“It’s a giant bag full of dollar bills!” exclaimed Cindy Bear, Coordinator of Programs and Services of the Randell Research Center (RRC).

In 2013, more than eleven thousand “ones” from the walls of the Dollar Bill Bar and Restaurant at Cabbage Key were donated by Robert A. Wells, Jr. on behalf of his customers for the purpose of expanding educational opportunities at the RRC.

Dollar bill with a child's drawing of two people, a house and the sun.
A happy child’s drawing taped to the wall at Cabbage Key. Photo by D.

Cabbage Key is a popular bar and restaurant located in Pine Island Sound not far from the Randell Research Center. It has long been a custom that visitors to Cabbage Key autograph a dollar bill and tape it to the wall. As a result, the walls, ceilings, columns — everything eventually becomes covered with dollar bills, sometimes layers of them. Periodically, the restaurant staff peels off the bills and Rob donates them to a worthy cause. We are honored that this year the dollar-bill bounty came to the Randell Research Center.

Wells stated, “We are extremely happy to support the Randell Research Center at Pineland on behalf of our customers. Historically speaking, the RRC is an extra- ordinary property with thousands of years of rich history. Specifically, we’re proud to support their educational tours. We love watching the kids who visit the site while on school field trips. They spend a few hours learning the history of this place in which we live. It’s truly remark- able and, as local business owners, we’re proud of the Center and its mission.”

Autographed dollar bills are literally the handwriting on the wall at Cabbage Key. For decades, daily visitors have posted autographed dollars alongside those of famous people: politicians, movie stars, newscasters, sports personalities, and musicians. Patrons know their dollars are destined for good causes.

Cindy Bear gathered RRC volunteers at the Ruby Gill House to sort, count, remove tape from the currency, find mates for the torn pieces, and bundle them to be deposited in the bank. Each dollar bill had a handwritten message. Volunteers read some of them aloud.

“It’s the best day ever!” proclaimed one. “D-lightful” echoed another. Someone printed “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” a tribute to Jimmy Buffet, who strummed his guitar at Cabbage Key and left his signature on a dollar bill.

A boat captain logged, “A great sailing trip with family, couldn’t be happier.” Another summarized, “Happy times— happy life—happy family—happy wife.” One group of visitors wrote with this European accent, “Vi Lovve Thiss Place.”

A pleased little boy signed himself “the handsome 9 year old.” Another declared, “I like dirt bike riding.” Young James wrote, “I like Math.” Girls printed, “Olivia luvs horsez!” and “Viv loves dogs.” A nature lover stated, “Animals Rule!!!”

“Let’s swim all day because Florida rules!” proposed one. A tattletale told, “Garret peed in the ocean!!” Someone offered, “REPRIEVE!”

A very young child printed “GRANDAD” as each successive letter grew in size. Another greeted lovingly, “Dear Papa— (heart shape)–I miss YU.”

“LUCKY ME” observed an artist, drawing a funny face on his dollar bill. Cartoonlike speech emanated from the mouth of George Washington. “I am dead!” declared one bubble. Another, “Blah blah blah!” and a third, “HA HA!” Folks from the UK drew curly hair and a crown on George’s head. Canadian dollar bills displayed the smiling Queen. A Chinese five-Yuan bill showed pastel colors.

At election time over the years, voters celebrated. “Bush won Florida!!” “Obama Rules!” “Sic Semper Liberalu!” Someone replaced the words “United States of America” with: “The United Clowns of America.” “Peace,” stated another. A solemn dollar bill commemorated, “God Bless the USA, 9-11!” A smiley face accompanied “Jesus Saves.” The “Flying Tigers 1939-1945” identified them- 7 selves. “The Elite Team was here.” “Angels Off Duty.”

Advice from the walls: “Go with your gut,” and “Don’t count on anyone but yourself.”

Lovers came to Cabbage Key and told their story. “Will you marry me? –Yes!” “WE GOT ENGAGED TODAY!” wrote Brandy and Dan. Other romantics asked, “What are you doin? We’re snook-snookie!” A mysterious miss wrote, “I was the girl with no shirt!” and she signed it “Hottie” with a smiley face. Someone affirmed, “She is a sexy beast!” Dollar bills showed “Honeymoon!” and “Just Married” accompanied by hearts with arrows. “Love” was written on many dollar bills. “Lou and Carol Celebrated 50 Years.” “Barb and Elmer” signed in ’02. “Happily Ever After” mused another. “Let’s not wait 8 years for next vacation!”

According to Rob Wells, education is a most important mission. “If you can read this…thank a school teacher,” affirmed one dollar bill. “Besides the educational program at the Randell Research Center, patrons’ dollars have supported the American Marine Institute (AMI), a school serving at-risk youth with programs in seven states including Florida, including a facility at Fort Myers Beach. Three out of four youths completing the AMI-Kids program stay out of the court system and lead productive lives.

Donors may be reassured their “Most Important Dollar Donated” always goes to a good cause. “It’s a win-win situation for our patrons,” said Rob Wells. “They have fun AND do good for the community all at the same time.”

This article was taken from the Friends of the Randell Research Center Newsletter Vol 13, No. 1. June 2014.