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Granddaughter remembers life at Shore Haven

By Staff | Jun 27, 2013

Daisy Mayer leaning against the family car, the chrome coated in Vaseline and stuck-on bugs, that took the family to Bailey's General Store and on special occasions to dinner at the Casa Ybel.

One of the wonderful things about working at a historical museum is learning from visitors. One lucky day, museum staff received a letter from Mary Goodnow, granddaughter of Daisy and Ross Mayer, the original owners of Shore Haven.

Here are her recollections: ?

“A friend of mine toured your museum and sent me a photo of my grandmother’s home. In case some of my recollections of living in Sanibel would help your fine efforts in creating Sanibel back in the 1940s, I’ve jotted down some of my recollections.?

“Daisy Richards Mayer and James Ross Mayer were my grandparents. My grandfather died before I was born but my total love of my Grandmother Mayer is still very potent to me. I spent one winter at Grandma Mayer’s home in Sanibel with Aunt Gaykie (Grace Mayer Symroski) bringing me there while her newly graduated West Point husband was flying dangerous missions in the South Pacific during WWII. I missed a lot of kindergarten that winter, or all of it for all I know because I remember nothing about it except having Air Raid drills.?

“Living in Sanibel was treasuring nature: all sorts of tropical birds. I still have double lion paws and angel wings and many other shells collected at first light after a storm … fishing after digging for fiddler crabs … my aunt’s diving for oysters off the pilings of Grandma’s dock … raccoons attacking metal and locked garbage cans, sometimes succeeding in getting into the garbage. And what a noise!?

Mary Goodnow, granddaughter of Daisy and Ross Mayer.

“I remember when Bailey’s store delivered, I think twice weekly, ice covered in sawdust for the icebox and a big jug of drinking water which they lowered into a cradle which made it relatively simple to lower the bottle’s mouth to fill pans and bottles of drinking water to be stored in the icebox. I remembered the property having crushed shells rather than grass. Also, Vaseline was applied on every chrome part of my grandmother’s huge car. One could have been seasick driving maybe less than a mile from Grandma’s house to Bailey’s store. The road was one big washboard.?

“Grandma Mayer taught me to look out the upstairs bathroom window while brushing my teeth. At night I thought the stars were almost close enough to touch but in the morning something even better … flamingos cavorting around in the back pond?

“I had a great friend, Jimmy, who lived with his parents behind Grandma’s house. I realize now they worked for Grandma. Also adored was Jimmy’s mother, who kept us well provisioned with her cooking. She had such a practical way to speak. My favorite: “Miss Molly, look what you done done.” Still makes perfect sense to me.?

“My Aunt Ellie (Elinore Mayer Dormer) is the author of The Sea Shell Islands. She was another adored aunt. Her specialty for spoiling her niece was making elegant clothes for my doll.?

“If I could help (the museum) with any details, such as the kerosene wall lights when the generator shut down, my grandmother’s wood stove in the front hall and another one, a big cooking stove in the kitchen. Perhaps you have heard the story why the front door with a fan light was built as the back door? My grandparents planned eventually to have that washboard road removed and the road built behind Grandma’s house. I believe that is where the road is now. I took many more trips to Sanibel but nothing could compare with that special winter when I was 5.

  • “What prompted all the above words was a friend sending me a photo of my grandmother’s home which was generously donated to the museum by the present owners of Grandma’s home. I love seeing that Uncle Martin’s home is there and restored (Morning Glories). Lastly, my love of islands has not abated one bit.?

Shore Haven as it looks at the Historical Village today.

“Please excuse the length of my (letter). Seems the more I thought of our beloved Sanibel, the more I remembered. Thank you for your wonderful efforts in recreating so much of Sanibel’s history.”

The Mayer family (top row) Elinor Mayer Dorner and James Ross Mayer, Jr.; (middle row) James Ross Mayer, Sherwin Mayer, and Daisy Richards Mayer; (bottom row) Grace Mayer Symroski and Elizabeth Mayer Guyer

Shore Haven in the 1970s with owners Doris and Robert Potts, who were careful to preserve the original details of the house.