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Fond memories of the Cape Coral Gardens

April 6, 2018
By Wendy Schroder - Cape Coral Historical Society &?Museum (Special to The Breeze) , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

The Cape Coral Gardens was the largest attraction of Cape Coral but due to the times the gardens were closed in 1970. An article about the Cape Coral Gardens in the New York Times, dated Nov. 22, 1964, stated, "One of Florida's newest attractions, a 22-acre installation that embraces a variety of gardens, an amphitheater, a fountain-studded lake and a pool inhabited by four performing porpoises, is scheduled to open here before December 1."

The Gardens was located where Tarpon Point is now. The remains of some of the attraction are intertwined with the development.

In a progress report from the Gulf American Land Corporation dated April 1966, it stated that in the Cape Coral Gardens first and incomplete year 1965, it was visited by over 200,000 people. It is hard to image that 52 years ago this attraction would draw so many people to the area.

Article Photos

Photos courtesy of the Cape Coral Historical Museum

A postcard showing the colorful Waltzing Waters at the Cape Coral Gardens.

The memories of those gardens for early residents are fond not only for those that visited the attraction but for those that were involved with the shows. Michael Przystawick's and Aage Schroder's experiences are distinctly different with one being a member of the family that created the Waltzing Walters Show and the other working at the Porpoise Pool as a teenager.

Michael is the third generation in the business of musical fountains - synchronization of lights, water and music called "Waltzing Waters," the show which Gunter Przystawick, Michael's father, operated the for the Rosen brothers, developers of Cape Coral. The brothers saw their show in Germany and brought it to the Cape.

"Waltzing Waters" first opened in 1964 at the Gardens. The official brochure for the Cape Coral Gardens stated "Waltzing Waters designed by Otto Przystawick, (Michael's grandfather) Germany's master fountain maker, the Waltzing Waters is the largest permanent musical display in the Western Hemisphere. Cascading fountains light the Florida night with brilliant, ever changing colors and high leaping jets of water dance rhythmically to the works of outstanding popular and classical composers achieve heights exceeding 85 feet."

When asked his fondest memories of the show Michael replied, "As a child I often was allowed to tag along to the Rose Gardens with my dad, Gunter Przystawick. He would operate the Waltzing Waters shows manually. I loved watching him at the controls in the darkened control room. The console had hundreds of switches and push buttons. It also contained some foot pedals. Best of all it had these big rheostats at the front of the cabinet. These were a series of 16 knobs connected to an arm that could be slowly pulled up or down. The slot through which these arms connected would come alive with sparks and glowing electricity when activated."

Today, Michael runs Waltzing Waters Inc. where it manufactures the new upgraded version of these water light and music show systems under the moniker Liquid Fireworks. Carrying on the family legacy is very special to Michael. This opportunity has afforded him the opportunity to visits places around the world, including Hong Kong, South Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, Spain, Egypt, Pakistan to name just a few.

"More importantly, it has granted me the means of bringing delight to millions of people", Michael stated.

One important goal remains with Michael to fulfill one of his father's wishes - he really wanted a Waltzing Waters show system to be in Cape Coral for future generations. The Waltzing Waters Show played such a huge roll in early Cape Coral, it would be a shame to lose it to history.

Another fond memory of Michael's was the Porpoise Pool.

"Of course, the Porpoise Pool was always the first stop. To this day, and I've traveled the world, I believe that the Rose Gardens Porpoise Pool, with its large coral stone boarders and the pirate ship back with crow's nest, is the prettiest I've seen," remarked Michael.

And that brings us to the caregivers of the Porpoise Pool

Aage Schroder was 18 years was when he landed the job at the Porpoise Pool. When asked what his fondest memory of his job, he stated, "My fondest memory was being in the Porpoise Pool with the four porpoises. All were females. Because I was the new guy, I had to do the cleaning. I had to get in the pool to vacuum the bottom and scrub the tile along the water line. When you first got in the pool, you had to spend 10 minutes greeting each of the four porpoises, scratch their backs and rub their bellies. They would not let you do any work until you interacted with them. If you did not do this when you first entered the pool, the porpoises would come up and bump you gently with their snout to let you know they wanted to 'play.' The porpoises would let me hold on to their dorsal fin and be pulled around the pool. That was great fun.

"My favorite was Susie. She was the youngest and cutest. She was the 'teenager' and only about 5 feet long. She always seemed to be in a good mood, and she was very playful," Aage shared.

"I also liked the mutt dog that the crew adopted as a puppy. George was a boxer mix that loved being around the guys. He had a small pen behind the pool. He was trained to be part of the show. I would put him in a small plastic boat that one of the porpoises would pull across the pool," he remarked.

Today, Aage is retired but not from a career in the entertainment business but as the Florida Department of Transportation District 2 Secretary and lives in St. Augustine with his wife, Edwina.

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Please stop the Cape Coral Historical Museum by for a tour Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Historical Museum is at 544 Cultural Park Blvd., Cape Coral. Tours are $5 for adults and students are free.

Further information, visit www.capecoralhistoricalmuseum.org or 239-772-7027.

Wendy Schroder is president Cape Coral Historical Society.

 
 
 

 

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