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Cape kids: Growing up in the fledgling city

August 14, 2015
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Growing up in Cape Coral as the city itself grew from a vision to the largest municipality between Tampa and Miami was a experience. "Cape kids" who now are taking their grandkids to the Yacht Club beach grew up in a close-knit community where life centered around not only that very same facility but a related teen center and the community gem, the Golf and Tennis Club where receptions of import were always held at the Country Club. They saw their children able to attend high school here instead of "across the river," and that second wave of "Cape kids" now run some of the city's oldest businesses and hold some of the Cape's positions of influence.

Here are some of their memories:

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Article Photos

Wayne Kirkwood, far left in 1963, with his two sisters Ronda and Debbie, and his pioneer grandparents May and Orion Spear. Their house was one of the first 20 built. Located straight across the canal from the Yacht Club fuel docks. The pier in the background is the Cape Yacht Club fishing pier. When the picture was taken, Wayne was 8.

*Wayne Kirkwood

Fondest memory?

Swimming at the brand new Yacht Club pool, sailing in the river and the Gulf,

Playing in and along all the canals without seawalls.

Biggest change?

A "pie in the sky" land sales scheme that became the second largest city by area in Florida, now largest is size and population in Lee County with room to triple in size. "Lies That Came True" is the title of a book on the Cape's development, it says it all.

Growing up, what did you envision?

The Cape remaining a quiet, residential bedroom community. Never the city of size and influence it has become and will be forever. It provided me and my family opportunities I never would have had anywhere else. I am blessed!

What do you miss? (Event or landmark)

The Rose Gardens, water skiing in the river, no boat traffic or speed zones, boating to and camping on Upper Captiva, solitude

Your contribution?

A Lifetime of community service and leadership through organizations like the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association, Cape Coral Chamber, Cape Coral Community Foundation, Cape Coral Historical Society, Cape Coral Little League, Cape Coral Rotary Gold Coast, City of Cape Coral Financial Advisory Committee, Cape Coral Council for Progress

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* Helen Skinder Ramey

Fondest memory?

We moved to Cape Coral in 1968 and my parents bought a house on Riverside Drive, we lived two blocks from the Yacht Club. The pool then was fabulous, the tall fence didn't exist and it seemed all the kids in Cape Coral were always at the pool. We wore white plastic wristbands that granted us unlimited access to pool. The Teen Club was open next to the pool, and you could get the best basket of french fries for only 25 cents.

Biggest change?

The number of schools in Cape Coral. When I went into the 9th grade, Cape Coral did not have a high school, so if you lived south of Cape Coral Parkway, you were bused to Fort Myers and attended Cypress Lake High School. The school buses were filled beyond capacity, three to a seat and students standing packed in the center aisle. There was such a shortage of high schools; we had to attend double-sessions for all four years. Freshmen and sophomores had the afternoon shift and juniors and seniors had the morning shift.

Growing up, what did you envision?

That Cape Coral would be everything they said it would be, a waterfront wonderland where people could live, work, and play.

What do you miss? (Event or landmark)

The Rose Gardens was a wonderful attraction for visitors and residents. It was truly a gem, there were so many beautiful things to see, the porpoise show and waltzing waters were breath taking for people of all ages.

Your contribution?

I have seen how rapidly the city has grown in the past 40-plus years, and I still recall the personal business relationships of the many "mom & pop," family-owned stores in South Cape. Together with some of the "old-timers" and some of the "newbies," they are trying to enhance the commercial neighborliness that exists when business owners work together. There was a special feeling dealing with familiar faces, the downtown, called South Cape now, was a special place. What I truly enjoy about working for the CRA is helping once again making South Cape a special place.

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* Gloria Raso Tate

Fondest Memory?

The Cape Coral Yacht Club, sitting around the fountain, and the Teen Center - no adults allowed and you got a key to the door when you turned 13. Another favorite thing was all the great celebrities we got to meet when Jack and Leonard Rosen promoted the Cape. The grand opening of he Yacht Club was for the entire community free and it was just one big happy family

Biggest Change?

Although we are still a small town feel, many people moving here don't have any real history of the city and what people did to get our city where we are today.

Growing up, what did you envision?

Growing up we were such a close-knit community, sharing holidays, special events and good times and sad times as one family of a few hundred people. Slowly you felt that change. It seemed as though some people moved here with a chip on their shoulder from their former community. My worst line to hear: "We did it different and better up north." So why come to paradise?

What do you miss? (Event or landmark)

I miss the Cape Coral Golf and Tennis Club. I miss knowing we could walk in, Dad coming off the course, having lunch together and everyone knew us - "like a "Cheers" atmosphere. My sisters were all married with receptions at the Country Club so was my daughter and nephew. It was our landmark, a place familiar that we could enjoy as a family safe and very secure.

Your contribution?

At my community service as a 10-year City Council councilperson and volunteer, efforts to build a new youth center, new hospital, new schools the first block party celebrating the 20th anniversary of the city, or organizing Red, White and Boom. In the early days in swampland, that I enriched the lives of our citizens in a small and productive way. I hope in some way when people hear my name, Gloria Raso Tate, they will recognize my love for this city and my commitment to strive constantly to build a better Cape Coral for those who haven't gotten to know us, those who grew up here will stay here and those who understand giving is a gift - you give to your community, you can get that gift back whenever you need it. People needing people who appreciate what their forefathers started and hope we will finish well.

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* Bill Johnnson

Fondest memory?

With growing up at the time in such a small community, my fondest memory would be the interactions I had with my childhood friends. In a world without Xbox, cell phones and all the other distractions kids have today, we used to ride bikes, make forts, swim in the canals and have fun. I can tell you though, riding a bike on the old shell roads back then was not one of my fondest memories. I still have the scares to prove that.

Biggest change?

The biggest change for me is how much our city has grown over the last 45 years. I can remember as a kid, being able to go out in my front yard and only see a few houses around me. My parents live in the Southwest Cape off Pelican (Boulevard) and still do to this day. Now I walk out of my parents' same front porch and its houses as far as the eyes can see. So the amount of growth we have experienced is the biggest change for me.

Growing up, what did you envision?

Honestly, I envisioned leaving. Back then there wasn't much to do as a young adult. I can tell you after I left for collage, I finally realized what the draw of Cape Coral was. It was this vision that brought me back. I realized that Cape Coral was a great place to not only to live but to raise a family. It was the main reason I chose to raise my family here. I am proud to say that both my children were born in Cape Coral and are the fourth generation of my family to call Cape Coral home.

What do you miss? (Event or landmark)?

The old Rose Garden. I was too young to remember it in its glory, but I did get to experience it a young adult. From riding our bikes throw all the old remains to making forts and getting into trouble, as all young boys do. I was sad when it all went away. Every time I go to Tarpon Pointe and The Westin, I always getting that one memory of when I used to ride through here on my bike.

Your contribution?

I guess my biggest contribution is being able to give back to the community that I grew up in. To be part of a group that decided that Cape Coral is our home and let's be the people to take the next step in our development of our great city. I also like telling the younger generations that Cape Coral is a great place not only to live, but to work and encourage them to return after collage and help continue the vision our founders had for Cape Coral.

****Donna Schuman Germain

Fondest memory?

One of my fondest memories of growing up in Cape Coral is the city's annual tree lighting, now known as Holiday Festival of Lights.

I can remember performing at this event for years as a child whether it be as a Tiny Tot at Robin Dawn Dance or a Merry Ringer with the Caloosa Middle School.

Over the last 11 years with the chamber, I have had the honor of helping put this event together along with my team for the community.

It is one of those heartwarming community traditions that I will always cherish.

Biggest change?

The growth in our community over the years has been amazing. I love meeting new people who have just moved here with their families or started a business. I love hearing about their enthusiasm for the city I love so dearly.

We are truly a welcoming community and I look forward to seeing us grow in the future.

Growing up, what did you envision?

I have always wanted to see us grow into a more progressive city and we are definitely on our way there. It's exciting to visit other cities and see that we are embracing new business and social trends.

We are not the bedroom community first envisioned and we are coming into our own as we grow.

What do you miss? (Event or landmark)?

It may sound silly, but I miss the hill at Four Freedoms Park. From childhood, I have cherished memories of going there with my grandmother and siblings.

The hill was always exciting as Cape Coral is mainly flat land. It was exciting as a child to run up and play on the hill. I was sad to see it go.

Your contribution?

I believe that one of the most important things you can do is give back to your community. Whether it is through your time, talent or treasure. I try to do as much as I can to volunteer my time, ideas and talent to making Cape Coral a better place for the next generations.

I also hope to encourage the younger generation to do the same.

 
 
 

 

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