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Cape has always been a special place for Elmer Tabor and his family

August 26, 2010
By MEGHAN McCOY

One family helped shape Cape Coral into what it is today by contributing one of the first businesses to the city in the early 1960s.

Elmer Tabor moved to Cape Coral in 1960 from West Virginia with his family. He said after his grandfather retired to the area in 1957, his family began to spend more time in Fort Myers during the summer.

When the development of Cape Coral began in 1958, Tabor's grandfather asked his father to pack up the kids and open a grocery store in Cape Coral, due to his knowledge of having a business in West Virginia for many years. In 1960, Elmer's father opened a grocery store for a total of 13 Cape Coral residents.

Elmer's Grocery Store remained in business through 1966 and then changed ownership when Big John opened the grocery store, which remained open until 1987.

"That is a good example of what kind of guts it took for people like my parents to do this," he said. "Without people like my parents and my grandparents, Cape Coral wouldn't be like it is today."

Tabor said Cape Coral's growth was a collaboration of true honest pioneers who started businesses like the first grocery store, laundry mat and doctors office.

When residents began to first move to Cape Coral, he said the average age was in the mid 40s, but "once the base services were set, it immediately went to the average age of 70."

Cape Coral continued to grow and schools, hospitals and libraries were built, which allowed the community to become more than a retirement place, "it became a great place to raise a family," Tabor said.

When they moved to Cape Coral, his family became familiar with the seven-mile road, which was a dirt road traveling from Cape Coral Parkway to Pine Island Road.

"It used to be an hour drive to get to Fort Myers," he said. "To go to the beach on Sunday, you would have to drive through downtown Fort Myers, which was a two hour trek one way."

Early telephone lines made life interesting in Cape Coral in the early 1960s because of the eight-party line the Tabors family had to share with their neighbors.

"There were eight households on one telephone line," he said, adding that if you picked up the phone and heard someone's conversation, you would have to hang up and wait for their conversation to be over before using the phone.

Another fond memory he had while growing up in Cape Coral was the mail boat, which delivered their mail and took passengers for a ride along the delivery route. He said once the mail left Fort Myers, the boat would make its first stop in Cape Coral and he would take advantage of traveling on the boat every chance he had.

"There was not much to do," he said laughing.

Most of the activities Tabor and his friends participated in were water based.

"We water skied in the canals that they were digging," he said.

Once the San Carlos canal was built, he and his buddies built a big ski jump and anchored it out in the middle of the canal for entertainment every Saturday and Sunday.

Cape Coral did not have any schools in the early '60s, Tabor said, which resulted in all the kids having to pile on the bus and head to school in Fort Myers. In 1968, it was decided that Cape Coral would be split in half. Those living on the south side of Cape Coral were transported to Cypress Lake and kids living on the north end of the Cape were sent to North Fort Myers, he said.

When the decision was first made to separate the kids into two different boundaries, he said, "We were not happy because we grew up together and did not want to be separated."

Tabor graduated from high school the same year Cape Coral became incorporated. He said during the first 10 years of living in the Cape, he saw residents create their independence.

"There's always been a separation of Fort Myers and Cape Coral," he said, due to Fort Myers being the county seat where the court house, jail, attorneys' offices and hospitals were located. "They never looked at Cape Coral for anything but a bedroom community."

Residents of Cape Coral had the mind set and mentality that they had to go to Fort Myers to purchase many items, Tabor said because "we grew up relying on Fort Myers."

After residing in Cape Coral for more than 50 years and being apart of the city's growth, Tabor believes he has watched the city evolve into a great community.

He said Cape Coral now has opportunities for young graduates of high school and college students to begin their career instead of traveling somewhere else.

"We have one of the safest cities crime wise, some of the best parks and we have some of the greatest beaches in the world not 30 minutes away," Tabor said.

"I think it is our responsibility as citizens to strive and make it a better place than we found it," he said, which has always been his philosophy.

"Don't forget those who have shed their blood, sweat and tears to get it where it is," Tabor said about Cape Coral. "Let's all have pride in our community."

 
 
 

 

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