old conference inn and we built something like a
Parliament House. Every bit was always warm. It never really cooled off.
But the biggest thing was the way we sold this. Each flight had four
busses. Now in order to handle these people, the first thing when
they came in we had a great big party. Food, cocktails, the whole nine
yards. The following morning, work began. First bus, pick them up, take
them for a party presentation, and breakfast. Bus two, three, and four
had to eat. They could eat together. But now, bus two had to go in for
lunch. They could not meet bus number one and bus number one could not
meet bus number three or four to tell them about the program. After
lunch we had an afternoon for bus number three and dinner for bus number
four. And then a big party at the end of it all. But the busses could
never meet. But now we had as many as five flights at one time. So none
of those busses could meet. My people had to keep those people separated.
at all times. Becasue you could not let a bus load who had been given a
presentation meet with someone who had not been given a presentation. It
had to work in that fashion. So we had them...And then we got bogged down
at times while working out of Miami, and even here. When a flight was
delayed up north and we had to get rid of these people. We made arrangements
and we put them on a cruise ship and gave them a three day cruise. Three
days, two nights cruise. And they had to be back to work on Monday and
they found themselves in the Bahamas. At no charge to them. And we'd
have them in the different hotels: The Cadillac Hotel, all those differ-
ent hotels. We'd be putting them all separate.
D-So, a typical stay if a couple came down on one of the flights, they'd
come down in the evening...
C--They'd come down in the afternoon, hopefully. Like around 2:00. They'd
get aboard the bus, go to the hotel, change from the overcoats, put on
suntan lotion, shorts, hats, and everything else. They'd get aboard
and go for a little drive. They might go down to Fort Myers Beach, take
a cruise around someplace. We even had the old fishing pier. And the
fella down there, he'd give a little five dollar fishing pole and a cup
of shrimp, and they'd go out there and go fishing. We had a boat we
used to take them out for a little drive in the Caloosahatchee River:-Keep them
occupied. But if they came a little too late, we'd just let them relax,
pick them up and go for dinner at 6:00. The following day, the second day
was a work day to do business. We'd show them the property. A salesman
would get aboard. I had to man bus tour man who stayed with them at all
times. He was responsible for everyone. And I had one supervisor who
controlled the four busses. So, there was four men plus one supervisor
for every flight. So that was five. Then of course the restaruants, and
everything else, and of course, the baggage men. They'd take the baggae
off the plane, into the bus, off the bus into the room. Then they'd pick
it up and put it on the plane again. It all had to be worked like a clock.
D--How many employees did you have in your division?
C--At that time I had about three hundred. It varied up and down. But those
people, I see some of them to this day. And they say those were the happ-
iest days of their lives. They were making $1.20 an hour. But most of
them put in fifty to 100 hours a week, and they would make all kinds of
money. They enjoyed every moment of it.
D-I can imagine. After a couple would see the property and hear the sales-
pitch and everything, what would happen after that?
C--That night we had a party. We had a big dinner dance party out at the
country club. Now, on the third day, they'd get up and have breakfast.
And we'd maybe take them to the Shell Factory to do some shopping there
or maybe down to Fort Myers. Then bring them back, and we had to have
something as a going away. Behind the yacht club, we had the pool club.
We had a great big giant tent. You could put a hundred and some odd
people in there. We had a cookout. And they were all dressed up in
their winter togs to go back, and they were sitting there in 80 degree
weather, or what have you. But then we got into the rainy season. And
that underneath there turned into mud. So I went to the company and
said that I wanted to build a building right on the beach. The Building
is out there--The Pavillion. That was my pavillion. So they said, how
much is it going to cost? I said 5, 6, 8,000 dollars. They said O.K.
One day I said, how much money have I spent. I think it cost me
45,000 dollars to build that thing. Because I put in a bandstand and
bathrooms had to go in. But there it is and now the city has it as a
pavillion. I came up with an idea. That's why it was built. I had
no place to put those people when they were leaving. Then, of course,
that was fine. But in the interim we had the Golden Gate. I set up
an operation for Golden Gate. We had built a ranch. I set up an
operation. The same thing that I got here, I now had in everyone of
the other places.
D--So you had a couple hundred employees....
C--All over. What I did was I appointed a flight director at each property
who reported to me. And they never knew when I was going to drop in.
I went and I created for them a basic presentation, with their assistance
because they knew what they had. The final one was --- in Arizona where
I sent that one out. But then, you have to understand that Travel Guild
of America was now through out the whole United States. I shouldn't say
every state because it wasn't in every state, but the key states and
cities were pumping people out of there. We had flights every single
day: two or three flights a day. And it was quite an interesting
D--So the Travel Guild of America, did they do other travelling besides
just coming down there? Or were they basically an organization to....
C--It was an organization to get them started. Now people utilized that
thing when they went on their own trips, they'd get car rentals, dis-
counted motels. They used it just like you would use any other type.
D--Just with the card.they got discounts? Like a AAA or something?
C--Correct. That was it. So it evolved into the biggest amount of unit
production that the company had ever had. But it's just like every-
thing else, things don't always run so smoothly, and as you're aware
of some of the problems that the company had. And unfortunately,
G-eneral Acceptance were not real estate oriented. They were very
Z-.ZD successful people. Hayward was a genius in his own right, as his father
was. But they were in trucking and finance. Real estate is a different
thing. They couldn't comprehend totally how we did it. And they
wanted cutbacks. We, the corporation, I'm sure we all felt the same
way--that there was no end to the dollar. That there was never going
to be a day of reckoning. That we were building a city and people were
going to move in and it was growing and growing and growing. Like the
book said--"Lies that came true." People said there was a lot of lies.
And there were. You know. People get excited. But basically, the
corporation, no matter how it started and no matter what the thinking
was at the beginning, the final thought was we are going to do it. We're
going to build something that will be a landmark. At that time we were
considered the largest of our time in the world. None could even match
us in what we were doing. And believe me, people are critical. I'll tell
you a small story. I worked in Rermuda Ranch, where it stated in the
contract that that land was underwater 80% of the time. And it was in
big bold print. I never sold any. I went down because there was a flight
that went down there. And I worked the tables, since I had a license.
I eventually became vice-president of land and housing of Cape Coral.
And I started another little program after TGA faded away. I started the
TLC group. Which was Tender Loving Care--very simple. And I had 12
women who drove station wagons. And they took the people out who came
in on a tour. Just 12 station wagons operating. What year, I'm trying
to think. I thing it was 1968, 69, 70 or something like that. But
in Bermuda Ranch, I pointed out when people said they wanted to buy
a five acre package, I said, "Just a moment. I don't know if you
understood what the gentleman said." But I want you to read this. In
fact, I'm going to read it and you read it right along with me. And
they read it right along with me, and they said themselves that the
property is underwater 80% of the time. And he said, "You know, I
- >, think I'll take two five acre tracts.
D--So this guy wanted two five acre tracts.
C--Of water, that's it.
D--Do you think that most of the salesman like in Bermuda or some of the
other places were that diligent?
C--No. You have to understand, that at that time a good professional was
a hard man to come by. But we needed bodies. We needed people who had
licenses who could tell the story. And you couldn't be sitting around
on theri lap with everything. And I'm going to say this though. There
were many people who came in and said that they were cheated and they
were insisting on a refund. Because, I myself signed them. Connie
Mack, Jr. did. There is a lot of people in Cape Coral, but yet, there is
a lot of millionaires in Cape Coral. Because they bought right. I met
a gentleman last night whose name is Bill Leach, I think. He bought a
piece of property over the telephone for $4,000 in 1959. And he said
"I didn't know whether I was taken or not. And in 1968 he built a sea
wall, and in 1978, he built his retirement home. It's on 4 intersecting
canals. That piece of property without the house is worth over $100,000.
Without the house that he's got on there and the pool.. Where I have my
home, I could have bought every piece of property on the whole block for
$4,000. Today it's $65,000 a lot.
D--What would happen if somebody would come in and they had purchased a
lot within six months And they had decided that they wanted their money
C--That's it. They'd sign the papers and they got their money back.
Ther was no if, ands, or buts about it. Yes. We did try to persuade
them to keep it. We did have a lot of people that upgraded. We had
people that built homes. But those people, at that time, and during
the course of that contract. Now if they didn't come down within that
required six months. They came down two years later and said that this
wasn't what they wanted, they were not getting a refund. Because they
had the opportunity within the first six months to make the decision of
coming down. And for those who did, there was a lot of refunds. A lot
of people who got their money back.
D-Let me back up a little bit. Back to the flights. When did the flights
C-Well, the flights per se, I would say that was in the early 70's.
They had petered out.
D-And you were already gone by then?
C--No. The flights weren't that many. I made my assistant direct the
D-When was that? That must have been when they were slowing down?
C--It was around 1972, I guess.
D--Still, by '68.
C-Oh. It was still moving.
D--15,000 people a week, was that all just coming to Cape Coral or were
some going to Golden Gate...?
C--Well, what happened was, we were the only ones at that time, so we had
them all. Then we started spreading them out to the other properties.
Because we had a flight team at each property. Golden Gate, River Ranch
Poinciana. And then we even had one for Barefoot Bay which was a
mobile home park. I remember going over their and setting it up with
D--Now, where is Barefoot Bay?
C--That is over near Merritt Island. That is a mobile home park. I'll
tell you something that is interesting. I believe in mobile home parks.
I think that the manufactured home is here to stay. In fact, so much so,
that I tried to get into the business four years ago. I could not break
in. My background was good but they were looking for only guys with
experience in the mobile home business. It was like a closed shop.
When they say "What did you do?" I'd tell them, they look at my resume
and it says vice-president of sales, it was too healthy or too expensive.
You know? But anyway. As I say it petered out, but yet each individual
D--It was '69 when they basically decided to let GAC buy them out. And
it was either that or other problems. And GAC finally declared bank-
rupcy. It was in 1972.
C-Well, I think it was '72 because in '73 we all left. All the executives,
when the trustees came in.
D-Tell me about that.
C--Well, there isn't too much to tell except that I personally left in
Feb. of '73 and it was just a case of cutbacks of all vice-presidents
because the trustees were going to reorganize and were going to save
money. We were making too much. There was a six month severence and
all of that. They were very nice about it and we all expected it be-
cause the restraint was put on everything and everyone because of the
bankruptcy. And they had to account to the courts as to what was going
on. The creditors, at that time, had to either go along with it or
stop it. And they preferred to stop it. So, that stopped it.
D--How many people lost their jobs?
C--I think there were about 27 of us. There was a lot of people. There
could be more. I don't really remember now. I came back in '78 as
housing director for them. They wanted me to come back as housing
director. But at that time, it was the right amount, which
as I say, between the creditors and the courts, through the trustees.
They said, "Well, we've got to stop and see where we are and regroup and
see if we can't survive from the book." And I'm sure that that book was
D--Let me back up one other little place here. I know that most of the
flights came in over Page Field. Wasn't there a time when there was
actually an airport in Cape Coral itself.
C--Oh, certainly. Right where the Catholic church is. Well, going back.
When I told you we were bringing in those flights monthly, periodic
D-Those were the people that already owned..,.
C-Those were homesite owners. We had those little Cesnas up their. That was
in'63 or '64. Even into '65 I think. I can't remember. Yes, we brought
people in and landed them over there, and those people who wanted to see
where their property was. Well, we couldn't take them to the property,
but we could get them as close to it as possible by plane. "Well, fine,
at least I could say that I took a picture."
D-Well, Charlie, talk a little bit about, who do you thing were the most
important individuals in the corporation in the early days? The people
who helped to make it successful or maybe somebody that hurt it.
C--Well, that list that you have, you've covered them pretty well.. Kenny
Schwartz, he was one of the originators. Charlie Hepner, who was the
executive vice president and later he became president of GAC through
D--What was Hepner's job?
C--Well, Hepner, in the beginning, was Jack Rosen's right hand man. He
handled the sales organization. He was there. General Sales Manager,
for a good title. Because he held the strings to all the communications
with the brokers. He had key men under him that dealt with the brokers,
dealt with the phone room to set up those programs, that got the units for
the roving team or whoever it was. And if you needed something in the
field, you went to him. He was a key factor. Tom Weber, down here.
Connie Mack. Well, Connie Mack was a P.R. man and he was in the position
because of his name. He was a respected man. And when Connie told a
person that he was getting hes money back, he got his money back. It's
as simple as that. No questions asked.
D--So, Connie really added a lot of respectablility to...
C--Credibility to the operation here. In those early years when people would
say "Oh my God, this will never happen, look at this." And I say this-
One time Jack and I were talking and having a drink late one night. And
I said "Jack, we made one mistake, one very big mistake. And we can't
change it." He said, what is that? I said, "electric should have been put
in underground and we could have made a fortune if we had put the sea wall
in when we cut the canal." Have our own cementplant, mix it, and drop it right
57 in and cap it and sell it all sea walled. Those are two mistakes
And it was. Because it would have given the city an even better appearance.
Even more appealing to those who were coming her. Because it was always
a question, many times. About the sea wall or about the electricity.
But I think it would have changed the whole complex. But you know, Radar
,;Engineers and Associates when they laid this thing out, they did one hell
of a job, really.. Because when you think of the marsh that was there, by
digging that marsh and piling it up they created a waterfront piece of
property. They did a hell of a job.
D--Was most of the property that had not been canaled or built up, was that
marsh? Was it under water....
C--No, I'm talking about on the Gold Coast. Where I lived when my son was
about 5 or 6 years old I said that I wanted to plant a tree. Dig me a
hole three feet deep and three feet wide. Take out everything. Then
sift through all the coral or any garbage that you find. Put just the
dirt back in. Keep that on the pile. And I forgot about it. I went
about my business and when I came home that night, my son walked with a
coffee can and said "Dad, how many more trees are we going to plant?"
I don't know son, we may plant more. He said that he wanted to plant
a lot of trees. I asked him why. He said, look. And he pulled out
the table. On the kitchen table, 58 shark teeth. Shark teeth from
about 1 inch to about 3 inches. So there had been some big sharks out
there at one time. But that's where they dug out. Those drag lines
were there constantly. All I ever saw was those drag lines. When I
looked out my back door, as far as I could see, it was as sandy as the
Sahara Desert. But...So, what's your next question?
D-Has anybody else on that list that you think was particularly significant?
C-Joe Maddlone, as I told you before.
D-Now what was his position again?
C-He was secretary of the corporation. Very influential, very important.
Actually everybody on this list I have to say it, and I shouldn't single
anyone out. We were a team. I mean a real team.
D-Was there a real sense of that?
C--Very much so. I would say so. I could name people that weren't on the
list that in my opinion they played an important part to what we have
today or how we developed. For instance, one fella who still lives
here, John Crayton. He was a speaker too. Like myself, he was a speaker
on the roving teams and going around and when I started TGA up in
Wisconsin, he came up as one of my assistants. And he worked with the
group. And when I left, he stepped into my shoes up there. But there
were other fellas too who I can't remember everybody. You say who?
There is the guy who played a very big part in the early days.
D--Tell me a little bit about Joe Maddlone's contribution.
C--Joe made the connection. Joe, at the time, when I first met him. I
don't know what you call it, but he reads handwriting. And I remember
this story pretty well because Joe and I were very good friends. This
gentleman was hired by the company to build the bridge. Very wealthy
man. Joe made the connection. Joe set everything up. And they signed
the contract. Joe signed for the company and this man signed. When
Joe picked up the contract he said "You're troubled aren't you?" He
said, what do you mean? Well, he told that man everything about his life.
He said that your biggest problem right now is that you are afraid that
you are goin to die- And you haven't got an executor for your will. He
siad, "I don't believe you.' How in God's name do you know that about
me? I just met you two or three days ago. He said I'll also ask you
a question. "Who takes care of your checkbook?" My wife. He said, why
not have her be the executor? Don't worry about a thing, you're not
dying, not for a long time. So the guy said "Is that right, how long
do you think that I got?" He said, "I don't know how long that you got
but it's way over ten years." Ten years from today, if I'm alive, I'll
be back here. You and I are going out for dinner. Ten years minus
one day, he called him from Chicago and said "I'm flying down, be ready
dinner for tomorrow night. It's ten years." So he set up the book
on monetary in Europe. He has delivered papers in England, Irelafd.
I think he has helped in excess of five hundred corporations go public
or put their stock on the market. Joe is a genius in his own right.
He's an old man now. But he makes a hell of a lot of sense when you
are talking to him. And he played a very integral part in everything.
S As I say, Sandler was married to Jack Leonard's sister. Bernice Freiberg
and Paul Venzi they work together in Baltimore in the advertising.
I worked with them. I created in my time different things. One time
we were having a lot of brokers out there. We had a lot of O0& offices.
I think it started to calm down, slow down. It wasn't like it was. Then
I was sitting home at the time, I was up north. This was that far back.
And I was looking at a magazine and it was a cut out of a local small
development out on Long Island, where I lived. And I liked it the way
it was, because what they had done was an artist's rendition of the
streets. And then up where the local shopping center was going over
to where this I don't think was more than forty or fifty acres. But
the way they planned it. The trees were there and this and that. And
I'm looking at that thing and I said "That's it." That's what we need."
I called Baltimore and I said, that I had an idea. I said I want every-
body there when I present it. So they said fine, come on down. We were
having a big meeting in Chicago, all of the regional directors. And I was
going to be giving part of the presentation. And they told me to come
up with an idea. These dudes were old timers. So, I went into Baltimore
and I got Jack and Ed there. Anyway, they said well, what the hell is
this idea? I said, I'm going to create a scene. We were in the confer-
ence room. I said, blow this thing up 20 times this way and 20 times that
way. And we're going to stick in here 200 people. What do you see?
I see the same thing here except it's bigger. I said we're going to
Oklahoma. You sent me out to Texas and you said to me "Charlie, we
want to open up Texas." And we're going to'sell lots in Golden Gafe.' You
can build yourself a region. Regional headquarters. We'll have
Texas. Oklahome, Arkansas. What do people do out in those places?
To get back to this. I went out there and spent time in Dallas. I final-
ly ended up in Fort Worth because I was afraid they'd shoot me like they
shot Kennedy because up in New York. Then I went into Tulsa, Oklahoma,
and Little rock, Arkansas. But I said, "Let me sell acreage. That's
what these people know about." How am I going to sell a lot 80' x 125"?I'm not
going to try it. We want you to do it. You can do it Charlie. Well, my
first party, I hired a manager and I hired all the salesmen, and I
trained them. They watched the movie. They listened to my presentation.
My first party, we had about fifty couples there. I said now if you
need me to T.O. (take over) for you. In other words, you and your
wife don't want to buy it. You need somebody to take over. It was a
very big expression in this business. Give the head movement, two
times at least. I'll be watching you from the podium. I see this
guy. When he came in he was wearing the ten gallon hat and the cigar.
He plopped himself down and was sitting there with the big buckle on his
jeans. I walked up to him and asked him how he was doing? He looks up
at me with that big cigar and said that he had a question. The boy
here trying to sell me a lot. I said "Yes sir. Golden Gate.," He said
You told me that it was 80' x 125', is that right. I said yes sir. He
looks at me and said Boy, my dog runs on more property than that. If
you want me to buy that, you are crazy. I called up after that day and
said this is what the guy told me. The idea... I said you know, we preach
Florida. Now what we used to do on the road when I took these young kids.
We'd get into a town. I'd say, go to beauty school and get a broad. If
I called I'd introduce myself and say I'd like to have the most beautiful
girl. Is there a modeling agency around. They said no, but we've got....
I'd say that I'd like to see the girl in a bathing suit because I would
like her to be in our party tonight as Miss Florida. Fine. Over would
come four or five chicks. Now these boys were all young. That's the
only thing that we had to look like Florida plus the pictures that
we put on the wall. Which we had in that van. Now in Philadelphia, the
guy down there would go into the motel and set up the tables. He had
the old map from Cape Coral. He'd set up a table and that was his
brochure that people could read. That was it. That was the only of
;> Florida that they had. So I got and we got a big conference table. But
I said Now, picture this. I can't remember what it was but it was the
same size as styrofoam. And I rolled this picture out, and in my crude
drawings there were streets and houses and boats and trees all over.
Build a drama. A drama that is permanent but is sectioned
off into a box and take it with you to your parties. Then I want potted
palm trees at each corner of the room. I want orange blossom spray.
Spray that room before they come. POP! Those sales started for a
while. It was just like anything else. You pick that thing up, slap it
into a box, if you don't handle it carefully. At this meeting, with all
these guys-all the big shits-the regionals, the managers-what the
f-- is Charlie? He got lucky. So I've got to impress them with a
presentation. I said I want you to picture doing this yourself with your
clients. They don't know what they want to do. And you say "Mr. & Mrs. Jones,
come with me." And you take them over to your table. You've got a
house. You say "Mrs. Jones, you place your house where you want it."
Stick the house right on the canal. Pick it up, play God. It worked.
They laughed and everything else. They said, "Charlie, you promised me
my diarama four weeks ago. That f---thing.... That thing isn't here yet.
Come on boy, get your ass in gear and get it out here. We are losing
sales. But at that show, mixed emotions. They didn't think that I came
up with a new idea. But how did I come up with a new idea? I was
reading a magazine. I looked at that.
D-Were the Rosens open to new ideas.
C--Yes, anything. I shouldn't say. I would say Leonard or Jack, like this,
Jack would listen to anything that you could think of. In fact, he'd
always say, "You know, you don't come with many ideas do you. Think of
something." And there was never a question. Nobody ever said, how much?
Maybe that was our mistake. Somebody should have said if it was going to
cost too much money. We shouldn't do this.
D--Was there ever a question that there was too much spent on advertising
and promotions, stuff like that?
C--We were told that it was. That's why we had the problems that we had.
But at that time the momentum was carrying us. We were.....Jack put it
very well one time.
D--I want to hear about this. "How Cape Coral came to be".
C-Well, from the way that I understood it, the bits and pieces that I have
picked up over the years. Jack and Leonard came from a very poor Jewish
family. Their mother and father had a small little grocery store in
Baltimore. And Jack said the family was very, very religious--all of
them. Leonard was somewhat of a fighter and he used to make a few bucks in boxing.
Again, these are bits of pieces that I've picked up over the years. They
41O stared a mail order business. And they were doing very well. Charles
Antellcame along by accident. The way he came was that when the refugees
were being sent from Europe, they were going to the different synagogues
in the United States. Families were being asked to house them and to help
them. As the Jewish people do,. Not most religions do this. And they
got a chemist. They took this chemist and his family. They set up a
thing because he said that he had some kind of a formula for hair. So
they set him up in their garage. He developed Charles Antellformula
number nine. This became a gigantic thing. It was bought out by
P' .T. Babbit Corporation. That's how it happened. And Leonard was
down here. He spotted an ad in the real estate thing for 2400 acres,
Red Fish Point for sale. He called his brother, Jack, and that's how
it came about.
D--Tell me a little bit about the rose garden and the promotion that they
C--Well, actually if it wasn't for the fact that the company got into
financial difficulty, it would be a Florida attraction. It was a fan-
tastic concept. The idea in '63. I don't exactly remember when. We
came down here in a jeep., And all I could see in fron of me was piles
of sandBut then I saw one big, big mountain of sand. And we climbed up
and took off our shoes. On the top we looked down and that was the
start of the ampitheatre where the waltzing waters would someday be.
And there was a little lake down there. And here in the center was
these guys with boats working on this big massive contraption that
Leonard spotted in Germany and brought over. And that's how the waltzing
waters started. And as it grew each step of the way another segment
was added., And the Pieta that we had there in the rose garden itself,
I went when we finally were going under as far as the rose garden was
concerned, I asked them if they would give me that for St. Andrew's
Church. And today it stands right in the front of St. Andrew's Church.
D--I wondered if that was the same one.
C-It's the same one. All they said to me was yes, you can have it for
the church. All you have to do is take it out. We are not going to
move it. So when I told Father A who was the pastor at the time,
he said they would get the people and the only problem was the hand
on Mary or Jesus had been broken and had to be replaced.. But other
than that it was perfect. I don't remember what the company paid for
it, but it was a considerable amount of money. But I said to them
jokingly, you helped build the temples, you did a lot for the Jews.
I'm a poor little Christian boy, good Catholic, and I'd like to do
something for my church, on behalf of you gentlemen. And that's how
it came about.
D--I heard that the Rosens were great philanthropists.
C--Oh yes, both of them. When the cause was there, they were there.
D--Was there anything locally that they contributed to.?
C--Well, the temple there was built by them, I think. I'm not sure.
They were very, very big in Baltimore. Very, very big.
D--Is there anything else you'd like to tell about?
C--Well, I'm just trying to think of anything that I may have forgotten.
It's just like anything else. I'm covering a twenty year span.
D--Let me ask one other thing. The airport there on Cape Coral fascinates
me that there was an airport there. Actually how many flights would
come in there? Was mostly just taking people up and showing them the
C--It was just big enough for about 15 or 20 Cesnas. And that was just what
it was for. I will say this. My first trip to Cape Coral in 1963 I
think I was in New Orleans or I don't know what city I was in. But
Jack called me or I called Jack about something. And he said we're
having a big party down at the new building in the Cape. He asked me
if I had received my invitation and I said no. "What do you mean, No?
You're supposed to be there." I don't know anything about it. But
I just called you about something else. He told me to get my butt down
there as quickly as I could,. I made reservations from whatever city
I was in and I got into Tampa. Tampa, at that time, was as big as this
room. That was the whole airport. The plane I came in on was late, so
my flight from Tampa to Fort Myers was gone. And this was like about 10:00
in the morning. The next flight was at 5:40 at night. So I couldn't
sit around here all day long. There was one bar and one frankfurter
stand and I'll be loaded with one or the other. He said "Why don't you
take the air taxi?" I said that was great, but where's the air taxi?
He pointed me over to a guy sitting at a card table. He had an old cap
on and was smoking a cigar. I walked over and asked him where the air
taxi service? He said "It's me." I said, do you have a flight going
to Fort Myers? He said, no problem. He asked when I wanted to go and
I said as soon as we can. He got up, folded up the chair and the table
and asked me if I had any baggage and told me to get it. I had three
bags, he took one. He opened up the back door and we walked out be-
tween garbage cans and little planes and what have you. I thought to
myself, now where are we going? I'd never been on anything smaller than
a 727. 727 was the smallest plane that I had been on. He walks up to
this thing that looked like a fighter plane from World War II with a
canopy on the thing, no steps He opened the thing from the side and
threw by bags in. I asked him if we were going on this. I said, there's
no way. I'll wait for the plane. He said that it was safer than a jet.
You say it's safer than a jet, but I don't like this, There's two of
us. You and I and then what. He said come on., Well, I wanted to get
down there and I didn't want to stay there all those hours. We got in
and he taxied this thing out and it vibrated. I had the stick right in
front of me there. We were elbow to elbow.. I said I needed a cigarette.
He told me that if I needed a cigarette to open the door. Because I'm
not equipped for it., Being a good Catholic, I started to pray. Iwas
saying the rosary to be actually truthful with you. We got up and as
we were flying along, I looked down and we were just gliding along.
He said to me, "See what's coming up?" And I looked down, out in the
distance was a big jet whipping along there? He said, "You know what
would happen if one of those engines went out?" He said it would go
down like a rock real quick.. But I'll tell you something. He reached
up and turned the key and it went putt putt and that was the end.. The
pilot sat back, and I thought to myself that the pilot was a nut. He
said, "Now. I can land this thing down there on that road., No cars
around, no poles, I can land this right here." See, if you can start
it again, that's the trick. He turned that thing over, so I felt
better. But we're going along and he asked me what I was going to
Fort Myers for. Isaid, "Well I'm going to Cape Coral." He said,"You
know it's a shame. They got an airport there, but I can't land it
there." I said, "Why can't you land it their? That's owned by the
company and I'm part of the company." He said, you sure? I said,
can you communicate with them? He said that he knew the fellas there
and talked to them once in a while. But it's impossible for me to get in.
I said, "You call them and tell them that Charlie Cavanagh is aboard
and I'm supposed to be there and tell them if they haven't got the
authority to call Jack Rosen. I heard the guy on the radio say that
he knew the name but he must get clearance. I think it was five minutes
later that we found out that we could land there. "Thank you. There
will be a car waiting for him." That was my first time going into
D--I love it. Just a little background material on you, like when were you
born and where you went to school, just real briefly.
C--October, 1925, New York. I went to school in New York. I was born in the
city, moved out to Queens, my parents did. From there, I got married.
My wife and I lived in the city and then we moved out to Smithtown in
Long Island. I was in sales when I.... When we first got married, we
had a bar in New York City. My partner and I were the only Irish caterers
in New York at that time. Then I spent 3 years in the fire department.
I almost got killed 3 times so I quit that. I decided to go into sales.
I went the old route with the vacuum cleaners to home improvement to
insurance. I was a manager with Prudential insurance. Into securities
and mutual funds, underwriting. I had a home improvement company. And
then I went to Cape Coral. It was a pretty exciting career. Right now
I am supposed to be in Homestead on December 7th where two of ex-
executives from GAC have a 13,000 acre project. We're going to do the
same thing. I'm going to set a broker operation and start another Cape
Coral with one difference. We're not going to sell land. We're going to
sell the package. Condos, Villas. The whole nine yards--not dirt.
D--Is that going to be in Homestead?
C--It's just east of Homestead. It's at present there's a group of villages
there called the villages of Homestead.