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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
D--We're doing an interview with Richard Sayers in his home in Charlotte
Harbour, Florida. It's December 23, 1987. The interview is David Dodrill.
Dick, tell me a little bit about your background, as far as when you were
born, where you got your education and stuff like that.
D--I was born in Joplin, Missouri. And went to a Catholic High School there.
Not too many of them there. And all through high school. At the begin-
ning of my junior year in high school I was fifteen and went to work for
a daily newspaper for 42 hours a week. Nights and the summers. And
started junior college there and found out, it was before the end of
World War II, 1944. So I wound up in the maritime service, going to
Catalina Island and got trained to go to sea as a merchant marine. So
I sailed to Hawaii and to the Phillipines on a tanker. Was over in the
PHILLIPINES FOR NINE MONTHS AND THE WAR ENDED WHILE I was there. Came
back and made one more trip to Greece. Then I finished my junior college.
And then the Korean war came along before I got done with my college
education. So I decided that last time I was at sea and this time I was
a soldier. So, I went down and enlisted in the army. Asked for the infantry.
So, I went to Ft. Riley, trained there. Go into OCS and they got me
enroute to leadership school because I was disqualified for color blind-
ness and they sent me on to leader school. So, I went on to become a
sergeant major of a batallion. And went to Korea. And in Korea they
made me combat correspondent with the 20th division. By that time I had
worked about eight years as a daily newspaper. So, I was there for about
15 months and came home. Six days later I was discharged. I got married
when I first went into the army and I had a son waiting for me when I got
back. And then I had two more....
D--What was your wife's name?
R--Betty. And I had two more children born in Kansas when I started Ft.
Riley and he was born before I went to Korea and when I came back I
finished school at WAshburn University in Topeka, Kansas. Took a year of law
school. Was going into law but I had a job offer and two kids. Took
my B.A. and left. I had two boys born in Kansas, three children born
in Missouri and two born in Florida. I had seven all together. But I
went to work for Sinclair REfining Company. And wound up in an oil
business before moving to Florida and going to work for the Miami News.
Before I became chief copy editor.
D-When did you go towork for them?
R--1962. I was there during the Cuba MissileCrisis. In fact, I edited a
Cuban MissileCrisis series that we wrote and won a pultizer prize. The
author, Hal Hendricks won a pultizer prize for the Miami News doing it.
And then I had, through little league I met a vice-president of a p.r.
firm that happened to be handling the Gulf American account. Neither
one of us ever talked about our jobs for a long time.
D--Who was that?
R--:MertWetstein. Vice-president of Woody Kepner & Associates. They were in
Coral GAbles. He handled this account and one day he told me, in fact,
he walked into the Miami News. "What are you doing here?" And we began
to talk about work and one day he called me and said that I had spoke
about a interest in public realtions. So he asked me if I might be inter-
ested in looking into a job with Gulf America Corporation in Cape Coral.
lie said he would talk to me the following MOnday. So that week-end I put
the family into the car and we drove to Cape Coral and then back. They
\vere impressed because of my initiative in going over there to see what
it was all about. Before the interview, so they hired me. So, we went
to cape Coral. This was in October of 1964. October 1, 1964, I actually
went to work for them. The bridge was already opened and the bank had
D--Made it a little bit easier to get out there.
R--My purpose in being there was to set up what was called the Cape Coral
News Bureau. And handling the publicity and any media relations. Eileen
Bernard was already there doing the Cape Coral Sun. And doing whatever
Connie & Bob Finkernagel and Peggy tanfield wanted her to. And it was
getting to be quite a load. So we set up a system for handling everything
from hometown releases to any kind of release that would have an
an opportunity to get into any major newspapers or some good weeklys in
out marketing area.
D--When you say hometown releases what are you talking about?
R--Well, like if somebody wins a tournament or somebody's name was in the
Cape Coral Sun we would send it back to their hometown so there was
quite an opportunity to do that. We could've done even more than we did.
If we had had the time and manpower. So, as it was, we, for about the
eight years that I was there we averaged better than 100,000 column inches of free
publicity year in newspapers, mainly in our marketing area and in maga-
zines. And some broadcast television. But at the same time, with the
help of Berneice Freibrg in Baltimore we set up a visiting media pro-
gram. I can't think of what we did call it now, but we invited senators,
real estate editors, they got involved in area that we wanted to get into.
A lot of outdoor writers, too. And we'd fly them down and entertain
them. And of course the main purpose was to try to give them ideas for
news stories and for columns. So we got a lot that way. We'd take them
to Cape Coral and the Golden Gate and to River Ranch and Remuda Ranch.
And we had some of the top writers and photographers in the country
D--So it was your job as head of the news bureau to generate or to get out
news stories that would involve Cape Coral and would be printed in news-
papers throughout the country, basically as news which would mean that
Gulf America wouldn't have to pay for advertising.
R--And it also carries a lot more credibility than newspaper advertising. A lot of
those papers, people looked up to those who had their bylines on them.
Especially the personal columns, like the outdoor columns and so on. One
good example was that when I arrived there they had been able to get,
one of their problems was that their biggest marketing area was Cleve-
land, Ohio at the time and they had been able to get good publicity in
the Cleveland >Press but they had never been able to break into the Cleve-
land Plain Dealer. And I became acquainted with Jewel Dean who "he real
estate editor of the news press and he told me one day that the execu-
tive editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and his wife were coming down
to vacationand would I be interested in meeting them. I said that I
sure would. So we arranged a couple of charter fishing trips with
them and they were just great people and it just happened on the first
day out that the king fish were running. So we got into a school of
kings and I guess that we were able to catch like 128 or 130 kings and
they were really impressed then. So, not only did we get into but on
his editorial page he did a personal one that was always a picture in
the paper itself. So we had two editorials in there. One of them
praising the new communities in Florida and talking about Cape Coral
and talking about the sport fishingout there too. So....
D--That's good. About when was that?
R--It would still be in the sixties. I can't remember the exact date.
Some time after that he retired and the Sunday editor named Bill Ware
took his place. Bill also came down and he and his wife retired and
bought a home in Cape Coral.
D--Were there any particular difficulties with setting up a news bureau?
R--WE11, of course some of the difficulties in trying to get favorable
publicity was that sometimes there was some unfavorable publicity that
you sort of had to try to overcome.
D--fhat do you mean?
R--Well, later on when Gulf American got into problems over the hard sell
and sales tactics and that sort of thing. They had methods that they
used in the beginning that I had no control over and that Cape Coral
would really get off the ground and I don't too many people were dis-
appointed when they bought and when they paid for their land. When we
moved there they were just under 3,000 people, I guess and you could buy
a riverfront lot then for eight or ten thousand dollars down on the south
end in the yacht club area. And I'm sure youcan't do that today.
D--I'm positive. How would the news bureau try to counter the bad publicity
that was going with something like that?,
R--Well, we got, I was not the public relations director of the whole company.
I had to work through other people, in ways that I couldn't. That pro-
blem would go up to those in the Miami office and Connie Mack and particul-
arly Bob Finkernagel. in Cape Coral. So, we simply had to do our best
to overcome it with good publicity. Although there was specific things
that we did do, were called on to do and then when the company did change
hands I put together a plan for public relations for the whole comapny through
Bob. On what good public realtions for that company should be.
D--That was when GAC took over?
R--Right. NOw after we got going eventually, we were on the third floor on
that fourth story building, the Gulf American building in Cape Coral.
And had about half of it or more. We had our own photo lab, for one
thing. And at one time had three photographers that served in the phote
technician lab. And two writers with newspaper experience, Sue Jones
who later became Sue Rowburn and Vince Smith who is now the golf editor
of the news press. And they had Eileen who was the publications editor,
mainly and put out the Cape Coral Sun. And we also had a publication editor
Jerry Scheme -who put out an internal publication called Impact.
But also did other things as well, and helped entertain visitors, all
these media people. And we had, we set up a mailing list to the com-
putere which was on the fourth floor above us for mailing list of all
the newspapers and publications in the country and we could break it
down according to areas, according to dailies, the publications and
the size of the publications. According to the types of editors we
wanted, like if we wanted all the religion editors on the weekly papers
in Ohio we could arrange it.
D--So when you came out with a news story that would fit those categories
you would punch them into the computer and it would pull out those
addresses and send that information just to those people.
R--That's right, If we wanted to sort of pinpoint or blanket a certain area
or certain type of editor. Another thing we did too, there was always,
there was a trend then anjd I suppose a lot of them are still doing it.
Of p.r. firms putting up flashy letterheads for news releases and it was
almost a joke. And if you've ever seen one of those a lot of them got
canned before they got opened. And so for newspapers, you just generally
then used newprint about letterhead size and used that for copy paper.
So, I came up with the idea that we do the same thing there so we bought
newsprint that size and typed it to make it look like it came right off
one of the reporter's desk, of she newspaper instead of being a flashy
production from the p.r. firm.
D-So, it would at least get read by the editor?
R--Yes. The editor would give it more attention and very often it went in
as is. Most of them would do inquiries and do another story, but many of
the smaller papers would put it in as is. Would set it up the same way.
So we did alot of things. But it was also our task to publicize a lot
of the events that we had. Like the Cape Coral Intercollegiate Golf
Championships every year. And we would invite twenty universities and
for a while forty universities and we would use the Golden Gate golf
course as well as Cape Coral from all over. And that got to be quite
an affair for sixteen or eighteen years. A lot of who became pros would
win the tournament. In fact, Steve Melnich holds the Cape Coral Country
Club record, it was a 64 that he shot in one of those tournaments. Bob
Murphy won it and Hubert Green, Andy North. The only time that it was
ever in the south, the NCAA tournament was held in Cape Coral.. And that
year the co-champions from the University of Texas, Ben Crenshaw...
And then we had intercollegiate tennis tournaments and some sanctioned
seniors tennis tournaments. When I first went there we had the Miss
Florida World contest, which is part of the Miss World thing. And
Larry King used to m.c. that. That would be in the late sixties. I went
there in '64 and it was going on then. It just started. And then at one
point we were picked for the sight of a movie. You may have already
heard about it. The Fat Spy.
D--Yeah, I heard it was one that everybody pretty much hoped wouldn't make it.
R--Phillis Diller, Jack'E.-Leonard, Ryan Dunlivy, and a group called "The Wild
Ones," Christopher Jordon, just before they came down here he married
Richard Burton's ex-wife. The one he divorced to marry Elizabeth Taylor...
So the London Daily-Express was there and they used our photo lab and
we got a lot of publicity out of it. I can't think of all who was there
now. We had a lot of fun with Phyllis Diller. They brought one of Henry
Ford's Model T's over and some other pictures and so on. Jayne Mansfield
was in it. I was at the airport one Sunday to meet Phillis Diller and she
came in from celebrating her son's wedding and was still celebrating when
she got there and gave me a big hug and a kiss and Bill Marler, my
photographer didn't get that picture and I said next time I"went out to
meet Jayne Mansfield, if you miss this welcome you're going to be looking
for a new job. So he got a picture of it, of my welcome. She shook my
hand instead of giving me a kiss, well, anyway. The movie was produced
and it was shown, but it kind of bombed.
D--Were you responsible for making up some of the different promotions or
were they already thought up and you were just responsible for making
sure that they got covered properly?
R--Well, it worked both ways. Bernice in Baltimore would dream up some
ideas and Bob Finkernagel did a lot of it. Then the P.R. firm office.
D--Was that Paul Venzi?
R--Paul Venzi in Baltimore, right. The P.R. firm, Woody Kepner & Associates
would come up with something and then later we dropped them and we wound
up with a couple of financial P.R. firms in New York.
D--So, in other words, Gulf American would hire a firm to do all their
R--Well, to do some of them. And most of it was in house. Most of it was
dreamed up in house and worked on in house. And they contacted a lot of
people in the Northeast and Bob contacted a lot then we came up with
some of our own ideas too.
D--Did you come up with any ideas?
R--Oh, heavens, Yes. But I can't think off hand of any spectacular ones.
I would come up with different ways to publicize events that we were
holding. And special interviews and with a lot of the visiting people
we would do a lot of interviews or a lot of photography for them.
Special photography for them. We'd wind up on the cover of several
magazines, Holiday Inn magazines. My own kids were models for the layout
in House & Garden magazine, So, we wound up in all sorts of them. Bob
worked in several deals, and Bernice, with various companies to do their
commercials, use Cape Coral as the sight of them for their commercials.
And there were some special things. I remember Hank Williams, Jr. was
there one time for special show. And then I had dinner with him at
the Country Club. This was before he got into the accident, and so on.
And then another time we did this special up at River Ranch with Buddy Greco
and it had a kind of Western motife. The Ranch was kind of set up that
way and the location for it.
D--Who were some of the other people you interviewed or did photography for?
R--Well, sometimes we got called on to do things that were hardly publicity
or wouldn't be today. For example, my wife and I were asked to go to
Miami and meet and bring back to Cape Coral and entertain for a week
the mother and sister of President Marcos of the Phillipines. So we
were taking them for a week. -And part of it to keep them from coming
to Port Charlotte because they had brought property up here. And then on
Sunday before the write-up they'd turn them over to the sales people,
they sold them over 100,000 dollars worth of property.
D--Was it Frank Odle?
R--Frank Odle, right. Frank and I think he won a trip to Europe in addition
to the commissions off of it. So we had quite a time. They brought a
body guard and we kind of joked about the bodyguard they brought with
them because he probably weighed about 90 Ibs. And then they found out
he was an expert on martial arts in the Far East. That he was running
around taking pictures too, all the time. We had an enjoyable time.
His mother was a master of education, was a teacher. And his sister had
seven children, as we did. And I had been to the Phillipines for nine
months. In fact I was telling them about being there and going alone into
an Moro village. And they just shuttered at that becuase the Moro's and
the Phillipinos never get along. And the Moro's were muslims and were
headhunters. So they were very aghast. But we had a good visit. And then
there was Will Rogers, Jr.
D--Back to the Marcos. Who suggested that you take them and entertain
them and stuff? Was that something that came down from Bob Finkernagel?
R--I think probably Bob and Connie, or both. They worked so closely together.
D--Your suggestions from one of the people you talked to?
R--Oh, I remember John Cameron Swazy was their once. In fact, the photographers
and I dreamed up a little trophy. for him an outboard motor with a
watch on it, because of his Times T.V. commercials. And then we had a
later on another Seminole Indian Chief was in my office.
D--Tell me again about Bill Bowlegs.
R--Well, this is not connected, of course with Cape Coral. It was when I
was with the Miami News.
D--Throw it in there anyway.
R--In fact, I was on vacation from the Miami News when the editor, called
me to do a special hurricane edition in a couple of weeks. I put
it together and one of the things that I did was interview Billy Bowlegs
and asked him about some of the old stories about how they detected
hurricanes by watching the sawgrass or whatever, he said, "That's just
white man's story. Nothing to it." And so I asked him what he did to
protect his tribe, when the big hurricane in 1926 hit. And so many people
in that area, mostly migrant workers were drowned. And he said he wasn't
even with them. he was in Belle Glade with some white friends.
D--Did he say anything from back in the time of the wars and stuff?
R--No, he didn't. Well, we got into some of that at first and this being
a hurricane edition, it was kind of focus on the storms and that sort of
D--You mentioned several people that were involved in the news bureau. You
mentioned Vince Smith was a writer, Elieen Bernard, who edited the
Cape Coral Sun, who else?
R--Sue Jones, Sue .Roper now.
D--She was a writer?
R--She had been in Key WEst Daily paper before that. And Vince had served
on papers that were in the Pittsburgh area and Philadelphia. And then
had been a golf writer, and was very good. And that helped him produce
what we wanted to produce. Because we wanted our articles to be in news-
paper style when they reached a newspaper desk. So Vince really helped.
D--Was there anybody else who worked in that office?
R--Jerry Shomp did. He did releases as well as the publications and he had
written about the John Birch Society and then became converted and did
a book that McIillan published.
D--Do you Imow the name of it?
R--Birchiism was my Business, was the name of it. Peggy Tanfield didn't stay
there much too lI-'*: after I left. She went out west.
D--What did she do?
R--She was pretty much a general p.r. person. Because in those days there
were not tool many people there to do a lot of people to do the work that needed
was done in the area of p.r. And there was customer relations and comm-
unity relations that were done. In the beginning there were hardly any
stores and no bridge and dirt roads. The company spent a great part of
the time trying to satisfy those that were there and would go out of their
way, considerably, in most cases to make them feel at home and make it work.
D--Peggy would help a lot with that?
D--Was there anybody else in your office? A professional photographer?
R--Well, I had three photographers. I forget the name of the one who was
there when I arrived. Bill Mahler. And he probably would have stayed
there except his wife wanted hin back in New Jersey. And he was very
good. He had come from Mercury Motors. And later had Edddle Farroll,
Dick Wylie and Bob South. Bob was the son of the Souths that were one of
the first businesses, they ran the industrial park. His dad was on the
first city council after we had the city and later died as a result of
of a motorcycle accident.
D--Wylie, how does he spell his name?
R--Wylie, and later he was on the police force.
D--I remember seeing that name somewhere.
R--And he was on the police force.
D--So, that is pretty much the news bureau and then Connie Hack and Bob Fin-
kernagel were above you?
R--In the table of organization that was baloney. One thing I was m.c.'ing
one time and Connie Was there I said, "Well, I'm just over Connie Mack."
Because his office was directly below mine. So he understood that as a
joke, I hope. Both of them got along very well.
D--Tell me a little bit about them.
R--We used to joke about them. McGillicutty and Finkernagel could be for the
law firm or a comedy team.
D--What did each of those men, what did Connie Mack contribute to.the organi-
R--Well, of course, other people can tell you better about what he did. In
one area, of course, he handled a lot of problems and people with problems.
And in some cases he would ask me to handle a few of them or to take over.
Most of those people were just legitimate questions and problems to be
solved. Connie was very good at smoothin things over, very diplomatic.
I would run across to the store where he was negotiating for the con-
pany and the Rosens for the Dolphins.
D--Tell me a little bit about that.
R--I don't know the real story on that.
But I know that he had it in his hand and decided not to go with it.
D--Tell me a little bit about Bob Finkernagel.
R--Well Bob is a real excellent manager and a very good p.r. person. Very
good at receiving ideas and seeing that they were carried out properly
and followed through. And one thing that I liked about him and after
I was there a while and they saw that I could do certain things and that
I was dependable they would both feel comfortable in turning certain
projects over to me and that they would be carried out. Or if they
were gone for two or three days I could make a decision which made me
feel good. That they trusted me.
D--So your job was more than just telling about the promotions, your job was
also to carry some of them out.
R--Yes. Of course Paul Sanborn did a lot of that. If you talk to him,
you'll find that out. He actually did the legwork & overseeing the events them-
selves. First of all the Yacht Club and then the Country Club. He was
really director of community relations, I guess they called him.
D--When you came to work for Gulf American was there any doubt that Cape
Coral would be a success?
R--Nobody ever thought about it not being a success. And it was like, espec-
ially this group that I was working with. It was like one big happy
family, you know. And we just had a great time. It was a very exciting
time, too. To be there and watch it happen, to be a part of it. And
watching it grow. Everytbhe you turned the corner you would see a new
building going up. A building you hadn't seen the day before.
D--You knew the Rosens?
R--Yes, a little bit. I'didn't know them like Bob or Connie did.
D--Tell me your impressions.
R--Well, I say it's a little difficult because I saw them mostly at a dis-
tance or at different functions or meetings or something at that time.
Jack would come up and just shake hands with me I guess because he knew
me when I was in Baltimore. Except for one or two functions where he
didn't come to Cape Coral. And I try to remember, one time they had a
banquet where their mother was there. And one of them could tell you
about the banquet (Mack or Finkernagel) and she said it was the first
time she had ever seen Cape Coral and toured it. She said she was just
flabbergasted because she couldn't imagine them building a city, T couldn't
even get them to clean up their room. But !-Lonard, of course, is the one
that I saw the most of. He held forth at Miami at the 79th street
office down there. He was over more frequently. But they did make an
effort to produce everything that they promised. And a lot of difficul-
ties were caused by the salesmen exaggerating certain things to make a
sale. But all in all it was quite an exciting project.
D--Generally, the people that worked for Gulf American had faith in what
the Rosens were doing?
R--Oh, yes. Not everybody was completely happy with everything they did all
the time, but they knew it was going to work. At least they did when I
was there. There may have been some there earlier that wondered.
D--Now you stayed with Gulf American until they were taken over by GAC.
R--After that. I was there during the change over and that's when they
started moving most of our operations to Miami and I just resigned.
D--Ihen did it become apparent or when did it start in the wind that the
Rosens were going to sell out to GAC?
R--Well, again, your best source would be Bob Finkernagel and I guess
Charlie Hepner, too. But there early o0i the difficulties with the
installments and sales corps. And then as those problems grew it became
apparent that there was oing to be change in order to try to get away from
some of those problems and start fresh. And that's how it happened, I guess,
when they came down from Allentovn. What used to be General Acceptance Cor-
poration became GAC. And it fit because we were the same initials. So
then they took over and they got into difficulties and of course they
were a great management team, but they knew nothing about the land sales
business, and development. But they had savings and loans and insurance
companies elsewhere. And, as I recall, they started selling those off
to try and keep the community development business going and finally
it all went.
D-From your experience, you mentioned that you suggested to them how to
promote stuff better?
R--I have a copy of a plan that I put together that suggested how to
approach public relations in general. It was specific and a general
outline of how to handle it. About ten pages.
D--How receptive were they to that?
R--Well, not too receptive because they brought in their own team and had
their own ideas about how to handle public relations and I don't think
they really wanted to hear from people who were already in place so much.
Because I think they wanted a new kind of image and they had some ideas
about how to accomplish that. It may or may not have worked, but I think
that was the feeling.
D--Did they begin to inleediately, once they took over, begin to fire peo-
ple or was it a gradual thing?
R--It was more of a gradual thing. Again, Bob could tell you about that.
D--In your position, did you still have quite a bit of influence?
R--Not as before. Well, in the news bureau, yes. But we weren't as impor-
tant in the scheme of things. In couple of areas as we were before.
But I had no interest in moving it all to Miami and taking all them.
D--1hen did you quit?
R--'71, I guess. Late '71 or early '72. It was the next year I got in-
volved in politics, again. Sometime in '70 I took a leave of absence
to run for the state senate. I needed to make it plain the fact that
we need single member districts because we were represented by senators
from another coast, Palm Beach County was in our district. And we were
outnumbering 11 to 3 by voter registration so I knew there was a chance
that I could win. Except I got all the endorsements of all the newspapers,
Miami Herald, and Palm Beach Sentinel and Channel 20 in this area. And I
carried this area, 70-80%. And then had a voice in the other two senate seats
in the general election, one a democrat and one a republican because of what
we did in Cape Coral and Lee County their vote won by some margin. And Phil
Lewis was the democrat and Tom Johnson was one of my opponents that he
supported. And he won. So, we faired pretty well and wound up getting
single member district.
D--What happened to some of the other people as GAC took over? Gulf American
people. Did you just kind of loose touch of where everywhere was at?
R--Well, of course, I lived in Cape Coral until the first of September.
Most of us stayed there, I'm aware of, but many of them are gone. Some
of those that we talked about.
D--In your news bureau did youever do anything with the other Gulf American
properties? In other words, were you involved in promoting them also?
R--Right. We had made a couple of trips out to Arizona and one was with
Bob Finkernagel, maybe two with him. And...
D--This was in the Gulf American days?
R--Right. Well, no, in fact, that was after because we used Hayward Wills
plane and had meetings with people in Tucson and Phoenix and UNogales to
explain to them what we were doing. And that was Rio Rico. Most of mine
was with Barefoot Bay on the other coast. It was a mobile home development
near Melbourne. And then of course Golden Gate and River Ranch and Remuda.
And we took a lot of people out fishing and hunting and skeet shooting.
Judy Borrows had a series of outdoor things on television, reruns are
going on now. And we had them at Remuda Ranch for fishing and skeet
shooting. And we had them at River Ranch for hunting. And then they
had 1XLn Wesson of Wesson Arips, used to be Smith and Wesson with them, who
came down and did some things. There were three or four magazines with
pictures and a new prototype of a gun he just developed. In fact, he sent
me a presentation case with one in it. Number 13, a .357 Magnum with
D--Some people have said that Gulf American never really intended for Golden
Gate and River Ranch and some of these other to ever be like Cape Coral.
To ever be with the housing subdivisions. They were just intended to be
D--You were telling me a little bit about Golden Gate.
R--You were asking about if there intentions were todevelop communities and
it was my understanding that it wasthe plan and in fact, River Ranch had
set up models of manufactured homes, not like regular mobile homes. And
starting to sell them about the time the real difficulties started. And
then they tossed the idea of Poinciana. I did quite a lengthy report
in several phases on Poinciana up near Kissimmel
D--Was that a housing subdivision also or was that mobile homes?
R--Oh, it was ; housing, it is with a golf course. It is functioning
now. Of course, there were problems of selling the land at Remuda Ranch.
Most of it was under water. They talk about Cape Coral being swampland.
D--Do you feel like Gulf properly represented the land? Do you feel like it
was the type of thing were people just were buying it and then just com-
R--Well, at Remuda I'm not sure it was presented in a sales presentation.
But one of the things that we talked about when people would come in and
we would take them down there and fishing down there in the 10,000 Islands. We'd
tell thet that what they bought really gave them a membership to the Remuda Ranch
inn. Two big inns.
D--Where were they located?
R--Out of Naples all the way to Miami, I forgot the distance now. It must
be twelve, fourteen, sixteen miles. It's right on the Tamiami Trail on
either side of it as you go to Miami, the south side.
D--It's that big hotel?
R--Spanish style with a huge lobby. Ray Meyer did all the interiors on that
and it has a beautiful big lobby. A huge lobby, two or three stories high.
You could walk right around it. And employee docked outside on the one
on the southside. A canal through the Ten thousand islands leading to the
Gulf. And in the lodge itself plus hotel rooms on the outside. Around a
swimming pool. And then inside it had a complete exercise room.
D--So, it was never meant to be built on?
R--They sold it in lots but it could never be Cape Coral or Golden Gate.
D--In other words, if anybody ever saw it they would never have any illusions?
R--About building on some of that property, no. They would never dream. But
they were assured that by buying a lot they would have a membership in the
D--Is that still operating today?
R--Well, it's changed hands, but somebody is operating it. It's a big hotel.
In fact, at one time, I think the Sheraton owned it. Maybe they still do.
Oh, and at River Ranch we had some, two or three, national trap and skeet
tournaments. In fact, at one time, they had Roy Rogers and Dale Evans
there. Sort of honorary chairmen of it. And in fact Bill Mayler and I
and someone else went out and at night. So we went to dinner, Roy Rogers
and I and Bill Mayler and I guess the manager. I didn't know it, but Roy
Rogers finished third one time in the Grand Nationals as a skeet shooter.
And he had something like 499 out of 500, so he missed like one. And the
gun he was using he had bought from Clark Gable. He said they were out
shooting one time and he started cussing this gun and said anyone
who wanted it could have it, so he bought it from him. That was
the one he was using and I know of one time they were shooting, I forget.
And one of the targets came up broken in two pieces and he shot both
pieces before they hit the ground and the photographer said, "I thought
you always did that with mirrors." lie really was a good marksman. I had
an enjoyable time with him.
D--Was that still in the Gulf American days?
R--Yes. ANd we entertained another time, we had some news writer people
coming down from Kissimmee. on a house boat. A writer from C -
Manatee Junior College, I guess. And I have one of his books here Golden Geyser
And then another writer and then Eddie Kantor won the Pulitzer Prize.
And we had a great time. We took them both on down to River Ranch. And
plus playing the guitar and singing every folk song of any nationality
that's ever been written. Some of his own inventions there. Same not
for family entertainment. Really had a good time with him. I don't lanow
if they profited much with that venture though. He, Kantor, wrote a lot
of other things, Best Years of OUr LIves is one of them. Academy Award
winning movie. But he died about ten years ago. Oh, this one tie he
had the National Circus Saints and sinners was there because Ollie Schmidt
who-was at that time Natonal Secretary moved there and thenhe became
national president and formed a chapter there called the Connie Mack Tent.
And they had one in Washington.
D--Where was this?
R--In Cape Coral. One in Washington and Miami and Las Vegas and Pittsburgh
and various other places.
D--What was this?
R--Well, it's really a fun organization that raises money for charity and
began years ago to raise money for destitute circus performers. That
sort of thing. And they always have a roast every year. They do it in
Washington and especially have a good time and in New York. So, we had,
and I became the Roastmaster for them. We roasted people like Guy Lombardo
and Bob Newman who was then a Yankee who went to the Kansas City Royals
and a Hall of Famer.
D--Was this in Cape Coral?
R--Cape Coral. Yes. And then Senator Ed Gurney, later Watergate. And in
fact I had him down for the Chamber of Commerce banquet speaker one time.
I introduced him there. Let's see. Who else? There were several other
celebrities for that and I can't recall who they all were now. They
were congressmen, like Skip Batalis. And then several others like Sherrif
Wanika and D'Allesandro, the state's attorney and a couple of the judges
and that sort of thing. In fact, I went down to the Rod & Gun Club to do
one along with Judge McGiver, D'Alesando and Wanika. Fundraiser. Anyway,
so they had a few of those. And published the national magazine which
was put together every month,
D--I have a whole list of people here, well, some of these you may not even
know or know anything about. You knew Charlie Hepner?
D--Tell me a little bit about him.
R--I don't really know anything about him, personally.
D--What was his division in the corporation?
R--Well, first he was like in charge of marketing and then later became
president and I guess, I think he was acting a president when GAC took
over. Connie can tell you more about that, or he can.
D--Did you ever know, some people have mentioned Milt Mendelson, early in
R--I only saw him once. They tell you all the stories about him, but one
particular one the original Surfside Restaurant caught fire and all they
went through that night trying to get it put out. They called the fire-
truck, the volunteer fire division. And it took a while to find them
and get them down there. And when they tried to hook up the hose to the
fire engine on the corner, the connections didn't match. And then when
they didn't get it hooked up, there was no water and they had to call
Bob Parmal&e who ran the water plant to try and get it turned on or some-
thing. Oil, in the meantime when they were tryingto find him, they ran
down to one of the canals and started taking water out of one of the
canals. There was no filter and it got clogged. They finally went around to the
Nautilus Motel and got water out of the swimming pool, to put out the fire. Mean-
while the place is burning down. Oil, Milt Mendelson told me that he got
one of the hoses and run putting it on his shoulder. And went running
from the door of the surfside restaurant and the hose ran out and he fell flat on
his back. So that's why Milt Mendelson made me think of the fire thing.
R--A lot of interesting things there.
D--Did you know Dick Crawford?
R--Oh, yes. He was one of the first people that I met when I got there.
I think was about the first one.
D--I understand he did a lot of, he started the Cape Coral Breeze.
R--Right. Community relations kinds of things f6r Bob. And I guess the old Surfside.
where they had the post office and everything else he had games and things
there and then started our little community newspaper called the Breeze.
And he was Mary Wiestein took me around to meet him that first day over
there at the Breeze. Hanging out talking about how he'd like to get rid
of it. lie finally wound up, I guess, selling it to a friend of Bob
Finkernagel's and Dick wound up running it after Bob left the company
and then they sold the newspaper t6 0 dn Newspapers in Welling, ,West'j :,
turned it into a daily. They were going twice a week and they made it
every day. But again, I can tell you more about that.
D--Did you ever know Tom Weber?
D--Tell me about him. Do you happen to know where he's at?
R--Well, last I heard was just very recently,I think Connie was telling me,
or was I telling Connie? I guess Connie was telling me that he stopped
by a few months ago and said that Leonard had talked him into coming
to Tennessee on a condo. project he was involved in. And was in trouble. Tom said
he was about to lose his tail on it and I guess he did. Anyway, Tom was helping him
which was supposed to be for a matter of days, and it wound up months or
something like that. He was a fine and grand person, Tom was. He was a
professional at what he did.
D--You think Connie would know where to get in touch with him?
R--OI, Connie might because it hasn't been too long since Connie has talked
to him. He said he hadn't seen him for a long time.
D--That's the first lead on finding where he's at. Nobody seems to know.
R--He could tell,you a lot of things because he had so much to do with the land
preparations and the big tree monster that they brought in.
R--OH, we did a few stories, although today it would drivethe ecologist crazy. Oh,
it was a giant massive machine with a huge, real heavy, wh'eei six or eight
feet in diameter and I don't know how wide. And you run it through a
forest and it would just knock the trees down and chop them up. And it
had two big wheels in the back because of the size of it, but it was
immense. And the one time it led from one place to the other. It
was trying to keep line and he came to the driver of it, came to a big
pool and they had to go around it and in doing so he lost his bearings
and wound up with that great big tree monster getting lost. in Goldenbate Estates
And you know, you could see from the air for miles and miles away. But he man-
aged to lose himself in it.
R--It looked like he was trying to cut himself through to the Fakahatchee
strand where the ranch was.
D--Was Gulf constantly purchasing more land all the time?
R--Well, a lot of the time I was there, in fact, when they owned the two
mile strip or whatever it is next to Bonita Beach, it extended south of
Bonita Beach. Or do they call that Barefoot Beach?
D--In my mind, I think that's what that was called.
R--I don't know what they call that now, maybe something else. And that
development called Barefoot I3ay or something like that. I don't know.
D--i'as there a sense that Gulf was ever going to be finished with these
things or was there kind of the idea that "Well, if we sell all lots in
Cape Coral, we'll just add more land."
R--Oh, I just assumed that I'd be working for them the rest of my life. I
never thought about anything else. I didn't think it would be only eight
years. I thought they would just keep on going.
D--Any other stories or anything you know about from Gulf American, the
R--I really can't think of any right now. Talk about Tomd Weber and I recalled
D--Did you know Gwen McGinn*?
R--Sure. She worked there for them. She was also a doll collector. She had
a tremendous collection of dolls. We did little stories on that at times.
D--So, you would look for any kinds of stories that you could?
R--Yes, get the nune out in the paper.
D--I've got one question that I wanted to ask you. I heard that the Rosens
were philanthropists and in some ways they donated to quite a few charities
and stuff like that. Did you know of any?
R--Yes. But you know it was a shame because I can't recall any of those.
I'm sure Bob Finkernagel and Connie could tell you more about that because
they handled a lot of that kind of thing, I think. And they did quite a
bit. In fact, I remember, we used to have two planes that we could use.
Joe Gibson was a pilot. And very often they used him to fly to Golden
Gate of River Ranch or something, it would save time. And Connie would
use Bob to fly to Miani. But they hada girl there who had leukemia and
she had to go to Miami for transfusions and all because you couldn't do
that in Lee County at the time and I made the plane available to her like
every two weeks. So whatever day she needed)it we had to work around it
and so did Connie and so did Bob. That was her plane for those days.
So the business would take a back seat as far as the plane was concerned.
D--I understand that the Rosens were art collectors, too.
R--Oh, yes. In fact, that's one of things our gallery in the building on
79th Street in Miami. And that's why we had the Marcos over there to
show them the gallery. In fact, we had a little reception for them over
in the art gallery. And then brought them over on the plane to Cape Coral.
And we got pretty good mileage, publicity from that.
D--Do you think that, this may be conjecture, do you think that the Rosens
were more interested in art or more interested in waht they could get
R--I don't know. Charlie IHepner could tell you more about that. It was
quite a collection.
D--Oh, one other question. Was there any sense of us and them, particularly
with the Rosens being Jewish, and so many of the people in the organization
being Jewish. Was there ever a sense of us and them.
R--No. I mean, you know, I'm sure they would make jokes aboutah Irishman like me,
but we never felt it to be a racial thing or anything like them kind thing at all.
It was all one big happy family. We were all working towards the same
thing and trying to do the same thing. At least, that was my feelings.
There may have been others for some reason. I wasn't worried about
D-Just basically the Gulf American employees, people like you were really
building something great.
R--Oh, yes. And they may not have had that in mind when they started but
when I got there that was the feeling.
D--Maybe one last question. I talked to Ed Pacelli and he was telling me how
the very first year or second year, I asked him why there were almost no
black families in Cape Coral. And he said, "Well, originally there was
caucasian only clause on their sales contract." Was there a good effort
to keep it pretty much a white coianunity or did you know anything about
R--I don't think there was any concern there and I didn't know about any
restrictions on that at the time. I don know, and I was telling my wife
the other day, about the salesmen telling them about it. They got a
black family to come in on the highway and they would take them to lunch
with their family and they would come in and take a tour. Or if they
bought property up north and came down to look at it there were jokes.
They would drive them way out to Burnt Stone road & take them down to one
of those lanes and take them out there and start showing them the property
and tell them to be careful for the snakes out there, a few alligators,
and that kind of thing. But I'm not even sure that those are not, apocry-
phal sftAs. In fact, I know a couple of them very well.
D--Where was that welcome center at?
R--There was one in north Ft. Myers. I knew exactly where it was. Near Pine
Island Rcad and 41. And it seemed like their was one on South 41. Yes. Oh
Tom, at Ft. Myers Beach, was in charge of that program for a long time.
D--And he did what now?
R--Ie was sort of in charge of that VIT program for a long time. It was
handled in the Cape Coral area.
D--What did VIT stand for?
R--Very Important Tourist. Joe Miller was involved and may have been the
one to draw up the plan and I think Ray Meyer was involved in that or
the flight program when it started off. Ray could tell you more about
that. The little things. I had very little to do with sales. And I
guess he could tell you more about Cape Coral Gardens.
D--I'm setting up an interview with Gunther -Przystawik.
R--There were like seven different things there.
D--Who was the director of that? Was there a director for that?
R--Once it got started the person who ran it all was Rosen who was
not related to the Rosen brothers. Mary Lou was her name. Oh, Mary Lou (Kentrick)
worked in there too with him. Very closely. She could tell you all
about the gardens.
D--lho's .iary Lou?
R--You had her naie on the list. And it suddenly had like all the features
and something and they had the Garden of Patriots and what did they call
the hall? The Garden of Patriots had busts of all the Kennedys. and Mt.
Rushmore. And then it had the Iwo JIma. I can think of the guy, the
survivor of that, who was here, Rene GagRoD and he died about a year
aoe and I went down there for the dedication. And Secretary John Volpe from
Massachusetts, the Secretary of Transportation came down and did a dedica-
tion. And then of course, we had the porpoise show out there and then
the rose gardens and then the rain forest. YOu would walk, through there
and it would mist and plants were hanging and all kinds of stuff. Various
animals and birds. It was a two and a half acre lake that the waltzing
waters sat in and it was beautiful. We had Bob Hope there to dedicate
the AMVETS Carillon. The national organization. And the Rosens
came over for that one. And the porpoise show. I was there when they
brought the first porpoises in. Someone in Ft. Walton Beach trained them.
Brought them in on the D.C.3. Had them tranquilized, very interesting.
D--Do you know of anyone else that might have, seems like there was just
a lot of pictures and documents, pictures particularly. Any idea of who
might have a lot of pictures.
F--I used to. And of course we had lots of them in the news bureau, and I
guess they all went to Miami, but I had them and I tossed most of them
away in moving. They were 26 years until September. And just got rid of
them all. I was going through the files to see if I could find anything
but there was really nothing much. Some of these other people might tell
you and you might ask for pictures of their own.
D--That's oneof things that I'd like to include and that's pictures. Because
it staggers people's imagination to see how big the place was.
R--And there was just such good art on so many things because we had our own
lab going all the time and telling them to produce it all in black.and white.
And so I don't know. They must all be in Miami, a company file. But some of
these other people might be of help.
D--Just out of curiosity, and you are not under any obligation to say, what
does a news bureau chief make back in 1964?
R--Let me think. I'd say between twelve and fiteen thousand dollars. And there
were a couple ment who worked there for less than ten. And bear in mind, I had
been chief copy editor of Miami News. I also moved my family out of Miami.
And, well in fact, the county commissioner in '72 we were paid $11,000.
D--I remember those days. We didn't get very much. One question that I forgot
completely about and I want some input on. What do you think was the
relationship between Gulf American and the County Commission during the
time they operated. Was it kind of a love affair, a love/hate?
R--They got along pretty well. Mack Jones,who recently died, was the County
Commissioner, I guess just before I got there in the early days of it.
L. 1 27
He worked closely with them. Then it was Bruce Scott. And Bruce, of
course, was a developer himself at Pine Island and Matlacha. And I'd
say they worked pretty closely.
D--So, basically the commission basically supported whatever they wanted to
R--No,.I'm sure there is all kinds of things that I'll think of after you
D--Well good. Thanks a lot for the interview.
R--Okay. You are welcome.