The end of an era

 

The end of an era

 

Date: August 18, 2010
by: Robin Hartill | Community Editor

 
 

Oct. 26, 1968: Dr. Murray “Murf” Klauber’s first day of managing The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort. Earlier that month, Klauber had come home after a meeting with Herb Field, former owner of the Colony, giddy with excitement.

“Guess what?” he told his children. “I’ve bought the Colony.”

The resort was quiet then, so Klauber moved his family dining room table into the restaurant dining room.
“For the first year, we sat here pretty lonely,” he said.

In less than a year, all three of his children would work for the business: Michael, 13, helping at the front desk; Katie, 11, serving coffee and water; and Tommy, 9, working the buffet and flipping silver-dollar pancakes. Every Sunday night, the family would host a cocktail party for guests, with Katie wearing an elegant, long dress and Michael and Tommy sporting their best suits and ties.

And two years after Klauber decided to buy the Colony, the sale of the property would be completed, making Klauber the owner.

Aug. 14, 2010: The crowd swelled to more than 250 people. They were packed into the bar and Monkey Room to celebrate the Colony’s more than four decades under Klauber leadership and say goodbye to a chapter of Longboat Key history.

Some guests brought memorabilia to place in a giant wooden chest.

Bobbie Banan brought the cover of a jazz album that her late husband, Jack, recorded in 1966, at the Colony.

“I don’t know if there’s ever been another album recorded here,” she said. “We had about 3,000 copies made, and we have two left, so I’d say he did OK.”

She also brought a photo of Klauber and two former Colony bartenders, Kenny Wilson and Lindy Lawson, who were known as a couple of characters.

Judge Rick DeFuria brought an invitation from an event that took place more than 30 years ago.

“Murf threw me my first campaign cocktail party here on June 12, 1980,” he said. “Since then, I’ve had my 50th surprise-birthday party and my parents’ 50th anniversary here.”

Tana Sandefur brought memories of all the times that she strolled from her former Seaplace residence down the beach to the Colony for dinner. She also brought a “Vote for Murf!” button, which was made during Klauber’s tongue-in-cheek campaign for a seat on the Longboat Key Town Commission.

“It was really just a joke,” Klauber said. “I wanted to get my platform out.”

The platform: “Free us from tyranny,” he said.

Some guests didn’t bring tangible items to put in the chest of memorabilia, but everyone brought a vivid memory.

Debbie Keeton, who performs as a jazz duo with her husband, Gary Deary, was ready to perform that evening, to send off Colony attendees with a parting memory. For 17 years, the pair had played for cheering crowds at the Colony.

“This,” she said, “is the night I’m going to remember.”

Night to remember
Guests poured in throughout the night to reminisce.

Richard Perlman’s memories of the Colony predate Klauber’s purchase of the resort to the 1950s, when Field owned it.

“I first visited probably when I was 8 or 9 years old,” he said. “It introduced me to Longboat Key.”

Edith Barr Dunn, who owned Shenkel’s Restaurant, which was located next to the Colony, said that Klauber’s formation of the property into a tennis resort brought youth and vitality to the island.

“He was bringing all these young people here,” she said. “It was so refreshing.”

Commissioner David Brenner and his wife, Maggie, recalled the Christmases they spent at the resort beginning in 1974.

The Klaubers also reminisced about the early years. But for the Klauber kids, one favorite moment was a 1969 hurricane.

“The water came all the way into the restaurant,” Katie Klauber Moulton said. “The boys were rail thin and had to hold onto the poles.”

It would be a key moment in Colony history. The extensive damage that the property received was the catalyst for Klauber to form a condominium-hotel partnership, the first in the state. But, of course, they didn’t know the storm’s significance at the time.

“The water was table-high,” Michael Klauber added. “But we were having so much fun that it didn’t really matter.”

Eventful atmosphere
Party guests recalled the many events they have attended over the years at the Colony.

“One of their first stone crab festivals, they had chefs from everywhere, and they had several national media organizations here,” Nancie Kalin said. “They wanted me to take the biggest bite of a crab cake I possibly could. I did it, and I thought I would never see it again but, of course, I did — on the national news.”

Tommy Klauber met his wife, Jaymie, at a Colony Stone Crab, Seafood and Wine Festival.

“It was about 10 o’clock at night, I saw this beautiful woman on the pool deck drinking coffee and I thought I might have a chance at talking to her,” he said. “We’ve been together almost every day since.”

In fact, just about everyone had a memory of a Colony wedding or marriage proposal.

“I got engaged here to Len Schechter in that corner,” Observer Social Editor Molly Schechter said, pointing to a seat in the dining room.

Betsy and Larry Lieberman said that they were married at sunset in 1986 in a Colony penthouse.

“They served a seven- or eight-course meal,” Larry Lieberman said. “It was just total perfection.”

Linda Howell said that she played for 11 years straight in the Bud Collins Hackers Classic Tennis Tournament.

Beathe and Jerry Elden remembered the circus event the Colony would hold every year.

“The thing I remember most is this high-wire guy walking up a 45-degree angle to Murf’s apartment,” Jerry Elden said.

The Colony’s world-class reputation made it the place to be. Jeff Walters remembered an occasion approximately 15 years ago when he was meeting with a client from Taiwan. The client had visited the Colony before and insisted on returning, even in the midst of a hurricane.

“The waves were coming up and hitting the windows,” Walters said. “The water ended up coming into the whole dining room.”

David Novak remembered Sept. 10, 2001, when President George W. Bush spent the night at the Colony. Novak saw that the restaurant was closed and the beach was blocked and decided to head home. Bush jogged the beaches surrounding the Colony in the hours before the terrorist attacks.

“I always enjoyed coming out here, but that was my historic memory,” Novak said.

And many recalled the Klaubers’ way of making guests feel welcome.

“They could make everybody feel like family,” Kathye Faries said of the Klaubers. “If you were a local person, you could call them on a Saturday and say, ‘Hey, do you have a reservation?’ It’s like a ‘Cheers.’ Everybody knows your name.”

Final note
As Keeton and Deary gave their last Colony performance, they made sure to play “We’re in This Love Together,” by Al Jarreau. It was the song that played at Katie Klauber Moulton and Michael Moulton’s wedding in 1982 at the Colony.

In between reminiscing with guests, the Klaubers gathered for a traditional family dinner in the dining room, just a few feet away from the spot where Klauber had moved the family dining room table more than 40 years ago. Looking back on the past four decades, Klauber said that he considers them a success.

“We started out with a plan to make people comfortable and happy, and we have succeeded,” he said.
The next day, there would be one final Sunday brunch to serve and one last evening Italian buffet before the Klaubers would say goodbye to their staff members, some of whom had worked at the Colony for more than 30 years.

But Saturday night was a celebration. The party continued until 1:30 a.m. and ended on a fitting note with Keeton and Deary performing “Auld Lang Syne.” The crowd sang along, chanting lyrics about remembering old friends.

In unison, the group shouted one last tribute: “Hip, hip hoorah!”

To see more photos from the Colony's goodbye party, click here.

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