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Author tells stories of old Gulfport

She tells stories of old Gulfport the way a mother relates the shenanigans of her children to a close friend.

Local historian Lynne Brown said the story of two 13-year-old boys and their voyage to Fort Myers in 1938 is one of her favorites.

It seems Nathan White and a friend had been hanging around the waterfront near the Gulfport Casino when they spotted a strange sailboat headed toward the shore.

"It was a guy going from Texas to the New York World's Fair," Brown said.

"He asked Nathan and his friend if they wanted to go as far as Fort Myers and catch a bus back," she said.

The plan was for the boys — who somehow wrangled their mothers' permission — to be back home in three days — but that was counting on a wind.

"They sat out there in the gulf for days on end. There was no wind and no way of getting in contact with anyone. Can you imagine that happening today?

"It's such a perfect example of how life was in those days," she said.

That's just one of many stories in Brown's third — and, she says, final — book on Gulfport history.

A Definitive History of Gulfport, Vol. II was released at the city's 99th Birthday Bash Saturday and the author was to be on hand to autograph copies.

Brown, who is from Boston and has lived in Gulfport since 1978, is a portrait artist as well as a writer. Her husband, Lee, is retired from the Navy. Their 33-year-old son, Jeremy, lives in New York City and writes for, an online soccer magazine.

Brown wrote her first book in 1999 after a publisher of local history books called the Gulfport Historical Museum looking for an author for a local edition. She volunteered.

Before Brown started writing, she listened to dozens of oral histories that were recorded when the Gulfport Historical Society was formed in the 1980s. She also read old city directories, newspapers on microfilm and any diaries and genealogical research she could get her hands on.

As soon as that first book came out, Brown said, she knew she had to write another one. The word-limitation placed on her by the publishing house forced her to leave out a lot of the city's history.

So, for the second book, which was published in 2004, Brown went shopping for a publishing house that allowed her to write a longer book.

She found one, but even though she wrote the largest book History Press published that year, it only got Brown to the year 1923.

"I wanted to start the boom times, but that was such a big part of the city's history, I knew I couldn't approach it with the word limit," she said.

Her latest book is self-published, which allowed her to write as much as she wanted and to lay out and design the book herself.

But for all her work, she hasn't made a cent.

"When you live in a great place like this, you just want to give back," she said.

Proceeds go to the historical society.

"The incentive for me to even start all this stuff happened about 14 years ago. I was sitting in the courtyard looking around at all the diverse people. How did they all end up here? This reminds us all of home. What is it about this city's drawing power?" she said.

She tries to answer that in her books but for her the answer is simple.

"Where else in Florida can you go into the post office and run into 15 people you know?" she said.


An excerpt

Twentieth Avenue was called an "axle-breaker," and everything north of Tangerine was still pretty much rattlesnake-infested woods. Only a handful of houses existed in this area (the Grays, Spauldings, Ligons, Brokaws and Brzozowskis), and a walk to Gulfport Elementary along the unpaved roads always featured encounters with nests of rattlesnakes. The fire department would frequently burn off large tracts to eliminate as many of these as possible. Once, Jerome Girard was confronted with an angry woman, protesting the destruction of natural habitat. He took her to the back of his truck and showed her the heap of rattlesnake carcasses netted in the burn-off, after which she hurriedly left. Even into the 1940s, when a four-and-a-half foot diamondback was killed on 9th Avenue, rattlers would be a problem.

From A Definitive History of Gulfport, Vol. II by Lynne Brown

Where to get the book

A Definitive History of Gulfport, Vol. II by Lynne Brown is available for $20 at the Gulfport Historical Museum, 5301 28th Ave. S, and at Small Adventures Book Store, 3107 Beach Blvd. S. Brown will be at Small Adventures to autograph copies during December's First Friday Art Walk on Dec. 4.

Author tells stories of old Gulfport 10/10/09 [Last modified: Saturday, October 10, 2009 4:31am]
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