by Lois Bolin,
Old Naples Historian
Once upon a time, Naples was called a ‘nothing to do in’ little town. This, of course, was said by people who did not live here, and as such could not appreciate all there was
to do in this ‘little bend in the road’ paradise. They never experienced the joy of counting how many times the only traffic light in town came on and went off while lying underneath that electric wonder nor did they ever feel the lactic loaded thigh burn caused by double-time peddling on a beat-up Schwinn bicycle, trying to out
run that pesky bob cat, who must have had nothing to do.
Of course ‘nothing to do’ did not include fishing, sunbathing or imbibing – all water related things to do over and over until June 15, 1954.
Local artists Grace Lake, George Rogers and Elsie Upham founded the Naples Art Association (NAA ), a not-forprofit visual arts organization. Its thirty signatures
petition clarified their mission to promote and advance education and participation in the contemporary visual arts.
Since art instruction was not available to local students in 1957, the NAA members volunteered their expertise until the public school’s art program was established.
Art became something to do long after fishing and swimming in the Gulf were things to do – except for some. On July 29, 1959, the Naples City Council accepted a donation from the Sample Foundation.
Glen and Helen Sample, developers of Port Royal, donated the swimming pool, as well as a bathhouse, fence and a built-in well for the children and residents of McDonald’s Quarters (River Park). Fifty years later, in June 2009, Naples City Council began to discuss the needed repairs of the pool with a pool spray park
becoming the consensus, as it would cost approximately one million dollars to fix it. Thanks to Tara Norman, former City Clerk, an archive gave new insights in what to do since the Sample Foundation had included a special condition when they signed over the deed to the property in 1959. The city was to maintain the pool as a recreation
facility or return it to the foundation. The intent was clear – give the kids something to do.
On March 2014, former city councilwoman Penny Taylor, local historian Lois Bolin, Aimee Schlehr, executive director of the Naples Art Association, and Gulfview Middle School art teacher Laura Foht received approval for the new River Park Aquatic Center mural, thanks to local artist, Phil Fisher and his generosity and patience.
His gracious time and talents produced an underwater seascape mural in collaboration with 24 elementary, middle and high school students within the City of Naples. The artwork was selected to create a delightful scene that will be imprinted on the tiles and installed this summer bringing full circle the generosity of the Samples and the
creativity of the Naples Art Association.
To learn more about Phil’s talents and patience, visit Phil Fisher Gallery in Crayton Cove at 810 12th Ave S. or call 239.403.8383.
Phil Fisher is more than an artist just as fishing is more than just fish. Herbert Hoover said that fishing is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers, which he must have done often since he was the most disliked President in our history. Fish can’t throw stones or participate in polls- except fishing poles – making it a fine and safe simplicity indeed.
Yes, this ‘nothing to do in little town’ attracted artists, like Phil (and his wife Natalie Guess, also a fine artist), Captains of Industry like, Glen Sample and Captains
of Boats, like Shawn Smith of Fishin’ Knotty, whose clients finds lots to do on the back waters of Naples and the Ten Thousand Islands. Call Captain Smith at 239.269.6646 if you find yourself with nothing to do.
One more community element blending water and fishing is the long awaited Gordon River Underpass which will make the Old Naples Waterfront Association and their visitors very happy to see the vision of 2008 start to take shape. It may seem rather dull right now, but soon, an art pedestrian walkway, connecting Tin City, Bayfront and the Gordon River Park/Greenway will be brought to light.
Over the summer, we hope you enjoy all there is to do in in this ‘little bend in the road’ paradise.