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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
Interview with Robert H. Finkernagel and SE. Paul W. Sanborn.
September 28, 1987 Community National Bank, Cape Coral, Florida
Paul, you were telling me a little about how you came here to Cape Coral
in the early days. Would you relate that again just real briefly?
A, yeah, what I said was Bob Finkernagel arrived on the scene in Cape
Coral in December of'61. You must have talked with Leonard a couple
months prior to that and Bob had been manager of the Gainesville Chamber
of Commerce. And at the time I was the manager of the Kissinmee Chamber
of Commerce. Bob and I both knew each other through our association in
Chamber of Commerce Management Association. In Kissimmee we had a thing
called the KissimmeeBoatacade. transversedthe lakes in the central part
of the state and down to Lake Okechobee and to the east and west coast.
In February Bob invited me down to Cape Coral---I had never been here
before--to talk about the possibility of bringing the Kissimmee Boatacade
to Cape Coral as a promotional activity. While here he offered
me a position with the company as assistant to the manager director and
his title at that time was managing director. So that's when I came to
Cape Coral. I went back to Kissimmee and gave my notice and then came
and joined Bob in May of 1962.
What was your official position with the corporation? With Gulf?
Assiatant to Managing Director. Bob Finkernagel was Managing Director.
In that capacity it was basically a community relations activities.
Anything that needed to be done in the community outside of sales and
construction we did. Would you say that was a fair statement?
Bob Finkernagel (B)
Yeah. There was no city government here and we really filled in a lot
of the city municipal functions. We had our own police department, which
Yeah. I forgot about that. That's one of the first jobs you gave me.
I became director of our security force. We had six men on a security
force and one police vehicle. All the fellows were deputized by the
') ) Snag Thompson who was the Lee County Sheriff at the time. And I
became in charge of that. That was one of the first jobs he gave me.
And I didn't know the first thing about that. I learned. And that was
a case of we did things that needed to be done: servicing our new
residents as T;hey moved in.
Well, when you first got here you were sick on Thursday afternoon
you were in good shape, otherwise you had to go all the way into Fort
y/C' Myers. By Thursday afternoon Dr. David, a surgeon from Fort Myers,
would fish his way across the river and Paul and I established a clinic
for him here. We had $7000 of clinical material and he would come in and
hold court, so to speak, from noon until five on Thursday afternoons.
Later on we pooled our efforts to get Bob Tate, Dr. Tate, the first
doctor to move in followed by his partner, Wally Dawson. But we gave
them the equipment and the little office space they had in the first
Where was that?
SOn Cape Coral Parkway. Where Big John's is now located. That was the
first shopping center. It was put together by a bunch of citizens, local people
who pooled their money and went, in to build the shopping center.
We lease space in it. The library has space there.
I think that one of things that we found back in the early days, that
the person was anticipating a move to Florida and Cape Coral came into
the picture and the first thing a person might say, be it Cape Coral or
anywhere else is "Yeah, I'd like to go there but, for instance, do they
have a physician?" And at the time, Bob said, we only had a part-time
physician and so the company took steps to provide that physician.
And I think we subsidized that first physician provided the equipment,
"0 and subsidized his practice.
I think the agreement, and you made the contract with him, but if he did
not make x number of dollars we would guarantee that he would do so.
We guaranteed him $20000 the first year. We gave him a rent-free house.
Free house, we gave him a rent-free clinic with all the equipment and that
Of course, we never had to give him any money because he earned over
$20000 the first year, but it was a guarantee to get him down here.
So that would be the first thing somebody would say. Then they would
say "Well, gee, you know if I go down there and build a house, do they
have fire protection?" We didn't have a fire department. The closest
on was on Fort Myers. So what did we do? We started a fire department.
Bob was the first fire commissioner in this county, right?
Yes. Hayden Burns appointed me.
So we developed a fire department. We had a volunteer fire department.
Bob had to set the thing up. And then if you have a fire department and
you have volunteers because the residents wanted to volunteer, but you
don't have any equipment. You don't have a fire truck, so you got to go
out and get a fire truck. How did we get the first firetruck? I forgot.
Well, we formed us a tax district. [Oh, we formed a tax district and
bought the first truck] Then we used the tax money to pay for the
truck. In fact, the night the truck got here it wasn't really
equipped to run yet. It had just been driven down here. The Surfside
Restaurant caught on fire and we couldn't use the truck.
About when was that?
'64 or '63
Yeah, somewhere in there. Everything you talk about you can say, well,
why? And there was a reason. Because it was a service to the people
who were potential property purchasers. We talked about fire department,
we talked about doctors, we talked about the police department. We had
our own security force. We had six fellows on the security force, around
the clock protection.
Colenel started the first newspaper, Cape Coral Breeze.
What was his first name?
Richard. R.G. Crawford.
Then I think you come to entertainment features. This came quite a lot
later, but if a person were to move to Cape Coral and they wanted to look
at the television, at that time channel 11 was about the only thing you
could get. So what do you do? You develop a cable company. He happened
to be the first president of the first cable company in Cape Coral, too.
So the company owned it. And then the water plant, the sewer plant, all
the facilities the company built. As we sit here I keep forgetting there
was so many things that Bob was, like I say, the first fire commissioner.
He was the president of the Cape Coral cable company, the very first one.
We started that to provide a service to the residents through cable.
As managing director, I think Bob was the same thing as a city manager.
The person who you gave Like I will always remember when I first
came down. Kenny's description of Cape Coral at the time was, "This is
like a military post." I'm the commanding officer, he's the vice-
commanding officer. You know he's number two and we take care of our
people, as any military post would do.
Existing residents became our best salesmen because they like living
here and we were always happy to take potential sales persons and go
around and see that they were happy and glad they moved out of Ohio or
wherever they came from. We brought in a lot of editors so we had a
third party talking about our successes here. We had two hundred and
some editors in one year. Not in bunches but one or two at a time.
We'd bring them from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Boston, Chicago, all the
areas up there where most of our agents were located, so that's where
most of our prospects were.
So, from the point where houses would be built and people would move in,
you would take over from there and if they needed fire protection, if
they needed this or they needed that, or were you involved...
All we were trying to do was cut the umbilical cord between what normally
the community responsibility of residents, which was assumed by Gulf
American. We were like a company town in the best sense of the word,
not like a coal town in Pennsylvania where you had one store. It was
a company town. We did our best to provide the services which would
normally be done by a city or a county government. It was really a big
example of the free enterprise system at work because we got no tax funds
from anybody: city, county, state, or federal government. We did it all
from the money we borrowed and the money we made selling land.
Because the county wouldn't do it because it had no tax base so
Z)S consequently the company had to do it and the beehooved the company
to do these things because it enhanced predictions on sales and that's
the game we were in. I keep thinking of different things that if you
invite somebody to come and stay with you the closest motel would have
been someplace in north Fort Myers because there was no Cape Coral
Campbell Over Diner way over on Business 41 was the first place to
get a cup of coffee after you left Cape Coral.
So what do you do? You build a facility in your own establishment.
So they built a marvelous motel and restaurant and that was like the
Service, quality, food, real class restaurant and motel. That provided place
to bring people when they came to look at your property.
The Presbyterian Church held services there on Sunday morning in the
lobby. That was the first church. Christians in the Lutheran church
rented space in the shopping center. That was the first Lutheran church.
Edward uncwas known as the storefront pastor. I used to call him the
peddling pastor. That came later. But he was the storefront pastor and
I think in the Lutheran magazine featured him and his church because it
was in a storefront. Then another thing I think that as the community
grew, in '62. I came here in May of '62 and the Yacht Club was under
construction and I think as a statement of the type of people the Roseins
were. Where other developers at that time were saying "When the population
gets to be something we will build a yacht club or a country club, right?
And they did it up front. This yacht club complex is a million dollar
complex. Like I said, when I came here there were 1100 people. When
you think that the developer has real confidence in what he's doing, he
invests a million dollars in a complex when there's 1100 residents.
But they had confidence that sales would go, and they did. We opened
the yacht club on June 10, 1962. In Novemeber of that year I went in as
manager of the yacht club and I managed it for four years after that.
Another job he gave me that I didn't know anything about. Then we
moved to building the country club.
Nine holes were in when we got here.
It just seemed that sales went and more people needed more facilities to
keep going. And then there was a time when after the growth that we
started to negotiate with the county then they recognized we were here.
In '72 was really when the county planning group went into effect.
!' 1962 was when the county planning department zoned Cape Coral.
And the first time we have really any zoning other than the zoning we
created with deeds and restrictions. They accepted our deeds and
restrictions for zoning of the city. And then when the city came into
existence they accepted the county's zoning, so really the early days of
the city the zoning and planning was exactly how we had set it up in '58.
I think up to that time no one on the other side of the river thought
that Cape Coral would be here, so they didn't wnat to get to involved
in it. I don't think that people really thought that it would go.
"If you kind of ignore them, they will go away. Fly by night thing."
The three people in all of Lee County that have stayed was Harry Fagin
the Chairman of the Board and President of the First National Bank, and
Homer Welch who was the President of Lee County Electric Co-op, and Johh N.
Johnson of the telephone company.
The three things you need: telephone, electric, and money.
Well, talk a little bit about the Rosens themselves. How did they
I would defer that to Bob. Because Bob was probably the closest to
the both of them. I met them occasionally as they came here, but Bob
worked with them more closely.
They complemented each other. Jack was the dreamer and the sales effort.
He sold. He knew what was happening here and he sold the land. Leonard
was really the entrepreneur. He raised the money and financed those
things that had to be done. He was different than Jack. You always knew
where you stood with Leonard Rosen He was very upfront about his feel-
Ci ings, about you or what you were trying to do. He never censored me for
doing something that had failed, but just said keep trying. Jack would
like to have everything work out the first time. If it didn't work out,
you caught hell from Jack, but not Leonard. And unfortunately, people
tried to divide up the employees into Leonard's man and Jack's man, and
that was always a tension among the employees and officers of the
company. If you did what Jack wanted you to do sometimes it would be
li construed as something Leonard didn't want you to do. That was, I would say
the only way I know about the way the brothers operated.
Did they have a dream for this place? Did they want to build a city?
Or were they just in it to make money? Or do the two go together?
The two go together I think.
I think that's why I was hired, really. Because ConnieMack had almost a
city on his hands and didn't know what to do with it. They were looking
for someone of a Chamber of Commerce/City Manager type person. To come
in and to get the citizens to do for themselves those things that Gulf
American was doing for them. Paul and I were active in the formation of
the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club, Merchant's Association, Civic
Association. There was a big fight here. The midpoint bridge which is
now being fought is nothing compared to the fight when we first built
this other bridge. It's so logical now. You could say why would anybody
fight it? But there was really a tough, bitter fight in this community
back in 1961 on the building of this bridge because we needed to form
a tax district. Only so that if the revenues do not generate enough
money to meet the bond issue that they could call on the tax district.
In addition, Leonard put $100,000 in escrow to make sure there was money
to help pay and bought the land on the other side of the river and dona-
,ted it to the bridge project. When Paul and I got here I guess it was
-Q' iall over by then. It was December of 1961 we had the election.A bitterly taught
Not an overwhelming "yes" vote, but it was fairly close. It made some
very unhappy neighbors, those who were against it. I think if they were
still alive they would still be a little bit unhappy about it.
The thing is that not too long ago I was hearing some of the things you
said. You know, it was just a set of circumstances that this bridge is
located where it was, that the consideration had the sales accelerated
just a little bit the original bridge would have been where the midpoint
bridge is anyway.
This was the about the closest point to the two sides of the river and it
was where our development was. We had hardly nothing north of Cape Coral
Parkway when that bridge was started--maybe a few blocks.
The interesting part.that the people who opposed the bridge, the opposi-
t numb!r/ was that it
tion number one A wasn t needed. They were afraid their taxes would be
outrageous and the bridge wasn't needed anyway. And it was a 20 year
bond issue and it was paid off in 10 years. It was accelerated, and when
Dick Sayers was county commissioner from Cape Coral--I guess the only
county commissioner we ever had from Cape Coral--he was instrumental in
them having the tolls taken off and the toll booths removed. And now of
course as history goes they talk about putting them back.
Again, that fight formed the Civic Association. There was a group known
as the Taxpayers Association and they were opposed to the bridge so a
group of them left the Taxpayers Assoc. and formed the Cape Coral Civic
Assoc. which really was a pro-bridge group, which later became very
active in the community. And then it seems to me that a lot of people
who were involved in the taxpayers Assoc. moved back over and assumed
control of the Civic Assoc. In the early days the Civic Association
really spoke for a great majority of the residents.
I think the Civic Assoc. was in a good sense responsible for communica-
tion with the county commissioner, who was the governing body. Other
/ than the company talking to the county commissioner, now the residents
were talking to the county commissioner & they started listening. And I think when
Millard Brown was president of the Civic Association it was probably
one of the best years the Civic Assoc. has ever had and he started
bringing the commissioner over here to see what was going on. And
getting some of the tax money and using it. And that was the start of
the political picture, so to speak. Up to that time we really didn't
have politics entering into the development.. The company was doing the
things we needed to do to solidify and generate sales. Because that was
our business. But at the time, as Bob said, that you provided but after
a certain time you say "Hey. We have done it so long."
Well, we got the sheriff, for example.
These people paying taxes at least need to get a return on them. We
ran that security force up to a time when we prevailed upon then Snag
Thompson as sheriff to provide a resident deputy. That was the first
.'/ step. Val Everly was our first resident deputy, but that was the first
step to getting the company involved with police protection in the
community and our taking a step back. Each of those things--we
established, get them going and then turn them over to who should be
doing it. Again, we'll go back to things Bob mentioned like the church
in the shopping center. We opened the yacht club in June of 1962.
There were no actual houses of worship built. When the yacht club
opened, each of the various churches that was established: St. Andrew's
Catholic Church, the Methodict chu'.rh, and I guess the Presbyterian church
was established. Those were the first three, I believe. And the Lutheran
Church was in here. They would each have services in the yacht club on
Sunday mornings. One thing I remember in particular was...that's dumb.
We had to space them because the Catholics met from seven to eight, the
Methodists met from eight to nine, and then the Episcopalians would meet
from nine to ten. And the logistics of getting those people in and out
so the other ones could meet....nhe humorous part about this is that
the Methodists used to have coffee and donuts for their people, but it
always ended up that the.Presbyterians or Episcopalians, whichever it was
would be eating the Methodists donuts. And how can you tell a denomi-
nation, they all look alike, right? But in the course of the development
a lot of humourous things happened like that. Things that generate
interest and as we said, you can tell that this is a favorite subject
of Bob Finkernagel and mine because we were a part of the development.
As I said earlier, when something needed to be done we did it. When it
came time you don't think much about it. But when Fort Myers Construction
completed a street by county ordinance, by county ordinance they have to
have stop signs and street signs. Who orders those? We did. And then
it would be my job. We got into the municipal duties, if you will,
providing stop signs, street signs, traffic control signs, the things
that would normally be in a municipality. Fort Myers Construction I
think is a major part of the history of the development of this community
and particularly a fellow by the name of Tom Weber who was the resi-
dent engineer. A man who in my estimation, and knowing the man I've
seen what he's done and knowing his past, he's a man who could build
anything. He's a super kind of a guy. And he was a man who never got
excited. He would sit back in his chair with his pipe and direct a
crew-at one time. We had four or five hundred people working for Fort
Myers Construction. We had probably more earth moving equipment, dollar
value, than anyplace probably in the world at that time. I can recal
"a equipment sale at one time down at Fort Myers Construction: draglines,
bulldozers, huge earth moving equipment, and they had that stuff lined
up as far as you could see.
Do you remember when that was, that sale?
Construction really took off in '62, really.
Bob's son, Bob Finkernagel III, commissioned that to be done. The only
thing I point out--you see that drag line up there on the left hand side
with three circles above it? Well, that doesn't mean anything if you just
look at it, but what that really depicts is that there was a period of
time when that drag line and others worked 24 hours a day and it was
a searchlight. Huge lights so they could work at night in order to keep
up with the requirements. Again, I lean on Bob, because when we would
sell in various states they had conditions of sale and you had to be
completed by a certain time and bonding and that kind of stuff.
I understand that New York had some restrictions like that.
for ten years
It was ridiculous to restrict roads that wouldn't be needed and
wouldn't be used for ten years but they required that if you
wanted to sell a piece of property, you had to be able to get to
that piece of property. The land wasn't developed and it wasn't
planned to be developed, but we had to put those roads in. And as a
result, a lot of the roads north of Cape Coral deteriorated to almost
no road at all. Cause when a road isn't used it dies very quickly.
We discussed this the other day. The thing that always used to bother
me was when we worked public relations we worked press relations, govern-
mental relations and this type thing. And in that position you get a lot
of criticism of certain ----. One of things we were criticized for was
building substandard roads. And, at the time (because later on they
said they built substandard roads because they broke up) we built the
roads to county specifications, which doesn't mean the specifications in
1962 are the same as they are in 1987. Specifications change as new
technology comes along and so forth. Gulf American was accused of
building the roads in an inferior way when in essence they were
complying, and had approval of the county. So often that is not pub-
licised. It's an avenue of criticism on Gulf American. And in our
position we often have to defend that type thing, and it's kind of
frustrating when, in essence, people don't know what they are talking
In other words Gulf did things pretty much first class. They.did
everything up to standard.?
Oh yeah. Above standard. We had too much to lose by not doing it up
to standard. The negative things that happen you will probably re-
search and you will find out why certain things happened. Leonard Rosein
accused of certain civil practices that were not ethical. I can tell you
to write something and to do something, but if you choose not to do it
I'm going to end up with the blame and maybe that's the way it should be.
But in many cases he was accused wrongfully I think in permitting the
things to do. I don't know how you explain that. He was being over-
r/ There was no company policy. In fact we even went so far as to have
---- fired so our sales manager could listen to ---- and when the guy
started saying some outrageous things we stepped in and interrupted
sales in the sales offices where we could sit down with the salesmen
and straighten them out.
Back to Tom Weber. Was Fort Myers Construction company, was that
a company that was already here?
It was a company who they hired originally to come in when they first
started dredging and engineering and for a very short period of time
they thought that they couldn't cut the mustard when they hired Tom
to come in and they developed their own company.
That's amazing. They talk about 24 hour a day dredging. There was
24 hour a day dredging and it was noisy. We got no complaint from
that. And it seems years later, when the city was formed that noise
pollution became a problem. They cited a man in town for having dogs
in a cage in his family room and the dogs made so much noise that the
neighbors complained about it. And I thought to myself many times,
what would happen if those neighbors were here when we were doing 24
hours a day dredging?
The things we did get complaints about sometimes, it was unfortunate
but it was part of the thing. There is no way of setting off quiet
dynamite. In the far reaches of the west you go out there and you
see a lot of coral and when they were developing the canal structures
and the road structures they had to dynamite. We used to get complaints
about that, you know. "You're rattling my house," or s.:et'incn: like
that. Like I say, you make a funny. Quick like you ask them if they
know how to make dynamite quiet we'll do that. They tried to do it at
the better hours rather than knocking off dynamite at midnight. I
think they did the very best they could, but making tremendous
explosions had to be done.
There just wasn't that many complaints. As I said when we talked before
the doers of the world move. People who don't do anything stay at home.
And these were people who since 1849 had been going west in covered
wagons. It was that kind of an atmosphere. Everybody was so proud of
all that was happening. Really they were reassuring themselves to a lot
of extent that they made this investment in Cape Coral. But we had very
little complaints when you think about people moving, leaving their grand-
children up north and then having second thoughts about should I have left
my home town? But basically they were all pro-development. That isn't
to say there weren't complaints about the way some of the developing was
done. Some of the things that we thought we had to do, they didn't think
we had to do. But by and large it was a great source of talent down here.
Retired talent down here. It was just a community of second careers.
People who have been in one business came down and decided there was a
void here for a food store or a shoe store or whatever. And that gets
to be a snowballing effect. "I'm not gonna come down there unless there
is a bowling alley." Really that was the deciding factor. So we built
a bowling alley, or had someone build a bowling alley. "Well, we
don't have any attorneys in town." Attorneys moved in and you can't
use that for an excuse. These were things we were using to attract our
future president. Started the bank.
We built and leased the first theatre over here. I have a picture of the
day Claude Kirk was governor. It was opened that day. I think I got a
picture shaking hands with him when he cut the ribbon. The governor at
that time was funny--the other republican governor, he came. And that's
the caliber thing that we did. We joke a lot about this, back in those
days, from the time Bob got here and I got here in '62. We used to have
about one ribbon cutting a week. We were doing so many things. We would
just have ribbon cutting, dedications.
We dedicated a golf course one hole at a time. Well, it wasn't quite
When the dredging was going on 24 hours a day, was that like for a month,
a year, two years?
It was a year until they got it done.
All the canals that go out to the river were drag-lined and dredged.
They took that dirt and spilled it out and built up the rest of the land
to a minimum of 6 feet above sea level, which we were required to do,
according to our agreement with the state. You've got to build a home
six feet above mean tide. Well, if the land was only zero feet above
mean tide it was swampland. When they dredged the canals out they used
the overflow to build up the land on which the houses were built. As
you went further inland, you didn't use the dredges you used the drag-
lines--as long as you could get a boat in. And then that was salt water.
> l Further up there were fresh water canals and you had to put a ----- so
the salt water wouldn't go up. We sold both fresh water canals,
which really are just an inter structure of interior lots and salt
water canals where you could get access to the river.
You said you had an agreement with the state. Was that with the Bureau
of Land Sales?
The Bureau of Land Sales required us to show in our advertising that
land was at least six feet above mean sea level.
A couple of other questions. Most of the early staff people, the people
like yourselves, were they hired along the way or were they brought in
from Baltimore with the Roseins, or...?
Well, the Roseins only had sales people in Baltimore. There were no
developers or anything, they had never been in that business. They
Shad been in merchandising and marketing. ---- there were other things
that they sold by television and radio. So the people that were
Baltimore oriented were all in the sales and marketing. We had an
internal advertising agency, Venze, which was a house agency. They
had a very capable lady by the name of Bernice Fryburg who was respons-
ible for a lot of the sales promotion of our community. Paul and I
worked very closely in the development of those things that would
create a tension to the good things that were happening in Cape Coral,
on a national basis. And many of the things that Paul and I worked
with were products of Bernice's ideas. She took some of the things
that we wanted to do. There was an image around the country that
retirement communities were purely that. Everybody 65 years or older
and they're all on three wheel bicycles and that sort of thing. And
that wasn't the case. The first family that moved in had three child-
ren. And it's always been a younger community, perceived to be. So
we wanted to do all the things that would show youth. It would've
been very easy for us to have gone to the national golf tour, for
example and paid $200,000 and you have a tour stop with a three par
open. But we'd rather use college kids. So we formed what we call the
Cape Coral Invitational Golf Tournament and invite 40 schools from all
around the United States. They would come down and play golf and take
pictures of the kids and send them back to the home town paper and the
, /) papers where the college was located. Bucknell was down so it went to
the Bucknell paper and the Lewisburg, Pennsylvania paper. Kids wherever
they came from. It was showing something that was going on down here.
We ran it so successfully in 1972, which the 70th anniversary of the
Intercollegiate Golf in the United States was held here in Cape Coral.
SPaul and I arranged--------with Jack Nicholas. We got him down here.
Buster Fisher, the coach of the'University of Florida was very helpful
"to us. Doc Fishen, University of Miami coach, helped us to get this
national tournament in Cape Coral, first time in the history that it
was in Florida.
That picture up there is Tom Kite. The first time in the history the
NCAA had been held in the state of Florida. And the most unusual
thing about that was that they have to have a university host it.
And the University of Miami hosted this thing, but not in Miami.
(JQl Like Bob said, it was Bus Bishbp, Doc Fusein, and the Florida coaches
association was instrumental in persuading the national coaches
association that it should be held here. Of course we made a deal
that they couldn't refuse, but nevertheless.
We did the same with Florida intercollegiate tennis. We had four
year schools playing tennis here. We had the Miss Florida World
Contest here to attract attention to the youth.
You know, there are so many activities we can tell you that we did and
the promotional activities. And again, in Bob's position he was involved
in a good many. There's no end to that. Our job was public relations,
bringing recognition to the community. We did it in many, many, many
different ways. In the early days, Gulf American Land Corporation was
the largest land developer in the world at one time. When we talk about
the developing things, I recall one time and we were just talking about
this the other day, that we had an advertising budget in excess.of that
of Florida Dept. of Commerce. We spent more money than the state did
to bring recognition to the state. And this was a tremendous company.
Somebody asked me the other day, what was the name of the company
originally. It was Gulf Guaranteed Land and Title Company. Was that
when you (to Bob) came in December or had they changed it to Gulf
No, it was still that.
You'll go back and you'll find it started as Gulf Guaranteed.
That's the name that's on most of the deeds and then because of the con-
fusion they changed it to Gulf American Land Corporation. And then when
they diversified it became Gulf American Corporation and then when they
sold the company in 1969 to G.A.C. that's where the confusion came in.
G.A.C. was General Acceptance Corporation. G.A.C. diversified so they
became G.A.C. Corporation cause General Acceptance primarily was an
finance company. And then they bought saving and loans and we had
stocks in insurance. So we had our own insurance company. But people
often think G.A.C. and Gulf American Corporation were one in the same
thing. And they weren't
Now, Gulf American, their primary projects were with land development
or were they involved in other things? I know they had other land
projects in the state.
Well, here in Cape Coral they were involved in the development of the
land, the construction of homes. We made an arrangement with Runber
Construction of St. Petersburg and Sarasota. Arthur Rutenburg Corpora-
tion. He built the first home and then somewhere in the mid '60's we
went into home building of our own.
Well, you were the housing division at one time also.
So did Gulf build most of the early homes or almost all of them?
Most all of the early homes were.built by Rutenburg Gulf Condominiums.
There were practically no independent builders here. Michigan homes
Middle '60's. We sold home in our set housing department. We flew people
down, fly them by a program and then picked out their home and their lot.
We'd build a house for them.
How much contact did you have with the other projects Gulf was working
on in the state?
The only one they were working on when we first got involved was Golden
Gate. That was the expansion of two communities, Golden Gate and North
Golden Gate. They sold land in what they call the "pathway of progress."
Suburban melded into Urban. Part of that is holding true. Golden Gate
is so large now that it's a major force in county government. (They never
started North Golden Gate.)
We were involved in the promotion of everything. There was Golden Gate.
A fellow by the name of General Young who had pretty much the day to day
operational activities and responsibilities. But we did the promotional
type things and then later I used to spend.... OUr jobs changed so many
times and I'd spend time in governmental relations and a lot of time in-
side the county. And then, after Golden Gate River Ranch came along.
We did River Ranch in Polk County. in Arizona.
It's a gorgeous place between Tucson and Logalas. About 6 miles from
\j 7 And then we owned property in the Bahamas. There were 84,000 acres in
Point Sienna. When we went into Point Sienna there was a concept that
24,000 acres would always remain in their natural state, and the city
would be built on a core extending out. It never happened. Point
Sienna was a planner's dream. The young planner was like a kid with a
lollipop that big. He could do anything he wanted with it. We just ran
out of money
One of our other operations was the making of commercials at Cape Coral.
Here again, we would debate with them about what we would get and what
they would get. We wanted audio and visual identification. Chevrolet
is driving down the street and it goes past a sign that says Cape Coral
Country Club or somebody would say something in a commercial like "I've
got to go over to Cape Coral this afternoon." That's quite a fight
because the advertising agency doesn't want you to take more than your
share so at least their product is mentioned a little bit. Chevrolet
was here, U.S.----, Listerine, Oldsmobile. We would provide assistance
in housing and that sort of thing. In return we would get the audio and
)2 , F'( ,
visual identification. We made a movie here which not an award winner.
Fat Spy is the only movie that opened on the late show at night. There
was corporate interest in Panama City. We owned a couple of DC-3's
so we sent a DC-3 up there ans ----- this porpoise down in Florida.
Poured foam rubber over it and one got out to warm water and keep his skin
wet. And we had sedated him, put him in a truck and brought him over
here. It was like two in the morning when they got here. We put him in
the pool and had to walk him around, and then when he regained conscious-
ness everybody cheered and there were tears rolling out of your eyes.
It was exciting. We made salt water. I -forget how many billion tons
of morton salt that we used.
That was another promotion. The porpoise show. When we did the
show we got the deal with Morton Salt. Basically what we are talking
about is the promotional activities and the community activities and
so forth. You haven' t heard anything about sales, and we are not really
the sales end of the thing.
I think I mentioned the two things that made our sales operate. One
was the inspection privledge and the other was the exchange program.
Say a little bit more about that.
Most of our land was sold to people who never saw it. That was the first
given. And to alay their fears that they bought something they didn't
like, we gave them six months inspection priviledge. The average time
now is three days. We said when you buy this land in Ohio, we'll give
you six months to come down and inspect this property--to see if it is
what we said it was or if there are other reasons you don't like it, we'll
give you your money back on the spot. Now this land wasn't going to be
ready for ten years. We have a ten year contract. We don't promise to
make this land available to you for eight years or six years, or whatever
the period was at that time. But if you want to you can exchange your
equity for a piece of land that we are reserving for equity transfers.
So you have a $4,000 piece of land which you've paid $300 on it and
decide that I'll retire now instead of seven years from now. We would
sell you a piece of land that you could build on and the $300 that you
put in the original piece of land is transferred and becomes equity in
your new piece of land. The new piece of land costs you more because it
is ready now. We had to spend the money to get it ready now. Those two
marketing strategies made Cape Coral copied by every developer in the
United States. But we made it easy for you to come to Cape Coral. We
tried to encourage you. If you were flying down and if you kept your
property. We wanted you to get here because we knew it would solidify
the sale made by one of our salesmen in Cleveland. We would solidify
the sale and make it easier for you to buy more land or build a house.
"Why don't you build a house and rent it out until you are ready to
come down here and a lot of it has been paid for?"
So you felt that Cape Coral would sell itself if you could get the
We'd give you 5 cents a mile if you drove down here.
How many people do you think were brought down on airplanes, busses?
That facet of the development of Cape Coral is a full story in itself.
It's something that is almost unbelievable that they could do what they
Was that all under your part of it or was that under sales?
Sales. We did what we could to augment it and promote it, but that was
truly a sales operation. They had a team in Cape Coral that was unbe-
lievable. They'd meet the boat, they'd meet the plane. The busses were
We had 23 Greyhound busses. We had our own airline, our own bus company.
Our airline was four engine 44+- jets. We increased the length at our
own expense. We built ourown building. Southern Airways has that now
but we built that and gave it to the county. Because we had four engine
jets coming in here and we couldn't land.
So we had to increase the runways from 5200 feet to 6500 feet, I think
it was. The east-west runway there. When we started bringing those
jets in one of things that people said was you've got to have a barrier.
So we had to build a concrete barrier. So they said you'll need a barrier
at the other end. So we built one at the other end. Then the pilots
said they were going to commit suicide. So we tore one down. WE
paved a section of the runway complying with regulations.
But anyway, the busses would meet the planes, bring the people over,
they would have their rooms reserved, because at that time we had the
country club with almost 100 rooms. We owned all those motels. We had
Lauas for them. The salesmen would be attached to one or two couples.
That used to drive them crazy, because how much Chinese food can you eat
if you are eating it every day, practically. Hundreds of thousands of
people came. The logistics of thing, they had to be in a certain place
at a certain time and we used to call the getaway day. That was when
people would go to breakfast and have all their luggage out. The trucks
would pick up their luggage and take it to the airport and then you
would put people on the busses. We'd take them down and find something
for them to do like hamburgers, hotdogs or something at the beach pavil-
lion. We built a 5000 square foot pavillion to accommodate this. While
incoming people were in the yacht club who had just arrived. We ran into
problems once. Occasionally this happens. The problem was that if you
had a malfunction on one of your engines on getaway day. Now you've got
a busload of people or several busloads of people to put on that airplane.
Well, that airplane can't go because you've got a mechanical problem.
'What do you do with these people? And they used to find all kinds of
things. They'd take them to the shell factory. Anything to keep them
busy because you couldn't put them in a room anymore because you had
other people coming in and just had to do that. And it was a logistical
/ thing. Charlie Gavanaugh was the director of that. How he ever did that,
I don't know. He'd be a good person to talk to about the flight program
because he started working the flight program in the north and then he
came down here. We had the busdrivers and the tourguides who'd get on
the bus and give a spiel about what they were going to see and do. We
sent all the maids in to clean up the rooms within a half hour because
another plane was landing with more people on it.
Now, around Florida we had all sorts of way to attract people to Cape
Coral. We'd bus them in from Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. We had different
things to interest them. Free trips--four for the day. Two days and one
This could go on and on and on because when you say that we did that on
the local side. I mean the flights from up north. Then we did what I
call the local side. We brought people in by car and by place. Then we
also had an international division. We sold property overseas. I can
recall my brother was here visiting me on a Tuesday or Wednesday and he
worked overseas at the time. He left from here and went to London and
was walking down the street in London and was stopped by someone who said
we like to give an opportunity to go to Cape Coral, Florida, U.S.A. He
said "I was there yesterday." I
" Charlie Hepner and I were in Spain and we saw our agent. We wanted
to get a leather coat and he said "I'll take you to a place where they
make those." We go to some God awful place that no American tourist
had ever seen. Down in the basement was this old lady with her leather
coats. Well, they had to get an interpreter. One of the salesladies
spoke English. So we got talking and she was really selling those coats.
I said "YOu know did you ever think of moving to Florida? I could use
you as a salesman for Gulf American." She said "Oh for Chrissake, I did ('
that for years in Miami Beach." And she was one of our overseas personnel .
who was bringing units into one of the hotels in Miami Beach. And their )
in the basement of a manufacturer, unbelievable. The sun never sent on
a Gulf American salesman. Just like the British Empire, we were all over
Something I think about--we used to have O.P.C.'s right? And then we
used to have 0.0., opened and operated offices. Why everything in this
country is done by two and three initials, I don't know. We had home
site owners, H.S.O.'s and O.P.C's and 0 & O's and all this kind of
P.O. was the sales manager who could not close the sale but turn it
\ over to someone else who would and they were called T.O.'s.
Is it your intention to talk to someone about sales?
Yes. Do you know of some people who it would be good to talk to?
Schwartz would be good.
SWho were the sales managers? Eddie Gusulli, he was senior vice president
of sales--olden Gate mostly. He was in Cape Coral in the early days.
Howie Friedlin of Friedlin Realty in Cape Coral would be good. When
you talk to these guys they give you the insight of how they ran the
sales operation. And we get different types of sales operation too.
We used to call the guys who were on the line. The guys who were on
duty, salespeople, as people came in they had their turn. We used to
say "You're up when someone comes in." And you never knew who that might
be. It may be someone who just walked in or somebody who came in by bus
or plane. And then it was, when we got into national representatives
who brought people in from across the country to Cape Coral. Now I was
in Bob's side a lot more with that. But I was in Switzerland one time.
And the fellow who sold property there took me into his little grocery
store and introduced me to a man whose name was -----. When he took
me into that store and introduced who I was and the company and lived in
Cape Coral, that man's face just lit up like a light because he bought a
piece of America. That was another thing that I think we were selling--
a dream to the people in Europe, bought a piece of America. Never inten-
ded to live in it, but they got it. And then he was so delighted that I
lived in Cape Coral. And we got the map out and showed him where his
property was and all that kind of stuff. He just fell all over me. He
was so happy. And Bruno was the guy who sold it was delighted. Because
he could now say, "See, there is a Cape Coral." The guy had never seen
All Europeans went crazy over our bathrooms and kitchens. They couldn't
believe that you could have three bedroom, two bath houses with a kitchen.
In Europe they don't have things like that.
You can see from this conversation that we were enthusiastic about what
we did for all the years. I worked for 13 years for the company and had
a good 13 years and enjoyed every minute of it. Both Bob and I were
Are we running out of time?
I'm running out of time.