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Charlotte County Sheriff’s Public Information Officer at the time, Tracey Melniciuc, in January of 1988, announced a drug bust of 200 bales of marijuana or more. It had a value of more than $6 million, making it one of the largest marijuana busts in the history of the area. Also confiscated were three mullet boats and two 24-foot Ford panel trucks.

So, what’s the buzz in Englewood? There always seems to be something in our little fishing village that gets everyone’s attention. Are are some buzz-worthy happenings over the years.

Welcome Dr. Flower

Englewood’s population in 1957 had grown to about 1,500 – maybe 3,000 in the winter — but no dentist was interested in setting up a practice here. So the Chamber of Commerce undertook a project to find one willing to move here.

Prospects were slim, but fate stepped in and led the Chamber to John Flower. One visit to Englewood and John was hooked.

“I couldn’t believe the natural beauty of the area”, he said. The town was really a buzz when he opened his office on West Dearborn Street, and everybody wanted to get a look at the town’s new dentist. John said, “Seemed like all the residents in town wanted to come and have a look at me, I felt like a dog in a dog show.”

Englewood was not a wealthy community, John remembered. “Bartering was a way of life here, and I got paid often in fresh fish, smoked mullet and coconut cream pies from well-meaning but financially strapped patients,” he said. Dr. Flower would practice in Englewood for 40 years.

3 things that

didn’t

happen

The town was really buzzing the year of 1961 over three different matters. First, there had been a Lemon Bay Port Authority bill in the State Legislature that had been proposing a deep-water port be built in Lemon Bay. Although it was thought to be a dead issue the town was still a little nervous about the matter. The town had been unanimously against the port idea.

Secondly, the Chamber of Commerce had raised the issue of incorporation. The town had been incorporated in the 1920s for a short time. Endless meetings were held concerning sources of revenue, boundaries, what type of government would be formed, services offered. Things got very complicated, the town was split on the matter and the idea finally was dropped.

The third hot issue arose when at the last minute it was suggested the Intracoastal Waterway route be changed to exclude Englewood. A new route via the Myakka River was suggested. A long fight took place with Englewood winning and the original route through Lemon Bay stayed in place.

The park south of town

It was 1971 and the town was abuzz about the beautiful little park that was being fashioned out of what was then called the Englewood Mounds, labeled by the state a prehistoric site.

Locals were trooping over to get a look at what was going on. Led by the hard-working gals of the Lemon Bay Garden Club several groups in town, such as the Men’s Garden Club, had built trails through the natural vegetation and had labeled many of the native plants. Picnic tables, barbecue pits and trash cans had also been added to the park. The park was described as being a half mile south of the town of Englewood, the center of which in those days was West Dearborn Street.

When excavation of the site took place it had been discovered there were actually two mounds, one of top of the other. Large amounts of pottery shards were found and human remains.

Locals were hoping the new park would be named Indian Mound Park, even though Sarasota County at the time was not too pleased with that name. The locals won.

Say goodnight, Dan

Dan Rowan of TV “Laugh-In” fame had been a resident of Englewood for more than a decade when, in September of 1987, he passed away of cancer at his home on Manasota Key. The town was quite a buzz. Those who knew him didn’t realize he was so seriously sick. He had kept such a low profile around town that most of the town didn’t even know he lived here.

‘Square grouper’

You talk about a big buzz around town, in January, 1988, a drug raid organized by the Blue Lightning Operations task force confiscated more than 200 bales of marijuana, each bale weighting 80 to 100 pounds.

The law enforcement group included the U.S. Customs Service from Fort Myers and members of the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff’s Capt. Bob Miller of Special Investigations, was quoted as saying, “We got a tip from an anonymous caller about some suspicious activity in Gasparilla Pass. Although most of our tips never pay off this one did.”

The raid took place in and around Gasparilla Pass. After being spotted by the Sheriff’s Department about 3:30 a.m., the mullet boats carrying the marijuana tried to avoid capture by heading into shallow water where the bigger Sheriff’s Donzi boats couldn’t go.

Although the guys driving the mullet boats slipped over the sides into the water, they left behind their boats and their highly valuable illegal cargo. The “mother lode” ship, the “Nella,” a lobster boat out of Miami, was caught an hour later off of Sanibel Island running without lights. Our local good guys had just made one of the biggest drug busts in the area’s’ history.

Gasparilla Marina in Placida was used as a temporary base for the raid and where the bales of marijuana and the mullet boats were brought to shore.

Diana Harris is a Sun columnist. She can be reached at diharris@comcast.net.

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