Radio soaps helped build the fortune that built Port Royal
Gordon Pass and Port Royal, circa 1950. COURTESY PHOTO "It took extraordinary insights to turn a tangled mangrove swamp into one of America's most exclusive residential neighborhoods. J. Glen Sample had that insight, the power, the money and the energy to create Port Royal. It can never happen again." - Doris Reynolds, Naples Now, November 1978
The above appeared in an article in of one of Reynolds Enterprise Inc.'s three magazines produced from 1962-1987. The quote, along with its lengthy
article, appeared again in the Naples Daily
News in March 1988 and was reproduced a few years later in an advertisement for Northern Trust Bank.
Northern Trust's tribute stated, "Port Royal was developed by John Glen Sample, one of America's most dynamic and innovative advertising entrepreneurs. His story and the story of Port Royal ..is presented here with a reprint of this article in the hopes that the story of John Glen Sample and his contributions to Naples will be perpetuated."
Twenty-one years later, people are still talking about this legend.
An average Midwesterner cleans up
In the late 1930s, the United States was flush with larger-than-life characters who shaped our country and its economy. Many of those rainmakers found their way to Naples and changed the city's complexion, most often for the good. J. Glen Sample was one of those individuals who used his enterprising experiences to transform mangroves and swamp land into one of today's most prestigious addresses in the world.
Mr. Sample was born in 1892 in Lutesville, Mo., where he led an average life that was quite the opposite of his life in advertising. Like all great men of that era, Mr. Sample did it his way — and he did it with style.
He entered the world of advertising in the early 1920s, when marketing was in its infancy, and instinctively understood the role advertising would play in shaping the way of life in America.
Radio was making its way into every home, and by 1926 it was estimated that with 20 million radios in America, there must be close to 50 million potential candidates listening in to the musical programs that comprised about 85 percent of the airtime. The other time was filled with a new concept that would shortly capture more airtime as well as the imagination of those 50 million listeners.
The "soaps" were birthed after Mr. Sample discovered a popular magazine serial called "The Married Life of Helen and Warren." Since it worked so well in magazines, Mr. Sample wondered, could it also work for radio? It didn't take long for him to find out.
Soon there was a plethora of radio soap operas, "Ma Perkins," "Rich Man's Darling" and "John's Other Wife," among them, which led to the selling of the soap — lots of soap — which made Oxydol, one of the largest clients of Dancer-Fitzgerald-Sample of Chicago, very happy and its partners very well compensated.
Finding his paradise
The toil of Mr. Sample's successes took it toll, however, and he and his wife set out to find a winter home. Palm Beach was too active (Mr. Sample wanted a place of casual elegance and peace, where his wife could garden and he could yacht). So between 1938 and 1950, he purchased enough mangroves and swampland to facilitate his dream development called Port Royal. The name he chose showed Mr. Sample's humor: His vision of casual elegance was a far cry from the debauchery of Port Royal, Jamaica, which was known as "the richest and wickedest city in the world."
He paid $54,000 for the land. It is impossible to calculate just how much he spent in all, however, because Mr. Sample paid for and arranged every detail in the whole development, right down to the last ashtray for the Port Royal Club.
Completion of his dream took 20 years. Using similar techniques from his advertising days, Mr. Sample targeted only the finest upscale venues in promoting his community. Ads were placed in Vogue, Town &
County, The Wall Street Journal and Palm
Beach Life. When a prospect came along, Mr. Sample wooed and wowed them in either his Rolls Royce or his yacht, both of which were parked at his office site.
The intrigue that Port Royal holds for many is in direct correlation to this Renaissance man who refused to make compromises in his life.
Northern Trust's ad in 1988 spoke to the many who identified with "marching to the beat of a different drummer." They undoubtedly knew that if you wanted to march in step with John Glen Sample, or men and women like him, you'd better like stepping double time, for that's the beat of which legends are made and for which they are remembered.
Lois Bolin is the co-founder of Naples
Cultural Landscape, a fund at the Community
Foundation of Collier County. Naples Backyard
History is the fund's educational initiative.
For more information, visit the NBYH
Mini-Museum at 1300 Third St. S., call 594-
2978 or visit www.naplesbackyardhistory.org.