2017-09-07 / Top News

Of sand, seashells and memories


The water was murky the afternoon I drowned.

Obviously, I didn’t drown, but I was convinced I had drowned.

Fortunately, my dad jumped in — wallet, watch, shoes and all — to rescue me when a wave swept me away from a boat ramp in Bonita Springs.

The water was murky and I remember tumbling for an eternity that probably lasted for all of a few seconds.

At 2, I was too young to be embarrassed, but the event left its mark on me, and I was terrified of the water for a time.

I eventually got over my fears and loved to visit Fort Myers Beach, which had a funky vibe in the ’60s and ’70s.

We’d leave the house around 10 or so on a Saturday or Sunday morning — I remember my mother driving about eight of us in my dad’s Suburban, the vehicle bucking at stop and start because she had not yet mastered its clutch.

At the beach, we drove through a coral rock arch and crossed Matanzas Pass via a swing bridge to get to the beach. That 1920s bridge sometimes stuck, forcing motorists to turn around and drive all the way down the barrier island to get back to the mainland.

Kathryn Scott Simmons’ grandmother, Bolender, poses on the Fort Myers Beach pier around 1960. 
FAMILY PHOTO Kathryn Scott Simmons’ grandmother, Bolender, poses on the Fort Myers Beach pier around 1960. FAMILY PHOTO For a small kid, old Fort Myers Beach was a magical place.

You could walk along the pier and for a nickel or a dime, you could use a telescope to peer far off into the Gulf of Mexico, or look up and down the beach.

There were no high rises — only cottages, mom- and- pop motels and a trailer park or two.

Even then, the Red Coconut played host to RVs and campers and the occasional Airstream trailer. I laugh to think that before there was the Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina, there were the Pink Shell cottages — pastel-tinted stilt houses that lined the shore.

And there was plenty of shelling.

You could walk along the water’s edge and see the tiny coquinas glistening in the sunlight.

Sand dollars washed onto the beach and soon were bleached by the sun. Iridescent stiff pen shells — we called them “turkey wings” — sparkled amid the dried seaweed along the white-sand shore.

But not all creatures along the beach were dead.

During one visit, a group of anglers struggled to reel in a stingray that fought them from underneath the pier.

Another time, I remember trying to take home a horseshoe crab, only to be told by my great-grandmother that it was cruel.

“What would your Sunday school teacher say?” Grandma Gladys asked.

I grudgingly returned the ancient creature to the water and learned that some things are best left to memory. ¦


A Crown Tuscan glass shell bowl by Cambridge Glass Co.

Bought: Naples Estate Liquidators, 949 Second Ave. N., Naples; 676-8275.

Paid: $45

The Skinny: I’d sworn off buying more Cambridge Crown Tuscan glass — I have too much, but I love the shell motif that adorns so much of it.

This bowl is especially pretty, with lots of “fire,” or opalescence.

I love the way it glows, and it’s both pretty and elegant.

Cambridge made its Crown Tuscan pink color from 1932 to 1954. I especially love the Art Deco pieces and the nudes made in this glass.

The quality is wonderful and the glass reminds me of a time when even factory-made pieces had lots of hand finishing. ¦

Return to top