Interview with Millard Bowen, 1987-12-14

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Interview with Millard Bowen, 1987-12-14
Bowen, Millard ( Interviewee )
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Subjects / Keywords:
Lee County Oral History Collection ( local )
Spatial Coverage:
Lee County (Fla.) -- History.


This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.

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Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
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This interview is part of the 'Lee County' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
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D-This is an interview with Millard Bowen. It is December 14, 1987. The

interview is in his house on Cobalt Court in Cape Coral, Florida. The

interviewer is David Dodrill, and....

To kind of get started, Millard, tell me a little bit about your background.

Before yo ever came to Cape Coral.

M--You might want to turn this off.

D-- Oh, no. Go ahead.

M--I'm a retired army colonel, 30 years in the regular army. And I retired

in the fall of '65. My wife, Carolyn, and I had made up our minds early

in the 60's, well earlier than that, in the 50's, that if I survived

everything and actually reached retirement age we would retire in Florida.

Because of her early living in Florida, eventhough she was a native of

Washington D.C. and Maryland. Where I'm from. In fact, I was born in

Calvert County, southern Maryland. In Calvert County they call it Culvert.

But everybody else calls it Calvert. It was named after Lord Calvert,

who settled there and established it. It's the first county organized in

the state of Maryland, and understood to be one of the earliest in the

country. So, little, occasionally in my speaking I will come up with a

broad "a" which is spoken by a lot of people from that area. And many

people mistake me as being from Canada or someplace like that. Anyway

I retired from the army on the first of October, 1965. I went through the

whole career. I went through the post-graduate system. I'm a graduate

of the army war college and everything else lower than that. I have com-

mand all the way from the platoon level all the way up to regimental

level. To and including regimental level. Staff jobs at all levels, including

the dept. of defense at the pentagon. Commands overseas. I'm a member of

the 29th division that landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day, the Blue and the

Grey. I'm still a member of the association. I was a major commanding

one of the batallions of that division. And today I'm the only living

one of the original nine batallion commanders that were involved in that


operation. There were many others that came later, but of the original

nine, I'm the only one that is remaining. And I think it's because they

couldn't find a way to get rid of me. I am very happy to be here. We

settled on this in 1962 up in Maryland, when we read some advertising and

decided to look into it. And we did. We didn't want to go on the east

coast. It's too commercialized. We wanted to be in the residential area.

We were kind of thrilled to be part of the new community starting.

Particularly with waterways because we both did a lot of boating in the

Chesapeak Bay. Every morning this lady goes by, walking the dog with a

can of pop juice. We decided to look into it and we did. We were im-

pressed, and of course we made arrangements to come down here. We came

down on one of the tours, but we drove down because I took 30 days leave

in '62 and we just spent the 30 days touring the state of Florida. We

had been here the year before, but we had never gone south of St. Peters-

burg. And we decided to take a good look at it. WE spent several days

here, including the three they gave us and we added two or three more to

it. We got a good look at this area and then we went down to Key West and

headed on back.

D--What other developments did you look at?

M-Well, we were familiar with Lehigh Acres through my sister. She and her
We didn't like that.
husband had bought some land there. And we took a look at that./ We looked

at some of the small type divisions that were being developed and they

were very small at that time. They were scattered around here in the

county. Naples, of course, was labeled as millionaires area. At that

time 41 and Naples. Anything west of 41 was the millionaires area, any-

thing east of it was the blue class area, salary people, that was not

salary. Now they have a middle class. We came down and we looked at it

and we decided to buy some land. At that time they were pushing develop


ment east of where the churches now are on Del Grado. So we bought a cou-

ple of lots there. And after we thought about it, in '63, we came down

again and from then on we were down about every 3, 4, or 5 months. One

or both of us were down here, doing things. We came in and told them that

we didn't like to be in that area. We wanted to change into another area

farther south. Well, they said if you go farther south you are going to

have to build right away. I said, "I'll decide when we are going to

build, not you." And we went around and we looked at various areas.

They wanted to sell us on the river. I told them we lived on the river

in Cheasapak Bay and no way was I going to buy lots on a major waterway

where they were having erosion problems. So they a nice section that we

were interested in but because it was on the river we said that we wanted

to be at least one waterway back. So we looked all through the area and

they had nearly four lots right here. We like this because we would have

our rear of the house to the east with the sun setting in the west. And

this would give us some area to be in the shade in the late afternoon and

the evenings. Let the front of the house face west. So we built around

here with enough room so the youngsters thought they wanted tennis courts

on the side, but we banned that idea. They wanted a swimming pool in the

back, but they banned that because we told them they were going to have

to take care of it. And we joined the country club and we became members

up there. They used to have these really nice family memberships that'

they don't now. They try to make it a resort now. It went on from there.

Well, when I retired, I didn't want to work. We didn't want to join a lot

of social clubs. We had been involved in them during my career. One assignment

was the military attache to the government of Pakistan and we got in on all the

diplomatic levels, national and international level. We had dinner with

the governor general, the president,the Shah of Iran, all these kinds of things
in the


east. What they call the Middle East. Well, I won't go into all the de-

tails of that type of stuff. But that gave us the background an. I

talked to Carolyn and she agreed that I would devote my time into commun-

ity action. We joined a church here and she was a singer in the choir.

She'd been with them ever since. Faith Presbyterian Church has a very

fine choir and she got into the bell ringers and became part of that.

I joined the civic association and became active in it. There was hard-

ly any time at all before they nominated me for president. I took it

and I was president or immediate past president for four consecutive years.

D--What years were those?

M-'68 through '72. But I was member before and a member after '72. It

was during those years that the information being disseminated through

the actions of the county council that they people of the community were

realizing that the county commission was going to do as little as possible

for Cape Coral, because they had a developer over there and they thought

that the developer should take care of everything. EVen though the

roads that Gulf American had put in according to county specifications

and wer taken over by the county for maintenance, they wouldn't maintain

them. And this got the people of the ocnmunity very worked up and angry

and many other things. They slapped taxes on us much higher than other

areas, mainly because of the waterway. And things like that. And the

irritation kept going on becuase our governing body was the county comms-

ssion. And during this period of time starting '68, I made it a point as

president, to start visiting the commission meetings every WEdnesday. When

they opened the doors Millard Bowen was right there going in. So, I point

to know all five of them and take with them. And I became particularly

close, as far as I knew a citizen could be, to Julian Hudson who was the

chairman of the commission. And he was very -c:zh interested in the growth


of Cape Coral. But being a politician along with all the others, they

had theri political careers to consider first. They always said that

Gulf American would take care of it. As the president I arranged with

Julian Hudson that we would have a group of members of the board of direc-

tors at every meeting of the county commission. That there would be one

or more representatives of the Cape Coral Civic Association at every one

of their meetings, including special meetings. Thefirst meeting they

held which we adopted this technique I took one-half of the other board of

directors with me. We went in early and we purposely, I had made

arrangements with Julian Hudson & we introduced them to every one of

the five members, including the secretary, who later became the admin-

istrator of the county commission.

D-Who was that?

M-A lady. Lavon Wisher She was the secretary. So they got to know

them. And the next meeting, I took the second half over. And I in-

formed all of them that the Cape Coral Civic Association was going to

be represented at everyone of the commission meeting because, "you are

our governing bodiy and we want to know what's going on. We wanted to

know how it would affect us." And if our rights as a citizen in an

unincorporated community were going to be observed. And they seemed

to be interested. But again, they were politicians. And it worked

very well, I promised them that there would always be at least one or

two, probably two or three or four members of this board at every one

of their meetings. And, as a result, we found issue coming up that con-

cerned the Cape like, licenses to be issued for garbage and trash collec-

tion. Various other things of that type. They definitely affected

Cape Coral. And of course, Gulf AMerican wasn't going to do much in

that respect because they didn't want to get into it and have the county

pin them back and make them responsible. So when the price of garbage

collection was established, they let a franchise with this man that


owned and operated. And again, I'm fishing for the name. But, he

later sold half of his operation to a man that now owns the garbage col-

lection in the Cape. ANd when it came time to consider establishing new fees

for it, we made a visit to Julian"Hudson. &. told him we were definitely

interested and we wanted to speak to this thing. And the garbage an'd

trash people at that time, some of them franchised and some of them were

individual contracts, where they were permitted by the county'to go'into

an area and go down to the people and get contracts from people and pick

up garbage. The public thing, which the franchised operations were,

they operated as a public function, just like the city of Ft. Myers at that

time. And now. So they agreed. So, when they had the franchise opera-

tion come up, for consideration for the one here, the two owners wanted

to speak to us, and a little short man which was the original owner,

senior partner with the fellow who now owns it. We had him to speak to

us. And I, as president of the civic association, I injected the civic

association right in the middle of it. ANd of course, the owners were

delighted. We worked out a system with them, where by there would prac-

tically no limit to the amount of stuff people could put out. Because
they had all theseAto trim, all this shrubbery to trim, all the grass,

and we sold the company on it and told them we would go to the county

commission and present it on the behalf of the community. Because the

association was behind it one hundred per cent. Anything that I or any-

body else represented the association in was approved by the board of

directors of the membership. And under the constitution bylaws, certain

things the board of directors acted on behalf of the memberhsip. But

many of the things had to be referred to the membership. But it operated

very well. Well, we got there and we made this presentation and the

jist of it was that it was finally decided that this would be the case.

People could put out their trash in garbage containers. If they had a lot


of shrubbery if they piled them loose, they wouldn't pick them up,because

they had immense piles. If you ever drove up and down MacGregor, you

would see immense piles of palm fronds. The regular trash people would not

pick them up and they would have special pick ups. Well, this was then

and is now a much larger area. You could imagine now what it would be

like. So it was agreed that the people would cut their palm fronds

and condense them to four feet or so and tie them up in bundles. They

could put as many bundles out there as they wanted to as long as they

were tied up. They wouldn't have the economical problem of waiting time

in pickingup trash. To those people that is very crucial. This was fin-

ally established and the company was all for it and the county commission

said they would give us we want, so they did. We also had a provision in

their about new families moving in. They would come in and they would

have a lot of boxes and a lot of paper, packing. They would have a

problem getting rid of it. So it was agreed also that when people moved

in for the first couple of weeks after they moved in the trash people

would pick up stuff that they put out there.

D--So, they civic assocaition was basically looking out for the interest of

Cape Coral before it became a city, before they had representation.

M--This was exactly the attitude. We developed the idea that we would be the

watchdog for the community and the community's relationship with the

county commission and with Gulf America. There wasn't anybody else around.

No one. Because it was unincorporated. And we ahd very high membership

OUr meeting were scheduled regularly. The programs were planned in advance.

And there were things that wer of interest to the community. Involving

our present way of living and the future.

D-How often would there be meetings?

M-Once a month at the yacht club.

D--And how many people would attend?


M--Oh. We packed it. We'd have 5 or 600. In fact, it got so the volun-

teerfire department got so they said, 'Look ya'll are going to have to

curtail this. You're going to have to restrict it. There are too many

people." We hd a membership of over 2000 and growing. It started small

and as we really became interested it grew. And these were all foreign-

ers. They were all from the north. At that time there was nobody here

that had been born here. Though very shortly one of the families in our

church had the first child that was born here. The Bakers. He used to

be in real estate but he died and his wife subsequently remarried and she

married Costa, who was here involved in some business in Cape Coral. One

day he started with an acitve police department. He joined the police

department. He had some prior background. he's still with them.

D--Let me ask you a question about the civic association. There was obvious-

ly records kept, minutes of the meeting and stuff like that. Do you have

any idea where they are?

M-I have no idea where they are. None whatsoever. When I left the civic

association because I was involved in other activities, I got active in

the chamber and was a director there for several years and a member for

many more years. The office of the civic association is in the chamber

office which is just a small place back off of Cape Coral Parkway.

And what files were there at the time, when that broke files were taken

into custody by various people and then they were.... I don't know what

happened to them after that. They just, I guess the present officers

have some files. They were supposedly passed along.

D-So the Civic Association didn't do any business?

M-Yes. It's definitely business. It's very accurate.

D-Who is the president now?

M--It's a lady, and I can't tell you her name right now. But that would be

easy to ascertain. The chamber could tell you without any trouble at all.


Where do I go from here?

D--Well, how about...?

M--Well, wait a minute something just popped into my mind. Gulf American

put out a map that showed areas along listed as parks and churches, things

of that type, recreational fields and stuff like this. We were interested

in that so we started following that up. Now all this time nothing in our

mind though about the incorporation. Everybody was happy with the situa-

tion. '68, '69. So, we started checking on it and we found it that in

the plats that Gulf American had submitted to the county commissioners

for approval of their designations of the various type zones they even

have for the Community. But they hadn't always dedicated this property

to the county commission for public purposes. They kept it under their

control. We were curious about this because we weren't getting anything

here. In parks and public areas.

D--I noticed that there is not very many things.

M--Well, actually it's more than you think now. The county was doing nothing

here at all, because it was that attitude again that it was a developer.

Let them do it. So we talked with various people. Of course, Connie Mack

was there as a go between and I was generally the one that went up there.

But sometimes I'd take someone else with me. So he and I developed a real

get along attitude simply because we both were after the same thing even-

though he was working for Gulf American. He really wanted to see this

place develop and see the people happy here. He was very conscientious.

And he fought for our interest many times. They would give him some very

definite instructions on how to operate and like this, but he still was

very interested in the people here. And incidently, many of these people

were acquainted with the Mack family from the baseball area. So, we were

able to...Our chamber of commerce was getting organized. There was one

man in it by the name Chester Grunsten, who isn't here anymore.


He became active in the chamber. And he finally became the representa-

tive of the chamber on thiscommunity relations business. And even after

I left the presidency of the civic assocaition I was a representative for

many years until I ceased my activities in that and moved into something

else. And we worked together at many things and one of those things

that cam up was how can we get more land for Gulf American and the county

to develop for parks and recreation areas? The only hing we had at that

time was Four Freedom's Park. And this was part of the promotional

exercise of Gulf American. They fixed the ampitheatre there and you could

sit under it. Long before we incorporated, it was starting to run down

and pullin g away from this tourist business. The thing we wanted to do

was get a park some place where we could have some baseball or soccer

and football. And finally we prevailed upon Gulf AMerican through Connie

Mack & with occasional visits to Miami. We had 'them come over here.

To have a piece of land dedicated for that purpose. And that's the

land up there on Country Club Blvd up by the church. And it's the name of
this boy Verdo that was killed here by this guy that raped him and

killed him. That was subsequently named for him. AT that time it had

another name which I don't recall but it's in the records. And that

was the land that was given for that purpose. So then a lot of work

had to be done on it. Well, we had to get a lot of volunteer labor.

Gulf American finally volunteered some tractors to come in and level

it and get it smooth and all. We were able to work with the chamber and

with Gulf American to get some clay brought in here for the infield of

the baseball diamond. At the same time we wanted a soccer field because

you could play football on it. But a soccer field is larger. And we

needed grass. Connie Mack, Jr. came on the scene, no Connie Mack, III

came on the science. He was then with Cape Coral Bank. And I worked

with him and through his efforts somebody involved in the family we


were able to get sod for the entire field at no cost to us. Except the

labor, the cost for the labor at the far end in the sod farms where they

would dig up the sod and load it on the trucks. We provided the people to

unload it and lay it. And that's how we got sod for that place.

D--Now, when was this?

M--It was in the late sxties, early seventies. WE then were able to get the

county to come in & put some money into it. We were able to build our

first rest facilities building in the county. They coudln't very well

back off of it because they were doing so much in the other communities

in Lee. Bonita Springs, Lehigh, East Ft. Myers. Everything in the

country, but they weren't doing a darn thing here.

D--The county just felt like that since Gulf America was developing it they

didn't have really any responsibility out here.

M-Well, they tried to shrug the responsibility. Eventually they got caught

up in it. The end result, we had The Breeze come along, and there is a

man you want to talk to, the first editor of the Breeze.

D--Are you talkingabout Richard Crawford?

M--No. What was that last name?


M--Oh, yeah. Dick Crawford. He's a retired lieutenant. He could give you

some background. The Breeze files have a lot of stuff once you go back

far enough. I think they've kept it because they run this column every

so often. In fact, they used to have it every day. "Five years ago, ten

years ago, fifteen years ago, twenty years ago." Somebody there would

select something and put it in the paper. He could give you some back-

ground of some of the things that transpired in the community. And his

opposition to many of the things that happened with Gulf American. I say

his becuase he was representative of the Breeze. In fact, he owned it.

He was the one that got it started. And then eventually, Bob Finkernagel

got into the act. And then he became the sole representative. And finally,


they sold it to the corporation. Fred Cull became the publisher of it,

and he stayed with them until just a few months ago. He left them.

Have you met Fred Cull?

D-Yes. I spoke with him last spring. In fact, I just saw him Friday.

M--He and I worked together on many projects.

D--He's a really nice guy.

M--Yes. He is. lie was and is. He's a very community minded person.

D-Tell me a little bit. Were you around when they were talking about the

Cape Coral bridge and all that fight about the bridge, whether to have the

bridge or not.

M--Before we get into that, as I said something to you a moment ago, some-

thing else popped into my mind. We worked an arrangement with Gulf

American. I say we, I mean the civic assocaition, primarily as the

leader, backed up by the chamber of commerce, becoming active then. To

do something about establishing more recreational areas ans parks in Cape

Coral, and again Connie Mack, Jr. was instrumental in this, guiding us

along the right lines and working with us and dealing us. And we

started a publicity campaign here because Gulf American wasn't giving us

any land available. Eventhough maps were showing it, they weren't making

it available. And of course they didn't give the land to churches and all,

they had to buy the land. I don't know whether the first church was

given any of their property of not. However, they did give them re-

duced prices when they did that. They did give them breaks. We finally

worked out an arrangement whereby Gulf American would dedicate those areas

for a lot of the recreation areas we have now and the parks we have now.

They turned it over to the county, including the one up here on the

Hancock Bridge Parkway. Right at the city line, where the sewer plant

and all that is.


D-They call it Hancock Park?

M-Yes. That's right. Including that one. So finally that was arranged,

but we had to pressure it and we had to use newspaper publicity to do it.

And of course the Breeze was real up on it. And I must admit that the

Ft. Myers newspaper at that time was very reluctant to get into anything

like that. Because people frowned. EVerybody around here frowned on

Cape Coral. The opposition was tremendous. You would find it in busi-

ness. Some of the clerks were very....I'm not exaggerating. This is the

truth because it happened to me. Some of the clerks would be obnoxious

to you when you would give the address as Cape Coral. In fact, I had

one tell me, when she had my address for the delivery of this merchan-

dise, she said, "I don't know why you people came down here to Cape

Coral. We had a nice area before you built this place. You should've

stayed up there where you belonged." I said, "Madam," &this was an

elderly lady, I'm here because I want to be here and becuase it's

a nice area and I think that I can help to make it better. But for your

information, I happened to be personally acquainted with the boss of this

business." And her attitude changed just like that. Just like

that. And I'm not exaggerating. It's the truth. It's still in business

today. And she was so scared that I was going to go back and say some-

thing to him. I didn't do it. But that's all I needed. But you could

find that opposition in certain things here now. Particularly this


D--The midpoint Bridge?

M-That's right. Or any other bridge. The action that had to be taken by

this community and the present city councils that have been involved with

it for the last several years, built up so much pressure that they had to

go with the paralled bridge. They had to go to it. Now this doesn't

solve the problem. They're going to have a lot more problems. Back


when the civic assocaition was very active and then a lull came and then

they became active subsequently. We made a study because we were interes-

ted in the problems of getting around here. Of course, as you know, I'm

rambling but I have to because I'm not prepared for this. I'm rambling.

As you know, we wouldn't of had that bridge as early as we did or may not

have had it at all, if the present attitude existed. If it weren't for

Gulf American. Gulf AMerican was solely responsible and Leonard Rosen

in particular, because he was Gulf American, enve though Jack was the

president and ran a lot of other administrative things. Leonard was the

real go getter. Both of them were visionary. But I think that Leonard

saw more of the dream than Jack did. That's my personal opinion. And

he saw that a bridge was going to be needed there. And he seemed to

be able to realize that as Lee County was developed upward. Ft. Myers was

a little community. I don't have any ill feelings toward Ft. Myers or

the people there at all. But you have to be reasonable and logical

about htis ting. And you could see that Ft. Myers is rapidly being rel-

egated to a county seat. Like we have in state north of here. Like

Georgia and all the wasy up the east coast. It's being relegated that

way. Businesses are doing it themselves. They've pulled out. Banks

have kept the main banks there but they've set branches all over Cape Coral. All

over south Lee County. And Ft. Myers has a.lot of problems that they "don't deal

with themselves, that they don't recognize. And they just haven't been

able to cope with being relegated to a second grade community as com-

pared o the others. And tha'ts what's happening. Well, the people are

deciding that, not the governments. The people are deciding that. By

their going south. And they can't settle anymore in Ft. 7Myers. They

have been able to or are unwilling to put sewer and water and paved

"streets in a lot of sections of Ft. Myers, Which is a matter of record. So, how

can they expand? They can't take care of what they have there. Now, Cape


Coral was different. It was a brand new community. Started by a devel-

oper working under the county commission. The county commission was a

governing body responsible for keeping an eye on the developer. And in

those years, in the Florida counties a big developer would come in and

the county commissioners in general would just give them a rubber stamp

on whatever they wanted to do. That's a matter of record.
D--Would they just go wild because the sense was that the more development,

the more tax money we'll have.

M--And the less money that the county would have to put into it as long as

the developer would do it. That was the reason here in Cape Coral they

would say, let the developer do it. And they'd say go talk to the devel-

oper about potholes in streets and stuff like that. Well, I got off the

track there.

D--Leonard Rosen wanted the bridge.

M--Oh, yes. He visualized the need for it. One thing he regretted later

was that he didn't have them build a larger bridge.

D--Had he said that to you?

M--Oh, yes. He said that. This was several years later. But he got that

in and he and his attornies worked with the bonding to make the funds

available for the bridge. But in order to guarantee it, he took $100,000

in cash out of the Gulf AMerican funds and depostied it into an escrow

account which the county commissioners could not touch. They wanted to

get their hands on that money so bad that it wasn't funny. And he was
here again he protected Cape Coral,
shrewd enough to realizethat they would have to have provisions in this

bonding agreement that would prevent the commissioners from getting their

hands on the money. They would supervise it but they couldn't use any of

it except for purposes specified in the bonding agreement. And that indi-

cated for the care of the bridge and to develop the necessary funds to

pay off the bond. That bond issue was paid off long before it was sup-

posed to. Becuase when that happened it became the sole property of the

15 16

county. From then had we had problmes. Well, we had the funds in the

account that would take care of the maintence of the bridge. All that.

Because when the bond issue was wiped out and the agreement no longer

had a hold, we began having problems. Including the approach to it. So

that's how that developed. It was, again, the imagination and the dream

of Leonard Rosen in particular. But the Rosen brothers were responsible

for that bridge. And many people have said with the attitude that it

existed for many years and the county commission would have had a

bridge today. I'm sure that we would've had one, but I'm sure we would've

had toll on it all the time. It never would.have been lifted. Like over

to Sanibel. It's going to go back on eventually, unfortunately. But

the need for a paralled bridge developed many years ago. Well, in

the civic association we made a study of the road problems here. And the

first few years if you wanted to shop anywhere other than a could small

stores here on the Cape, you had to go all the way into Ft. Myers. All

the way back down around the Edison Bridge. Boy, you had a day trip.

That's what it meant. But we also had the mail boat that would come in

here. Now, I'm getting off the track a little bit. But it's tied in

indirectly. And that mail boat would come out of Ft. Myers in the morn-

ing. Stop here at the pier of the yacht club, and somebody from the local
post office would pick up the mail. And people could buy a ticket and

ride over to Sanibel by boat. At that time, it was no bridge or cause-

way. It was ferry. They'd ride on that boat over there and spend a cou-

ple of hours there and come back in the afternoon and get off here or

your ticket could take you on into Ft. Myers. But it was amazing how

few people used it. Really. But a lot of people would see the boat

come in and go into the post office and see if they had any mail.

That was something that Gulf American was instrumental in getting started. To

speed up the delivery of mail. And things of that kind.


D--Who, if Leonard Rosen supported the idea of the bridge and everything,

who opposed it? It sounds like there was quite a bit of opposition.

Most of it was from the Ft. Myers area?

M-There were two individuals here, but there was nothing of any great pull

against it on this side today. Everybody know it, the county know it.
The people on the other side know'v But like the development of any

area, something has to give. Whether it's on this side. If they go

to the site that's been selected by every study group that they've

designated, they've designated several. They've spent hundreds of thous-

ands of dollars doing studies and research and they all come up with the

same conclusion. There is no connection between the research groups.
Everest & Colonial.
That general area right there.1 Well, this started many years ago here

in the Cape. We presented a study to the county commission indicating

that there would definitely be a need for the bridge up in that general

area. We also said that there was going to have to be another bridge

down here on this side. Of course, that's coming out. A copy of the

study was in the files. Whether it's still there or not, I don't know.

A copy of it was presented to the county commission. We made.... I

headed the briefing. We had some people speak at it. We took .... we

had people that live on the Cape with city background, like we did on

all committees that were established when the incorporation came. We

manned the committees with people that had experience before they came

down here. To the extent that we possibly could. It worked very well.

On the bridge thing, as time went on people began to see the need for it

more and more. Even though we had the toll gates here and traffic was

beginning to back up with the tolls, it's nothing like it is now. But

it became apparent that there was going to have to be another bridge

crossing here. And of course, the people started banning together for

it and Joe IIarry stepped into the picture and he formed a coalition, and

people just swarmmed to it, and the business got in it. The chamber was


with it. The civic association.

D--This coalition? This was a coalition for the midpoint bridge.

M-Yes. That's right. At the time he became ill and wanted me to take over.

I said no, I'm just a member of it. I'll work with it, and I did. I

stayed in the background and worked with it. When they had this last

one, they asked me again to take it over. I said no. In fact, I'm not

chairing anything. I haven't for the last 3 or 4 years in the Cape.

Going back to our briefing with the county commission. This went on

for several years. And they kept it up after I left the leadership.

D--When were those briefings, that it became apparent that there should be

a second bridge. Was that Like?

M-Well, sometime in the early seventies. It became apparent and we organ-

ized the committee in the incorporation and we had all these subcommittees.

For every subject involved in the corporation. Including roadways and

transportation. It began to become apparent to everybody that there

would have to be something else. Of course, in the meantime the Chata-

hoochee Bridge was build which helped on that end. But do you know that

the two major traffic intersections of this county that are a problem are

two of them that affect Cape Coral? Number one is the Cape Coral Bridge

road and iMacGregor, college parkway. And number two is the junction of

Hancock Bridge Parkway and 41. That's the second one. They're the two

major problems. One of the ways that the county is proposing to solve

the problem and it's been proposed by people on this side too is to

build a couple of overpasses there, on LacGregor and you could probably

go down as far as 41. Because that's a problem there. Colonial Blvd.

is a problem. If you've ever been up there by Galloway Ford. It's

really something. A lot of traffic goes off at the Cape. A lot of

traffic comes in. A lot of people come over here to go to work. A

lot of people. Cause there's a lot of things going on. Construction


is going on and will be for years to come. And probably the only thing

that would stop it would be a national disaster. Because there's lots of

soul. People are coming in. If the city was capable of putting in sewer

systems and water systems a lot faster. I'd think you'd find a lot more

people would come in. Because we have this salt restriction now with salt

infiltration water in the areas and whether or not the land can absorb the

sewage, without contaminating everything. So they're restricted. Septic

tanks can't be built on the street in certain areas. Instead of everybody

having one maybe they will only allow four or six or something to every so

many lots or feet. Based upon the absorption of the land. So there is no

permanent pollution there. That's the way it has to be done. And it's

going to be that way in certain areas here in the cape and in other areas

of Lee County besides the Cape. Until the city can get and solve the pro-

blem economically. But they have a plan. They've got it plotted out that

that this area will be done and then this one. They are working on it.

They are a little slow. In the meantime, everything that the city took over

when it incorporated was stuff that had been put in by Gulf American. And

fortunately for the citizens of the area and the city, it wasn't put in with

long range views in mind for continued usage of it. The deteriation of the

system occurred fairly early in life because Gulf American along the

way decided somewhere along the line that they were going to sell out.

And of course, the people here immediately were interested. Because...

D--How did it affect the people of Cape Coral when it became apparent that

Gulf American was going to sell out to GAC? Did that seen to affect them?

In the late sixties? Were they apprehensive?

M--Yes. They would be apprehensive. There was no question about that.

What tlie people were more concerned about was how are we going to protect

our interest? How are we going to take care of ourselves? As this

developed at our civic association meetings, when the time came on the

D 20

agenda for overt remarks. Practically, without exception, this subject

would come up. How are we going to help ourselves? How are we going to

protect ourselves? They started talking incorporation and all like that.

So it became apparent after a few months that the civic association was

going to have to dwell in this matter of incorporation.

D-Tell me about that. I want to hear about the story of how the idea became.

M--We discussed it at the board of directors meeting several times. We'd hold

special meetings and talk about it because it was becoming very important,

a very hot subject here. EVerybody was talking about it. Complaining

about potholes in the streets, complaining about water problems and sewer

problems and things like this. We'd go to the county commission and plead

with them to put pressure on Gulf American to repair these things. The

streets were definitely the responsibility of the county to take care of.

They put that off as long as they could. It is now, and has been until

we incorporated into a city. So we decided that we were going to run a

series of programs on the pros and cons of incorporation. Because we

wanted to be sure that the people of the Cape understood the pros and

the cons. Because there were advantages and there were disadvantages.

And there was the matter of increased taxation. Regardless of what any

politician would tell you, any group that was incorporated, when you in-

corporate units smaller than the existing unit, taxes increase. There is

no way you can get around it. But the politicians all talked that there

would be no increase or it would be minimal. Well, all of us realized

that this wasn't the case. So we set up a series of programs that ran

for aobut a year, maybe a little more than a year. Every night we would

have someone. The chairman or myself would travel around and contact

various towns, various cities and talk to groups that had tried to incorporate

Sand couldn't. Ft. Myers Bch. had been trying to incorporate for time

And they've worked on it, they've had studies. And we got up to the town

9 ^) 21

for voting, all of them that were for it, voted against it. I think it's

the taxation and the responsibility that frightens them. Anyway, they had

made a study of it, so I went down there and I borrowed the study. Made

a copy of it and gave it back to them. And we looked at that, and we

studied that. And that was cranked into our programs. We had people come

in form various areas. We had the city manager of Sarasota come down and

talk about the advantage of incorporation. We had some groups locating

here in Florida that were against incorporation. We had them come in.

And they would present their views. We had one special night devoted to

the five county commissioners. It took me months to get the five of them

to agree to come over here. It took a long time.

D-That was when? '69?

M--Probably '69, maybe '70. Some where in there. And we finally got them

to come over and one of the things that clinched. Through Connie Mack,

Jr. we arranged with Leonard Rosen were he to entertain the county com-

missioners at a luncheon here in the country club and we would bring the

county commissioners over, he would provide the bus for them. We would

make a tour of Cape Coral for the county commissioners because they

would jst not come over here and take a look at it. They wer scared,

actually. Because they had a growing elephant on their hands and they

didn't Inow how to handle it. They didn't have a trainer capable of

handlign an elephant. So we did. If I recall correctly, Leonard Rosen

came down here and he had lunch with them. But we took them out over the

area and we developed a schedule, an itinerary. And we had people there

that represent the community and Gulf American. And we talked to them

about the area. We had people take to them about their problems. And

we spent most of the day over here. That's the only time that the

county commission's ever done anything. Now they've been to a few places.

Three or four of them would go to a few places or stuff like that. But

this was the whole group of five come over here in the morning and we


took them on a tour and we had lunch with them. We went around again and

we took them back to the parking lot and back to their jobs, whatever they

were doing. Then we had them over here later to speak at a meeting. And

we had to turn people away from that yacht club. We could not let them

come in.

D-How many people do you think were there?

M-Easily, 500. They were standing all around the walls. They even

opened some of the side doors where they had rooms and people could get

in there. The fire department was involved here and the fire depart-

ment was as fidgety as the devil. We had no smoking. And we turned

them loose. We had each of them get up and say something for a few

minutes about their views on incorporation. ANd then using somebody

as a moderator and let them moderate the questions from the floor. We

finally had to put the gavel down and close the meeting.

D-You were the head of the civic assocaition?

M-Thats' right. And it was a fascinating success. Dick Crawford wrote

some articles on it in the Breeze and things like this. Well, this

began to alert the county commissioners that they had a group of peo-

ple on their hands that insisted that they do something to Cape Coral,

and if not they were going to incorporate it. Well, this went on for a

few more months and finally after we had presented both sides as thorough-

ly as we coul we then had a meeting to discuss the attitude of the civic

association, relative to the issue. And by golly, it came out to incor-

porate. So we then said, well, what do you want us to do? They said,

well, you're representing us. You set up the organization to get this

thing going. So we did. The board of directors sat down and we talked

about it. We pulled in a lot of people in the community to meet with

the board at various times. People that were experienced in different

areas. So we decided the segment of study that would have to made

6 23

to decide whether or not he incorporation was going to take place. And

we set up the committees. And we staffed them and manned them with very

capable people. They indicated that they had background before they came

down here in these subject areas. And by golly, the thing started

clicking and the people became interested in it and started moving along

and we developed all of that. And then we came up with a plan for incor-

poration. And then we had to get some legal advice on the way to go

about this thing. Because you have to have the legislature of the

state approve it. And we had that done. In the meantime, Gulf AMerican

was sitting back there and they could see where they were going to get

off the hook if they could eventually have the city incorporated. So

they went forward for the city incorporating. And then finally, it came

up to the point where we had to present it to the state legislature through

our representative there and it was done very well. And Gulf didn't ob-

ject to it. They had some reasons why they would, but all in all they

were for it. And the state legislature passed it and gave the Cape the

necessary authority to put it on the ballot for an election. And it

was voted in by the people by a good majority.

D-Vlhen wa this?

M--'71 I think or '72. And it became incorporated. And they started estab-

lishing a city government to get the people involved. And of course, first

of all when the master committee was set up to get this thing functioning

and the sub-committees were established. We at the civic association

purposely detached that from the civic assocaition. We made it a commun-

ity committee. Because we set everything up and they wanted me to

chair it and I said no. I was going to have a conflict of interests.

Because the civic association is the watchdog on all of this. And the

board agreed with me and we said no, we would reamin separate. I should

/ stay, and I stayed with the civic association. And PaulFickinger became one

of the key people in it., on that end. OUt of it came the approval by the



state legislature and the right to put that on the ballot. And of

course, when we got ready to run the election for the council, no

question about it, we nominated Paul Fickinger to be the first chairman.

Because he chaired it, we thought that was right. And of course, the

civic association was behind us, pushin it all the way. Because we were

one in the same people. We were just wearing different hats, that's all.

D--So the civic assocaition brought it up to the point where....

M-The community had the vote on it.

D--The community had the vote on it. In other words, you just didn't....

Had the incorporation been granted by the state yet?

M--Oh, yes. The state has to approve that before it can go on the ballot.

D--O.K. They approved that and then to put it on the ballot you formed

another committee?

M--No. That was handled by that organization.

D--By that committee?

?I--That's right.

D--They set up.

M--They handled it. They made the necessary arrangements with the one that

handles the voting in the county. That office. They made the arrangements

all through them. And the civic association backed off for a while be-

cause we wanted to keep that difference.

D--The time it went to the referendum, the civic association became a watch-


MI--Yes. The same as it was with the county. It stayed that way and then as

years went on it gradually slackended and theri interest became lax and

about six or eight years ago, the interest started developing again.

And kept, it's still active but it's at a lower degree. Low profile.

It became a high profile organization again, has been ever since.

D--Paul Fickinger headed up that committee?


M--Yes, He and another Chet Grunsten who was involved in that. Oh, I can't

remember. And after that, it was agreed by all of us that we should nominate

Paul Finkinger to be the first council chair. And it was done. There was

nobody running against him or anything else. In fact, on all the people

that submitted, if I recall correctly, nobody was in opposition to him.

South was one of the first council man, of course, he was the one that was

killed in a motorcycle accident, while he was in office.

D-I didn't know about that.

M--He ran a flag and pennant, that type of business up in the industrial

park and of course his wife took it over and has been running it ever

since. I heard that she recently sold it. Well, I don't know, and there

are a lot of thinkLs like this.

D--Generally, you came here in when?

M--We moved in in the summer of '65. The family moved in. I was still on

duty in the pentagon. I was working for Secretary of Defense MacNamara.

In a research and analytical position.

D--Were there, did you feel that Gulf American was basically helpful to

the residents here or by '65 had begun to back off. I know that earlier

on they really did anything that they could to make sure that the resi-

dents were happy. If they had any problems they would take care of it and

stuff like that.

M--It still prevailed at that time. I'm very sure because we dealt with

Connie Mack, Jr. all the time. My finger was on the pulse of that con-

stantly. Later on, after they began to sell most of the lots, then

theri interest began ot move to other areas that they were developing.

That's when the idea became more alive than before of, well, we better

sell out our interest in Cape Coral. And tha'ts how GAC came in which

was a finance corporation. And of course, they milked the comapny dry.

They milked it dry. And'Avatar had a heck of a time getting things


going, but they've done reasonably well.

D-You mean Avatar?

M-Yes. Avatar. Avalon was one of._the Key at .Sarasota there.

D-You said you knew Leonard Rosen. Tell me a little bit about him. What

type of peron was he?

M-Well, you must understand that I was not a intimate acquaintance or friend

of his. I knew him because of the relationship here. We'd been together

many times. We concocted the idea of bringing the county commissioners

over and him entertaining them. He jumped at it. He put the facilities of Gulf

American available. He provided the busses, he provided the yacht club, the
of us.
meal, everything else. For the whole group And I had several of the

board of directors and other people here in this area in on it. Paul

Sanborn was involved. Of course, Connie Mack. I was impressed with the

vigor of the man, themotivation. He really had a dream. Of'course it

was a lot of financial aspects to the dream. But he had a dream. And
he could visualize a gigantic wonderland. Which is exactly what he dev-

eloped. their will never be another one like it in the state of Florida.

Because the state legislature has passed legislation prohibiting the

construction of waterways because of salt water intrusion. It is the

largest waterway city in the world. We lived in Venice when I was on

duty there three years after the War in the infantry division. And my

wife came over in '46 and our first child was born there. He had dual

citizenship until he was 21. Because in Italy, everybody born there,

regardless of their nationality has Italian citizenship. He, natural-

ly was in it for the money. He and his brother and other people that

were investors in it. And you could understand that. But he did really

try to help the large majority of people. And for the large majority,

things were satisfactory. But there were some things that were bad.

And of course, it was a gigantic organization. It was the biggest on e



here. And, true of any large organization there was always things that

happened that some of the top people don't know about. He knew some,

some he didn't. But some he didn't know about and some he did know were

justified. And some of them he was able to correct and some them he

couldn't or wouldn't. They received some bad publicity. And of course,

the advanced size of the organization, as far as the news media is con-

cerned, they're ripe for plucking. And that's true today in any of

these things that take place. So they did. But the intervention of

the news media in many instances were able to help people that had

wrongs to had the wrongs made right, that probably wouldn't have been

righted had it not been for the news media doing a lot of publicity on

it. So this is what we did in order to get Gulf American to turn the

parks and recreational facilities over to the ocunty. They hadn't done

it. And that was the initial action taht enabled the expansion of

those facilities in Cape Coral. But the county commission held of on

Iancock Park because they had no park there in the area that could be

utilized by the county people. And Cape Coral said that none of the

county organizations could use the Cape Coral facilities because we have

so few and we have so many organizations to use it. And we still do.

OUrs are fully occupied all the time. We have a tremendous youth

program here and recreation program. It's unbelievable. And of course,

the community supports, now, two high schools. I don't know. I could

ramble on on a lot of stuff like this. But all in all, I think Leonard

Rosen did a good job. There is no getting around it. Many of the

businesses operating in the construction field in lee County and South-

west Florida today had their starts through Gulf American and Leonard

Rosen. He put several of them in business. Gave them contracts to get

them working. When the tourists would come in here for the business

area which then was nothing except Cape Coral Parkway, it wasn't much.

2- 2


Part of their program when they had the tourists here was that they

would take them along Cape Coral Parkway and the busses would drop

them off for a certain period of time and load them up and take them

back again. So they could get individual attention.

D--One thing that I wanted to know about. There came a time in the late

60's that the Cape Coral Gardens, there was talk that Gulf American

wanted to close it up, and talk about the city taking it over or the

state taking it over.

M-This is true.

D-Tell me a little bit about that.

M--Well, this was when Gulf American was reaching the end of its sales

program. Those rose gardens were phenomenal. Beautiful site. The
that could match it,
only thing that I could think of, and I've benn to several,Awas the one

in Hershey, Penn. They have one of the world's most renouned rose gar-

dens for the Hershey Corporation. They not only grow them, but they have

them for sale. And this was fantastic. They had some pools there, they

had lights around the garden. ANd along the bushes. They had all kinds

of roses. Any kind they could grow in this area, they had them there.

They had lighted programs on it. It was just, you'd have to see it to

believe it. They built the porpoise pool and they'd have a porpoise

show there. And a good one. They also build a zoo. They had a zoo

there. They had this area known as the hanging gardens and the rain

forest. And when you'd pay admission to go in there and see these

various things, and they also had the waltzing -waters. That's were

they set up the original waltzing waters. It was am immense project.

And they had an organ there that had been manufactured by some prominent

organization here in the country. And they put it on sort of a pedastal

platform. It was under glass. It was connected electrically with the

lights and the water. And the music. And they played it like an

organ. And the man that played it was the maintence operating the water


The man would set this one up. And this was either the second or the

third one in the world. The people who had the waltzing waters were


D--You were telling me a little bit more about the Cape Coral gardens.

What eventually became of it? What did they end up doing with it?

M-well, when Gulf American realized that they were going to very soon

terminate their interest here in the ownership aspect of cape Coral.

They realized that with the money that they were spending on the rose

gardens. They also had the Park of the Presidents they had the hanging

gardens, the rain forest, the zoo, they had a big gift shop. That was

the entrance and exit. And plus the gardens, and of course, there was

the porpoise show and the pools for that. And they had the necessary

bleacher areas and all of those things where people could sit and see

the shows. I don't know how much it cost a month to maintain that

place but it was many thousands of dollars. They were losing the

aspect of selling property here, they jsut had to make another profit.

So they thought that with the tremendous thing they built there, and

people wer coining from all over, they long stopped bringing tours in

there. But people would travel over just to see the show there. It

was tremendous. ANd all of us who lived here on the Cape, we had rela-

tives and friends over we'd take them for a tour of the gradens and

take them out to take the porpoise show at night and watch the waltz-

ing waters. You'd go in to see the porpoise show and then you'd move

over to the waltzing waters. And the pace was infested with peacocks.

They had them running all over the place. Peacocks and peahens and, I

call them litters coming behind them. And the call of a peacock is like

somebody saying "Help, help" And it sounds like a person yelling. And

newcomers to the area would think something was wrong if they'd hear a

peacock yelling. And they'd yell during the show and everything else.

They got friendly with people. Well, they realized that this thing was


becoming a burden to them to support financially. So they offered it to

the state, and it was attraction. The state debated for a while. They

weren't going to give it to them. They were going to sell it to them.

They debated for a while and they finally decided not to. But everybody

around the area couldn't figure out why the state would turn something

down like that. It was a drawing card. Well, I don't think the state

wanted to get involved with the administration of something like that.

Because it required a lot of work and care. Then they turned to the

county. The county dickered for awhile and they said no. Well, the

only thing left was to close it out and that's what they did. But they

did it in a very unsatisfactory way. Tey just closed it and walked out.

Of course, people started going in and taking this and taking that.

They did take out the monument of Mary with Jesus on her lap and the

turned it over to the Catholic church. And they made a nice little

memorial park up there for it. They finally, the bank up there on

DelPrado finally agreed to take over the IwoJima- monument and with

the help of the marine corp league, they restored it. Of course, people

stop and look at it now, people take a walk over and look at it. Every

so often the marine corp group will have ceremonies there. The organ

for the waltzing waters, they gave it to some organization. It seemed

to me it was one of the veterans organizations. I'm not sure. The waltzing

waters, German American club took it and they held it for years.

And then finally, they closed down there because the German American

club wasn't interest in having a park anymore. They expanded into

there things. They had a zoo and things like that. Well, they moved

it down here on 41. Of course, it's nothing there like before. It can't

touch it. Actually, it's even smaller. So they jsut walked off and left

it. They had a house there that they used as a model house. They put

a house on one of the nicer shows and raffled it off and somebody won

a prize. The people have expanded a little bit, since the new owners


have it. It was won by a sergeant and his wife.

D-Sounds pretty good.

M-Anyway, what else do you have on your mind? I don't know what to pick

up with.

D-Anything else pertaining to Gulf American. That you can think of that

you know first hand. Was there anybody else in the corporation that you

knew pretty well? You mentioned that you knew Connie Mack pretty well.

M--Oh, yes. Bob Finkernagel. Paul Sanborne.

D--Tell me about Bob.

M-Well, he really succeeded to the job that Connie Mack, Jr. had. He

became the representative here. Paul Sanborne started with the country

club. They had that before the yacht club for a while. Then he moved

into the headquarters and he became a go between. And Bob Finkernagel

and Connie Mack Jr., Paul Sanborn were all top men that Gulf American

had. They were really interested in the community. They were not just

doing the job for Gulf AMerican. They were actually interested. They

lived here, they like it. Both of them became active in the community.

Both of them still are. They're very active. Paul and I served on the

Chamber for years. I was one of the retired people at that time that the

chamber permitted to have membership. Because the business people at

that time weren't really interested in developing theri business, be-

cause Gulf American would bring the customers to them by busses. So

they weren't very much interested in developing theri sales program for

the citizens of Cape Coral. It was given to them on a platter. Well,

that bean to be restricted and some of them became worried and some

of them finally realized that they would have to cater to the people of

Cape Coral. They would have to change. It was a slow procedure, but

it did take place. Well, then the chamber became active and started

encouraging businesses to open and they started sprouting out. Gulf

American encouraged businesses to open. And the city has ever since


the city incorporated.

D-How would Gulf American encourage businesses to open? what would they do?

M-Well, I can't make the next certain statement because I can't prove it.

They lent support in various ways. Actually, by encouraging people, by

talking to them. And they did. And every time that I was around when

Leonard Rosen was around, he would encourage people.

D-They were just talking it up a lot.

M-That's how they would open the discussion. The would say that. It

has been reported that some of the contractors in the area started be-

cause Gulf American helped them get started.

D-Financially helped them?

M--This is what I understand. But I can't prove it. But they did get a

lot of businesses in this community and in the county. They helped the

county an awful lot. A lot of these people expanded theri businesses

in the offering. Cement walls, waterways, all kinds of things, road-

pavers, ditch diggers. Earth movers. Many things like that. They lent

a lot of support to the utilities, to the telephone company. To the

electric company. And of course, the civic association and the chamber

also, we had to get information as to what the probable future population

and all would be in Cape Coral. The two agencies we would go to first

would be the power company and the telephone company and see what they

were developing. We did this in our church here when we were getting

ready to set up a second presbyterian church, which were are working on

now. Ve studied the studied those two corporations had made in order

to tie in with the potential growth of the areas. And where the growth

would probably be because they study that all the time. They have to

be ready before anyone else. You have your electricity in there first

followed by telephone.

D-Well, good. I think that I've had most of my questions answered and if


I can come up with anymore I'll give you a call. But thanks a lot.

I appreciate it.

M--Well, I don't know, but if I think of names of some other people, and as

I tell you, I haven't put any thought to this think at all, just the

moment that we sat down here. And there are other people around. lIce

"Andy Anderson, Joe Rasso, Pete Petrie, people like that. That certain known

things have happened they could tell you about some aspects of it that

they are more familiar than I am. I'm jsut generally in the area of

the administration I supplied to its application of the future and the

community. Mainly, through the civic association and chamber of


D--Vell, good.