BREVARD HISTORY: A Growing Port Canaveral For a Growth Market — The Third Decade

By  //  December 29, 2016

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PART THREE OF A FIVE PART SERIES

In the summer of 1976, three 400-foot piers were completed on the north side of the Port and the USS Vangaurd, a NASA-sponsored tracking ship, docked for one year at the north-south pier while the scrap yard was stabilized on the north side. (Port Canaveral image)

In the summer of 1976, three 400-foot piers were completed on the north side of the Port and the USS Vangaurd, a NASA-sponsored tracking ship, docked for one year at the north-south pier while the scrap yard was stabilized on the north side. (Port Canaveral image)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third of a five part series about the history of Port Canaveral. Geographically significant for centuries, and from its early days of conception as an actual inlet to the Atlantic in the 1870s, the port now plays a major role in the business and commerce of the entire region.

Billboard advertising growth opportunities at the Port circa 1970s (Port Canaveral image)

Billboard advertising growth opportunities at the Port circa 1970s: “Port Canaveral – Central Florida’s Outlet to the Sea.” (Port Canaveral image)

In this third installment, SpaceCoastDaily.com takes a look at Port Canaveral as it enters into its third decade which saw the Port reach its long-standing goal of exporting Indian River citrus to markets in Europe and Japan, the “Madcap Mischief Makers” (M3) celebrated the 10th anniversary of NASA’s moon landing, and a new era begins as cruise ships begin to call Port Canaveral ‘home.’ At the end of its third decade, Port Canaveral was living up to its slogan. It was, indeed, a growing port in a growth market.

CLICK HERE FOR PART I: Port Canaveral Culmination of Long Awaited Dream

CLICK HERE FOR PART II: McLouth Leads Port Canaveral Into Its 2nd Decade

BREVARD COUNTY • PORT CANAVERAL, FLORIDA – Great changes were ahead for Port Canaveral as it entered its third decade. The operating budget reached $1 million for the first time in 1973 and income from revenue was $400,000, nearly approaching the equal mark with tax revenue.

Ribbon cutting for a new wing of the Port Authority office: Left to right – Commissioners W. O. B. Clendinen, R. A. Cutter, D. A. “Dave” Nisbet; Executive Secretary Barbara Smith; Executive Director Charles “Chuck” Rowland; and Commissioner M. M. “Buck” Buchanan. (Port Canaveral image)

Ribbon cutting for a new wing of the Port Authority office: Left to right – Commissioners W.O.B. Clendinen, R.A. Cutter, Dave Nisbet; Executive Secretary Barbara Smith; Executive Director Chuck Rowland; and Commissioner Buck Buchanan. (Port Canaveral image)

The next year, 1974, the budget was supported by a tax levy of only .666 mills, the first time it had been under one mill. In 1977, with a levy of .6 mills, earned income exceeded tax dollars for the first time.

The operating budget was $1,359,128, with $700,000 of it coming from fees and rentals. By 1973, the Port had received $2.7 million in grants for improvements on the south side and the Federal Economic Development Administration granted another $1,363,500 for more construction.

A loading dock for fresh citrus was completed in November 1975, in hopes of reaching a long-standing goal of exporting Indian River citrus to markets in Europe and Japan.

In 1978 that dream came true. That year 732,141 cartons of citrus and 267,869 cartons of produce were loaded into 11 ships bound for Europe and two for Japan.

A loading dock for fresh citrus was completed in November 1975, in hopes of reaching a long-standing goal of exporting Indian River citrus to markets in Europe and Japan. In 1978 that dream came true. That year 732,141 cartons of citrus and 267,869 cartons of produce were loaded into 11 ships bound for Europe and two for Japan. (Port Canaveral image)

A loading dock for fresh citrus was completed in November 1975, in hopes of reaching a long-standing goal of exporting Indian River citrus to markets in Europe and Japan. In 1978 that dream came true. That year 732,141 cartons of citrus and 267,869 cartons of produce were loaded into 11 ships bound for Europe and two for Japan. (Port Canaveral image)

Commissioner Dave Nisbet was quoted in the Vero Beach Press Journal, saying: “Port Canaveral is a natural point for citrus exports from this area because of its convenient, centralized and close-by location to so many producers. The Port Authority has taken several positive steps to accommodate the citrus trade, including constructing additional truck offloading ramps, providing for the required ventilation and inset protection, and offering facilities separate from other cargo operations. The Port now has over 90,000 square feet to ensure adequate warehouse space in light of increasing demands by other cargoes.”

In the summer of 1976, three 400-foot piers were completed on the north side of the Port and the USS Vangaurd, a NASA-sponsored tracking ship, docked for one year at the north-south pier while the scrap yard was stabilized on the north side.

Administrative Changes Mark Third Decade

Other changes were taking place rapidly at the Port in addition to cargo growth. June 1977 saw the establishment of a parking fee of 25 cents at Jetty Park and in August, 25 new campsites were added to the facility.

That same month, retired Navy Captain Glen Cheek was hired as the Port’s first assistant manager.

Glen Cheek

Glen Cheek

He served in this position for only four months, succeeding George King as manager upon King’s retirement in December 1977.

There was a big retirement party for the “King of the Port,” with all the commissioners paying him tribute. “George has seen more changes at the Port than will probably ever occur there again,” said Port attorney Ed Jackson.

George King

George King

“George came onboard when the Port was nothing but a muddy, freshly dug harbor, and I only hope we don’t lose his expertise entirely during his retirement years.”

Culminating the round of tributes, Chairman Malcolm “Mac” McLouth announced that Port Road was being changed to George King Boulevard in his honor.

As the Port’s 25th anniversary approached, the pace of business quickened. A new marketing slogan was adopted in 1978: “A growing Port for a growth market — Port Canaveral, the entrance to Central Florida.”

Cheek, in reminiscing about those years, said, “Our main thrust was building the cargo business. Passenger business was thought of as icing on the cake. I still remember my first days and weeks at the Port. Barbara Smith had made the Port her life, and she saved me many times with her knowledge and corporate memory. She guarded the Port’s business operation very, very carefully.”

As the Port’s 25th anniversary approached, the pace of business quickened. A new marketing slogan was adopted in 1978: “A growing Port for a growth market — Port Canaveral, the entrance to Central Florida.”

A six year timetable for major improvements was adopted. In addition, $185,000 was appropriated for new roads and another $500,000 for another new warehouse to be completed by 1982.

25th Anniversary Is Cause For Celebration

ABOVE VIDEO: A United States Navy submarine entering the Port recently. In the late 1970s the U.S. Navy completed the Trident Submarine Basin.

When the time came to celebrate the first 25 years in October 1978, the new warehouse was not ready, so a gala cocktail party for 250 people was held in the Southwest corner of the old warehouse.

A United States Navy Trident submarine entering the Port. In the late 1970s the U.S. Navy completed the Trident Submarine Basin at the Port and this project also served as an interim substitute for sand bypassing, as more than 2,800,000 cubic yards of sand, dredged to create the basin, was placed on the beach south of the Port. (Port Canaveral image)

A United States Navy Trident submarine entering the Port. In the late 1970s the U.S. Navy completed the Trident Submarine Basin at the Port and this project also served as an interim substitute for sand bypassing, as more than 2,800,000 cubic yards of sand, dredged to create the basin, was placed on the beach south of the Port. (Port Canaveral image)

Florida Today printed a special section devoted to the Port’s history and noted that the food was a bit more glitzy than dedication day in 1953, when the fare was fried mullet, baked beans and cole slaw.

This time around, the fishermen and the local restaurants came through with shrimp, crabmeat and other seafood delicacies, as was befitting a booming and bustling Port that was growing rapidly into a major economic force in Central Florida.

During 1979, 172 ships moved through Port Canaveral, carrying 1.5 million tons of fuel oil, 280,000 tons of cement, 53,000 tons of newsprint and 48,000 tons of citrus.

It was also in 1979 that the Port finally got the green light from the State Department of Environmental Regulation to dredge the Port’s west turning basin, ending nearly two years of delays on the matter. The dredging was essential if the Port was to accommodate the larger tankers and cargo ships.

It was about this same time that the U.S. Navy completed the Trident Submarine Basin at the Port. This project also served as an interim substitute for sand bypassing, as more than 2,800,000 cubic yards of sand, dredged to create the basin, was placed on the beach south of the Port.

Bob Kenaston, who was the Lockheed engineer in charge of the project, remembers that he got the shock of his life at the beginning of the project when the Department of the Navy in Washington, D.C. asked him for a project budget.

“I hadn’t had time to do any detailed cost analysis,” he said, “so I just said, ‘Oh, it will probably run about $65 million,’ and I nearly fell out of my chair when the admiral replied, ‘O.K., do it!’.”

“I hadn’t had time to do any detailed cost analysis,” he said, “so I just said, ‘Oh, it will probably run about $65 million,’ and I nearly fell out of my chair when the admiral replied, ‘O.K., do it!’.”

Madcap Mischief Makers Provide Summer Fun

The summer of 1979 also brought about a little fun and frolic at the Port. The Madcap Mischief Makers (M3) surfaced, planning activities to celebrate the 10th anniversary of NASA’s moon landing.

Hurricane David paid a Labor Day weekend visit to Brevard County in 1979, passing by Port Canaveral about 20 miles at sea during low tide. As water rose nearly to the floors of the warehouses, 11 boats were destroyed in the water and Dick Davis lost all of the docks at his marina. Maximum winds were 95 miles per hour but luckily, Port facilities suffered little serious damage. (usf.edu image)

Hurricane David paid a Labor Day weekend visit to Brevard County in 1979, passing by Port Canaveral about 20 miles at sea during low tide. As water rose nearly to the floors of the warehouses, 11 boats were destroyed in the water and Dick Davis lost all of the docks at his marina. Maximum winds were 95 miles per hour but luckily, Port facilities suffered little serious damage. (usf.edu image)

Festivities included a sailboat parade, a cocktail party at the north warehouse, the dedication of a monument at Jetty Park commemorating the landing, and a human chain planned to stretch from Jetty Park to South Melbourne Beach. Thousands turned out to form the chain, but, unfortunately, a good many gaps along the way kept it from being continuous.

Hurricane David paid a Labor Day weekend visit to Brevard County in 1979, passing by Port Canaveral about 20 miles at sea during low tide.

As water rose nearly to the floors of the warehouses, 11 boats were destroyed in the water and Dick Davis lost all of the docks at his marina. Maximum winds were 95 miles per hour but luckily, Port facilities suffered little serious damage.

By March 1980, Cheek had helped bring about a significant increase in business during his two-year tenure as manager. He helped boost annual revenues by $140,000 and oversaw more than $600,000 in capital improvements. Avenue A (Commercial Drive) was renamed in his honor.

The West Marginal Wharf did sustain damage in December 1979 when the bulkhead collapsed, putting it out of commission for 18 months and costing about $2 million to repair.

The collapse turned out to be somewhat of a blessing in disguise, however, because the new bulkhead was designed for 41 feet of water and the platform was redesigned to support greater loads behind the bulkhead.

By March 1980, Cheek had helped bring about a significant increase in business during his two-year tenure as manager. He helped boost annual revenues by $140,000 and oversaw more than $600,000 in capital improvements. Avenue A (Commercial Drive) was renamed in his honor.

Changing the Guard Again: Rowland Takes the Helm

Malcolm “Mac” McLouth was a Port Authority Board member when Charles “Chuck” Rowland took charge.

Mac McLouth

Mac McLouth

“Chuck brought a different approach to Port management,” he said. “He had vision and he was vital in the expansion of our cruise industry in those early days. The success of our cruise industry today is due primarily to him. It’s responsible for over 70 percent of our income and is the one thing that made the Port self-sufficient.”

Charles “Chuck” Rowland

Charles “Chuck” Rowland

“The cruise business was a huge challenge,” Rowland remembers. “I thought it would help to have Mickey Mouse come over here to help us advertise, but Disney was reluctant to have him venture off their property. After all, he was their trademark.”

When the Queen Elizabeth II made her first visit to Port Canaveral in December 1980, however, Rowland repeated his request for a Disney character to greet the ship.

Queen Elizabeth II made her first visit to Port Canaveral in December 1980. At the top of the photo, the USNS Hayes is berthed at North Cargo Pier 3. (Port Canaveral image)

Queen Elizabeth II made her first visit to Port Canaveral in December 1980. At the top of the photo, the USNS Hayes is
berthed at North Cargo Pier 3. (Port Canaveral image)

“This time, they were impressed by this distinguished ship choosing to stop at Port Canaveral,” he said, “so they sent over Goofy. We took photos, of course, and I asked their people if we could use them in marketing materials.”

Again, the answer was “no,” but it wasn’t long, Rowland said, before Gene LeMoyne, one of the Disney Imagineers, called to make an appointment to discuss some joint marketing ventures.

“He came over to meet with me, and the gist of the conversation was that their attendance had suffered during the economic recession of the early 1980s and they were very uneasy about their future, especially since they were in the process of building Epcot.

They had come to the conclusion, finally, that there were three reasons visitors came to Florida: Disney, the beaches, and cruises; and since Port Canaveral was the closest port to Walt Disney World and also near a major airport, it would make sense to help develop the cruise trade here.

He not only authorized use of the Goofy photos — he wanted to work with the Port to produce a multimedia presentation to take to the cruise lines.”

A New Era Begins: Cruise Ships Begin to Call Canaveral ‘Home’

Before the presentation was even finished, however, Bruce Nierenberg, CEO of Scandinavian Cruises, contacted Rowland about bringing the Scandinavian Sea to the Port for daylong “cruises to nowhere.”

Cruise Terminal 1, under construction above, was completed in February 1982. In special ceremonies, it officially was dedicated by Florida’s First Lady, Mrs. Bob Graham, and later that same month the Scandinavian Sea became the first ship to be homeported at Port Canaveral. (Port Canaveral image)

Cruise Terminal 1, under construction above, was completed in February 1982. In special ceremonies, it officially was dedicated by Florida’s First Lady, Mrs. Bob Graham, and later that same month the Scandinavian Sea became the first ship to be homeported at Port Canaveral. (Port Canaveral image)

So Port Canaveral turned 20,000 square feet of the north warehouse into a cruise terminal for about $80,000.

“I had a hard time convincing the board to take this plunge,” Rowland says. “The vote was three to two.”

Cruise Terminal 1 was completed in February 1982. In special ceremonies, it officially was dedicated by Florida’s First Lady, Mrs. Bob Graham, and later that same month the Scandinavian Sea became the first ship to be homeported at Port Canaveral.

In March 1984, Premier Cruise Lines S/S Royale homeported at Port Canaveral and began the first year-round 3- and 4-day cruises to the Bahamas. (Port Canaveral image)

In March 1984, Premier Cruise Lines S/S Royale homeported at Port Canaveral and began the first year-round 3- and 4-day cruises to the Bahamas. (Port Canaveral image)

Later Nierenberg left the Scandinavian line and formed his own company, Premier Cruise Lines, proposing to bring two new ships to homeport at Port Canaveral. This time Rowland had no trouble convincing the board to appropriate funds to build Cruise Terminals 2 and 3; the vote was unanimous.

“Chuck’s philosophy, like George King’s, was ‘build them and they will come’,” says McLouth. “That doesn’t always work, of course, but in that time and this place, it was the right thing to do.”

While the cruise business was developing a toe-hold at the Port, cargo was not being neglected. In May 1980, the Sunbelt Dixie made her first call at the Port to load citrus — something she would continue to do for the next 20 years. (She was replaced in 2002 by her successor, the Sunbelt Spirit.)

Buck Buchanan

Buck Buchanan

While the cruise business was developing a toe-hold at the Port, cargo was not being neglected. In May 1980, the Sunbelt Dixie made her first call at the Port to load citrus — something she would continue to do for the next 20 years. (She was replaced in 2002 by her successor, the Sunbelt Spirit.)

Later that year, Mid-Florida Freezer made plans to demolish several old buildings and build a new 40,000-square-foot warehouse.

Port Commissioner M. M. “Buck” Buchanan was instrumental in marketing the Port’s cargo industry during the early 1980s, traveling all over the world to promote the business.

Cruise ships were the new baby on the horizon at the beginning of the 1980s, but cargo was still the bread and butter. (Port Canaveral image)

Cruise ships were the new baby on the horizon at the beginning of the 1980s, but cargo was still the bread and butter. (Port Canaveral image)

“Cruise ships were the new baby on the horizon,” he said, “but cargo was bread and butter. I knew we needed to get this Port expanded beyond shrimping and oil if we were to get it off the tax rolls, which was everybody’s goal. So Chuck and I went wherever we could to build up cargo business.”

Their efforts were highly successful, for the Port budget exceeded $2 million in 1982 for the first time ever. At the end of its third decade, Port Canaveral was living up to its slogan; it was, indeed, a growing port in a growth market.

CLICK HERE FOR PART I: Port Canaveral Culmination of Long Awaited Dream

CLICK HERE FOR PART II: McLouth Leads Port Canaveral Into Its 2nd Decade


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