Getting to Captiva … the Hard Way.
The Loomis family—my branch, anyway—were all Yankees from Connecticut. But in 1934, my grandfather built a modest vacation home on Captiva Island in Florida.
It’s a small island in the Gulf of Mexico off of Fort Myers. My mother and father honeymooned on Captiva and they retired there 50-some years later.
Once, as a family, during Spring Break, we made the trip to Captiva by car. My father did all the driving, my mother sat next to him up front, and my younger brothers, Tom and Pete, were assigned to the back seat with me. It was probably around 1950 and before the Interstate Highway system, so it was a long, hard 1400-mile, three-day drive.
At the time, it wasn’t easy to remember that Captiva was worth the effort.
Although I’m sure there were many more, I clearly remember three incidents from that journey:
* My brother, Pete, then about 8 or 9 years old, was quite spectacularly car sick just over one hour into our three-day journey.
* Just south of Washington, we began seeing billboards showing an Eastern Airlines logo with the big, bold headline that said
YOU WOULD BE THERE BY NOW!
No one in the back seat was amused.
* Somewhere in North Carolina, we stopped at a gas station to use the rest rooms and to get a fill-up. My father was scowling when he got back in the car. “I think we were cheated,” he said. “ The gas cost us $5.16. I’ve never in my life paid as much as five dollars for a tank of gas!”
Once we arrived in Fort Myers, we would have to catch a ferry to Sanibel Island where someone would meet us and drive us to Captiva which was connected to Sanibel by a rickety wooden bridge.
As the years passed and more and more “snowbirds” from up north discovered Captiva and Sanibel, the two islands became popular places to retire. Inevitably the population increased and the ferry linking the two islands with the mainland became a bottleneck causing grumbling from the part-time retiree-residents. With some justification, they claimed that if someone vacationing on Sanibel or Captiva had a medical emergency, they would very likely have to be transported to a Fort Myers hospital by helicopter.
The answer, of course, was a causeway from the mainland to Sanibel. Finally, after more than a few years of pressure from the ever-increasing island population, officials of Lee County made the leap and at considerable expense to taxpayers, a causeway was finally constructed.
Yes, it gave residents of Sanibel and Captiva relatively easy access to medical facilities in Fort Myers. But from Day One, the causeway also opened both islands to day-trippers from the mainland, who were attracted by the excellent fishing and Captiva’s magnificent beach. Indeed, they came in such numbers that traffic jams often developed at each entrance to that causeway. And so, in case of a medical emergency, the patient has to be taken to the hospital in Fort Myers by helicopter.