When the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce took on the task of moving the Gulfview Hotel, Chamber President Ted Corcoran had no idea that it would set into motion a series of events that would lead to publishing a children’s book.
Three years after the move, here we are with the launch of Fort Walton Beach: A Journey Through Time.
“The moving of the Gulfview Hotel was the resurrection of people’s interest in the history of Fort Walton,” said Corcoran. “That, to me, was the turning point.”
Shortly after the move, the FWB Chamber launched a full-length documentary on the history of FWB, along with establishing the Susan Myers Walking Trail that points out 16 areas of interest in the Downtown Fort Walton Beach area. All are part of a continuation of the history of the local area.
With all of those pieces in place, Corcoran wondered how the local children fit into all of this. The idea of a children’s book was pitched to him by Dort Baltes.
“Let’s pass this history on to the kids,” said Corcoran. “Let’s allow the next generation to read a little bit about what life was like during the history of Fort Walton and that’s how the book came about.”
From there, he got to work assembling a team that included:
- An author
- Student artists
- Local historians
The author is Lauren Sage Edwards, who is no stranger to the local community.
I picked Lauren as the author because she was someone I knew from the Northwest Florida Daily News,” said Corcoran. “I thought she wrote well and she grew up here, so she had an idea of the area.”
Next up was picking the artists.
“Once we had the author, I wondered who would we get to do the artwork,” continued Corcoran. “I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to have local art students for that? So we contacted both of the art teachers at Choctaw (Sally Reagan) and Fort Walton Beach High School (Kim Moran) and picked 5 students from each school.”
With an author and artists all onboard, it was time to write the stories.
“When you look at the history of Fort Walton Beach, it’s broken up into chapters,” he continued. “With the first chapter focusing on the Native American history, all the way to today.”
Here’s the breakdown:
- Native American
- Walton Guard, and the Civil War aspect of The Landing
- Building of Hotels
- Doolittle Raiders
- Beach life
- Current life
- The future
One area of the book that stands out is Chapter 7, which talks about segregation that was once part of Fort Walton Beach.
“That’s probably the one chapter that may surprise people because of the subject matter and the lack of awareness here in our community, but obviously an incredibly important chapter to add,” said Corcoran.
To help make sure the book was accurate, Corcoran solicited the help from Gail Meyer, Michael Weech, Tom Rice, Buddy Carter, Daisy Wiggins and Ricky Hills.
“It’s fabulous because I had it tested,” laughed Corcoran. “I was nervous because I look at this as being for kids, ages 6-14 years-old. I read the stories a hundred times but how are the kids going to like it?”
Before it went to print, he tasked his two grandsons giving some feedback.
“One grandchild is 11 and the other is 9,” he said. “Three weeks ago I had them read a chapter, and they kept asking for another story, and another one. So that made me very excited.”
“We hope they will sell out quickly and if they do, we’ll print some more,” said Corcoran. “We wanted to get it done in time for Christmas, which I’m very proud of. It’s a great gift for kids and grandkids, and I think the adults will enjoy reading it too!”
“Without the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce, this book would not have been possible,” said author Lauren Sage Edwards. “I want to thank all of the locals who took time to sit with me repeatedly, and at length, to share personal stories of help with the research. Their contributions are the backbone of this book.”
The book is now on sale at the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce location, with proceeds going toward the Chamber and One Hopeful Place.
📍34 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548
Note: There are only 500 currently printed!
The student artists are:
- Rihana Thaxton – Choctaw
- Kianna Miser – FWBHS
- Alxa Rosado – FWBHS
- Lauren Roe – Choctaw
- Brett Peterson – Choctaw
- Gabby Moore – FWBHS
- Eliana Batarao – FWBHS
- April Boutin – Choctaw
- Alicia Orozco-Gomez – Choctaw
- Veronica Jacobson – FWBHS