Title: Signal Hill book tells stories of those who lived among the derricks
Author: Staff Writer
Publisher: Signal Tribune
Oil is ubiquitous to the history of Signal Hill, but one book sets out to show that more pumps through the veins of the city's history than just black gold.
"The oil history is interesting, but I think it's how people lived around the oil that is interesting" said Ken Davis, who. Along with the Signal Hill Historical Society, put together the photo essay Signal Hill, released in Arcadia Publishing's "Images of America" series.
The 128-page book comprises hundreds of pictures of Signal Hill history, starting with a distinctive driver-view photograph of a horse-drawn wagon approaching the city, which is a treeless mound on an otherwise flat horizon.
"I think it's a good cross-section of our history", Davis said of the book. He is also an archivist for the city's historical society and active in the Signal Hill Chamber of Commerce, Parks & Recreation Commissioner and local Realtor.
Through the historical society possesses a significant photographic history of Signal Hill, Davis said longtime residents also contributed with photos from their personal collections to show a wider history than the society could alone provide.
The book is divided into five chapters: Farms and Ranches, Early Oil Years, People and Events, Fires and Disasters, and Homes and Street Views.
The first chapter introduces the reader to Signal Hill before the omnipresent oil-derricks, when farms and horse-drawn wagons were the only things checkering expansive acreage.
Inevitably, the formation years pictured in the book retell the "black gold rush" that quickly and dramatically changed the look and direction of Signal Hill, but the book also shows the unique arrangement of homes literally footsteps away from oil derricks.
Among the tragic episodes in Signal Hill history shown in the photo collection are photos of the US Air Force F-86 crash that destroyed four homes on the corner of 19th and Raymond Avenue. The crash took the lives of five people including then May Morris Shoup's son "Spud" for whom a baseball field was later named.
The latter part of the book shows the progression of Signal Hill-oil city-to the Signal Hill of today - with fewer, discreetly placed derricks and pumpers.
Signal Hill's residential and commercial success in recent decades has given Davis satisfaction. "I think we are fulfilling our destiny now" he said.
While Davis's admitted passion for the history of Signal Hill was a catalyst for piecing together a one-stop photo history of the city, finding someone to publish the collection was something else. That is where Arcadia Publishing came in. With proceeds from the book going to the Signal Hill Historical Society, Arcadia Publishing added Signal Hill to their ongoing series of books chronicling American cities stretching from Main to California.
The book should also "punctuate," as Davis put it, the city's identity - something he thinks might be lacking when a number of residents think Signal Hill is a part of Long Beach. "It's nice to be able to coalesce (the city identity)," Davis said. He hopes the book can help people learn how rich the city's history is.
Signal Hill is available at area bookstores, independent retailers (including Costco), online retailers and through Arcadia Publishing at www.arcadiapublishing.com.