41 FIGHT: Following a visit to Washington, D.C., to press federal officials to help expedite the widening of U.S. 41 in Estero, a group of locals were setting their sights on convincing a state employee to allow the road to go through.
District 3 Lee County Commissioner Roland “Ro” Roberts was to meet with Robert Williams, the state historic preservation officer primarily responsible for blocking the four-laning of the highway through Estero.
“It was Williams’ opinion that four-laning would have an ‘adverse effect’ on the historic site, Koreshan Unity, in Estero, and that a new alignment to the west would be more feasible,” The Banner reported.
At the time, the 4.8-mile section of highway through Estero was the only unimproved section of U.S. 41 in Southwest Florida, creating a dangerous bottleneck that had already claimed lives. Locals had been lobbying to have the road widened along its existing route for several years, calling it the “Killer Highway.” In early 1979, residents formed a U.S. 41 Committee, launched a petition drive and hired a lawyer to help accomplish their goal,
“I think we got a foot in the door,” Committee Chairman Walter Shaken said after the trip to Washington, D.C. “But we were told again to get Williams to rescind his position.”
“Who decides which route is most feasible – the state historic preservation officer or the department of transportation?” asked committee member IRC Glassman.
PIONEERS MET: Bonita’s old-timers – those who’d called the area home for 40 years or more – gathered under the banyan tree for the third annual Bonita Springs Pioneer Days.
“I miss the old Pavilion in the park,” said Matt Ezell, who had traveled from Sebring, where he moved in 1935.
His brother Felix left Bonita even earlier – in 1922 – to find better work opportunities.
“I love Bonita Springs,” said Mildred Bullard, who was greeting people inside the Community Hall. “I wouldn’t trade it for any other place – anywhere.”
Born Mildred Liles, she went to school, married and raised two daughters in Bonita. Bullard was in Bonita when Hurricane Donna struck in 1960, leaving destruction in its wake.
“Didn’t hurt our house one bit,” recalled Bullard. “I have to smile when today’s builders say houses have to be concrete block to withstand hurricanes.”
Bullard still lived in her wood frame home on Shriver Avenue and stayed in it during the deadly storm.
The annual gathering was started in 1976 by Glenn Liles, Bonita’s former postmaster.
Pioneer families represented included the Lawhons, Bensons, Bullards, McSwains, Williams, Leitners, Dukes, Galloways, Hogues, McKeowns and Lyles.
DEPUTY KILLED: The American flag hung at half-mast that week at the Bonita Springs Sheriff’s Substation, honoring Deputy Lynn Hall, who had been shot and killed in the line of duty. A park on Fort Myers Beach now bears his name.
WATER RECORD: The Bonita Springs Water System set a record that week, pumping 1 million gallons on April 14, 1979. Superintendent Glenn Van Riper said the record amount was still only half the system’s capacity.
The system’s 2,000 customers traditionally used more water in April because it’s a dry month.
“Our last recorded rainfall was March 24, when 1.20 inches was received,” said Van Riper.
The facility is now known as Bonita Springs Utilities.
CRIME WAVE: Bonita was experiencing a rash of break-ins that week, with homes struck in Leaner Creek Manor, Riverside Drive, Imperial Bonita Estates, Pennsylvania Avenue, and Bristol Drive.
Vandals were also busy, targeting mailboxes and parked cars.
SUNRISE SERVICES: Easter dawned with sunrise services at two Bonita Springs locations. On Bonita Beach, Rev. Randy Ralston and his congregation from Bonita Beach Baptist Church gathered near the shore to mark the occasion. And under the banyan tree, the annual ecumenical service was conducted by the Lee County Clergy Association, with the Rev. Joe Lindsay performing the service.
ON SALE: Benson’s Superex on Old 41 had chuck roast for $1.59 a pound, country-style ribs for $1.39 a pound and frozen Cool Whip for 59 cents. Cello carrots were two bags for 39 cents and lettuce cost 39 cents a head.
At Sunshine Foodway in Lawhon’s Shopping Center on Bonita Beach Road, broccoli was 59 cents a bunch, cucumbers were priced at six for 49 cents and 3 pounds of red Rome apples cost 99 cents.