original Sunshine Skyway bridge. Their first of four
children, Donna, was born there. Barbara arrived
by train in Tampa from a trip to New York on that
very day. She made it in time for the first visiting
hours at Saint Joseph’s Hospital.
It was the only time in Isabelle’s life that she had
lived off the island. Although it was just a year, it was
“too long,” according to Isabelle.
In 1959 she and Donald had one of the houses
from Gasparilla, on the north end of the island,
moved to its present location on Tarpon Street.
“They dropped it on the railroad track” in front of
the Waterfront Motel. Since nothing ever delayed
the mail train, she was afraid it would “go right
through it” before they could pick it up again.
Of the two sisters, Barbara was the adventurer.
She worked in Naples as a governess for the
Watkins family for four years after graduation. She
was in full charge of their four children but came
home whenever she could. Isabelle visited in Naples
on several occasions. The Watkins would spend
summers with Barbara and the children in Blowing
50 GASPARILLA ISLAND September/October 2018
Barbara returned to the island, but she had
the traveling bug, which took her to Memphis
with her good friend Martha Turner. Martha
was an Elvis fan and insisted that she and
Barbara must visit Graceland. Then in 1960,
Evelyn Darna put Barbara in her car and drove
her to Tampa. She enrolled her in the Valdez
Beauty School and paid for it with Barbara’s
money. During the six months of school,
Barbara lived with Martha’s family.
She stayed in Tampa and worked for a while,
since she “wasn’t quite ready for the Boca
Grande people.” When she returned to Boca
Grande in 1962, she worked at Evelyn’s Beauty
Salon until 1965.
Still the adventurous sister, Barbara moved
out to San Clemente, California. Shortly after
her arrival, she lost her poodle when she let
him out in the middle of the night. Her
neighbor, who lived next door, had just arrived
home from his job as a bartender. It was 3 a.m.,
and he helped her look for the dog. By the time
they found the dog, the neighbor had noticed
Barbara was sick with the flu. Each morning he
would knock on her door to see if she needed
anything. Seven months later, on Nov. 5, 1965
Barbara married Grady Esten Chatham, better
known as “Pete.” He had just retired after 20
years in the Marine Corps. Pete continued with
his job as a bartender. Barbara attended the
Armand School of Beauty in Dana Point and
worked as a hostess at Walnut Grove in San
Juan Capistrano. There she “met all the movie
stars.” Her favorite was Jay Silverheels, who
played Tonto in “The Lone Ranger.”
Although Barbara had been gone for most of
ten years, the sisters always remained close.
Isabelle believes it was because “we spent so
much time alone. Daddy was always fishing.”
Although long distance was considered a
luxury in those days, Barbara always felt the
phone was “real handy.” During one of their
many conversations, Isabelle told her little sister,
“Daddy’s getting crippled, and if you want to
see him walking, you’d better come home.”
There was probably additional motive for the
Isabelle in later years, a face many looked to for
comfort, advice and a good laugh.