BY MISTY NABERS NICHOLS- After almost 60 years serving the Boca Grande Community Clyde Nabers is finally going to be spending his weekdays fishing. On October 30, Clyde retired for the second time. If you have been in Boca Grande for more than 20 years you will remember Nabers Chevron, which sat at the northwest corner of 4th and Park in downtown Boca Grande. Clyde and wife Carolyn are both island natives. Clyde began his life at the north end of the island. His granddad, Gus Cole, owned the IGA and was Postmaster at the Post Office that was inside the store. Clyde’s Mom, Gussie, helped in the store. When Clyde was six the fishery moved its operation to Placida to truck fish out and not have to depend on the railroad. When his grandad retired Clyde’s Dad (also Clyde) and Gussie took over running the store and the Placida Post office. Clyde’s Dad was Postmaster and his mom became Assistant Postmaster.
Carolyn was born and raised right in the heart of Boca Grande. Her parents ran the fish house and market for almost 50 years. Clyde and Carolyn were married in 1961 and purchased the Gas Station in 1963. They were in their early 20s when they purchased the station and it was a family run operation with Clyde doing mechanical work and Carolyn keeping the books.
Clyde worked long days at the Station and every one of those days began with the “coffee Klatch.” This was a group of guys that gathered every morning to start the day drinking coffee and catching up on island business. The group included many over the years, Doc Wright, Nat Italiano, Braxton Bowen, Bumps Johnson, Jay Lumly, Ted Smith, Sam Parkinson, Bill Hinman, Ed Davis, Babe Darna, Rick Busby, Drayton Farr, Ted Bylaska, Forrest Stover, George Curtis, Joe Savarese, a number of the island’s priests and pastors and many others. They drank bad coffee, told stories and drew numbers each day to see who was buying.
In the early days of the Station, Clyde also served on the BG volunteer fire department, maintained the generators at the Clinic, ran the heavy equipment that dug the lake at the north end of the island, and often worked helping to load the ships that came into the phosphate dock. In fact, Clyde was a Volunteer Fireman when Miller’s Marina caught fire. He recalls being the first one on site for the 1975 blaze. Clyde and Carolyn’s kids, Mike and Misty, grew up in the station. Playing on the car lift, sweeping the office and garage, occasionally pumping gas, filling the coke machine and rolling quarters.
From the time he started the business in 1963 until the time he sold it and retired in 1999, Clyde kept winter residents’ cars running during the summer, drove a few residents’ cars back north each spring, and would help anyone whose car wouldn’t start, whether it was the middle of the night or Christmas morning. Some long-time customers of the station would even call Clyde if they locked themselves out of their car, or house and one resident even called when her dog ran off.
The office at the station was full of fish mounts that came from Carolyn’s Dad, Tommy Parkinson. There was a large set of shark Jaws from a bull shark caught by son Mike. A picture of daughter Misty leaning off a tower 20’ over a pool, fish in her month, bottlenose dolphin inches from her chin. And several Trophy deer from a few of Clyde’s successful hunting trips.
It was eclectic and welcoming, in fact Nabers Chevron was the middle of town, literally and figuratively. If you wanted to catch up on island happenings, needed help with your vehicle or wanted to borrow a tool, Clyde was the man to see. Clyde recalls when the streets rolled up at 6 p.m. the only place to get a Coke was the Nabers Chevron Coke machine. He said “the machine outside the Service Station became the hang out for island kids but they always left it in order and there was never a sign of vandalism”
In 1999, Clyde and Carolyn decided to sell the station and retire. Sam Murphy and Ann, Buzz and John Watkins threw a retirement party at the station that turned into a block party. Many island residents came out to celebrate the end of an era. Some of those in attendance even suggested putting a marker in the sidewalk at the corner of 4th and Park that read “Clyde’s Corner”. Clyde appreciated the sentiment but humbly declined. Soon after that, the station was torn down. In his mid-50s, Clyde decided he wasn’t quite ready to retire and Carolyn would say she married him for life but not for lunch.
When islander Ed Davis retired from his position at Lee County Mosquito Control Clyde saw it as an opportunity and took on the role of Mosquito Control Officer for Boca Grande. For the last 20+ years Clyde has served the island protecting Island Residents from an onslaught of mosquitoes. He drove the trap truck, flew to outer islands to do larval testing, walked into the more remote parts of Boca Grande to check for mosquitoes, he directed the aerial spraying, loaded the helicopters, and drove the spray truck. Of course, there were many other duties that came along with the County position that he held for over 20 years.
On October 30, without fanfare, Clyde stepped out of the helicopter and stepped into retirement for the second time. To celebrate, he had his scooter boat decked out with a new engine and has his fishing gear ready to go. So, if you are looking to catch up with Clyde these days you will most likely need to head out into the back bay to find him. He says he is always up for a good talk as long as it isn’t about how bad the mosquitoes are or the strange sound your car is making. Above, Clyde’s last day at the island’s mosquito control center. At right, Clyde in the old gas station.