There are six houses on the beachfront side of
the block between 3rd and 4th streets. In the
1970’s, B.C. (Before golf carts), every house but
our own was occupied by graduates of Harvard
University. It was quite stimulating to be near all
That year, as income-tax day approached, one
of these gentlemen became quite agitated with
his taxman up north because his return had not
yet arrived for his signature. Each day, after checking his post box, he would tell his problems to the
postmistress. By tax day, she was well aware of his predicament. Finally, on the 16th of April, a big brown
envelope was delivered. He quickly examined the contents and, after signing the return, rushed back to
our post office.
The postmistress noticed the apprehensive look on his face as he approached the counter and handed
her his tax return envelope. Without saying a word, she turned over the postmark date canceling stamp
and with her pencil moved the 6 back to 5, gave it a big bang, and cancelled the stamp “April 15.” Then
she quickly moved number 5 forward to 6 again.
“Neither rain, sleet, snow” nor a day late can hinder a Boca Grande postmistress!
One of the Harvard graduates, Dick Humphrey, lived two houses north of us. We often crossed paths
walking our Labrador dogs. On New Year’s Day 1970, we met on our customary dog walk. While I kept
our dogs’ leashes untangled, Dick looked at me and said, “Guess where I was 50 years ago today.”
Without waiting for an answer he knew I couldn’t come up with, he continued, “I was playing football
in the Rose Bowl game in Pasadena.”
Harvard played Oregon State that year; an Ivy League team in the Rose Bowl! After the game, the
powers-that-be at Harvard decided to refuse another invitation, if asked, because of the long travel time
that kept the players away from their homework.
For about the first 40 years that we came to Boca Grande, Jerry Fugate and his wife, Geraldine, were
the owners of Fugate’s.
Fugate’s began as a real drugstore. But when Jerry discovered he was too color blind to continue to fill
prescriptions, drug sales ceased although the store was still called the “Boca Grande Drug Store.” In
addition to the usual items such as toothpaste and over-the-counter drugs, there was lots of other
merchandise for sale, including fishing supplies.
Geraldine sold her own line of ladies’ dresses and accessories. She was very careful not to sell the same
style dress to two different customers who might show up at some social function wearing identical
dresses. One of her favorite stories, as related in the Washington Post society section many years ago,
goes like this:
Mary McLean, a long-time friend, was involved in the Washington social scene. When TV first began
broadcasting such social events as charity balls, or banquets for foreign dignitaries, often some popular
“talking head” would interview the guests as they stood in the receiving line. One of the question usually
asked was, “Where did you get that beautiful gown?” or “Who was the designer?” When they asked Mary
where she had gotten her elegant dress she replied, “At the Boca Grande Drug Store.”
Early one fall when we had just returned to Boca Grande for the season, I was talking to Jerry about
the summer he and Geraldine had spent. He got out his itinerary of that year’s buying trips. As we looked
it over, I spotted a familiar excursion I also had taken that year, a riverboat up the Rhine from Cologne to
I commented to him on how slowly the boat had traveled upstream. The river at this point
is about two hundred and forty miles from the ocean, but Jerry, having been born and raised
on Gasparilla Island, said, “That Rhine sure has some tide!” G
54 GASPARILLA ISLAND November/December 2017