Darrell Polk and Jeff Gaines, Jr. spoke before a full loggia at the Johann Fust Community Library on Wednesday, February 8. Gaines and Polk, both island natives, had the crowd laughing with their tales of island life before air conditioning and mosquito treatment.
Jeff Gaines, Sr. owned a successful island business. He began his career on the island with the railroad, and then moved into the real estate and lumber supply businesses. He provided the lumber for the construction of the Gasparilla Inn. He also owned the island’s Chevy dealership, which brought a chorus of “I bought my first car from him” from the crowd.
Darrell Polk told the story of how his parents met, when his mother took a day trip that the railroad ran out to the island. His grandfather was a carpenter who worked on the Inn, as was his father. Polk grew up the only boy in a family with six sisters. One of them, Pansy Cost, spent more than 50 years working at the Fust Library, from its opening through 2002.
Polk worked for the theater as a projectionist for 30 years, until it closed. In 1951, he married his high school sweetheart, and they lived on the island until Hurricane Charley damaged their house in 2004. The couple owned and ran The Barnichol hardware store until 2005.
Up next on the Boca Grande Historical Society’s History Bytes series “Pioneer Families of Gasparilla Island and Area” is the Sprott Family. The latest installment will be on February 15 at 11 a.m. at the Johann Fust Community Library.
The Sprotts came to Boca Grande in 1926, in the person of Captain W.C. Sprott. Capt. Sprott started the Boca Grande Ferry Company, which ran the boats Saugerties and Catherine between the island and the mainland before the bridge was built in 1958. The long-time Boca Grande family also owned and operated the Sprott Hotel and the Hotel Palm as well as a general store on the island.
Join sisters Ruthie Amen and Jennifer Burch, descendants of the Sprott family, and local historian Robert Fischer, an expert on transportation in the “old days,” as they reminisce and answer questions about the Sprott family and the ferry. Everyone is invited to this free event, and there will be refreshments following. For more information, call the Historical Society at 964-1600.
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