|I didn't make the cover, but I have my very|
As evidence, I present Legendary Locals of Fort Myers. This book was written by Gerri Reaves, published by Arcadia Press, and released this July and I was delighted to learn that I have my own page (59, to be precise). I knew I was going to be included, but I didn't know I would receive such lovely treatment--especially since I am in the company of many locally and internationally storied folk.
My First JobI've loved Fort Myers and its people all my life and I've always known my Fort Myers was special. Time after time, the people in my hometown have shown me affection, support, and even (gasp!) respect. Shortly after my graduation from Fort Myers High School, I took a job in the bookkeeping Department of the First National Bank. (Getting to work every morning was a tremendous ordeal--I literally had to make my way a couple hundred feet across First Street because I lived with my father immediately across the street in the Bradford Hotel.)
I didn't go to college right out of high school even though there was a trust fund because my grandmother and I were feuding. She wanted me to attend Bryn Mawr or Vassar and I was convinced I wouldn't fit in. However, Frank Lodwick, my band director (yes, I played clarinet 10 years in middle school, high school, and college) was concerned and told my father that he and other members of Elks Lodge No. 1288 wanted to raise the money for me to go to college, that I had too good a mind to waste. Dad thanked Mr. Lodwick and explained the situation. That Fall I headed off to Stetson University in Deland.
Pat Nixon's slim but perhaps slightly bowed legs. . .
THEN there was the time I was assigned by my editor at the News-Press, Bill Spear, to cover the visit to Fort Myers of our first lady, Patricia Nixon. When I described her as having "slim, perhaps slightly bowed legs," Mr. Spear insisted on looking at the photographs before confirming and releasing my story, and agreed I was being charitable. But neither of us had counted on the uproar. Mrs. Nixon was charming, but the local Republicans flooded the paper with complaints--opined one, ". . .your reporter had a bowl of cream on her desk while she typed with her claws" and another demanded . . . "if Nixon wins, she should stand on the stage of the covention center wearing a bikini!" Spear defended me down the line, even expressing concern lest my mother be upset. She wasn't. (He's also in Legendary Locals and I'm honored to be in the same book with him.)
No crime, but lots of talkFOLLOWING a yearlong stint as public information officer for the Lee County Sheriff's Department, I was assignment editor/police and court reporter for WBBH-TV station when the local paper reported on the front page that I was being investigated by the county sheriff's department. No charges were ever filed and the crime was never disclosed--because there wasn't one (that's a story for another time), but I immediately went to the station manager and offered to resign. Management wouldn't hear of it, but felt it might be wise to move me into an area where I wouldn't be quite so visible. I would do community service (that sounded like a jail term and still does), and I agreed. However, later that week a petition was delivered to the manager's office bearing around a thousand signatures of Fort Myers residents demanding I be kept on the news. And another friend, Police Chief Morgan House defended me as well. He knew the real story.
Sometime later in 1985, Mayor Art Hamel appointed me to serve as co-chair of the Fort Myers' Centennial Celebration committee. What a wonderful experience! For one solid year, we had a ball. We celebrated the history of Fort Myers plus we raised enough to money to buy the Pullman car on display at the Southwest Florida Historical Museum.
As is the case with any person of strong convictions, I had and have my enemies, but also I've been fortunate to count some of the town leaders as friends including former Mayors David Shapard, Oscar Corbin, and Art Hamel along with City Councilman Richard Bashaw. I am incredibly grateful to each and every one of them.
And finally, I want to express my gratitude to Dr. Gerri Reaves, the author. I am proud to be included in your fine book, Gerri. thank you, thank you, thank you!