The “Scoop” – The Early Years of Shrimping on Ft. Myers Beach

AUTHORS NOTE: I wanted to apologize for the obvious lack of attention having been paid to this site during the last few months. I was going through a bit of personal drama, which has been resolved, so expect to see regular postings from this day forward : )

With the diverse population we have here on our island paradise, there are undoubtedly more stories than there are grains of sand on the beach and I’ve captured a lot of them at the Sand Paper. Such stories are important because they make up the fabric of who we are as a community. One tale is that of island historian Deacon “Scoop” Kiesel – who moved to Fort Myers Beach with his brothers shortly after World War II to cash in on a new kind of gold rush that had recently been discovered off our shores – pink gold that is – known as Florida Gulf Shrimp. Scoop, who throughout his long and storied existence has worn more hats than you can fit inside his 89 years of life, has agreed to tell me his tale, and the following is the first of several installments during which Scoop shared with our readers the his fascinating story. In this piece, Scoop shares with me the saga of how the shrimping industry came to Fort Myers Beach, and how his life would become forever linked to that pink gold.



South Florida Water Management District Makes Historic Vote

            On Monday, December 15th, 2008, the South Florida Water Management District’s (SFWMD) governing board convened for what would have been a regular meeting except for two things – a vote that was to occur on the acceptance of the Caloosahatchee River Watershed Protection Plan and the vote on whether or not to accept a contract to purchase 180,000 acres of land from U.S. Sugar. The latter represented the largest land acquisition by a state government in our nation’s history, and before the board finally voted 4-3 in favor of the plan they listened to two days of testimony – including some 50 public comments – and deliberated for 4 hours. The decision was a landmark one for our state, and very emotional, as both the fate of a community and the future of the Everglades hung in the balance. I was there for both days of this historical meeting.



Published in: on January 9, 2009 at 4:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Legendary Bluesman Plays on Fort Myers Beach

The Island Arts Foundation (IAF) is known for bringing some legendary talent to this Island. But they’ve really outdone themselves this time. Last Sunday afternoon, Leroy ‘Hog’ Cooper  appeared for the inaugural show at the IAF’s brand new Purple Heart Theater. Playing with Ray Charles – an American icon if there ever was one –  for more than 20 years certainly qualifies the Hog as a blues legend, and I spoke with the amenable Mr. Cooper this week about what life was like on the road with the late, great Ray Charles.


My Friend, Greg Watts – A High Voltage Life

Greg Watts is one of those people who is a friend to everybody. Self-effacing and unassuming, he listens to everyone’s problems, shows up to help out at everyone’s benefit or fundraiser and does his best – often at detriment to himself – to make sure that those he loves are happy. What many people do not know is that sweet Greg, with his corny jokes and compassionate nature, has done things in his life most can only dream of. Through what Greg in his modesty describes as a “fortunate series of lucky chances”, he used to model for Calvin Klein, travel the world as a famous roller skater, do stunt work for Hollywood and star as Cher’s love interest. Oh yeah, and then there’s the work he’s done as a musician and songwriter. I felt like it was high time everyone got to know the man behind the bass. This is the story of my friend, Greg Watts.



An Interview with Senator Nelson

“This senator is not going to allow Florida to be a sacrificial lamb . . . ” – Senator Bill Nelson

Friday morning, September 5, Senior Senator Bill Nelson gave an interview to  me as he was on his way to deliver a major address on energy and oil drilling to a sold-out crowd at The Forum Club of the Palm Beaches’ first luncheon of the season. The senator talked about the points he was going to make in his upcoming speech, including his ideas for solving the energy crisis and why he believes the Republicans are so bent on drilling as he was driving down to the Kravis Center’s Cohen Pavilion in West Palm Beach. Emphasizing his commitment to keeping drilling off of our shores, the Senator gave a similar speech to Congress the following Tuesday.