For historian, knowledge is ingrained

Jerry Person hasn't just studied up on Huntington Beach — he has lived in the city for decades.

September 03, 2013|By Anthony Clark Carpio
  • Huntington Beach city historian Jerry Person is the publisher of Huntington Beach News.
Huntington Beach city historian Jerry Person is the publisher… (KEVIN CHANG, HB…)

Anyone can brush up on old stories, but according to Huntington Beach city historian Jerry Person, a good historian needs to have lived it.

"You can't just have a degree in history. You have to have lived in the town or city for at least 20 years," he said.

Person, 70, said he has earned his title, having lived in Huntington Beach for 40 years. He's also given tours of the Newland House for the past 31 years. In addition, he helped found the Historical Resources Board in 1987, is a lifetime member of the Historical Society and wrote history columns for the Huntington Beach Independent for 12 years.

"I've seen kids from back when I started [at the Newland House] come by now with kids of their own," he said.

For six years, Person has served as Huntington Beach's third historian. He follows in the footsteps of Delbert "Bud" Higgins, the city's first year-round lifeguard, and Alicia Wentworth, a former city clerk.


Each applicant had to prove to city staff why he or she was the best person for the job. In the end, the City Council voted in 2007 to name Person city historian for a four-year term. He was approved for another stint in 2011.

Long-time friend Andy Arnold wasn't surprised when he found out that Person was going to volunteer his time to help the city maintain historical documents.

"He knows as much as anybody in the city as far as the oral history and such," Arnold said. "And he has the patience to do the things that are necessary, like going through old microfilm copies of old Huntington Beach newspapers to gather the information. It makes him uniquely qualified."

Person grew up in a history-oriented environment in South Los Angeles. His father was 57 years old and his mother 41 when he was born, he said, and he was told stories of World War I by his father and uncle.

"All my relatives were in their 60s when I was barely a teenager," Person said.

He would later work at an antique store in Huntington Park for 10 years and open one of his own in downtown Huntington Beach in 1979.

It was there where Person started building his knowledge of the city, spending almost every day talking with "the old timers," he said.

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