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Books shed new light on Newport Beach

December 08, 2011|By Keith Curry

As we approach Christmas, I wanted to recommend three books about our community that I think you will enjoy very much:

The first is "Bawdy Balboa" by Judge Robert Gardner. Gardner, the father of Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Gardner, was beloved by many in Newport Beach and wrote a long-time column in the Daily Pilot. This book describes growing up on the Balboa Peninsula during the "Roaring Twenties."

These are great stories that make it clear that the Atlantic City in "Boardwalk Empire" had nothing on Newport. Long-time residents will especially enjoy this book.

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"Newport!" is a novel by Lido Isle resident Lenard Davis. Davis, a retired history teacher, weaves a story beginning with the first Indian settlers. Descendants of these first Newporters are followed through the arrival of the Spanish, the Mexican rancho era, American settlement and the real estate booms and busts of the early and mid-20th century.

While a work of fiction, Davis places real-life historical figures into his story for a fascinating look at history as it might have been (Joe Beek makes appearances in both books). Old-time fans of "Dallas" or "Dynasty" will appreciate how the stories of family betrayal, illegitimacy and murder are played out here in our own community. "Bawdy Balboa" and "Newport!" both are available at the Lido Newsstand in Lido Marina Village.

Written for children, but thoroughly enjoyable for adults, is Stan Oftelie's "Nothing Rhymes with Orange." This book was the subject of the recently held "World's Largest History Class" featuring 15,000 third-graders at Angels Stadium.

Oftelie, long-time head of the Orange County Transportation Authority and O.C. Business Council, tells the stories of the men and women who made Orange County what it is today. Of particular interest are the stories of how streets and places came to be named.

For example, I didn't know that Finley Avenue, the street adjacent to Newport Beach City Hall, is named after Col. Solomon Henderson Finley, a mayor of Santa Ana, Orange County supervisor and long-time secretary of the Metropolitan Water District. Finley, a Democrat, engineered the county's first paved road system, first concrete dam and designed the water systems in five cities.

Any Newport reader would enjoy finding these books under the Christmas tree.

KEITH CURRY is a Newport Beach Councilman who represents the city's seventh district.

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