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History lesson: Lehigh pioneer’s life told in son’s new book

September 4, 2013
By MEL TOADVINE (mtoadvine@breezenewspapers.com) , Lehigh Acres Citizen

As Lehigh Acres continues to grow to now what is believed to be more than 90,000 people, fewer residents are aware of the background of Lehigh and how it became a community since there is no historical society nor any other organization saving the history for future generations.

That's something that Jacob Gould wants to change, not only so people will know how Lehigh started back in the 1950s and 60s, but also he wants residents to know the personality of his father, the good that he did and how he made great money over the years and lost it four times, only to come back as the survivor at the ripe age of 89 now at his home in Miami.

Jacob Gould, one of five children of Gerald "Gerry" Gould and Lois Gould, now deceased, has written a book not only for the people of Lehigh and those who are interested in Lehigh's rich history, but for those in the future who will come to Lehigh to make the community a summer home or to come and live year-round as a local resident.

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“A Simple Guide to Happiness and Success — The Life of Gerald Gould,” by Jacob Gould.

With the changes coming for Lehigh from the Lee County Planning Dept., Lehigh will become even a greater community than it is now as plans call for community centers and a different look for the community which is still unincorporated and depends on its future from the Lee County Commission. Some have said that the commission in Fort Myers is really "the city council of Lehigh," and in reality for the present that is the truth.

Jacob Gould, who lives in Los Angeles, has written a book titled A Simple Guide to Happiness and Success - The Life of Gerald Gould. It has been just published and Gould says it is a quick read for only $3.99.

"I would love to give $2 of every book to the Lehigh Acres Community Services to help those in need of assistance in Lehigh," Gould said.

"My dad has lived an amazing life - one I'm striving to emulate and I've got a ways to go. He's done so much good in this world. I hope I can get half way there before my days are numbered.

"So the book is a tribute to him and hopefully one can gleam a few gems to live a better life as well. It also tells the story of Lehigh Acres and how it got started.

"During the time I was there, growing up, it was a great place; a true community of people who really looked out for each other and I hope this book can help people as well to raise money for Lehigh Acres Community Services to help those who have found themselves in tough times," Gould said.

In addition to getting the book, it can also be downloaded as an e-Book. Go to: asimpleguidetohappiness.com. Books can also be purchased on Amazon.com as an ebook as well.

The book can be read in two to three hours and as Gould said, it is an easy read. But it will take the reader back to the early days when Lehigh Acres was no more than a cattle ranch, a place to ride horses by its owner Lee Ratner, a millionaire from Chicago who purchased thousands of present day Lehigh Acres after he sold D-Con, a pest killing business.

The author, according to the foreword in the book, has 30 years in a career with small, medium, and fortune 500 companies as a successful sales manager, leading 110 sales representatives and marketing people. He has been sales manager of the year multiple times along with many other service awards for top performance. A key ingredient to his success is his ability to identify characteristics in people who make them successful.

And one of those people is his father, affection ally know as Gerry Gould. The book offers many glimpses into the private lives of the Gould family and how early friendships were made with Lee Ratner who bought the thousands of acres on the east side of Lee County and it came to be known as the Lucky Lee Ranch.

It also is apparent in the book that Jacob wrote about his father in order to clear up misunderstandings from many in the press in Florida and across the nation who seemed to blame him and his partners when the 2007 crash hit the nation and especially hit Lehigh Acres and Lee County harshly. But that was a lot of years after Gerry Gould had any dealings with the corporation that owned the grounds on which Lehigh came to be.

Gerry Gould, who is nearing 90 years of age has often visited Lehigh in the recent past to meet with old friends such as people like Myra Kessler and Harry C. Powell, the owner of Landex Corp., which is operated by Ruth Ann Anglickis. The firm manages community organizations, condo groups among its vast other dealings.

Gerry Gould now makes few trips to Lehigh Acres, the town he helped to create and loved so much that he moved here from Miami and raised his family and was a part of the organization that sold lots in Lehigh up to the 1970s. Today, he has to undergo kidney dialysis three times a week, still maintaining his business interests.

But not as able to visit Lehigh these days, Gould has things to say about Lehigh that are not in the book.

"It's still a great place to retire as it's inexpensive with all types of facilities available," he said.

Gould said he did believe Lehigh would grow to the size it is today, more than 90,000 people. The original Lehigh Development Corp. developed 150,000 lots which will support 450,000 homes in the future.

Although Gould no long has any investments in Lehigh, he has some old friends who remain in Lehigh. He's been gone 42 years but those who pop into his memory include Jimmy Fortana, Harry and Diane Powell, now in Fort Myers, Rick and Ruth Ann Anglickis, Martha Thrower and Myra Kessler, who moved recently to Texas to be closer to her family.

Gould said he believes Lehigh should incorporate so the people have the power to determine the future of the community.

"My dad has gone from being dirt poor as a child to financial success, then devastating final challenges and personal tragedies, but today, he is happy, healthy, as icing on the cake, and very successful financially. He has found the balance throughout his life to enjoy happiness and health," his son says.

"But in the end, all the money, cars, and toys don't mean a thing. Your regrets on your death bed won't be 'If I had worked harder, or bought more things.' Somehow my dad has found balance throughout his life and had it all - most importantly he's had happiness and health," the younger Gould said.

Not only is the book about Gerry Gould and early Lehigh, but it is a guide for what Jacob Gould calls for himself and for the reader.

"I've still got the second half of my life to live, so it's not too late for me to improve. I also wanted to chronicle dad's amazing life for my children and future generations of our family, and yours," Gould noted.

As the book begins, Gould describes his father as a man who from a very young age was out on the street, surviving and making things happen. He called his dad a classic self-made man who, no matter how tough things got, he always believed he would once again succeed - and he always did.

"But more important than his success, through the good times and the bad times, he has lived his life with joy and happiness. Isn't that what it's all about? How does he do it? Where does it come from?

"I believe happiness is a key ingredient to longevity, good health, and happiness. Yes, happiness begets happiness. We can control our emotions - my father has controlled his emotions for 89 years, Gould wrote in the beginning of his book.

Gould says he hopes readers will find gems in his book that will help them build the courage to take a chance on something they believe in. Most importantly, readers will take away the ability to believe in themselves and their children, "as Gerry Gould has done his entire life."

Throughout the book, there are several interesting and meaningful stories and anecdotes that provide readers with a basis for living their own meaningful and successful life.

Jacob Gould starts off with Nathan Rodman who was Gerry Gould's grandfather, who was born in the Ukraine in 1875 and through an arranged meeting, he met his wife-to-be, Dunya and lived happily together for 60 years.

Gould briefly writes about how his great great grandfather was drafted into the Russian Army as a sharp shooter and using his skills in jewelry, he created a hair trigger for his gun that made him the regiment's champion sharpshooter. After a sharp shooting contest, he was given a weekend pass and with $12.50 in his pocket, he escaped to America to set up a life for his family. It took Nathan four years to secure himself so he could send for his family. Nathan died in 1963 at age 78.

Gerry's mother was Etta Rodman, born in 1899. She came to the U.S. from the Ukraine when she was four. Gerry Gould said that his father, Herbert Goldstein, was born in Harlem N.Y.

In the book, the author describes how his father came to change his name from Goldstein to Gould because of anti-Semitic feelings in New York City where he tried to find work.

"Gerry, my father, has had many peaks and valleys in his life. After the Second World War, he went from broke at age 22, to become highly successful shortly after. Then he went into the land development business and was hugely successful until 1972.

"On paper, he was a millionaire, but he ended up losing it all and owing the government over a million dollars in taxes. Then, he became a millionaire again in the late 70s only to end up broke once again in the early 80s. He then became the president of a bank subsidiary and became a millionaire on paper again in the mid-80s.

Gould said his dad has been a tremendous success as he helped build a community in Florida - Lehigh Acres - which provided a safe, positive environment for many families to raise their children. He helped build churches and a synagogue in Lehigh Acres and in Sun City Center, a community he later developed. Gould said his dad helped many business owners get started in these towns.

"I never saw him treat anyone he encountered with anything but respect as another human being. My dad has never, ever had an ounce of racism, sexism or any other form of bigotry in his life. Hatred can only bring negativity and unhappiness into one's life. What good could it possibly do? If you want to be happier, eliminate all hatred or anger from your life," Gould said. Throughout the book, Gould noted the continuous positive mental attitude that his dad possessed.

Gerry Gould was made president of a land title company headed by Lee Ratner. There were others at the top of the corporation but it was he and the late Arthur Kessler who moved to Lehigh to raise their families and Gould called that time some of the best in his life.

"My dad and his partner, Lee Ratner, and a host of others created a town in Florida that was as close to Mayberry RFD as any town could get. Everyone knew each other; no one locked their doors and everyone looked out for each other and there was a community support system second to none.

"It was a magical place to grow up and if you ask almost any one (95 percent) who lived there during that time prior to 1972, they would agree.

Gould says his dad never seems to worry about anything.

"Every day, he drives his nice car right down the middle of one of the worst areas of Miami - Cracktown, USA. People are literally stumbling into the street like zombies and my dad doesn't even see them. You know the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Well that is how my dad gets around, always has.

Gerry Gould was audited by the IRS in the mid-70s, from his years at Lehigh, and they claimed most of the deductions his accountants advised him to take were not allowed.

"They said my dad owed them over a million dollars, but the family never knew it. He never got panicked. He never lost his temper ... he just kept on living his life as he always did, happy, and things just worked out.

"It seems to me that living is just one series of curve balls and the question is: how will we react? Will we swing and hit the winning run, run the bases into the embrace of our teammates; or will we stand there motionless striking out; throwing in our helmet and bat in anger," Gould wrote.

The tax problem worked itself out with a settlement with the IRS. Gould had accountants who had handled his taxes.

Gerry Gould had many jobs, but in 1950 he was in businesses with his dad and had an apartment in the same place where his father lived. The building had to be torn down and Gould thought his was a good time to part ways even though Gerry loved his dad, he hated the clothing business. He wanted to go back into advertising sales.

As the story would have it, Gould's first meeting with Lee Ratner came when Gould was told to look him up to see if he was running a scam business selling scented water for perfume.

The senior Gould said he went up to 79th Street in Miami, where Ratner's office was located, walked up to the building, and there were two rough looking guys at the door, with black shirts with white monograms, and black pants.

Gerry asked, "Do you fellows know a Lee Ratner?" One of the monogrammed shirts had a LLR for Leonard Lee Ratner.

"I'm Lee Ratner. What do you want?" and Gerry replied, "I wanted to find out if you're a crook."

According to the story, Ratner laughed and invited him into his office. It turned out that Lee Ratner owned a very successful rodenticide company, D-Con and was also the owner of a very successful mail order company. He had decided to get into the perfume and cosmetics business, too. Donat Perfumes was one of Ratner's first products in the cosmetics business and Gould learned it was no scam.

It was then that Gerry Gould asked Ratner if they could discuss Gould's handling some of Ratner's advertising business. A few weeks later Gerry re-approached Ratner with an idea to create a company similar to

Avon. That began an interesting relationship which resulted in Gerry selling Lee Ratner more than $250,000 in labeling and marketing.

Jacob Gould said that was when Lee Ratner and his dad became friends and they socialized together with their wives.

"Whenever Lee was in town, they would fly on Lee's plane to his cattle ranch on the west coast of Florida to go horseback riding," Gould wrote.

Jim Richmond, Lee's brother-in-law and ranch manger used to say that those were the most expensive horseback rides in history. In addition to the expense of flying the plane over, Lee and Gerry spent all day chasing cows, knocking off all their valuable weight; the cows' weights; not Lee and Gerry's. Not good for selling beef," Gould wrote of Richmond's comments.

Later Ratner and Gould become business associates and Gould became president of the new land development company. The company began in the fall of 1954 and they ran their first ad to see what response they would get.

"The response was huge. The TV ad basically said: put $10 down and $10 a month and own a lot in fabulous Florida or your money back. Ratner became the chairman, Gerry the president and CEO, Ed Shapiro the secretary and Manny Rifken the treasurer. Gerry was 30 at the time.

Jacob Gould writes that Ratner had a tremendous income from the mail order business and the profits of the D-Con business. During that time, Ratner heard cattle farming was a good investment for people in his tax bracket, so he bought 18,000 acres of land in eastern Lee County and named it the Lucky Lee Ranch,

"Because the ranch was not making money and was more fun than profitable, he was advised to either make it profitable or sell it as the government would eventually classify it as a hobby.

"By creating Lehigh Acres, he was able to sell the land and subdivide the lots to the Lee County Land and Title Company.

The rest is history, but the cook contains little known facts about the beginnings of the town, a story about the first person who arrived in Lehigh after he had sent a check to Gould and thought his house had been built, including the days when those who founded Lehigh sold the business and were no longer associated with it.

Gould later writes about the surge in housing prices which led to a boom in Lehigh Acres - new housing construction from 2003 to 2007 peaked at more than 7,500 new homes constructed in 2006. The number of homes built during this period exceeded the total number of homes constructed during the preceding 50 years, Gould wrote.

But like in other areas of the country, the real estate boom of the 2000s went bust and the median house price in the Fort Myers area peaked in late 2005 to $322,300. Three years later, it had plummeted to $106,900. A reliance on construction jobs no longer available pushed the unemployment rate in the area of Lehigh Acres and Fort Myers to 14 percent by the summer of 2009. Property values in Lehigh Acres dropped 25 percent in 2008 and another 50 percent in 2009.

He mentions Rick Anglickis in his book who he quoted as saying "Lehigh started going down the drain when it lost the benevolent dictatorship and direction of Gould and the other founders. They were interested in building the city of tomorrow. The next guys were just interested in cashing a check."

Anglickis, who is active today in business in Lehigh and also active on the Community Council, an advocate group for Lehigh, also noted that there were incredible opportunities in Lehigh for a young kid with "there's so much good here."

Gould said typical of the press, some tried to somehow tie the collapse of Lehigh during the 2007 real estate bust to his father.

"The press in Florida took things out of context and tried to paint him as some real estate scam artist. No scam artist moves his entire family into the middle of his scam and then stays there for 14 years.

"The bust came in 2007. The rapid explosion of real estate began around 1998. My dad had left Lehigh in 1972, leaving behind a thriving wonderful town. Nothing he and his partners had done back in the beginning had anything whatsoever to do with the fact that not only in Lehigh, but like everywhere in the country, real estate had appreciated well beyond its true worth because people were chasing the dream of wealth and were blinded by that dream.

The book contains a wealth of information about Gould's family, his personal beliefs, and how he became involved in helping to create Lehigh Acres in the beginning.

Jacob Gould concluded: "As you saw, my dad was worth millions; he went broke, he made millions, he went broke - time and time again. But he rose up and became successful. Again at age 80, he succeeded in hitting it big in real estate.

"I sat back in amazement at his incredible persistence, confidence in his abilities, and his faith that he would once again make it happen. My dad has had some tremendous highs and lows in business, but you would not know it in talking to him," Gould said.

His dad always managed to stay positive and upbeat which the younger Gould believes is one of the main reasons he is still going strong at 89.

"There have been many books written on the power of positive thinking and Gerald Gould is living proof of this power," Jacob Gould wrote.

Those interested in buying the book can go to the site mentioned above or go to Amazon.com where it is available.

 
 

 

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