by Lois Bolin
Old Naples Historian

Spring offers us a time to reminisce; a space to pine for the “good old days,” the “age of faith” and the “age of heroes.” This longing for something we can barely define is woven with threads of melancholy called nostalgia. These bittersweet emotions, which boost self-continuity,  increases a sense of social connectedness and sentimental recollections of loved ones that can remind us of a social web that extends across people – and across time.” (Scientific America, 2016) Local history takes me to that space when I reflect upon our  pioneering forebears like the Storter family, Tommy Barfield or Deaconess Bedell.

Each decade brings its own age of heroes, such as the Peter Thomas, Earl Hodges, Sue Smith and Alyce O’Neil, who introduced me to one of American’s most iconic figures, Phyllis Schlafly – the sweetheart of the silent majority.

Phyllis Schlafly has been a national leader of the conservative movement since the publication of her best-selling 1964 book, “A Choice Not An Echo.” At the time of her writing, Schlafly was a housewife and mother of six living in Alton, Illinois. Feeling like she might not get a publisher for an idea she had brewing, she decided to self-publish. Ultimately it sold more than three million copies, inspired a generation of conservatives and
delineated the battle lines between the conservative grassroots and the Republican Party elites.

I had never read the book until Sue Smith (daughter-in-law to Naples’ longest-term mayor) gave me a copy. I found it to be as relevant today as it must have been back then. It’s hard to imagine this little housewife could
shine a light so brightly on the corrupt political process that historically had allowed elite cosmopolitan “kingmakers” to rig the system and elect candidates who would represent their donor class agenda. Syndicated
columnist, Robert Novack said that this is one of the best-written, most interesting pieces of political advocacy he had ever read.

Alyce O’Neil brought Phyllis to Naples and introduced her to Pat Andrews, who later became a close friend and one of the country’s state chapter leaders of Eagle Forum, which Phyllis founded in 1972. Currently president of Naples/Florida Eagle Forum, Ms. Anderson last month hosted the 38th Eagle Forum luncheon in Naples, where Benghazi hero, Kris Parato was the keynote speaker. As Ms. Anderson reflected on her time with Phyllis and
Eagle Forum, an air of nostalgia and gratitude permeated the room. “Her focus from her earliest days until her final ones was on protecting the family, which she understood to be the building block of American life. She was a
courageous and articulate voice for common sense and traditional values.” She added, “We know Phyllis would
have been thrilled with our speaker this year. She was proud to be an American – just like Kris.”

Who has never heard of Rosie the Riveter? Surprisingly, a lot of people have not and Congress decided to change
that by passing a resolution to make this day National Rosie the Riveter Day. This year, Governor Scott presented
a resolution for the state to recognize this day. The City of Naples and Collier County Commissioners followed suit with local resolutions to remember this day with the planting of a special rose bush called – you guessed it –the Rosie the Riveter Rose bush. Faith Lutheran Church will host two of Rosie’s Roses in their Patriot’s Courtyard and as of this writing, we are hoping the city can plant two in special containers at Cambier Park, site of the Veterans Memorial.

Memories of a housewife who never hid her fierce love of country, its history and its citizens to memories of women who took up welding tools and riveters to help America fight the greatest tyranny the world had ever known, makes me pine for the good old days, the age of faith and the age of heroes. Luckily, I don’t have to look any further than my own backyard to local and American history.

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