■ BY SUE ERWIN
Boca Grande resident Frank Newlin shared some personal stories of what it was like growing up on the island with his grandparents during the 1950s through the 1970s with a large crowd at the Johann Fust Community Library on Wednesday, Feb. 7.
He talked about his grandparents, E. Mortimer & Elizabeth Battles Newlin who first arrived to visit Boca Grande by train from Pennsylvania in the 1950s. They purchased the studio home on Gilchrist that was once owned by Louise & Frank Crowninshield.
Mortimer loved fishing, which why Frank believes his grandparents chose Boca Grande.
“People used to say, my grandfather would cast a fly into a puddle if he could find one in the street.”
Frank’s grandmother, Elizabeth, later purchased a home on Park Ave. in 1971. Mrs. Newlin became a prominent winter resident and member of the Boca Grande Community from the early 60s until her death in 1995.
“I first came to Boca Grande when I was about seven or eight,” Frank said. “It was March and I recall it was warm,” Newlin said. “But anyplace was warm when you compared it to winter in Philadelphia.”
At the time, his grandfather was one of the few people who had steps leading into the water from his home on Gilchrist, and he remembered being quite weary when he entered the water.
He recalled there were no television sets at his grandparent’s home, and someone on the island would host a cocktail party every evening.
“It was simpler then – there just weren’t as many people here at the time,” he said. “My grandparents loved this island. They would come after January 1 – never before – and they’d return to Philadelphia just before Easter, without fail. It didn’t matter when Easter fell, my grandmother had to spend it in her beloved church up north.”
Elizabeth Newlin purchased a home on Park Ave. in 1971 and she became a prominent winter resident and member of the Boca Grande Community from the early 60s until her death in 1995.
When Frank returned back to the island with his own children in the 1990s, he snorkeled those same waters, seeing the same small species of fish he saw as a young boy.
“The sea wall is a vibrant thread running through the story of my history of Boca,” Newlin said. “One of the earliest things I remember my grandfather telling me, as we enjoyed the sunset from the gazebo, was the history of the wall and the fact that all residents of the village of Boca Grande enjoyed its use as a permanent right-of-way from First Street to Fourth Streets. He called it one of the most enjoyable and delightful hidden gems in our state.”
Frank and his wife, Kim, opened Newlin’s Mainley Gourmet about 13 years ago. He’s been assisting Kim in the shop ever since.
“Make no mistake – that is Kim’s shop – I am simply there to do the dishes and help out when needed.”
Frank’s grandfather was born in 1893. He was a World War I Veteran — twice combat wounded.
“I can’t be sure what them down here, whether it was because grandma was friends with Louise DuPont, or because grandpa knew how great the fishing was, but whatever they reason, when they started coming here in the 1950s and 1960s — they never lost sight of the island.”
Frank visited his grandparents through his teen years and moved to the island in the early 90s.
He recalls never having to follow a curfew when he was visiting his grandparents as a teenager, because the only thing to do in town after dark was lay on the beach and look at the stars.
And he was expected to attend cocktail hour before dinner at 6 p.m. nightly.
“I was always invited to my grandparents affairs … both cocktails and dinner,” Newlin said. “And attendance was mandatory. Well-behaved grandchildren make the finest trophies.”
He purchased his grandmother’s home on Park Ave. from the family in 1992. Frank and his wife Kim were married in 1993 and have two children, Cooper and Tallulah. Frank has pursued many career paths; travel agent, stock broker, trader, promoter and lobsterman. He is an avid reader and loves history. You can find him on the tennis courts or assisting Kim in the shop.
Frank met Kim while he was working on a lobster boat and the crew made a stop in Boca Grande for some last minute maintenance.
“She was working at the Pink Elephant and we happened to stop right across from the place — I knew right away I had to meet her.”
They were married a few years later and opened the shop about 13 years ago.