Lauren Sage Reinlie Edwards writes children’s book in Fort Walton Beach
FORT WALTON BEACH – Rightly so, the new children’s book “Fort Walton Beach, A Journey Through Time” was officially unveiled on Wednesday inside the 115-year-old Gulfview Hotel building.
It is the oldest standing structure in the city. And in its heyday, the Gulfview was one of only three major hotels that helped promote Fort Walton Beach as a tourist destination, said Ted Corcoran, president and CEO of the Grand Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce. , to more than 50 people at the launch of the book.
In April 2018, the city moved the Gulfview from its original site between Beal Parkway and Santa Rosa Sound to 115 Miracle Strip Parkway SE, where it underwent a major renovation and now houses a visitor center, museum, gift shop and executive offices.
The new location of the Gulfview is just west of the city’s Heritage Park & Cultural Center, which contains the Indian Temple Mound Museum, the Fort Walton Temple Mound, the Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum, the Garnier Post Office Museum and the Civil War exhibition building.
These special places and stories from longtime residents helped shape the 10 chapters “Fort Walton Beach, A Journey Through Time,” a work of historical fiction by Freeport writer Lauren Sage Reinlie Edwards.
“Adventure abounds in these fictional tales based on the history of Fort Walton Beach, Florida,” reads a description on the back of the book. “The stories, each set in a different historical period, are told from the perspective of children. Children have a lot of fun, overcome obstacles and struggle with difficult questions.
“Dance under the stars in front of the first hotels in the area in the 1930s with Diane. Witness secret military training during WWII with Teddy. Zoom in on the bayous on a water ski with Ricky. Readers of all ages will be thrilled and informed along the way.
Edwards said that while she wrote the book for fourth or fifth graders, adults would enjoy it as well.
“All the characters are children,” she said, “but it’s a good way for people of all ages to access local history.”
Edwards, who is a former military reporter for the Northwest Florida Daily News, said a dozen longtime residents shared personal stories with her about the area and helped her with her research for the book, which she said. she started writing about two years ago.
“This is my first time writing fiction, but I was able to combine my passion for journalism and research and use characters to try and tell the story,” Edwards said. “I absolutely loved writing from a children’s perspective.”
She said that while her book is mostly light-hearted, it also deals with serious topics such as segregation and what it was like to experience children in wartime.
For example, Chapter 5 tells the story of a 13 year old boy named “Teddy”. In March 1942, this fictional character snuck into a deep forest scene where he saw training flights of B-25 bombers led by some of the Doolittle Raiders, who would become American heroes of World War II.
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“The B-25s were much larger than the fighter jets he usually saw performing their acrobatic sweeps in the sky,” read a description of the action. “These guys were flying these things like they were light as feathers, not huge bombers.”
Corcoran said the Chamber of Commerce used a stipend from the late Susan Myers to pay for the creation of the book. Myers was a descendant of John and Harriet Brooks, who were the first settlers of Fort Walton Beach, and was also an entrepreneur who helped revitalize the downtown area of the city.
The new book honors Myers by helping promote the town’s history, Corcoran said.
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Artist Salvatore Diquattro, who served as the Army Green Beret in 7th Special Forces Group and is now part of the National Guard, designed the cover for “Fort Walton Beach, A Journey Through Time”.
It features images of a water skier on the Santa Rosa Strait, Brooks Bridge, Native Americans and teepees on land that now contains downtown Fort Walton Beach, and a Billy Bowlegs pirate ship sailing under the flight path of two B-25 bombers.
“We tried to incorporate a piece from each chapter into the cover art,” Diquattro said.
Each of the 10 chapters is illustrated with artwork by five students from Choctawhatchee High School and five students from Fort Walton Beach High School.
The artists of CHS, led by art teacher Sally Reagan, are Rihana Thaxton, Lauren Roe, Brett Peterson, April Boutin and Alicia Orozco-Gomez.
FWBHS artists, led by art teacher Kim Moran, are Kianna Misenar, Aixa Rosado, Gabrielle (Gabby) Moore, Eliana Batarao and Veronica Jacobson.
Edwards dedicated the book to his 3.5-year-old daughter, Mara, and her husband, David, who is a warrant officer in the military.
Copies of the book cost $ 20 each and can be found at the Chamber of Commerce office, Magnolia Grill, and the in-room gift shop in the Gulfview Hotel building. All proceeds will go to the nonprofit chamber.