Mosquito fighters, gasoline station homeowners … The tip of an period is marked with the resignation of Clyde Nabers
BY MISTY NABERS NICHOLS – After nearly 60 years serving the Boca Grande Community, Clyde Nabers will finally be spending his weekdays fishing. On October 30th, Clyde retired for the second time. If you’ve been in Boca Grande for more than 20 years, you’ll remember Naber’s Chevron who sat on the northwest corner of 4th and Park in downtown Boca Grande. Clyde and Mrs. Carolyn are both Islanders. Clyde began his life on the north end of the island. His grandfather, Gus Cole, owned the IGA and was postmaster at the post office, which was in the store. Clyde’s mother, Gussie, was helping out in the shop. When Clyde was six, the fishing industry moved to Placida to haul fish and not rely on the railroad. When his grandfather retired, Clyde’s father (also Clyde) and Gussie took over the running of the Placida store and post office. Clyde’s father was a postmaster and his mother became an assistant postmaster.
Carolyn was born and raised in the heart of Boca Grande. Her parents ran the fish house and market for almost 50 years. Clyde and Carolyn married in 1961 and bought the gas station in 1963. They were in their early twenties when they bought the gas station, and it was a family-run business with Clyde doing mechanical work and Carolyn keeping the books.
Clyde worked long days on the ward and each of those days started with the “Coffee Klatch”. This was a group of people who gathered every morning to start the day with coffee and catch up on the island business. The group over the years included many, Doc Wright, Nat Italiano, Braxton Bowen, Bumps Johnson, Jay Lumly, Ted Smith, Sam Parkinson, Bill Hinman, Ed Davis, Babe Darna, Rick Busby, Drayton Farr, Ted Bylaska, and Forrest Stover . George Curtis, Joe Savarese, a number of the island’s priests and pastors, and many others. They drank bad coffee, told stories, and drew numbers every day to see who was buying.
In the early days of the station, Clyde also served in the BG volunteer fire department, maintaining the generators at the clinic, operating the heavy equipment that dug the lake at the north end of the island, and often helping to load the ships that came in the phosphate dock. In fact, Clyde was a volunteer firefighter when Miller’s Marina caught fire. He recalls being the first on the scene for the 1975 fire. Clyde and Carolyn’s children, Mike and Misty, grew up on the ward. Playing on the car lift, sweeping the office and garage, occasionally pumping gas, filling the coke machine and rolling quarters.
From the company’s founding in 1963 to its sale and retirement in 1999, Clyde ran the winter residents ‘cars during the summer, drove a few residents’ cars back north every spring, and helped anyone whose car wouldn’t. I don’t start whether it was the middle of the night or Christmas morning. Some of the station’s long-time customers even called Clyde when they locked themselves out of their car or home, and one resident even called when her dog ran away.
The station office was full of fish stocks from Carolyn’s father, Tommy Parkinson. There was a large pack of shark jaws from a bull shark that was caught by son Mike. A picture of daughter Misty leaning over a pool from a tower 20 ‘, fish in her month, bottlenose dolphins inches from her chin. And several trophy deer from some of Clyde’s successful hunting trips.
It was eclectic and inviting, in fact Naber’s Chevron was literally and figuratively right in the middle of town. If you’re looking to catch up on island events, need help with your vehicle, or want to borrow a tool, Clyde is the man. Clyde recalls when the streets rolled up at 6 p.m. The only place you could get a Coke was the Nabers Chevron Coke machine. He said, “The machine in front of the gas station became a meeting place for island children, but they always left it in order and there was never any sign of vandalism.”
In 1999, Clyde and Carolyn decided to sell the station and retire. Sam Murphy and Ann, Buzz and John Watkins hosted a retirement party on the station that turned into a block party. Many islanders came out to celebrate the end of an era. Some of those present even suggested putting a marker on the sidewalk on 4th and Park that read “Clyde’s Corner”. Clyde appreciated the feeling, but humbly refused. Soon after, the station was demolished. In his mid-50s, Clyde decided he wasn’t ready to retire, and Carolyn would say she’d married him for a lifetime, but not for lunch.
When Islander Ed Davis retired from his position with Lee County Mosquito Control, Clyde saw this as an opportunity and took on the role of Mosquito Control Officer for Boca Grande. For the past 20+ years, Clyde has served the island protecting the islanders from an onslaught of mosquitos. He drove the trap cart, flew to the outer islands to test larvae, went to the more remote parts of Boca Grande to look for mosquitoes, directed the air spray, loaded the helicopters, and drove the spray cart. Of course, there were many other responsibilities that came with the county position, which he held for over 20 years.
On October 30th, Clyde stepped off the helicopter without fanfare and retired for the second time. To celebrate, he had his scooter fitted with a new engine and had his fishing gear ready. So if you want to catch up with Clyde these days, you will most likely have to go to the back bay to find him. He says he’s always up for a good chat, as long as it isn’t about how bad the mosquitoes are or what strange noise your car is making.
Above, Clyde’s last day at the island’s mosquito control center. On the right, Clyde in the old gas station.