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Longboat Key Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018 4 months ago

Colony made Longboat Key

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It’s heart-breaking to see the Colony razed, but the memories so many people made there are indelible.
by: Matt Walsh Editor & CEO

If you had the great fortune to have lived through any part of the heyday of the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort, it will be difficult — no, make that: It will be emotionally sapping — to imagine 1620 Gulf of Mexico Drive without the Colony campus as we knew it.

The sight of that special place being demolished is standing at the gravesite of a family member at her funeral. Your eyes well up, tears run down a cheek, your throat tightens, you sniffle back the grief. All the wonderful memories flash through your mind’s eye in a running movie. 

It’s so hard to bury a loved one.

Reading through this week’s four-page tribute and reminiscences of the Colony triggered a flood of wonderful personal memories. Thankfully, those special moments and events will never be razed.

Where to begin? 

How about the scope and reach of the Colony and its reputation? It’s remarkable. Actually, quite amazing. 

In nearly a quarter century of our family living on Longboat Key, hardly a day or week would go by without talking to a Longboat resident or a Longboat visitor whose introduction to Longboat Key did not start at the Colony. The Colony made Longboat Key — starting with the visionary Herb Field, creator of the Colony resort, and then for three decades, with the magical, “casual elegance” that Dr. Murray “Murf” Klauber and his family obsessed over for their guests.

The remarkable and extensive reach of the Colony came to life several years ago on the tennis courts of a Colorado Springs resort. Before the morning lesson began, the teaching pro asked the standard question: “Where are you from?”

When he heard “Longboat Key,” he said, “Oh, yeah, I used to teach at the Colony. Great place.” 

Minutes later, a second attendee showed up for the lesson. She was from Dallas. When she heard “Longboat Key,” she didn’t hesitate: “The Colony! We love the Colony.”

Imagine that: Two strangers, 1,200 and 2,000 miles away, diehard fans of this 18-acre resort on the Gulf of Mexico in little Longboat Key, Fla.

A remarkable testament to what it was.

SPECIAL OCCASIONS

There was no better Mother’s Day or Sunday brunch in Florida. The presentation, the selection of cuisine, the to-die-for desserts — and the view of the turquoise Gulf of Mexico from inside the Colony Restaurant. No place compares.

Friday and Saturday nights at the Colony Restaurant, its bar and the Monkey Room were the place to be seen. It teemed with what seemed like hundreds of Longboaters and Sarasotans who were Colony and Murf Klauber fans and Colony guests. Klauber, with drink in hand, mingled among everyone, creating the sense that everyone was part of the Colony-Klauber family.

The artwork on the walls of the restaurant made you feel as if you were in a modern art gallery. And the Colony deli held its own special place as the first spot on Longboat to serve what was then rare coffee, Starbucks.

After Shenkel’s restaurant on the Key shut down, Dr. Klauber graciously offered the Colony Restaurant as host of the weekly 7:30 a.m. Kiwanis breakfast. Who wouldn’t want to go to a breakfast where you stared out the window at one of the most spectacular views in Florida? 

These were the heydays for the Kiwanis Club as well. The members were as extraordinary as the place they met: Gen. James Edmundson, an Air Force war hero who flew 181 combat missions in World War II and Korean and Vietnam Wars; Bill Kelley, still alive on Longboat, a D-Day combatant; one of our members survived the Bataan Death March. 

It was always fun to sit at the table with the late Jim Durant, who in his heyday was the lawyer for the Major League Baseball Players Association, and Longboat Key’s most popular mayor of all time, Hal Lenobel. Native New Yorkers, they debated each week the rivalry and every statistic and player of the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees.

While soaking in the view of the Gulf inside the Colony Restaurant was the proverbial postcard, the view of the Gulf was even more spectacular from Klauber’s sixth-floor penthouse office. Klauber loved to show visitors how the Colony’s beach was always wider than his neighbors’ beaches, thanks to the Makepeace groin he installed. That office also always had model renderings of Klauber’s next visionary idea — a conference center for downtown Sarasota, a conference center and multiple hotels for the Channelside district in downtown Tampa. It was like walking into the wizard’s dream machine.

Anyone who lived close to the Colony always appreciated the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve. The Colony fireworks shows on the beach rivaled any show around.

FAMILY MEMORIES

The family albums of Colony unit owners and guests are full of great memories at the Colony. You can read about some of them on page 11. We have ours.

The Walsh family held a beach wedding November 2006 at the Colony.

We held a celebratory lunch at the Colony the day after closing on the purchase of the Longboat Observer, our company’s first newspaper.  Our in-laws celebrated milestone anniversaries in the restaurant’s private dining room.

Every Thanksgiving we prepare the Colony’s Southern sausage dressing. 

We held a beach barbecue rehearsal dinner under the Colony tiki huts for our daughter Kate and her future husband, Dex Honea. Daughter Emily held her wedding on the beach at the Colony on a night a full moon magically illuminated the Gulf. Among the memories that night were the wedding crashers who ate, drank and partied as if they were close relatives of the families. We had no clue. But props to the Colony staff that night; they made the occasion unforgettable.

Perhaps the one Colony memory we enjoy and laugh about the most involved, of all things, the Colony maintenance department and our son, Brian.

One summer while he was still in college, he landed a “hotel management” internship in the Colony maintenance department. Here he was, the Longboat “college boy,” learning the finer points of facilities maintenance (e.g. how to clean out clogged sewage drains) from the hardened Colony laborers and their supervisors.

One hot afternoon, one of the supers decided to have some fun with the college kid and “management” intern. While working on a project, Mike, the crew supervisor, turned to his assistant Brian and said: “Hey, can you go to the parts shop and ask the guys to order me a new bubble for my level?”

Obliging and oblivious, Brian walked to the parts counter: “Mike says he needs a new bubble for his level. Can you order one?”

The two guys behind the counter stared at Brian quizzically for a moment. One of them said: “Did Mike say what color of bubble he needs?”

Brian: “No.” 

Parts guy: “Go back and ask Mike what color he needs.”

By this time, no one could contain his laughter. The joke was on the college-educated, “management” intern who hadn’t a clue how a level worked.

Brian since went on to become a captain in the Marines. He is much better with a rifle than he is with a level. 

There will never be another Colony — like the one that made Longboat Key and brought so many people here. Like our family, if you had the great fortune of experiencing the Colony, the demolition of the structures will sadden, if not break, your heart. It’s not just the buildings. It’s the place; the experiences; and all of the people. Thankfully, those cherished memories are indelible and will live on.

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