Like World War II veterans, executives from the early days of the Deltona Corporation are becoming national treasures as their numbers dwindle.
Jack Joyce is one of those treasures.
Joyce played a big part in the development of Marco Island as a vice president in Frank Mackle’s “army.”
Now 87, Joyce was a creative young salesman who caught Frank Mackle, Jr.’s eye when Deltona was just starting to develop the island in the mid-60s.
Joyce, a creative young Northeasterner, had Mackle’s ear. Mackle liked Joyce’s creative ideas—no doubt because he could see how they led to the Deltona Corporation’s bottom line.
Joyce can’t help but wax sentimental visiting Marco Island today. And in spite of his advancing age, the creative wellspring that served him so well in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, has not run dry.
Joyce would like to breath fire back into one of his early brainstorms. It’s a beautiful mermaid that resides just outside the entrance to Quinn’s on the Beach that Joyce feels gets overlooked.
On an island that is all about the new and shiny, Margo the Mermaid is a rare existing relic to mid-‘60s Marco Island.
“In 1965 Bill Prentiss, who was then the director of advertising and public relations for Deltona Corporation, and I were enjoying Brandy Alexanders poolside,” Joyce said, thinking back to how the idea for Margo the Mermaid was hatched.
“I was at that time executive vice president for R&R Associates who was an independent dealership for the Mackle Brothers,” Joyce said.
The Mackle Brothers, Elliott, Robert and Frank, Jr., were the architects of the Deltona Corporation, the developers of modern Marco Island. Frank Jr., the president of Deltona Corp., took Joyce under his wing. Joyce considered Frank Mackle, Jr. a second father.
Joyce would bring groups of prospects from Massachusetts to the island with the intent to sell them property. Of course the island was not like it is today. Marco Island in the mid-1960s was a rough, mosquito-ridden wilderness. But it did have the beautiful crescent beach and a small motel to house its visitors.
“I had people down,” the gregarious Joyce said. “We had the Voyager, which was a 40 room motel built on the footprint that now houses the J.W. Marriott, that was the facility that was built for housing prospective buyers. Bill and I were sitting by the pool talking and I just happened to say to him, ‘Bill, there’s nothing here but bulldozers and backhoes.’ I said, ‘We’ve got to create something so people will remember being on Marco Island. There’s nothing, really, except for all of this construction. We need something that symbolizes Marco Island.’”
Prentiss was not connecting with Joyce’s ideas, despite the Brandy Alexanders.
“He said, ‘I still don’t know what you mean.’” Joyce told Prentiss, “‘I said, like up in Boston we have the Gloucester (Massachusetts) fisherman with the ship’s wheel.” I said ‘When people see that they’ll think, “I remember when we were in Boston or Gloucester and it’s a great place.’ We need something that’s symbolic of Marco.’”
“He said, ‘I still don’t know. How about seashells?’ I said, ‘No, everybody has seashells.’ I said, ‘Wait a minute. A mermaid. A mermaid swims out of the ocean and we call her Margo the Marco Island Mermaid. Then she extends her hand out, saying, ‘Welcome to paradise.’ I sketched her on the back of a napkin. He stuck it in his pocket. He was a very creative guy. He was fun to talk with. He was a crazy kind of guy. I was kind of that way myself. I said, ‘This would be just perfect to have something like this.’
“That’s how Margo was born,” Joyce said. “I don’t know who manufactured her. I said, ‘We’ll put her on the beach.’”
“These chikee huts you see out here, we put two of them together and made a shelter for her. People would take their picture with her. Later on, when the first tower was built, they moved her in by the pool.”
Currently the plaque beneath Margo the Mermaid reads, “The Marco Island mermaid ‘Margo’ is know to millions of readers of the Brenda Starr, Reporter, cartoon series featured in 72 major newspapers. Dedicated December 18, 1966 by Dale Messick, nationally known woman cartoonist and creator of Brenda Starr.”
Joyce has no issue with what the plaque says. It’s what it doesn’t say that bothers him.
“The plaque is correct from the standpoint that the only picture of Margo at the Marco Island Museum is the cover of one of the Marco Islander magazines with Dale Messick sitting in her lap. Evidently Dale Messick was here on vacation, saw her, and thought she’d be cute to put in her column. In only one of her columns did she put the story of Margo the Mermaid.”
Joyce would like to see Margo moved inside the J.W. Marriott, featured in the lobby, where visitors to the island could pose for pictures with the ageless mermaid from 1966.
“In thinking of the renovation of the hotel,” Joyce said, “and all of the new and wonderful things that are happening with the J.W. Marriott. The thought came to mind;
‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have Margo sitting in the lobby so that when you walk through the glass door, she’s sitting there, extending her hand out saying, ‘Welcome to paradise.’”
Oh, and it might be nice to have a plaque that acknowledges Jack Joyce, whose idea it was to bring Margo into being.