DOWNEY - Larry Latimer, who has lived all his life in Downey, had just finished a nine-year term as president of the Aerospace Legacy Foundation (ALF) when the book on the foundation's history titled "Downey's Aerospace History" written by retired Boeing engineer and his successor and current ALF president Gerry Blackburn came out."I've always been interested in the history of Downey and done lots of research on it," he says, "and Gerry's book whetted my interest still more. I thought, it would be a real honor for me to produce a book such as his. It would be my version of the evolution of Downey, a city I love very much, a city I grew up in." Figuring he had nothing to lose, Larry, who had attended Cerritos College before he embarked on what would be a 30-year career in the car business (his father owned the McClure Lincoln-Mercury car dealership in Anaheim), broached the idea to Gerry. The reaction was positive, to say the least: Gerry recommended Larry to his publisher, Arcadia Publishing Co., which is promoted as "the leading local history publisher in the United States, committed to making history accessible and meaningful through publishing books that celebrate and preserve the heritage of America's people and places." Besides Gerry's account of the ALF, Arcadia has published the histories of, just to mention a few, cities like Chippewa Falls and, closer to home, Early Anaheim, Huntington Beach, Seal Beach, and Pico Rivera, that form its Images of America series. Lo and behold, the negotiations went well and a few months later, Larry says "I signed an agreement to write the book." A ready source of historical material was already at hand. This was the "much-used" 223-page "History of Downey" written in 1973 by Charles Russell Quinn, whose history was text-intensive and full of useful information, in addition to carefully-selected preserved photos of Downey's early years. A second important source was the unpublished manuscript, "History of Downey and Vicinity," by Easter Bayle Morrison written in 1939. But Larry, currently a computer consultant, knew he'd have to use the archives of the Downey Historical Society, saying: "John Vincent and the other members of the staff, Bob Thompson and Donna Honeycutt, were more than helpful as they assisted in uncovering resources and material. At one time, my search became intensely personal, as I wondered if I could find a photograph of the street or area where I lived as a kid. At any rate I wanted to look up the genealogy of my parents." (The Friends of the Library's Cleo Latimer is his mom). Looking back at the project, which took two years to research and assemble, Larry acknowledges material contributed by the historical society comprises 95 percent of the total: "My picture-scanning sessions alone sometimes took three hours or so. I gathered data on early census figures, for example, and so on." On top of all this, Larry was able to get hold of old letters and pictures of the early days shared by descendants of Downey pioneers. Some of these, with proper credits, show up in his finished book. Arcadia Publishing imposed a strict format, the book heavy on images and not exceeding 128 pages. "This was a little difficult," he says. "I went 4,400 words over the limit." Anyway he found a way to use longer captions to his photos, and in this way he was able to convey a bit more context in his descriptions. The book, divided into sections on "The Early Years of Downey and Vicinity," "Early Businesses, Homes, and Pioneers," "Schools and Churches," "Aerial Views of Downey, Aviation, and Aerospace," and Landmarks and Nostalgia," should be a welcome addition to the rich historical narrative of Downey. Larry has received only five advance copies, four going to members of his immediate family, the fifth finding its way to The Patriot. He was relieved when he learned that the publisher shipped three copies to the Downey Historical Society, which Larry made sure was given credit as co-author. The book in fact is "dedicated to Mr. John Vincent and the Downey Historical Society. And, to the "pioneers" who endured an arduous journey to a new land and a new life. This book is dedicated to their spirit, perseverance, and hard work." The book's official release date is March 8, with an initial printing of 1,000 copies. Larry is scheduled to have two book signings, the first from 3:30-4:30 p.m. on March 15 at the OASIS meeting, and the second at 7 p.m. at the Downey City Library's Cormack Room on March 18.
********** Published: February 26, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 45