Chronicler of History: Manhattan Beach's past comes to life in new book from former mayor - The Beach Reporter: Lifestyle

Chronicler of History: Manhattan Beach's past comes to life in new book from former mayor

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Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012 10:15 am | Updated: 10:17 am, Thu Dec 13, 2012.

Manhattan Beach has a rich 100-year history, and for about 25 years, former mayor Jan Dennis has chronicled that past, from iconic landmarks to individuals who have made their mark in the city.

Dennis’ seventh book on the history of Manhattan Beach was recently published by History Press and features dozens of columns she wrote for the publication, Manhattan Beach Sun, for more than two years.

“About a year ago I got a call from a publishing company back east,” Dennis said. “They read some of the articles and asked if I would be interested in binding the articles into a book … it’s great when a publishing company is calling you.”

The book, “Manhattan Beach Chronicles,” which is part of the series, “American Chronicles,” has stories about everything from women’s involvement in the city’s history to well-known sports figures to a decades-old unsolved murder.

Dennis, who had worked for a book publisher in New York, said she never set out to be a historian when she was the mayor in 1978 and the city was celebrating a milestone, its 75th birthday.

“I had told my colleagues, the four gentlemen that I served with ... no one had ever written any real history on Manhattan Beach,” Dennis said. “I said, ‘Someone needs to write a book,’ ... someone said ‘Why? We’re only 75. I have relatives living in town that are older than that.’ I persisted and finally ... (they said) ‘OK, Jan. If you want, write a book’ ... I said, ‘OK, I will.’ I drove home and thought, ‘What in heaven’s name did I get myself into?’ I had never written anything as far as a book was concerned.”

Her first book, “A Walk Beside the Sea: A History of Manhattan Beach,” was published in 1987. Other books followed including “Shadows on the Dunes: An Architectural History of Manhattan Beach” (2001); three picture books published by Arcadia Publishing including “Manhattan Beach” (2001), “Manhattan Beach Police Department” (2003) and “Manhattan Beach Pier” (2005); and “Skirts Across the Sand: A History of Manhattan Beach Women” (2008).

“I felt that women had been the core of our volunteer system since the beginning,” Dennis said. “They were very involved with the incorporation, with the school system. Many guys say, ‘When are you going to do a book about men?’ I’m not. They’ve had the PR for a long, long time.”

Dennis is currently working on her next book, which is about the history of Sepulveda Boulevard.

“I have so many people ask me about the streets in town and how they got their name,” Dennis said. “I’ve got a lot of great pictures over the years of Sepulveda Boulevard, so that’s my next challenge and I love doing it.”

“Manhattan Beach Chronicles” is currently available on Amazon.com and other websites and will eventually be available, according to Dennis, at the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce, located at 425 15th St.

For more information, visit www.historypress.net.

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