homepage logo

1970 a year to remember for Cape Coral

By Staff | Aug 26, 2010

Flashback 1970: The Baby Boomers all had been born.

President Richard Millhouse Nixon was a few years away from stepping down and Spiro Agnew was vice president. Deep Throat, Woodward and Bernstein and the Watergate Scandal that led to Nixon’s fall from grace were two years away.

A stamp cost 6 cents, a gallon of milk was $1.15, gasoline 36 cents.

Unemployment held steady at 3.5 percent and the Dow Jones reached a high of 842.

Norman Greenbaum was crooning “Spirit in the Sky” and the song-of-the-year was “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel.

“Love Story” raked in a whopping $106,400,000 at the box office compared to runner-up “MASH” at $73,200,000. George C. Scott won best actor for “Patton” and Glenda Jackson won best actress for “Women in Love.”

In sports, the NFL and AFL merge into one group, and Baltimore beat Dallas 16-13 to win the fifth Super Bowl. Nebraska was on top of college football, but Jim Plunket, Stanford’s quarterback, won the Heisman trophy.

In baseball, Johnny Bench was the most valuable player for the National League; Boog Powell, Baltimore’s first baseman, for the American League. Bench, catching for Cincinnati, saw his team fall to Baltimore in the World Series.

The first Earth Day was celebrated; IBM introduced the floppy disk; The Chicago 7 were acquitted; Nixon asked for those as young as 18 to be able to vote; four students were killed at Kent State University; the words fast-food, rip-off and preppie were first recognized.

Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin died and the Vietnam War was in its 15th year with five more to go.

But possibly the most important thing to happen in Southwest Florida was that Cape Coral celebrated its birth.

The years leading up to incorporation saw a group of people who had a vision of a bedroom community where people could play, live near or by the water to soak up Florida’s sunshine and have fun.

Many roads were still dirt, sanitary sewer and water were sketchy, billboards along Del Prado Boulevard reflected how many people from each state were buying lots to have a little piece of paradise.

Gloria Raso Tate came to Cape Coral during the summer of 1960. Her father had bought lots on the Bill Stern radio show in Pittsburgh to give to his wife as a Christmas gift.

“She tore them up and said: ‘No thank you,'” Tate recalls. But her father was persistent. The World War II veteran had come through Miami and fell in love with the warmth offered by Florida’s sunshine. He loved to golf.

“We were so excited as we drove to our new town to see how many people were going to come here,” she said. Fish swam in the roadway, an airstrip with a small sales office. The hotel, which served as the post office, general store – breakfast in the morning and bar at night – was at the corner where Perkins and now where the Quality Inn stands.

“My mom said: ‘No.’ But my dad was offered a job as the first bar tender in the city and he accepted.”

That would lead to her father becoming one of the first people in Cape Coral.

Soon, two brothers’ dream would become a reality.

Jack and Leonard Rosen purchased Redfish Point for $678,000, platted the area and created more than 400 miles of canals. They began a massive marketing campaign which resulted in the sale of nearly all of the 350,000 residential building lots, the majority of who lived elsewhere, according to information on the city’s website.

Many people had a hand in helping the Rosens complete their dreams.

It was in the late 1950s that development began. The Gulf American Corp., known as a family company, was founded to develop the area. The first building was GAC’s headquarters at Coronado and Cape Coral parkways. Kenny Schwartz, GAC’s general manager, is touted as the first permanent resident.

Soon, houses began springing up.

But the growth that was to come in the next decade lead to founding fathers incorporating what was to be the largest city by land mass in Lee County, the third largest in the state.

Many people and groups were instrumental in getting that designation.

Historical records show that the Cape Coral Civic Association, formed in 1962, lead the charge to incorporate the city.

Talk of incorporation began in 1963, but the Civic Association members didn’t think it was a good idea. But by 1969, members fully endorsed incorporation.

Through the years the Civic Association has tackled problems such as the Cape Coral Bridge, a lighting district for Cape Coral, attempts to make GAC stick to their promises and a civic center, according to a history of the association.

From 1962 to 1971, the Cape Coral Civic Association represented residents of Cape Coral. Faced with an unsympathetic and sometimes hostile county government, the Civic Association was the one outlet and forum the people of Cape Coral had that exercised any functional power.

“It was at the Civic Association that Charlie Blackburn presented the idea that Cape Coral should incorporate,” Charles Brady, a resident of Cape Coral since 1968, recalled in previously published reports. “All those persons who thought incorporation was a good idea were asked to volunteer for committees to study the problems involved.”