Photo courtesy of TREASURE ISLAND POLICE DEPARTMENT
Treasure Island resident Charlie Entwistle with his newly refurbished mailbox, a replica of an airplane he once owned.
TREASURE ISLAND – In 1995 Charlie and June Entwistle of Yacht Club Drive in Treasure Island were nearly afoul of the law because of their unique mailbox.
Now, 16 years later, the law is helping spruce up that very mailbox, and everyone involved is very happy about it.
The Entwistles moved to Treasure Island back in the early 1990s. They had retired from Massachusetts. With them came their airplane, a Beechcraft Bonanza.
Charlie had been flying since 1965. June’s son, Bo Maryyanek, built an exact replica of Charlie’s plane, in the form of a mailbox and gave it to him. Charlie recalls getting the gift.
“I was tremendously happy to get that plane,” he said. “He did a wonderful job. He built it from scratch.”
Charlie installed the plane-mailbox but over the years the weather took its toll. Eventually the paint wore off.
“I restored it myself a couple of times, but lately it had gotten bad again and some parts were actually falling off,” he said.
Enter Treasure Island Police Cpl. Kathi Lovelace. In making her rounds she often noticed the mailbox’s deterioration and decided to do something about it. So, with the Entwistle’s blessing she took the mailbox and with the help of Cpl. Aaron DeShay and the city’s chief mechanic, Don Sytsma, they completely refurbished the mailbox.
Sytsma rebuilt parts of the plane that had fallen off or rotted and DeShay, who paints model cars as a hobby, did the paint job, right down to the original colors and with the correct registration numbers. He also put a special protective coating over it to help preserve it for a longer time.
With the job done, they re-installed the mailbox much to the delight of Charlie Entwistle.
“It was fantastic,” Charlie said. “It is as good as brand new. I didn’t expect anybody to do this at all, they surprised me. They did a wonderful job.”
Lovelace said she wanted to fix the mailbox because of its iconic stature on Paradise Island.
“The Entwistles have been here for a long time,” she said. “We just wanted to make it look better for them. They have been a big part of this community.”
Sixteen years ago the Treasure Island City Commission wanted to standardize all mailboxes in the city. That meant that anyone with a mailbox out of the ordinary would have to change. There was controversy and many residents who owned unique mailboxes, showed up at City Commission meetings to complain.
When reminded of that controversy, which almost saw him lose his mailbox, Entwistle laughed.
“They said they wanted to standardize the mailboxes so that cars wouldn’t hit them,” he said. “But I asked them how many mailboxes had been hit by cars in the city. They said none. So I asked them why are we doing it?”
It was then that Entwistle was assured by the City Commission that his mailbox would be grandfathered in no matter what regulations were passed.
As for the aircraft that inspired all this, it is now with a new owner in California. Back in 2000 Charlie gave the plane to his son in Massachusetts. He has since replaced it with a new one. The original was sold to a man in California and ironically has since been completely restored, much like its mailbox counterpart.
Charlie fondly remembers his old plane, however.
“In all the years I owned it; it never, ever, ever failed to start,” he said. “I can remember one very cold day up north when a group of us were going flying and my plane was the only one that would start.”
It is unlikely he will ever forget his Beechcraft Bonanza. Every time he checks the mail he is reminded, not only of his airplane, but also of some good community spirit that is keeping it alive.