Tom Williams: Spreading a little Christmas joy, $50 at a time

Long ago, there was a tropical island and a town named Collier City. For many years, the island flourished, but catastrophe struck when the clam beds ran dry, the pineapple plantation failed and everyone began to worry about paying their bills.

By the time Thanksgiving arrived, almost everyone was concerned that Christmas gifts just might not be possible. The island however was a tropical paradise and when winter came to the lands up North, visitors always traveled to seek the sun and vacation near the water.

One day a woman from Chicago arrived on the weekly train. She knew she was spending the winter in Florida, but she wasn’t sure if Collier City was the best place for her family that was coming for Christmas. When she arrived at the inn, she asked if she might see some rooms to help her decide if the location was right. She wanted to get a feel for the little island city and promptly gave the reception clerk $50 to hold the rooms and announced she would be back after she explored the island.

As soon as the woman went down the steps and boarded the old Model-T that was the only taxi around, the innkeeper took the 50 dollar bill, placed a bell on his desk and slipped out the back door. Within minutes, the reception clerk had walked down the street, entered the mercantile and used the 50 dollars to pay a grocery bill that was long overdue.

When the mercantile manager saw President Grant on the crisp bill, he promptly snatched up the money, placed his cap on his head and stepped out into the fresh air. Behind the mercantile, there was a series of docks and the local fish market and icehouse perched on the end of the waterfront. Within minutes, a bill of lading for the last month of fresh fish and seafood was paid, and the mercantile manager was back in his store.

With the $50 tucked away in her pocket, the fishing fleet manager hopped into a johnboat and pulled the cord to bring the outboard engine to life. She then cruised along the waterfront to the local gas docks. Within minutes, she had paid the entire fuel bill that was long over due and was back aboard the johnboat smiling in the sunshine. As she tied up the boat and stepped back onto her dock, she decided with the latest bill paid, she was going to hire another hand to help with the upcoming winter season.

When the Collier City Oil and Fuel dock manager saw the gas dock payment, he pulled the money out of the till and rode his bicycle down the street to the train station. When he placed the 50 dollars on the depot desk, he knew that the next fuel shipment would arrive on the train because he used the crisp bill to pay the notice marked with a red-stamped “Due Immediately.”

When the oil and fuel dock man was out of the depot, the railway station keeper promptly marked the fuel bill paid. She then hurried across the sandy street to the general store. Without another thought, she took the 50 dollars that she knew she could cover with next Friday’s paycheck and paid for the very special Christmas gift she was hoping to give her children. As the clerk took the $50 and set aside the last of the electric train sets, he smiled as the station keeper hurried happily back across the street. With the last of the hobby trains sold, the General Store manager promptly ordered three more train sets for Christmas, advised his assistant that he would be away on an errand, and took the 50 dollars and cranked up his car. Within minutes he was parked at the inn and standing at the reception desk. With the crisp 50 once again resting on the innkeeper’s desk, the General Store manager declared that he wanted to reserve Christmas dinner for six and didn’t care if it took the whole 50 dollars! When the manager from the General Store was walking down the steps, the Model-T Taxi pulled up and a woman with a fancy dress jumped out. She quickly adjusted her hat against the sun and headed straight for the double doors. With the Model-T idling she disappeared into the inn as the General Store manager whistled “Jingle Bells” and walked to his car.

As the woman from Chicago approached the desk, she found the reception clerk waiting as he had been when she first arrived. With a quick explanation that Collier City was just too quiet for her expectations, she quickly reclaimed the $50 she had given the clerk earlier and headed out the door to board the taxi. She was now off to catch the train, which would ultimately take her to Miami for Christmas.

With a beautiful winter sunset burnishing on the Marco waterfront and the lighting at dusk only as it can be in December, everyone in Collier City was ready to celebrate the evening as all the pressing bills were paid and the island could sleep well knowing that once again, everything was perfect in paradise.

Collier City was the official name for the first incorporated township of Marco Island. Marco historians please forgive the literary trespass into the accuracy of our island history. Happy Holidays and don’t forget to shop Marco first!

Tom Williams has been a local sailboat captain and Marriott associate for 29 years. His debut adventure novel “Lost and Found” has been released by Archebooks and is available at Sunshine Book Sellers and Tom is available at

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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