Life-long memories are like snapshots which - collectively - say a lot more about a person than stories of the events in their lives do. I have tried to capture some of those "snapshots" here.
In the late 30s and early 40s Miami was an exciting and - to a certain degree - unregulated town. Stories of floating crap games (shooting dice was a game Dad would enjoy throughout his life) and open bookmaking would sometimes surface. Even Delray voted to permit slot machines in the late 30's. Stories of the Mackle boys and their father "sneaking out" to Tropical or Hialeah race tracks were told as well.
Dad was a gambler. Whether it was bridge, craps, horses, gin rummy, cribbage, poker or business, gambling and risk taking were - for Dad - a natural and enjoyable occupation. This is not to say that he ever went "overboard". Quite the contrary. He was a good gambler, gambling within his means and usually winning. But he was a gambler nonetheless. I believe that this was an important attribute of his personality and had a significant role in his success.
The larger story of Dad's business career is full of examples of his optimism.
Whether gambling at the tables or gambling in business, Dad was willing to take a risk. And - more importantly - he did not let "losing" discourage him.
When I think about it - there were a great many failures.
The Mackle Brothers tried the boat business which failed. They operated the Ocean Horizon Hotel a small hotel in North Miami Beach which was a loser but it did not deter him or them from building the Key Biscayne Hotel - a very successful venture and an important asset in other business ventures. Dad "failed' in Bradenton but his later achievements in home building are history. Lewis Island was less than successful in the mid 50s but it did not deter The Mackle Brothers from becoming the largest home builder in the nation.
Certainly there were many more losses than victories in horse racing but that never altered his belief that his next young horse would win the Derby.
Even late in life after his greatest "failure" the denial of the Marco permits his response was to announce two new hotels on Marco!
His optimism was unbounded and his losses never stood in the way of the next roll of the dice.
Perhaps one reason for this positive attitude came early after his move to Florida in 1938 when he met - and soon wed on September 3rd, 1940 - the beautiful Virginia Steward.
THE GREAT COMMUNICATOR
Dad was a poor speaker - but a great communicator!
As a child, I remember his first major address before the New York Security Writers in 1958. We were in our home in Sea Girt New Jersey and he traveled to New York for the speech. Even at that age I was acutely aware of the tension. Nancy remembers listening to him at the dinner table practicing over and over and feeling so sorry for him. My mother teased him about it for years. I can only assume that the speech went well.
Later when I joined Deltona, I often heard him speak, usually at company conventions. I was always very nervous for him and always a little embarrassed by his awkwardness. I was always glad when it was over.
Nevertheless, he was always a sensation with his audience. Whether it was the New York Stock Exchange, a group of sales professionals or "good old boys" in the Florida panhandle he was always well received. He not only got his message across but persuaded and "sold" his message to his audience.
It was astonishing. But I realized after a while that - as far as I know - without any formal training and in spite of a strong dislike for public speaking it was his honesty and sincerity that won the day.
Somehow the very un-professionalism of his manner translated to the audience as "this is one of us" and "we are hearing the truth for a change". And while his family bled for him over the effort, those who could just listen to his words gave him "standing ovations".
Beyond that - without trying - he had a wonderful personal rappoire with people. In his lifetime he spoke with people from the President of the United States to the stable hands at the racetrack with the same grin, the same eye contact, the same sincerity, the same joy of life and the same interest. And the reaction to him was always one of friendship, admiration and respect.
THE SENSE OF HUMOR .... AND NONSENSE!
Dad appreciated humor although sometimes his brand of humor bordered on the silly. It seemed he always had people around who brought him amusement. This was not done in a demeaning way. He simply derived many chuckles from those around him. And, it seemed there were always one or more "jesters" around to evoke a giggle from him.
One of the earliest in my memory was Tom Ferris, PR man extraordinaire. Tom was with the Mackles through the Key Biscayne and the General Development days. He apparently enjoyed tormenting Robert in particular and a favorite story of Dad's involved Robert getting on Tom about his expenditures. As a joke, on a trip to New York, Tom, arriving early, arranged with a maid to set up a small bed in a linen closet. When Robert arrived Tom showed Robert how frugal he was!
On another occasion Tom wrote Robert a holiday note which Dad kept in his drawer for years. Double click below Tom's picture to the right and enjoy!
The memory of Tom Ferris would always bring a smile to Dad.
Ray Metcalf was a particular favorite - not only for the enjoyment of their horses but for Ray's particular idiosyncrasies. Like Ray's racetrack lingo or the time Ray broke his own leg and - rather than going to a doctor - used a horse medication to fix it. The cure was worse than the problem!
Another favorite, of course, was Jack Paar a family friend and host of the Tonight Show.
Don McNeill and Joe Garagiola always brought a grin to Dad's face.
The Sergeant Bilko show was a passion. So were Hogan's Heroes and Gilligan's Island.
Dad was also prone - at least with his children and grand children - to nonsense sayings & songs and other silliness such as:
"What a wonderful bird the frog are. When he sits, he sits on what he ain't got almost"...
"Alice where art thou going?... Up stairs to take a bath..... Oh you dirty old thing.... Slipped on a cake of soap!... Oh my goodness...O my soul ... There goes Alice down the hole!"
And who can ever forget....
"Throw in a hunk of bacon and a lacin' from a shoe, a bottle of sasparilla and a pound of sour glue... rice and bread and breakfast food... a cherry and a plum ...season it with castor oil and you'll have a billous slum.... Oh yo for the slum boys tra..la..la..la..la ..... sticks to your ribs boys tra..la..la..la..la"
His Glee Club experience, left him with songs which he would sing on long car rides for his small children including:
"Casey would dance with the strawberry blonde..."
THE LOVE OF THE WRITTEN WORD
All his life Dad had a book - and often two or more - waiting for him when he got home.
He was always in the middle of one fiction and one non-fiction publication. He read everything he could on Abraham Lincoln and Adolf Hitler. Several times conversations would lead to his speculation that these were two individuals who surely must have been possessed - one by God and one by the Devil. He would point out how they both rose far beyond where their backgrounds and education should have taken them ... one to free the slaves and one to author the holocaust.
Another favorite was Winston Churchill.
Westerns were his addiction in the area of fiction. I don't think Zane Grey had a more devoted reader.
His love of reading must have started at very early age. As a child Dad would put me to sleep telling me Tom Swift stories which he had read as a youth.
Dad also loved poetry. Some of his favorites were: "Jest 'For Christmas" (Father Calls Me William) by Eugene Field, "Alumnus Football" by Grantland Rice and "If" by Rudyard Kipling.
Dad was a man of his word. He was a man of high personal values. He did not wear them on his sleeve. He just lived them.
The story that is told in this document should be demonstration enough.
He lived his fathers admonition: "Honesty is not the only policy, but it is the best policy"
He also was a man of the highest moral character.
As one small example, he told me once when I was young (probably on an occasion when I said something I shouldn't) that as tough as his Dad was he never heard him use a "cuss" word. He told it with great pride.
Now that I think about it I can't remember Dad ever using one either.