The Rocking Chair at White Tower

An article from 1959 about a downtown icon in its day.

Famous Rocking Chair Returns

from Sarasota Herald-Tribune,  Sunday, October l l , 1959

A world-famous chair has returned to Sarasota, bringing with it national publicity for the area. This is the rocking chair which was “dreamed up” in Sarasota sometime in 1949 and which came here once before —in nautical form—for several months in 1955 and 1956. The chair has been written up in Reader’s Digest, it will soon be the subject for an article in House and Garden, and there’s a possibility it will make Life.
Just a few days ago, the chair, celebrating 10th birthday, was featured on network radio broadcasts, and each piece of publicity brings generous mentions of Sarasota. Now Sarasotans may see the chair again—this time elevated and activated — on the roof above the new White Tower restaurant at Five Points. There’s nothing like it anywhere else in the world. And, as the saying goes, thereby hangs a tale—particularly as to how this rocker gained a world-wide reputation.White Tower Restaurant in Srasota with its famous rocking chair

UP IN THE AIR—The giant rocker now moves back and forth on a rooftop at Five Points to proclaim Sarasota as the birthplace of the Sittin’ Starin’ ‘n’ Rockin’ Club >>>

It was in 1949 that Tom Saxe Jr., made one of his many trips to Sarasota, his “second home” for some years. Saxe, as president of the White Tower Restaurant Corporation in Stamford, Conn., was a man beset by problems and perplexities encountered in the operation of any large business. On a sunny afternoon, on the veranda of the old Bay Island Hotel which now is just a memory, Saxe happened to sit down in a rocking chair—“just for a minute,” as be remembers it.

But the one minute lengthened into many. “As I rocked,” Saxe recalls, ‘‘I suddenly realized that I was really relaxed. At that point I had the happiest inspiration of my life. Lulled in body and soul by the squeak-squeak of the chair, I thought drowsily of the frenetic pace of modern life. I wondered if some of my friends couldn’t join me in rocking away their fretting and fussing.”

From this inspirational thought came the far-flung Sittin’ Starin’ ’n’ Rockin’ Club. This is a club with “no committees, no dues, and don’ts.” As president, Saxe has the honor of presiding over meetings that never are held. Membership cards are issued to all members “in good sitting,” as well as rocking chair ‘operators’ licenses.” Members get six-month calendars twice a year reminding them to sit and rock more, especially on holidays.

Every so often, Saxe dreams up or discovers some gadget or gimmick befitting the membership—and forthwith begins a mailing that goes to all continents. There are club mailers even in the jittery jungles of Indonesia. Among the some 3,000 persons now registered as being “in good sitting” are a Supreme Court justice, a former Cabinet member, housewives, Congressmen, barbers, ambassadors, football coaches, clergymen, judges, policemen, and newspapermen.

The nautical rocker… came to Sarasota when Saxe loaned it to the Sunshine Springs and Gardens late in 1955. This was an antique, wooden rocking chair fixed on a platform between two aluminum pontoons 14 feet long. The floating rocker was propelled—slowly—by a 5-horsepower outboard motor. There were remote controls beside the chair. Other equipment included running lights, Bermuda carriage bell, radio, portable bar, cooler, and fishing tackle. Newspapers all over the nation printed pictures of this rocking chair in action with pretty girls at Sunshine Springs. The Historical Society of Sarasota County presents Sunshine Springs and Gardens' famous water-skiing elephant.

(Unfortunately, none of these photos have made it into our digital world of 2020. If you have such a photo, give us a call! Meanwhile, here’s the famous water-skiing elephant from  Sunshine Springs and Gardens) >>>

Now Sarasota is being proclaimed to the world as the birthplace of the Sittin’ Starin’ ’n’ Rockin’ Club. The commemorative symbol is the activated rocker which adorns the new White Tower roof. This rocker was fabricated by Signs of Sarasota at the firm’s studios.

Our thanks to Rex Carr, who found this vintage newspaper article.