Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Signal Hill - Alamitos No.1

August 15, 1954
The twenty inch two by four metal-wheeled skateboard aims down
Hill Street
from the Alamitos No.1 landmark towards certain doom.


Thanks to mention from Tim Grobaty at the Long Beach Press Telegram, the city of Signal Hill got hold of this blog and song and have now made a plaque out it to hang in the council chambers. Plaque begats plaque:

From the city:
This is the design we have drafted to showcase your song. It will be approx. 24” x 36” and will hang prominently in the council chamber. In February you sent me the song (see below), and indicated that it is in rough form and that you’re working on a CD and video. The song is great. It reminds me of the Woody Guthrie songs we listened to growing up. When/if this is completed, could we place it on our website? The city council may also like to show it at a council meeting. All with your permission, of course.

Rebecca Burleson
Assistant to the City Manager
City of Signal Hill

The Plaque:

(family photo - 1952)

Shell Hill is now wussified into a divided affair with a landscaped meridian. For those of us who spent many an adrenaline drenched moment staging the latest vehicle at the landmark on the corner for the 300’ vertical descent down the 22% grade. Various lengths of lumber and/or plywood with roller skates or baby carriage wheels, trikes, bikes, and later cars were ridden down at velocities that almost always exceeded design limits. A ride down Shell Hill’s two stages usually meant a bailout at some point, though the Schwinn cruiser could make the complete ride…however, dental records say otherwise. This hill laughs at bicycle brakes. With the few ounces of common sense left in us, we knew enough to wrap and tie on old clothes for padding and lay a bandana inside our reversed baseball caps for helmets.  In the teen driving years we’d spool up speed by running the stop sign at the top and hit the hill at 60 to 70mph and get air….great fun as long as the car was aligned. Come to think of it, this hill could be the birth of straight line hot rodding since the Model T club began modifying speedsters and roadsters to ‘make the grade’ when Model T’s were new.

(yours truely - Signal Hill '73)

Though the road is now a sad fluff muffin of its former self, it remains the K2 of childhood dreams, along with the pleasant mix of winding dirt and paved roads where one could learn to drive properly amongst the discarded rigging clutter up to the top and the KNOB transmitter.

Shell Oil Company stuck with driller Frank Hays’ belief that the oil lay a fair amount deeper than earlier ‘dusters’ or attempts by other outfits, and it paid off in a California gusher the likes of which had never been seen before. Soon there were so many derricks they were calling it ‘porcupine hill’

Plaque inscription: NO. 580 WELL, ALAMITOS 1 - One of the world's most famous wells. Started on March 23,1921, it flowed 590 barrels of oil a day when it was completed June 25, 1921, at a depth of 3,114 feet. This discovery well led to the development of one of the most productive oil fields in the world and helped to establish California as a major oil producing state.
Location: NE corner of

Temple Ave

Hill St
, Signal Hill
Google maps: 33.797222,-118.158809

SIGNAL HILL                      © Radio Flier Music

(Chorus) Signal Hill, Signal Hill
Black gold we’re gonna drill

Long before the white man, long before the drill
Indians sent smoke signals up on Signal Hill 
Up on Signal Hill 

Many feet it rises, three hundred sixty-five
And see the land for miles around when the oil men arrived
The oil men arrived

But early wells were dusters, oil they had none
Till Frank Hayes was heard to say in nineteen twenty-one
Nineteen twenty-one

“There’s oil in the soil” for Shell Oil he begun
To drill a little deeper, with Well number one
Alamitos number one

On the 23rd of June, 9:30 in the night
Alamitos one erupted, it was an awesome sight
What an awesome sight

A hundred feet the oil rose to the California sky
“I’m Signal Hill’s oil boom, to peaceful times good-bye”
Peaceful times good-bye

The hill looked like a porcupine, three hundred wells or more
Quarter million barrels a day, by nineteen twenty-four
Nineteen twenty-four

Though now the hill is going dry, it had a mighty run
Here’s to the men from Wilmington, and Alamitos one
Alamitos number one

Signal Hill, Signal Hill
Black gold we’re gonna drill

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