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Bremerton through the pages

Bremerton historian Fredi Perry gave birth again March 19.

Actually a 400-page “baby” that is now the definitive history of Bremerton.

On March 19, Perry took delivery of the first 10 copies of “Bremerton and Puget Sound Navy Yard” an encompassing history of the city that grew from the dreams of two men — the orders given to Navy Lt. Ambrose B. Wyckoff to carve a Navy base on Sinclair Inlet, and from the fiscal acumen of Seattle businessman William Bremer who first platted the town in 1891.

Perry said the initial printing of 2,750 books are traveling the nation’s Interstate highways from the Midwest.

Perry has completed seven books on Kitsap County history and her idea for the Bremerton book was a simple germination.

“About four years ago,” Perry said. “I realized the centennial was coming up.”

After approaching city officials and private enterprises in Bremerton and garnering no financial support or endorsement, Perry decided to self publish.

The rest is history — figuratively and literally.

Excerpts from Perry’s book appeared in the Bremerton Patriot from January to September 2001, literally lifted from Perry’s home computer.

“I needed local support and promotion,” said Perry. “I could not have done it without the Patriot.”

Perry had accumulated 60 loose-leaf binders on Bremerton history and more than 1,000 photographs, maps, and illustrations, since beginning her history book career in 1977. Perry was a “frustrated housewife” when her late husband Linc encouraged her to join a writer’s group.

She began writing the history of Kitsap County’s largest city in earnest in January 2001. Typically, Perry would write from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., seven days a week — stopping during the day for an occasional computer game.

When writing was complete by October 2001, Perry’s self-publishing sojourn had only begun.

“The production is harder than the writing,” she said. The production she thought would take 60 days, dragged on for six months.

She had computer software problems, and problems dealing with myriad maps, photos and cutlines, she had imbedded in her copy.

“My biggest problem in this whole thing is that in MS-word, you can save in three different places,” she said. “And you have to go back and sort it out.”

Finally, the finished copy was ready to go to the presses of Thomson-Shore book manufacturers in Chelsea, Mich.

But there was a problem. The book still had no cover illustration. Perry liked a photo looking up Pacific Avenue from First Street, but its horizontal orientation didn’t fit a vertical cover.

Perry’s relationship with artist Amy Burnett soon paid off. A loaned photo of Navy Yeomanette Virginia Flynn Flood had “haunted” Perry and she gave it to Burnett to see what she could create. In February 2002, Burnett returned with something that took Perry’s breath away.

“When I saw the painting of Virginia Flynn Flood for the first time, I wept,” Perry writes in her book’s introduction. “I wanted nothing else on the cover, but this beautiful painting.”

Perry said the hardest chapter to write was the one on the Mosquito Fleet that served Bremerton.

“It’s because there is so much information,” she said.

The easiest chapter was the final one: “Odds and Ends And Leftover ‘Stuff.’” In it, she describes the five vessels named Bremerton, from an early auto ferry to the current nuclear submarine. In the chapter, she also writes about Bremerton postcards and buttons and the city’s now-unrequited love affair with the battleship USS Missouri. It also has a copy of the cover of the much-lampooned September 1990 edition of Money Magazine which named Bremerton the nation’s most liveable city. (Editors later claimed they meant greater Kitsap County, when Bremerton’s economic doldrums were pointed out.)

Perry already knows what her next book will be — a Kitsap County cookbook featuring cuisine made with indigenous foods, with co-author and granddaughter Alanna Shores, 11.

Though writing a book is a process not unlike giving birth, Perry does enjoy the arduous, but rewarding process of selecting typeface, typesetting, doing marketing, layout, production, etc.

“If I had my life to do all over again, I would be a book printer,” Perry laughed. “No cancel that. I would want to be an anthropologist or archeologist.”

Now that the book is finished, Perry has a bit of melancholy.

“In a way it is selfish to write a book like this,” she said. “You realize you are taking away the chance for someone else to do it.”

Still, this weekend she awaits the delivery of the books by truck from Michigan. Perry has arranged an unloading party at a temporary storage site.

Perry will be there toting and lifting her 400-page baby.

“I am truly a self publisher,” she said.

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