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‘Sanibel Son’ Sam Bailey regales Captiva crowd with island tales

By Staff | Feb 5, 2009

Last Wednesday afternoon, as part of the Captiva Memorial Library’s first annual Cultural Fest, Sanibel native and author Sam Bailey discussed his book “A Sanibel Son Looks Back,” in addition to sharing photos featuring different eras and areas from Bailey’s 85-years on Sanibel and signing copies of his new book.

The autobiography, including many interviews with some of Bailey’s closest friends, details his life growing up on the island, beginning with the arrival of his father in 1894 and his mother in 1895.

To begin the program, library branch manager Ann Bradley introduced Bailey by reading a short excerpt from his book.

“I was born on Sanibel Island, and may very well be the last living person that can say that. Aside from a few mosquitoes, I have only good memories of growing up there. It was a different world then, quiet and peaceful, with a real sense of community. We were all so connected,” Bradley read.

The Bailey presence on Sanibel dates back into the late 1800s, when life on the islands was not only far removed from the bustling mainland’s way of life, but simpler and slower, a private paradise isolated from the outside world.

During his presentation, he recalled how he and his brothers rode on the backs of giant loggerheads into the surf and desperately tried to get together a game of baseball, but found it difficult to gather the necessary amount of team members (so the family dog frequently had to stand in, though Bailey recalled it was “quite a talented canine” when it came to playing ball).

“My roots are here on Sanibel Island [and] I’ve enjoyed my life on Sanibel. I left for awhile, went over to Fort Myers High School, then off to college, went into professional football, then I went into coaching for 26 years and then my brother talked me into coming back,” Bailey said, recalling the long journey he had to take just to get to high school.

“I went to school in Fort Myers and what I had to do was catch the ferry Sunday night and hitchhike into town and spend the week in a boarding house and I’d come back (to Sanibel) early Saturday morning and work in the store,” he added.

After attending the University of Georgia and completing his coaching career at the University of Tampa, he returned to his island home, where he’s been active in local ecological protection efforts and hosting Islands Night in Fort Myers every year, among many other activities.

After Bailey gave a brief overview of his book and his life on Sanibel, he went through a series of photographs chronicling his days as a Sanibel youth, his football and coaching career, his wonderful family and his return to the island he loves so much.

Bailey, now 85 years old, noted “I feel like the good Lord has blessed me, and when I die, I want to die of a heart attack trying to steal second base!”

After the presentation, Bailey signed copies for many eager attendees, fielding questions about all sorts of Sanibel trivia.

Bailey’s book is available for checkout at the Captiva Memorial Library and for sale at many of Sanibel’s book stores.