Interview with Connie Mack, Jr., July 20, 1988

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Interview with Connie Mack, Jr., July 20, 1988
Mack, Connie Jr. ( Interviewee )
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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--We are doing an interview with Connie Mack, Jr. in his home in Ft. Myers,

Florida. The date is July 20, 1988. And the interviewer is David


Connie, before we even get into talking about Gulf AMerican, tell me a

little bit about your personal background, when you were born and where

and all that.

C--I think I've forgotten that. I was born in 1912, November 2, in Philadel-

phia. And I was raised there and went to school in the Germantown

Academy. One of the oldest schools in the country, a prep school, not

a boarding school. From there, I went to Duke for two years. Fortunately

for me I met my bride, my wife now, the first week I was there, as far

as I was concerned and I think that she said the same. We should have

gotten married right then. But we did wait. She had just two years to

finish and she would graduate. And her father, the first time I met him

was in Washington, in the Senator's office building. He was the Senator

from Texas. Senator Waon Shepherd. And the only thing that he asked

me, of course I say that this is the first time that I met him, can I

marry your daughter. And this was after our first year at Duke and we

were getting ready to go back. And we said we're not going back. But

he talked me very quickly into, one more college year wasn't going to

hurt us that much and if I would do that he would agree to our getting

mailed. So that's what happened. From there I went to, from there, I

was a coach on my dad's baseball team for one year. He was just having

to break up his ball club at that time. He was sitting under the dugout,

I was on first base where they could all get to me. And I had a very

miserable one year as a coach. Fortunately we ran our own food con-

cession and they decided that I should move in to that, which I did and

enjoyed very much. I was there and that was my main job with the company

from then on.


D--What year was that?

C--1935 was the year that I was coach and '36 until '50, I ran the food

concession, which was the only profitable part of his whole business.

D--Which was in Philadelphia? For the Philadelphia Athletics?

C--That's the Philadelphia Athletics. So, you don't want to go into all my


D--'.,11.., just a little bit.

C--Well, to bring it pretty much to a close, I sold to my half-brothers.

I had two half-brothers, Roy. and Earl, that were both about 25 or 26

years older than myself. And we moved down here in '51. I got into the

shrimp business to start with. Did beautiful the first year, like a lot

of other people. The market crashed and I got caught in it and lost prac-

tically everything that I got out of the ball club. So it put me back to

work. Fortuately, Leonard Rosen came along at that time, which was in

1958. And he asked me to join the company. And that's how I started.

Now, I figured I must have been about the tenth employee in the com-

pany. Tom Weber was first, our engineer. At the time that I got there,

Mary Anderson, have you talked to Mary?

D--Yes I have.

C-- Mary Anderson was there. There was bookkeeper by the name of Billie

and I can't think of her last name. But she started Pine Manor, believe

it or not. She owned a lot of land out there and started Pine Manor

shortly after Cape Coral was started. Kenny Schwartz was there, have

you talked to him?

D--Yes. I talked to him.

C--Who else? Of course, Milt Mendelson. You didn't get a chance to talk

to him. He died, a couple of years ago. And I can't think of who else.

Surely there was another person or two, but that's about what I remember.

D--Was Gwen McGinn there in the beginning?


C--Gwen was brought down after I started. She was brought down from Balti-

more. She had been working with the Charles Antel company. You knew that

they had the Charles Antell Company and they sold that shortly after they

got into this.

D--How long after they got into Cape Coral until they sold Antel? Do you

have any ideas?

C--Certainly within the first two years.

D--That was my recollection, but nobody really knew for sure. Well, a

little bit before Gulf American again, how did your family ever come

to being connected with Ft. Myers?

C--Well, see the year that I came on as a coach for dad was the last year

that the A's trained here in Ft. Myers. They trained for twelved straight

years here in Ft. Myers. So actually, my father knew all sorts of people

here. We had friends right away, and then even after that, the next year

the ball club trained in Mexico City and after that they were in Lake

Charles, Louisiana for '37, '38, and '39. And those three years, I

remember we would come here. Mother and Dad would rent a house and we

would come here before going over to the spring training camp over there.

So, we had those three years. In October of 1945 I was honorable$ dis-

charged from the Army and we decided we would take the winter down here.

And we rented a cottage down on Ft. Myers beach. So that winter of '45

and '46, again we got to know more people in the area. When the decision

was made that I was going to sell, we quickly decided that we were going

to move and would love to live in Ft. Myers.

D--What was the first year that they started doing their spring training


C--That would have been, I think, 1924. I'm not quite sure. It was twelve

years anyway and '35 was the last year. Now, '35, of course was the win-

ter of '34, '35.

D--Do you have any recollection of what Ft. Myers was like at that time?

C--Oh, it was just beautiful. Ft. Myers Beach, just to think what was

allowed to happen to it. But there were no regulations. Oh, I could remember

in that year, you could pick up thousands of front feet on the Gulf for 25 dollars

a front foot. Of course, who had any money then? I had four children.. While

I was in the army. I got a letter from the President inviting me to join, and

I had four children.

D--They didn't let you off for four children?


D--Tell me a little bit about Lenoard Rosen. What impressed you the most about him?

C--Well, he was a very dynamic person. I don't think I've ever met anyone like that.

He just had to be doing. He wanted things done. And he got things done. The

Cape Coral-Bridge. He's the one who got that bridge built, or we might still

not have a bridge going across. This was the type of person he was. He was

tough. He scared a lot of people, physically. He was very, could be, very rude.

Very crude if he wanted to, and very often he wanted to.

D--Do you think that he did that to intimidate people?

C--Oh, yes. No doubt about it.

D--What was your first contact with Leonard Rosen?

C--Apparently, he had gotten in touch with a good friend of mine, Bill Reynolds,

a real estate broker.

D--I've spoken with him, too.

C--And he was asking whether or not he thought I would be interested. And

as it turned out, Nat Briscoe and myself had sold for Bill at MacGregor Groves.

That was my first venture into real estate.

D--Now where was that located?

C--McGregor Groves was just up here. The Baptist church used to be right


up here. Now there is McGregor Baptist down on Colonial. But that's

where it was. Of course, they weren't ther-when we started. It was

just a big old homestead there. And we built around the orange trees.

And I say, we built, we just sold it. Nat and myself sold about 140

homes in about 16 months time.

D--What was Nat's last name?

C--Nat Briscoe. He is God here, just about. I guess Nat's been gone about

three years now.

D--So, what did Leonard say to you?

C--Well, he just said, let's sit down and have coffee and he told me what he

was going to do. And he could certainly build a beautiful picture and

wondering just what I was going to do. I had a broker's license so I

wasn't that concerned about it, but I was looking for something and when

he came along with this, you know, it sounded great. And of course another

person, who is no longer living either, is the president of the first

National BAnk, Harry Fagan. I talked to him, and apparently he was

really taken by Leonard Rosen. He really thought that he was going to

do something good for the area.

D--Did you introduce....?

C--No, they had already met but Harry if there was any question in my

mind, should I go with Leonard, any question went out of my mind

immediately after talking to Harry Fagan. He built him up as a very

wealthy man which I understand now that he was nothing like what he was

built up to be. So, but anyway, we developed into this thing. I was

hired to sales manager, which Kenny Schwartz was. I was really for

p.r. They used my picture all over the place. And he made a deal

with me on flat salary plus percentage of the sales which the first

year I did get, but after that, that, I was told that that was just

more than the company could pay. I won't go into anymore about that.


That was Leonard.

D--I heard that Leonard had a hard time of giving employees money or some-

thing for the work that they did. If he agreed to something he would

do it, but it always, when it came time to give raises out, he was hard


C--Well, I understand, now I heard this from some of the boys in Miami, that

a lot of them would go to him for a raise and he'd say, do you know what

Connie Mack is getting and he would use that as a block that they could

not get passed. Now Jack Rosen was entirely different. I don't know

whether you heard this.

D--I've heard.

C--Jack's people were all paid much more, much more.

D--So it was kind of up to each of the brothers what they paid their people.

C--Yes. Of course, I think that was one thing that they fought over a lot.

Jack was so generous. He really wanted to pay more. I could have been,

should have been paid much better. But the silly part was me, When I got

to where I didn't really know if I should stay with the company or not,

the way I felt about their operation. And I thought that I'm certainly

not going to ask for a raise. Never ask for a raise. Leonard, every

once in a while would say, "you've never had a raise." And I would say

"no I haven't, Leonard." And I still wouldn't have a raise. Never got

a raise that whole time I was there. But Of course, I had a lot of

freedom that no one else had. I could say anything to him that I wanted

to say. We had some great ones. There's one cute story, but go ahead.

D--When you first really started talking with Leonard and got to know him

the first few months, were you really convinced that he was going to be

able to pull off what he said that he was? That they were actually going

to be able to build the city of Cape Coral?

C--Yes. I think anyone that talked to him. Now, don't forgot I saw it and


apparently Harry Fagan saw it. They had a lot more behind than they

really did. There's no way today. I would guess that if their net worth

between them was four million. I'd be surprised from what I've heard

since if it was even that. I would tell you this, I would bet anybody

that they never gambled more than a half a million dollars between them.

Never. But they knew how to handle that money and they always had scxne-

body else involved. They had people buying land for them, they would

form a group of people and they would buy land for them. And the com-

pany would buy for them and they would make a little profit that way.

And they certainly do have, no doubt about it, a great business sense.

D--Tell me a little bit more about your job with the company. What are

some of the different things that you did?

C--Well, I started out in sales and we had our first sales office at Weaver's corner

And on January 14th we started selling. It was mainly Kenny and myself and

Mary Anderson. That's all we had to start with. And we would take

people down in our cars. It was just a dirt road. And we would take

them down and believe that they had to be impressed with the equipment

that was down there. And they had already dredged out the yacht basin

itself and they had laid our roads around that area. And this was the

beginning. And we told the people, and we were told that we could tell

them, that we were going to have a quarter of a million dollar yacht

club there which turned out to be better than a million. Way better than

a million, by the time that they finished. With that swimming pool and

the clubhouse and all. We told them that we were going to have a

championship golf course which we did have and this was about our sales

pitch. And it was quite easy. So anyway, everything went along fine

for about a year, year and a half. And then we started getting in some

of the boys who had been in the business. Some of them had been in around

Miami and Ft. Lauderdale when the boom was on. They, what some of our


young salesmen didn't know, they taught them. They could just tell you

anything, look you straight in the face and you would say, it's got to

be true. It just got so out of hand that you know I finally just started

raising so much cain about it. But, you know, people would tell me wt

the salesmen told them.

D--What are some of the things that they would tell them?

C--Well, they would say, "You see this equipment right here? Well, your

property that I'm selling is just on the other side." And of course,

it was seven or eight miles ut the road. That was one of the main

things. But they just, they had a beautiful thing to sell. Of course,

later on when we had people living there and they had canals. They'd

get on a canal and maybe it had a couple of houses on it. They'd look

across the canal and say, see that property over there, that's what you

are buying. They were buying something miles away. So, anyway, I just

raised so much cain. So Leonard thought I ought to get out of sales and

just be in public relations. So I was sentenced to be his assistant.

D--So, Leonard really didn't want to stop that kind of sales stuff.

C--Oh, no. He wouldn't listen to me. I would tell him. As a matter of fact,

just before one of the meetings, in fact I took about a week off and just

got with my secretary. In fact, I went over to her house, Bea Cleaves.

Have you talked to l'3ea?

D--I have not. I wish I could.

C--Well, she's pretty old and she's over in the hospital now. But I don't

think you could get a hold of her. But I dictated to her and we finally

came up with about a three page of what was going on, things that we knew.

Dick Crawford was one of them that had an office there and some of the

things that he heard, I quoted to him and everything like that. But

Leonard and Jack were so upset that I was upset and of course they

thought that right then I was going to blow the whistle and you know they


said, we're going to straighten up. Jack told me all his plans and how

they were goin to make sure that the salesmen didn't do things like that

anymore. It was forgotten the next day.

D--So you got more into the public relations?

C--What ended up was of course that I was the only executive that anybody

could get to. Of course, a lot of the salesmen would like to bring the

people in and they knew that I was associated and they knew my dad's name.

And they wanted to come and talk to me. So, of course, the first year I

was mainly, I had an office where I met people from all over the world.

I met people from Alaska that were baseball fans. That said, "We love

what your dad stood for." For honesty. So, right away, if you're here,

why not buy? Fortunately now, most of those people bought something

good and they all did well. But of course, later on, when they started

getting into Golden Gate, and River Ranch, that's where I told Leonard

that you're just going to run into trouble that you're never going to

get out of.

D--I think that it proved true. Who else besides you, you were kind of a

spokesman for Gulf American. W\ho else besides you was kind of a cele-


C--Bill Stern.

D--Tell me about him.

C--Well, Bill is quite a guy. I like Bill very much. He would come down

here and of course, people would make a fuss over him, which he loved.

D--What had Bill been before that?

C--Oh, he was a sports caster. He was quite a wellknown football announcer.

Now this was back in the radio days. And Bill was the kind that he could

exaggerate. And he had a great voice. So, they used Bill to en- -'

dors. it and he would come down every July for the big parade, be the

marshall. July 4th parade. We still hear from -Mildred, ils wife. Of


course, Bill has died. But you know, towards the end there, I talked to

him. I hoped it wouldn't ruin both of our names, and

it shook him up. Because he didn't need that anymore than I needed it,

you know?

D--Anybody else besides you and Bill?

C--That was about it. We used to have these parties all over the place, you

lmow? They'd send out invitations with our names. There for a while it

was always in my name. But I started raising so much cain about the way

they were treating people that Jack switched over to Bill Stern. They'd

send me letters about what it cost for a babysitter and everything like

that and then they would get there and they woudln't have a place for

them. So, I said, I had a little company funds and I would send them a

check for 25 dollars and cover the babysitter. And, of course, Jack

found out about that and he wanted to stop that. Fortunately, I can

look back and laugh. I would have some of those poor old widow women

come in, particularly when they started selling River Ranch. People who

had wonderful experiences with Cape Coral. All the people had to do was

call them on the phone and sell them two and a half acres for 2500 or 3500

dollars. Youknow, they come down, where is it? I can't do anything with

it. And I'd say, you're right, you can't do anything with aht property.

And it was true. There was no promise of a road being put in there.

D--So, a lot of people who bought land in River Ranch and places like that

had no idea that they couldn't build on it.

C--Oh, you know it. How did the salesmen sell it? They had to tell them

stories. That was the beginning of the end. Of course, Golden Gate,

I knew it. The minute we got into Golden Gate. Of course, they started

a community down there, which was a little bit different than what they

did at River Ranch. They never even started a community there. But it

was mainly acreage. Golden Gate too. They would sell five acres, ten


acres. If they had sold to those people, they would have done all right.

But that was twenty years ago.

D--You were talking about the dinner parties that they used to have around

the country. Did you ever speak at any of those?

C--Oh, yes. When we first started out, as a matter of fact, Jack used to

tell everybody whenever we would have a big company meeting that I was

the greatest five minute speaker. Because that's all that I would talk.

I would just tell them a little bit about our background, how we got

started and that was it. Then I disappeared. They tried to get me at

that sales table, but I would have no part of it. I travelled around

quite a bit. I went to Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, were very active.


D--I heard from several different people that they gradually got other

speakers because all of the people wanted to meet you instead of buy

land. Is there any truth to that?

C--That's what I heard too.

D--So you were in public relations, mostly.

C--I was the figurehead there that the people could get to. So when people

bought homes, built their homes, any complaints that they had, there I

was. EVery Monday morning I would go in to this beautiful office that

I had. Did you ever see it?

D--No, I didn't.

C--Oh, I had one corner of that big building, First Federal. On the second

floor, that back office there right on the corner. I had a waiting room

outside my secretaries office. Now Bob Finkernagel had the office across.

Because she was the secretary for both of us. But all these chairs were

all around and everything would be taken. I'd have to walk in "Good

morning, good morning...." Everybody waiting to come into complain.

D--Would there be a large number of people that felt like the salesmen had


lied to them, would they get refunds? Or would you basically say I'm

sorry. How would that work?

C--Well, they would get nowhere except through me. That was the beginning

of the end. I decided that if I was going to stay there, particularly

these poor older women, widowers. I would know when they told me they

weren't lying. And so fortunately at the time Bill Carmine (and I don't

know if his name has come up,) was an attorney here and Leonard liked

him very much. He was a very likable person. And very capable. But

anyway, he went over as counsel for the company and he was in Miami and

I could get hold of him and tell him, look, I'm sending over a request

for a refund and he would put it through. I would say, the last two

years that I was with the company that I got back, through Bill, close to

two million dollars. But that was the beginning of the end for Bill.

Because when Leonard realized what was happening he immediately took

that away from Bill. He was no longer able to do it. And he brought

Bernie IHerzfeld. Have you heard anything about Bernie Herzfeld?

D--I've heard a little bit.

C--The biggest disappointment of my life.

D--Why was that?

C--Well, he just turned out to be completely two-faced. He would listen

to me about my complaints and I thoughfsure he was going to Leonard and

telling Leonard you've got to do this and that. The only thing that

he had, the only interest that he had was that company kept going so

that his stock would make him money. It did. I would bet that he got

out of the company at least a million dollars. And so anyway, he was put

in charge. I had to go to him. I'll never forget, he turnedfe down.

A very attractive mother and daughter came in for Newark, New Jersey

and told me their story. And I said, "I believe you. I will se
can get you a refund." I went to Bernie Herzfeld. I said, Bernie these


people are not people you are going to push around. If you don't give

them a refund, you are going to have the company in trouble. He refused

to give them a refund. It wasn't three months later that we were out of

business in New Jersey. They took it to the real estate board

there and we were all out of business. I forget how many months it took

them to get back, so they could get back. Now this is getting close to

my 1969 or '70.

D--So you were with the company all the way until...?

C--Where they sold to G.A.C. The funny thing is, G.A.C. never talked to me.

They never talked to me at all. And never talked to Bob Finkernagel.

And this was because of Mallatrat Mallatrat was the one, he got

"a finder's fee out of that sale I'm pretty sure. Something like two and

"a half percent. But he told the people, he told wills, Bob Finkernagel

and Connie Mack are nothing but figureheads, don't bother with them. He

knew that if they talked to us we would tell them straight. So I finally

called, it sort of bugged me that they hadn't. There's no way that they

could've, but I wanted to find out just atwhat was going on. So I called

them one time and I went over there. And I think it was a week before

the papers were signed. The final deal. We met and we talked for about

an houre and I told him all the problems that they had. This flying peo-

ple in, what it really cost them. I'd hear the end of a three day stay

with theses people that they sold a half a million in land and housing

and what I also found out as the time went on, that within six months

that sale if it was half a million dollars it was down to under 200,000.

And here they had all this expense, the airplanes and putting people up

in the motels. Feeding them, giving them a party. So at the end of

the period, Mr. Wills and he had one of his vice-presidents there

taking notes, and he said, "Connie, we can still get out of this thing."

I just wanted them to know that they had problems. You know, I talked to


him I guess, I saw him one time when it was still about six months after

they wentin and he was still sure that they could make it. And then I

talked to him at maybe about a year. Aid he said, over the phone, "Connie this is it.

I wish I had listened to you." But Bob and myself find out Mallatrats

secretary hated his guts. And she knew everything that he said about us.

And she's the one who told us. She told Bob. This is what he tells

everybody. And she said, "You know what he does everyday? He's

trading the stockmarket." He had helped Rheem Manufacturing Company.

I think it's up around Connecticut or somewhere. But now this goes to

back around '67 or '6S. He arranged, their company vas going out and he

made money on that. He's a big wheeler and dealer. And so then Leonard

brought him into our company. And he's the one who got ahold of G.A.C.

and made the deal for G.A.C. to buy the company.

D--So, Leonard brought Mallatrat into the corporation in order to find


C--Oh, no. Just because he thought he was a good corporate man.

D--And he made the contact?

C--Oh, yes.

D--He still got a finder's fee for that?

C--Oh, yes. He did very well


C-- Gordon Mallatrat, Nobody has mentioned him?

D--I've heard his name but I'll tell you where I saw it. I saw it on some

of the transcripts up in Tallahassee of the land sales board. I saw his

name caoe up several times. But I didn't know who he was. I knew he was

with the corporation in some aspect.

C--You should have heard him around me.

D--What did he say?

C--Well, you know, I was the greatest guy that ever lived.


D--I heard that the phone sales department was using your name. They were call-

ing and introducing themselves as Connie Mack.

C--Who did you hear that from?

D--That came out, I think Eileen Bernard.

C--Oh, yes. Eileen, yes. I think it was Eileen that was over there. Well,

if she told you, then you got it first hand. Somebody told me that she

stood there and listened to them. These boys with the Jewish accents.

"This is Connie Mack" Oh that's... Well, of course, that's one of the things

where I finally got wrote out on this thing about what was going on.

D--What would Leonard say when you would say that?

C--"Connie, you just worry too much. You are the biggest worrier that I've ever

met." He said, "Don't forget the people that are buying, they are worse

liars than our salesmen." He didn't want to hear it.

D--What are some of the problems the company had coming down here to Cape Coral?

I'm not talking about the abuses by salespeople. What were just some of the

normal everyday problems in putting together an operation this big?

C--Well, as I told you earlier, to me the housing brought in about 90% of the

problems that the company then had. Because there were people coming on to

the property, living on the property. And there's the company right there.

So any complaint that they had they thought it was the company's fault.

Now, I'll have to admit, there were a lot of times that. they were unreason-

able because they were unhappy people, particularly the wives. You-know, the

wives would come down from where they had lived most of their life. Left the

daughters, sons, grandchildren and for the first couple of years I don't know

how many people I had come in my office. They were couples and I don't know

unhappy they were. And I would try to get across to the wives, give it a little

bit more time, but if you possibly can't avoid it, go up every year, if


you have to go twice a year. But mark my word, after about two years,

you will tell your friends to come down here. And it usually worked

that way. Let's see this is what the company had to put up with. All

these unhappy people.

D--Let me ask you a question about the housing. Was Leonard and Jack, were

they trying to get people on the land. Basically, were they building

houses to get people living there?

C-Definitely. Of course, if you are going to build a community, that's the

only way that you are going to get going. You've got to get families in

there. Oh, they did everything. They did a lot of good incentives for

the early people to come in.

D--Do you think Leonard was really just proud of the fact that he was building

a community or was he building a community to make it look better so he

could sell more land? It seems like if it really hadn't developed his

land sales would have really stopped.

C--That's the reason that I was sort of shocked that he would go into this

other operation of River Ranch to just sell the land. And of course that

I'm sure that he knew because of our sales record and because of our beau-

tiful community in Cape Coral he was able to do that. But it was the

beginning of the end. It was what caused the company to fail as far

as the Rosens. That was it. Once we started doing that, then the

sales 'board, they would not stand still. They got so many complaints

D--So, there were a lot of people that felt like if they had stuck with

something like Cape Coral where they were actually building a community

with streets and stuff likfe that, then they might have survived.

C--Well, yes. I think so. Leonard & Jack were never going to be satisfied with

Cape Coral and doing a beautiful job with that and we're proud of it

and glad that you are proud of it. They were never going to be satis-

fied with that. Jack had to be ahead of the greatest land sales com-

onav that ever was on this earth. That was his goal.


D--Would he say that?

C--Oh, yes. If he didn't say it in so many words, everybody that worked

around him knew that's what he wanted. And how he got there, he didn't

want to worry about that. Just get me the sales. LEt the salesmen do

that. They knew that all they what had to was sell. ilHow.they did it, 'that was their'
D--Did Leonard feel the same way?

C--Oh, definitely. But of course, Leonard was the finance man. He's the

one that had to come up with the money. How he did it, I don't know.

He did it.

D--Do you think that Leonard was surprised that Cape Coral was succeeding

at the beginning?

C--Oh, I don't think so.

D--Do you think that he was pretty confident that it would go?

C--Oh he was surprised that it didn't take over faster than it did. He

never stopped. He went out to Nevada and started the same operation

out there and get in the same trouble and he sat there with Bob Finker-

nagel and myself for about two hours waiting for a plane to Las Vegas,

telling us all of his problems. And they were the same problems that

he had here. You know, I got a kick out of Bob because Bob would just

go along with it. I just kept my big mouth shut. You know, there was

no way I was going to hurt his feelings. Too late for that. But you

know, I'll tell you, talking about Cape Coral now. EVenthough he was

mighty proud of what he would come back here. This was after he sold

the company. And go over to the Cape and drive around. Drive over that

bridge alone. If it wasn't for Leonard Rosen, no telling when the bridge would
Ee built.
D--Do you think that there was always that idea in his mind that they were

going to build a bridge?

C--Oh, he started on that almost the first year. It's just a shame that

he didn't temper it down a little bit.


D--Why were some of the people in Cape Coral opposed to the bridge? I was

just reading and it seems like they had a vote?

C--Why are people opposed to most anything? Of course, they had a couple

of landowners over on this side of the river. Al Sutphen,as matter of fact,

he wrote me a letter and my wife tore it up and I never read it. But he

blamed me, because I couldn't stop the Rosens. He called me on the

phone one time and I said plainly to him, "Al,"' he's quite a guy." He

thought that since I was Connie Mack, Jr. I could tell Leonard not to

build that bridge. I couldn't. When he found out I couldn't, he blasted

me. And of course, we always had several people unhappy over there.

And they thought that one way they could hurt the company was to go against


D--Who were some of the big opponents of Gulf American out there?

C--Oh, I don't even like think of it. Some of them were pretty sick people,

very sick. Let's stay away from that.

D--A name that came up, and I don't know if you knew anything about the sit-

uation. Somebody said that there was a Congressman named Harrison Williams

that criticized Gulf AMerican. I don't know if it rings a bell at all.

C--Did Bob Firnkeragle know about it?

D--I found out after I talked to Bob so I would have to go back to Bob.

C--Talk to Bob about it. Weren't you impressed with Bob?

D--Oh, yes.

C--Unfortunately, Bob is not the Bob he was ten years ago. Bob was one of

the smartest young men that I've ever met, that I had the pleasure of

being in business with. He was great.

D--I understand that Bob at one time owned the Cape Coral Breeze.

C--Where did you her.a about that?

D--Well, he told me that he bought it for a dollar or inherited it from a

guy in Orlando or Ocala.


C--He had a pal that lived in Leesburg.

D--Tom Cassel isn't it?

C--Yes. Tom Cassel. Terrific guy. He's just crazy about Bob. And he

started the Breeze. No. Crawford and his wife started the Breeze.

And so then they bought it for 30,000 dollars, the Castles did. And

kept Dick Crawford as editor. And then, of course, he knew even at this

time that he was dying. He had some blood disease. Leukemiaor something.

And when he died Bob bought the Breeze for 30,000 dollars. Is this about

what he told you?

D--Yes. That's roughly what he said.

C--He got 1.2 million.

D--That's what he sold it for?

C--About two years later.

D--Who did he sell it to?

C--I don't know. A company that owns a lot of newspapers. I think that

Dick Crawford, I think he let Dick buy 20% of it. That's what I under-

stand. Who cares? Dick made out very well with it. Dick's a nice guy.

Did you enjoy him?

D--Yes, very much so.

C--Very much black or white. Ther's not much in between, you know. I'd

be tempted to say very military but I hope our military isn't all that


D--Who are some prominent Lee County people who were big supporters of

Gulf American, in other words, very pro-Gulf America? The county

commissioners. You mentioned Harry Fagan of First National Bank.

C--I tell you, I don't think there were too many. I think a lot of the

businessmen knew that it was going to be good for them and therefore

they certainly didn't throw any roadblocks. But they knew Leonard and

of course they didn't know Jack. And Leonard wasn't very popular with


anybody. George Allen, an attorney. He's been an attorney an FBI man at

one time. He's quite a man. He did a lot of legal work for Leonard. And

he like Leonard, he could see where Leonard was going to get things done.

Probably forgetting some, but there weren't too many others.

D--Were there any people that just took it on that they were going to oppose

Gulf American, any Lee County people?

C--I don't think anyone of any prominence.

D--How about the County.

C--I think a lot of them were opposed to him because he was Jewish. I think my

wife was somewhere one time and she heard two older women talking about the

Jews and they have that guy Mac. They say he's not Jewish, but he's Jewish.

She just sat there and listened to them. You know, it was everywhere at

that time. Down here the Catholics, really, we were brought up to

believe that Catholics had tails. Not only horns, but tails.

D--Different time period. There weren't very many Jews down here?

C--Not when we first came down here. There were very few. And there were

only about 400 Catholic families. There were only 17,000 in the Ft. Myers

area. The whole county in 1951 was about 40,000.

D--Did you feel like there was kind of that sense that people just didn't

like them sometimes because they were Jewish?

C--Definitely. And unfortunately, Leonard had a chip on his shoulder all

the time. You were anti-semetic until you were proven, and you had to

help prove to him that you weren't. That was the sad part of it. If he

thought you were against the Jews, lookook. He would try to go after you

if he possibly could do it.

D--Your impression of Leonard and Jack as far as their Jewish religion.

C--Very orthodox. We went to the children's, two of their children's weddings.

Completely, up on chairs, dancing all around them. It was exciting. You

know, I have to admire them. Leonard I thought of more than Jack for

looking out for his church, raise money. Help them raise


money. And he always had some rabbis around him. That was never a pro-

blem with me. But apparently, it bothered a lot of people.

D--I understand that Jack kind of had a entourage that travelled with him.

C--Yes, with Jack, if you were going to work with him, that was the only way

that you could work with him. So I, looking back on it, I'm glad I didn't

get my salary.... Had my freedom. I couldn't have taken it. And yet

Jack never said a meam thing about me or to me. Always just as nice as can be.

Two different characters, entirely different, unbelievable. Jack was

this little dapper, quiet. He had one small problem. He was sure, if

he was at a football game and he saw a huddle down there, he was sure

that they were talking about him down there in that huddle. Which Leonard

couldn't have cared less. That was the difference in their character.

He might have look over and they might be talking about me, but I don't

give a damn if they are or not. Let them talk.

D--I heard that Jack used to have a psychologist or a psychiatrist that

travelled around with him, was that true?

C--I don't know whether he did or not. I think that he needed it. You are

not going to quote me on that are you?

D--Some of the other people that 'I talked to said, "yes he did." One guy

travelled with him pretty much all the time.

C--I wonder. I know that it might have worked for him, gbing to a psychiatrist.

I've known plenty of guys that worked for him had to end up going to a


D--Of the people at Cape Coral that worked for Gulf American, besides your-

self. 'iho do you think saw clearly what was going on, as far as the

good and bad? Some of the people you get kind of one side of the story.

C--Well, Bob certainly being around me as much, he certainly had to know both

sides. But Bob and I guess he certainly wasn't in the same position that

I was. They were using my name. They weren't using Bob Finkernagels'


name. So he could look at it a lot differently than I could. Just

mainly, let me do my work. He was our public relations man. I was

mostly vice-president in charge of public relations. He was public relations man.

D--What did Paul Sanborne do?

C--He was under Bob, public relations.

D--Dick Sayers was publicity?

C--Same thing. This was all Bob's department.

D--Do you remember a guy by the name of Joe Miller?


D--What did he do? Do you remember?

C--I'm afraid that I can't help you much there. Bob could tell you more about it.

D--Tell me a little bit about Milt Mendelson.

C--Milt, now you're -talking.

D--Today I drove through Harbour Heights because I just wanted to see what

it looked like. Terrible.

C--Well, I guess that you know it was through Harbour Heights that Leonard met

Milt Mendelson and fell in love with them. Said "you're my man." And of

course, he put in all the planning of Cape Coral in Milt's hands. And as I

understood it, Milt's background was advertising. He handled our advertising

and handled the laying out of Cape Coral, He worked with the engineers. What

was the name that I told you?

D--Rader and Associates?

C--Wasn't there one before that? Who did Tom Weber first work with?

D--The only name that I've heard of is Rader's. Out of Miami.

C--This was Rader. Isn't that funny? I thought there was another. But

they were the ones that Milt, the greatest dreamer you ran across.

Just a dreamer. He led us there for a while until he led us into so much



D--How did he lead you guys into trouble?

C--Well, of course he was in everything. He was insales. I'll never for-

get the first time I realized that we were in real trouble with Mendelson.

OUt at Weaver's corner. If it wasn't the first month of our sales opera-

tion it was the second month. And a man came storming in there. I

could tell he was ready to chew nails. "Where's MIlt Mendelson?" Fortunately Milt
wasn't around.
Milt was not around at the time. So I said, "I don't know. I don't

believe Milt's here. Let me see if I can find out where he is." So

I went.... They thought he was in Miami with Leonard. So I said,

"I think he's over in Miami." 'I'd like to get him.' Oh, he's telling

me how he lied to him. I think he got him to start a business up there.

And he said, "IT's just cost me e'er":':hing that I have spent my whole

life building up." If it's the last thing that I do, I'm going to get

that guy." I think he was finally one ofe the ones, they finally,got

Milt on that operation.

D--Rocket City?

C--Oh, they got him on that one, but they got him before then on Harbour



C--Oh, yeah. And I tell you that Leonard, through the whole thing Leonard

was always saving him, going up to bat for him. He was a good friend

to MIlt. He was a true friend. I understand that he would've gone

to jail that time And this is early in our operation. Maybe the first

second, or third year. But I don't who, the real estate commissioner or

what. I think Leonard had to put up something like 100,000 dollars to

keep him from going to jail.

D-So did Milt name all the streets in Cape Coral?

C--Oh, sure.


D--There's stories that Milt was a little bit drunk when he was naming all

of them. Is that true?

C--Well, every once in a while we'd get together and have a drink and he

would start telling me about all the things that he's done. All these

successes. I mean, he really believed Harbour Heights was one of his

big successes. And that was, you know. I don't think I ever finished

my second martini when I was around him. Oh, Milt, I can't stand this.

I'd tell him off, and of course I didn't tell him what I was doing.

D--Did he ever hold a position with the company?

C--Probably made more money than I ever did.

D--So, he was on the payroll?

C--Oh, yes. He was on the payroll and of course, I found out that he was

getting a kickback on all the advertising. ANd told Leonard, this was

during the first year of operation. I told Leonard about it and he said,

"I thought that." So he probably just stopped that, cut him out of it.

He was writing a life story of Leonard when he died.

D--I don't anow either. I heard that from Kenny Schwartz. He said he read

the rough drafts of it. He said that it was pretty bad. But he said he

doesn't know what happened to it either.

C--I don't think anybody would think enough to pass it along. Last I heard

when I was trying to get ahold of Tom Weber for you, the secretary said,

of course this is shortly after the dad had died. Said he wanted to talk

to Linda. Here she is running the company. But I understand they sold


D--Oh, I didn't' know that?

C--Yes. That's what I understand. She sold the company. Good for her.

Get out of that. I had a Christmas card from Ronnie. It was an announce-

ment. I sent him a Christmas card. He was in this new venture someplac

in Colorado.

D--Aspen, I believe.

C--Yes. He started something. I used to talk to that kid about how what an

awful operation we had. He was only 18 or 19 years of age. But I understand

he gave Eddie Pacelli hell one time when he heard that he was working for

Cavanaugh. He said, "how do you have your experience with our company, how

can you possibly look yourself in the mirror and continue to operate like

you've been operating?" He was telling him what an awful operation that

his dad had. And Eddie was part of it, which he was.

D--Tell me about Kenny Schwartz.

C--I never saw anyone admire another person anymore than Kenny did Leonard

Rosen. This is an exaggeration, but it would almost be true. Leonard

said, "I want you to take care of that guy." And he would get a gun & do it.

He adored Leonard. And Kenny was a hell of a salesman. Great salesman. And,

now he didn't want to hear what the salesmen were doing either. But I'll say

this for Kenny, he was so sure of what we were doing where I was concerned

that somebody buying the property up on Pine Island Road that I would be

concerned, well they are never going to live to see any profit out of it.

Denny would say, to himself, i'm sure, "Well I know that their grandchildren

are going to make a fortune." This was the difference in us. I think that

we are friends. We had a lot of battle because I would talk to him and

tell him something that I heard from some of the salesmen.

D--About how old were you at that time and how old was Kenny.

C--Well, Kenny, don't forget we're going back 20 years. I'm 75 now, so

we are talking about....

D--'58, you are talking 30 years.

C--So let's go back 30. That was back when I was 45 and Kenny must have

been 31 or 32, something like that.


C--Quite a bit younger. As a matter of fact, I'm told that when Leonard
died, I didn't know that Leonard was in his seventies. Leonard was

quite a bit younger than myself. Much more than five years. EVen less

than five years, now that I think about it.

D--You were 72 when he died.

C--I guess 72. Yeah, I was probably only three years older. But Kenny

had done very well for himself. He certainly, if he was going to follow

LEonard's footsteps was not going to get away with it. And I think

Kenny is a very honorable person, was a very honorable person then.

Then unfortunately, he was under sales, so he was really under, though

he was hired by Leonard. And did a lot of the work for Leonard, he was

under Jack. And this he would not accept. And it finally got to where

he put the two of them where they had to decide. Jack said he goes and

Leonard didn't want him to go. But he finally gave into Jack. So

that's how Kenny lost his job. Did he tell you that?

D--Yes. Something to that effect. It seems like in Gulf American, you had

to know whose camp you were in.

C--That's right. And there were very few Leonard. Most of them were Jack.

Jim Layden, oh there were few of us, Bob Finkernagel. And our depart-

ment was pretty much. Most of what we did, we had to do too for Jack,

but fortunately that never came up.

D--IHow early on do you think Leonard started getting the idea of expanding?

LIke Golden Gate, River Ranch and stuff like that.

C--Knowing him, the day we started Cape Coral he was thinking about Golden

Gate. He had to be going all the time.

D--Who were some of the people that you knew that the Rosens brought from

their Charles Antel operation to Gulf American?

C--Well, of course Charlie Hepner and Bob Carroll. Paul Venze was related

to them. Have you talked to Paul at all?


D--I have not been able to get in touch with him.

C--It might be interesting to see what you can get out of him. He might

be able to give you the insight that you can't get from any of the rest

of us. If you want to you tell him that I told him that it wouldn't be

complete without him.

D--I hear that he's out in California somewhere.

C--I think so. I think he was very much involved with the family out there.

Now Sol Sandler, have you talked to him?

D--Yes. I sat down and talked to Sol for about two hours.

C--We were always great friends.

D--He's doing real well. He's going to get back into real estate. He's

bought into a firm in Boca Raton, I think.

C--I remember Charlie Hepener saying to me one time, of course he knew how

I was so upset about our operation and everything and I remember him

telling me one time. He said, "COnnie, we're almost over the hill.

WE've almost reached the peak where we could really afford to be really

policing our own operation." Which at the time made me feel good for a

while before I realized that he was dreaming. That was never going to

happen. I always liked Charlie.

D--Who was anybody else that came from the old Charles Antel days?

C--Some of the pitchmen that they had. Harry Dempsey, character, character.

Who was the other one? I think he was from Atlantic City. He was with

the Charles Antel Company as a pitchman. You know what a pitchman is?

D--Oh, yes.

C--I didn't. But I heard so much about it, that later I did.

D--Was he here locally?

C--No, he went to the parties. He was with the party people.

D--There was Morris Green. Was it Green?

C-I thought it wassometh'ihg Morriss". But Dempsey and Morris whether it


be his first name or his last name, I don't know. I can think of them,

but I can't come up with their names.

D--Lester Morris.

C--That's right.

D--Where did Sy Reis fit into all of this? Did you know him?

C--He was in sales.

D--Was he from...?

C--I think he originated from Baltimore, in that area. Now whether he was

every with the other company or not, I don't know. Berneice Freiberg

did you see her?

D--I went to Baltimore and spoke with her.

C--How's she doing?

D--VEry well, very well. Still sells a little bit of real estate every

once in a while.

C--She was one of the original stockholders. She got out pretty well.

D--That's what I hear. AFter the Rosens sold out to G.A.C., what happened

to you? I know they didn't take to you, but did you just quit or did you

get fired?

C--When I went over there to talk to Hayward Wills, he asked me if I would like

to join them. I told him that I appreciated it, but no. I didn't do

anything other than put my license under Bill Reynolds. Fooled around

with some real estate purchasing. As a matter of fact, that's how I met

your dad. By the way, I'm crazy about your mom and dad. They are two

wonderful people. You would agree with me on that.

D--They're all right.

C--And then for two years, my son had started, my son Dennis has done very

well on the cablevision business. He was a law graduate from the Univer-

sity of Florida. And for a year went to Hollans firm, one of the largest

firms in Lakeland. I think he was there for about a year, and a law


professor that he had, Larry Silberstein, got ahold of him and he had

gotten interested in cablevision in some of the small towns around

northern Florida. And he talked Dennis into going with him. And they

are both -multi-millionaires today.

D--That's great.

C--For two years I worked with them, going around, talking about their

company. Starting franchises in different cities and counties, things

like that. And then I mainly retired, but also getting into real

estate deals. That's the only way that I can sell somebody is if I buy

stuff and then sell it.

D--One last question, who do you think was the most important person in

the success of Gulf American besides Leonard and Jack?

C--I don't think that there is any question, there isn't ANY question

about it and I would argue with anyone, Tom Weber. What would have

happened to our company if it hadn't been for Tom Weber? It would

have gone under way before it got into trouble. He had this whole

building in this city in his name. He was great. He was great and

Leonard knew it. I tell you one story. Leonard, we'd get into finan-

cial trouble every so often. I mean we would be in it most of the

time, but every so often we would get so bad that Leonard would really

be sweating it out. So he'd come over to the Cape and he was going to

economize. Cut down everybody. I'll never forget one time he cut

one of the offices on the same floor that I was on. He called me over

and I had at the time been in charge of the golf course. As a matter

of fact, that was one of the things that I did. Brought the golf

course along, hired Ed Caldwell, as a pro. And followed that

along. So he said, "I want to talk about Ed Caldwell." He said, "Now

it says that he did $700 in lessons. My deal with Ed to start with was

that I would guarantee him a salary of $10,000 to start with." This is


all, $10,000. And that as soon as his lessons and his pro shop would

go over that, he would be on his own. We wouldn't subsidize him any

further. So this is what Leonard is getting around to. That he is lying

to us. That he is doing a lot more than any $8,700. I tried to be as

basic as I could in explaining it to Leonard that he probably was the

greatest salesman that we had of all our salesmen. Not only was he tell-

ing the truth, but that he sold, actually sold people that were living

at the Cape because he would go outand play with them. And they like

him. He had a wonderful personality. That is the reason he is not

giving any lessons. I said, "If you were around here, Leonard, at all,

certainly much more than you are able to be, I realize that. But if any

of us that are around know that we have never seen or hardly ever

Ed Caldwell give a lesson." He says, "If he's not stealing from us

I'll jump out that window." Look here's five or six of them. Kenny

Schwartz. Others. All of them nervous. I said, "Leonard, you

might be doing the company the greatest favor you ever did if you

would just jump out that window." And walked out. Left him.

Tom Weber, he saw me later on, maybe a week or two later. He said,

"Connie, I've got to give it to you. You're the only one in this whole

company who could tell Leonard off."

D--That's great. Well, good. I think that we are just about of tape

here. Anything else you can think of?

C--No, I've been talking too much.

D--That's alright.

C--Oh my gosh.

D--We've been talking a while. Thanks a lot.