“Reading Between the Lampposts: The Literary Giants of Loma Portal” is a neighborhood community project edited by Elaine Fotinos Burrell and Karla Lapic.
The 54-page, soft-cover opus is a compilation of Loma Portal’s 26 A-to-Z street names starting with (Louisa May) Alcott and ending with (Emile) Zola.
Many Loma Portal families participated in the community project, gathering biographical information and quotes, as well as offering insight and personal thoughts about the famous person for whom their street is named.
The origin of “Lampposts” came from humble beginnings.
“The purpose of this book was to research the authors for whom the streets of Loma Portal were named,” said co-author Fotinos Burrell. “We felt they [the literary authors] deserved to be studied if they were worthy of having a street named after them.”
“This was really just kind of a community-service project,” she said. “It’s something we wanted to do because we love Loma Portal.”
Located in a hilly area west of Rosecrans Street and north of Nimitz Boulevard overlooking San Diego Bay, Loma Portal — home to Point Loma High and several elementary schools — is also known throughout San Diego for its neighborhood holiday decorations on Garrison Street, and also for the James Edgar and Jean Jessop Hervey/Point Loma Branch Library, which opened in 2003.
Major north-south Loma Portal roads are Rosecrans Street, Chatsworth Boulevard and Catalina Boulevard. Many of the east-west streets in alphabetical order are broken into several disconnected segments because of steep terrain.
The name for the Loma Portal community-based book was derived from a local fixture.
“One of the unique characteristics of this neighborhood is the lampposts in the middle of some of the major intersections,” said Lapic.
One of the major challenges in compiling “Lampposts,” said Lapic, was determining which favorite person or people went with each street, which wasn’t entirely obvious in every instance.
“Most of the [literary] authors were named on their popularity at the time,” said Burrell said Browning Street, for example, could have been named for either Elizabeth Barrett or Robert Browning, both poets in the early to mid- and late 1800s. Thus, both authors were covered in “Lampposts.”
“Lampposts” was too big for one — or even two — people to do.
“So we decided to make it a community project and invited 26 families from the neighborhood to each research one author, preferably the author of the street they lived on,” said Burrell.
Leigh Burdine, the Loma Portal neighbor who researched the Brownings, said she was glad to be included “in such a unique project about our neighborhood.”
A 13-year resident of the neighborhood, Burdine had always wondered about “the significance of the alphabet literary-named streets.”
“It was truly a pleasure to work alongside my neighbors and friends to contribute to such an interesting and varied piece of work,” Burdine said. “I thoroughly enjoyed learning not only about my own street name’s significance, but also about all the other well-known and less-known literary figures. It was also interesting to learn more about the history of our special neighborhood. I now have even more fondness for Loma Portal, as I drive around and recall tidbits about each author/-poet.”
Burdine said she learned a lot — and gained a lot of appreciation — for both Brownings due to her research.
“Through this project, I have a much deeper appreciation for Elizabeth in particular,” she said. “She was a strong, successful woman of the 19th century, who cared greatly about social issues and human rights — and she was more famous than her husband when they met. Their true-life courtship and marriage is one of the most famous love stories in English literature.”
Debra Cota, another Loma Portal neighbor who worked on “Lampposts,” said the street name author she profiled was special, too.
“I enjoyed the process of researching Charles Kingsley,” said Cota. “He was a visionary, a complex individual confident and unwavering in his beliefs and actions, even when they were controversial. He made a significant impact on the social conditions in England during the mid-1800s … His commitment to exposing the social injustices of the period is similar to other English novelists … Kingsley’s audience was widespread, reaching children and adults alike, addressing various topics, including religion, science, social conditions, history and even romance.”
Back to the brainstorm team, Lapic said the book project was done quickly.
“We came up with the idea in February 2013 and wanted it to be done before baseball season after February because we knew a lot of families had kids and wouldn’t be able to work on it after that,” she said. “Everyone met our deadline.”
Is “Lampposts” a prototypical work that can be used as a model for other communities?
“Absolutely,” proclaimed both Burrell and Lapic. “We’d love to help others do the same thing in their own neighborhoods.”
The pair said they’ve been making the rounds of local historical societies and other community-oriented groups talking about their book-compiling experience.
“It was a lot of work,” said Lapic.
Burrell added, “But it was so much fun.”
A copy of the book is available at the Point Loma/Hervey Branch Library at 3701 Voltaire St. and at the San Diego History Museum Library in Balboa Park.
“Lampposts” costs $20 and is available at www.readingbetweenthelamp-posts.com or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.