Three times that call has resonated for me, at boarding school at age 12, as a Marine in some God-forsaken Belgian ditch during WW2, and from 1948 on, after I entered the U.S. an immigrant from Scotland far from family.
In the early ‘70’s the first settlers in Rotonda felt the same. Here they were, in a Florida backwater on what had been a swampy cattle ranch, dependent on a developer of dubious reputation, whose main experience was mass-selling lots rather than building the new community they envisioned.
Mostly they came from up North, bewitched by powerful promotion of dazzling visions of a unique circular community of canals and golf courses—seven of them—built around a commercial core. They wanted mail from loved ones, just to maintain contact with family and friends—those who had said, with raised eyebrows, “You’re moving to where?” just a few weeks earlier.
In February 1972, a tiny post office opened in Rotonda (now occupied by Lil Tony’s Pizzeria) on Cape Haze Drive. The first house had just been occupied, at 8 Annapolis Lane, in October 1971, by the first Rotonda residents, Harry and Joan Kaar, with son Jeff, from Stanhope, N.J.
The Rotonda Post Office would operate as a sub-station of Placida with Mike Saunders as postmaster. Mike and Dorothy Saunders had inked the first Rotonda sales contract, in 1969, but took residence after the Kaars.
There was no home delivery of mail yet. Mike, with help from Joan Kaar, received and sorted the mail which the pioneer residents came by to pick up. “It was a friendly place,” Joan said. “I got to know everybody that way.”
The Rotonda post office was also a local political issue. The residents of Gasparilla, who had seen their post office moved to Placida after WW2, were hysterical that the Placida unit would now be replaced by Rotonda. Thickening that plot, U.S. postmaster general Elmer T. Klassen bought a house at Rotonda, and Placida postmaster Don Scraggs was considering doing so.
Instead, home delivery was started, the Rotonda P.O. was closed, and Joan Kaar went to Placida, eventually as postmaster, and finished her new career at Boca Grande post office.
These and other facts about Rotonda’s development are detailed in Jack Alexander’s book, “ROTONDA: The Vision and the Reality” and is available for $6.00 at the Rotonda West Community Center, 3754 Cape Haze Drive, Rotonda West 33947, (941) 697-6788.