Not Qualified to be an Old Timer

Dave's Wild Life

I know Pippins Restaurant has been closed for some time now but at least the building was still standing. It was a reminder of back when the choices for decent dining were not what they are today. We had the Pewter Mug (glad it’s back!), Saint George and the Dragon, Flaming Fountain, Piccadilly Pub and not much else. All were allowable rewards when I came home with an exceptional report card. Now Pippins will be torn down for good, another childhood memory for us KOTs reduced to rubble. Wait, what did I say, a “KOT?” Yes, that’s my new acronym for “Kind of Old Timer.”

I didn’t live here prior to the destruction caused by 1960’s Hurricane Donna. Actually I wasn’t even born yet. That blessed event occurred two years later. Those are two significant issues that prevent me from being in the prestigious Naples Old Timers group. But I have been here since 1969 and that is long enough to have hundreds of memories of what Naples was back in the 70s. So I consider myself and others that have been here prior to 1970 to be Kind of Old Timers, KOTs.

So nope, I am not old enough to have memories of fending off herds of inbred panthers with a flintlock just to reach the outhouse but here are some things that I do remember from my generation’s good old days of Naples—

Aside from Pine Ridge and a couple other neighborhoods, the town pretty much ended at Anchor Rode. I watched Park Shore being built and remember when we got our first big box store, the K-Mart at Park Shore Plaza. One of my childhood chums, Mike Day, who lived a stone’s throw from the plaza, excitedly told me at school one day, “The K-Mart is going to be HUGE, and they have TWELVE check out lanes!”

Neighborhoods were built house by house, not habitat by habitat.

The school bus used to stop and check for trains at the railroad tracks that ran west of Goodlette Road.

Kentucky Fried Chicken was the only fast food franchise in town. It originally stood where Andre’s Steakhouse is now.

Sitting in Chris’s Gourmet Castle, after school was over for the day at Lake Park, having a snack and listening to “American Pie” on the jukebox.

Coastland Mall was acres of pines and saw palmetto.

It didn’t matter where you were from; everyone in town was a Miami Dolphins fan. Earl Morrall had a house in our neighborhood and one day all us kids lined up for autographs at his front door. I still have it on a piece of notebook paper somewhere.

As a kid, I thought I was so cool when the trainers from the zoo invited me to lunch. Their favorite spot was the old Rexall that anchored the south end of Naples Shopping Center or Lums which was over by Pippins. The north end of the center was a Grants department store, it’s now an Office Depot. And Bressler's Ice Cream Shop got a fair share of my allowance money.

How big time we thought we were when we got our first McDonald’s down at the Gulf Gate Plaza? Burger King came soon after. The site of the first one by the Moorings was razed a few years ago and is now a jewelry store.

The streets in the Moorings where I grew up were just awful for skateboarding, way too rough and they shredded my urethane wheels. However, the asphalt lot at the old Citizen’s National Bank up on 41 was perfect. And the concrete path at the Collier building next door was even better. The secretaries would watch me practice from their office windows and on the way out to their cars each night they would tell me how my skateboard skills were improving. It was my sanctuary, the cops never hassled me there. But if you skated at Naples Shopping Center they appeared out of nowhere and kicked us out. My good buddy, Pat McLaughlin, always a bucket of sass, would ask them what the ordinance number was. Of course, there wasn't one but we got the boot anyway. Yes, skateboarding was apparently a crime even back then. I am envious of these kids today and the skateparks we have in town now.

There were no beach parking meters. And there were more sea oats than condos.

All these six lane roads were two lane roads and some were even dirt roads.

Naples High held two sessions a day to accommodate all the students. That was pre-Lely High. I just missed that, but I do remember all the portables that were still needed to handle the overflow that remained. I recall a day when we were waiting for English class to start and we noticed a book leaning against the inside of a window high up on the side of the portable. It became a game to jump off the concrete stair and smack the window, hoping to knock the book down. Someone with the initials “DT” finally accomplished the feat but broke the window and sliced his hand in the process. You could follow the bloodtrail all the way to the nurse’s office. I am certain the janitor and their mop loved me that day.

Before there was Hollywood 20, there was a six screen theater at Coastland Mall. And before that there was the KonTiki theater just north of where Bayfront sits today. And before that we had a double screen theater at Gulf Gate Plaza. And before that there was the Quonset hut on 3rd Street.

We rode our bikes from the Moorings all the way down to The Magic Lantern toy store on 5th Avenue. It was the only store in town the carried Corgi cars that we collected. You know, back when a kid could ride all over town and mom and dad didn’t worry?

Finally, and you knew this was coming, when Naples Zoo was Jungle Larry’s.

So KOTs unite! Many of us may not be ready for Centrum Silver or an AARP card but we still have fond memories of Naples when it was just a sleepy little town.

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