Some Profiles on Early Islanders
Daisy Mayer – Daisy was an “early islander” winter resident in the 1920s. She and her husband, Ross, lived in a Sears Roebuck kit house that was on San Carlos Bay. They called their Sears kit home “Shore Haven.” Daisy loved to fish, and she could often be seen on the fishing pier behind her house. She also spent a lot of time with her nieces and nephew who lived next door. These children had lost their mother at an early age and were living with their father and a housekeeper in another Sears kit home called “Morning Glories.”
Leisure time activities for the Mayer family included swimming, boating, fishing, and playing board games. The Mayer children found plenty of things to keep them busy, including trying to stuff their little brother up the fireplace. Morning Glories had an attic and the children remember sleepovers and playing up in the attic.
Nancy McCann – Nancy was the schoolteacher who taught at the Sanibel School in the 1950s. She wore bobby sox rolled down over her pastel two-inch stacked heels. She was a big baseball fan and was the pitcher for her students during recess time. She had a system for her students when they were “up to bat.” If you were a little kid, you got five strikes. If you were a little bigger, you got four strikes. If you were big enough to play regular baseball, you got three strikes. The sixth graders always played in the outfield. When the World Series was being played, Miss McCann would let her students listen to the games on the radio during class time.
Charlotta Matthews – “Miss Charlotta” operated the Tea Room next to the Bailey Store from 1927 to 1934. Her mother, Hallie Matthews, owned The Matthews Hotel (now the Island Inn). Charlotta, who was called “Chebum” by her nephews and “Scooter” by others, had a lot of energy. She not only helped her mother at The Matthews but also prepared and brought cakes, pies, and sandwiches over to the Tea Room. The Tea Room was the center for sharing gossip and a gathering place for those waiting for the ferry or an order to be filled at Bailey’s Store. Charlotta was one of the few women who drove at the time. Mostly, men would drive their wives to the store and tearoom. A few of the men built a miniature golf course out back to pass the time while their wives shopped and visited.
Miss Charlotta also handled the bookkeeping for the hotel and drove the hotel’s old wooden station wagon over to the ferry landing to pick up hotel guests. When her sister, Annie Mead Matthews Bailey (Frank Bailey’s wife and mother to Francis, John, and Sam) died at an early age, Miss Charlotta helped care for the three boys. She was a most respected and hardworking early islander.
Frank Bailey – Ernest came to the island in 1894, followed his mother and two brothers, Harry and Ernest. Once he arrived, he did not leave the island for 18 months as the family sought to become established and build a home. Frank farmed as much as 600 acres and purchased the Sanibel Packing Company in the late 1890s. The business packed and sent
the island’s produce to customers up north. Sanibel tomatoes were highly prized and in great demand until the 1926 hurricane ended commercial agriculture on Sanibel. When the Bailey Store was rebuilt after the hurricane, it carried groceries, water, hardware, clothing, and farming supplies for truck gardens. Frank worked with his three sons, Francis, John and Sam, who coined the motto, “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” The store at the Historical Village was in operation on San Carlos Bay, near where the causeway now enters the island, from 1927 until 1966. Frank Bailey loved Sanibel and was most generous to islanders and island projects.
Francis Bailey, Frank’s son – Born in 1921, he returned to Sanibel after college and after serving in the Army. Beginning in 1952, he joined his father managing the Sanibel Packing Co., known as Bailey’s General Store. He bought out his two brothers, Sam and John, and was a fixture in the store until his death at age 92.
Henry Shanahan – Henry Shanahan was the second lighthouse keeper on Sanibel. He was born in Ireland and came to Sanibel in the late 1880s. He was a short, strong man who always had a clay pipe jutting from his mouth. After working as the assistant lighthouse keeper, he applied for the head job when the first keeper resigned. The Lighthouse Board, at first, refused to appoint him to the position because he could not read or write. But Henry said he would not continue as an assistant. The board then waived the educational requirements and Henry became one of the most able and meticulous lighthouse keepers ever to serve on Sanibel. He and his wife raised 13 children. His family lived in the keeper’s quarters in “happy confusion” for 14 years. Several of his sons were assistant lighthouse keepers and two sons, Henry and Eugene Shanahan, followed in their father’s footsteps.