Syble Sez

February 27, 2021
By Marcy Shortuse

SUBMITTED BY THE BOCA GRANDE HISTORICAL SOCIETY – The Boca Beacon’s of the early 1980s included a column called “Syble Sez” based on local news of social events, business openings, family visitors, marriages, new babies and general gossip. Syble was Syble Futch who shared bar tending duties at The Temptation with Doris Wheeler where she was well situated to hear what was going on around town.  

In her first column in the November 1, 1980 edition of the Beacon, Syble covers the grand opening party of the rebuilt Pink Elephant on October 18.  She tells that “free drinks were flowing and hundreds of pounds of shrimp, smoked salmon and stone crab claws were served.” In the same article, she notes that Mike Mansfield, then ambassador to Japan but formerly a Montana Senator, had eaten twice at the new Pink (and many times previously at the original Pink Elephant) as the guest of Boca Grande winter resident, Mrs. Charles Englehard.

She also covers a dinner she attended with host D.O. Fugate (the builder and owner of the original Pink Elephant), his daughter Betsy Fugate Joiner and Doris Wheeler at the newly built Boca Grande Club. She notes that Charles Harrison, a rancher and citrus grower from Arcadia as well as an owner at the Boca Grande Club, threw a “pool deck buffet of smoked mullet, swamp cabbage and potato salad,” all prepared by Harrison. It was surprise dinner for anyone who happened to be at the Club that night.  

On opening day at the Gasparilla Inn golf course, the Spencer Brownells beat the Jack Barndollars and the Phillip Wrights. Nancy Bellisle threw a slumber party for 15 women but the rumored panty raid never happened. The Sheer Folly (later Loons on a Limb and now Third Street Café) breakfast group was missing Nat Italiano who was in Tallahassee for the FSU-Pitt game. Donna Ann Joiner was visiting her family – Isabelle Whidden Joiner, Wayne and Melissa – from Houston.  It was “Mama Dear” Thompson’s 86th birthday and Bayard Sharp’s yacht, the Galpo, was expected back soon.  

Syble concludes her first column with this puzzle. “Who were those midnight cowboys that called Clyde Nabers at two in the morning to tow them off the beach when they got both a car and a truck stuck in the sand?”

Syble went on to write her column in 1980 and 1981. Apologizing for covering her kin folk, she wrote that “there’s a saying going round. ‘You ain’t much if you ain’t a Futch,’ and David Futch is making us all real proud of the name … he was accepted for an internship at the Miami Herald…and David came in third out of more than 400 entries for Journalism’s prestigious Hearst Award … I know your daddy Karl is just bursting with pride as we all are.”

She reports that Mike Nabors is now rodeoing professionally. Carolyn and Clyde, his parents, thought he was going to a rodeo in Greensboro, North Carolina, but got a phone call from Mike in Gatlinburg, Tennessee where Mike, “who had never seen snow before, was calling to say he had just been in his first snowball fight.”  Later she reports that Misty Nabors (now Misty Nabors Nichols, Executive Director of the GICIA) was home from college for Christmas.

She reports on businesses including the purchase of the Palmetto Inn from Jack and Mabel Oller by Jack and Beverly Furtado, the opening of Village Art, a working/showing art studio located next to the Barnichol and owned by Terry, Barbara and Stacy Seitz, the sale of Sheer Folly to Jay and Susan Spurgeon and its renaming to Loons on a Limb, the new deli named The Loose Caboose with its ice cream that is “made with more love than calories,” Charlie Mae Presley and her daughter Roberta Presley Johnson at Presley’s Flowers and Things, Wini Smart’s new gallery as well as the crowd at the Temptation and Eileen Maus and her son, Bud Amen, at the Laff-A-Lott.

At the Pink Elephant, “everyone was buzzing about the dinner guest in the recently redecorated private dining room. ‘Lady Bird’ Johnson was back on the island and enjoying dinner as the guest of Mrs. Charles Englehard  …while the distinguished group dined downstairs … in a private booth upstairs, well known country singer Eddy Arnold was back visiting good friends Nancy and Mike Garry. A few days later, the Pink waitresses noticed comedy star Dan Rowan having lunch.”

Reported from the Inn golf course, “a string of golf carts with some serious looking hunters, perched two to a cart and dressed in camouflage clothes, carrying shotguns. The Inn had obtained a special one day permit to shoot crows on the golf course. Seems the pests are tearing up the greens and being general nuisances. Heard they rid the course of only two crows, but it was a great excuse for a party afterward.”

Syble credited her fellow Temptation bartender with the best explanation of how small Boca Grande was. Doris told a guest, “we don’t even have a town drunk.”

There are only a few Syble Sez columns but they are available in the Small Town Papers archives – smalltownpapers.com – where Beacons from the 1980s are archived. Dusty Hopkins, publisher of the Boca Beacon, and the Historical Society are working to add more Beacon editions (1990 to the present) to the archives. If you would like to help with this effort, please email the Historical Society at kkyle@leegov.com.  

To learn more about the history of Boca Grande and Gasparilla Island, visit the History Center website bocagrandhistoricalsociety.com, like us on Facebook, or make an appointment to visit the History Center at 170 Park Ave. or call 964-1600. The History Center welcomes input from all. Please send comments or questions to bocagrandehistoricalsociety@gmail.com. This History Center Archives also invites the community to lend photographs, documents or other materials which it will scan and return to the lender.

Karen Grace is the treasurer of the Boca Grande Historical Society.