BOOK BEAT Naples Sun Times November 29-December 5, 2006
by Philip K. Jason
Lynne Howard Frazer enjoys the fact that her first merit badge as a Girl Scout was for writing. Eventually, writing became her profession. Raised in northern Virginia, Frazer earned her B.A. in American History from James Madison University. She later added an M. A. in Colonial American History from the College of William and Mary. During her graduate studies, she participated in a two-year Museum Management program jointly administered by the college and The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
The historian married a Naples native and moved here in 1986, soon finding her academic passion nourished by the rich history of the area. In that same year, she began working as a freelance writer. Frazer combined her university training and her writerly interests into a varied career that included serving as Director of Communications at The Conservancy and as Executive Director of the Naples Historical Society. She wrote, and continues to write, freelance articles for local, regional, and national magazines and newspapers. Many of her freelance assignments come from local nonprofit organizations.
Frazer has also been a freelance segment producer for WGCU-TV Public Media. She has worked on Arts Edition: Prime Time and Untold Stories, and she wrote and co-produced King Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs, a half-hour special that won a bronze “Telly” award. Frazer also did a stint as a business reporter for the Naples Daily News.
While working at the Naples Historical Society, she began to prepare her first book. How it happened is a story of being in the right place at the right time with the right credentials. Arcadia Publishing, a house that specializes in local and regional histories, was looking for someone to write a book about Naples. The publisher first approached Nina Heald Webber, whose collection of vintage Naples postcards was well-known, but Webber did not choose to get involved in researching and writing such a book, and there was Frazer – historian, writer, and Historical Society executive ready to step in. Naples was published late in 2004, making use of Webber’s collection as well as the holdings of the Naples Historical Society.
This book has a long sweep, from the town’s beginnings in 1885 through 1960 when Hurricane Donna nearly destroyed it. Through the well-selected and sequenced photographs, the story is told both visually and verbally. Many of the images in this book were never previously published. Frazer’s Naples is a great way for new and long-time Neapolitan’s and visitors to gain an understanding of a marvelous place whose unique history is being obliterated by development. Proceeds from this book benefit the Naples Historical Society.
More restricted in its temporal scope, but just as fascinating, is Frazer’s second book, Naples: 1940s to 1970s, published earlier this year (also by Arcadia). Frazier, who considers herself a social historian, pays attention to what is was like to live in the city during this period of its rapid development as a tourist destination and retirement mecca. She insists that this is an overlooked era, and she is pleased to have helped bring it to the attention of many readers. Once again, Frazer draws upon postcards from the Webber collection, but this time she also selects from the archives of the Naples Daily News (including photos from its earlier existence as the Collier County News). She is grateful to Gerry Johnson, the Naples Daily News Librarian, for generous assistance in accessing these materials.
Frazer’s research for the two books led her to conclude that the popular view of Old Naples as “just a sleepy little fishing village” is a misconception. “It never was that,” Frazer observes. “It was founded as a resort, though fishing became an important factor during the off-season. During the winter season, many fishermen took jobs as commercial guides.” Frazer decries the loss of community and genuine caring, qualities that she discovered to be part of the fabric of Naples in its earlier decades. Both books are perfect for private guestrooms and hotel guestrooms as well. Readers can either devour them from cover to cover or absorb a few pages at a time.
Frazer does not see a third Naples book in her immediate future. More likely is a narrative based on her “Atlantic Circle” voyage with her husband, Russell. The couple left Naples for an Atlantic crossing in 1999, visited more than twenty countries, and sailed back across the ocean in 2003, cruising the Caribbean islands from Tobago to the Bahamas. While in Europe, they wintered on the boat, a 44-foot Peterson named Blue Highway, in London, Barcelona, and Marmaris, Turkey.
Come and meet Lynne Howard Frazer at her book signing for Naples: 1940s to 1970s at Palm Cottage on Saturday, December 2 from 1 – 3pm. Palm Cottage, the headquarters of the Naples Historical Society, is located at 137 12th Ave. S., one block east of the Naples Pier.
Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy. A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at email@example.com.