Up on Signal Hill, the wind is whipping the trees around like Tina Turner’s hair, and making sound effects from a very scary movie—wooooing as it swirls through my front porch, setting the windows to creaking. The flatlanders of Long Beach don’t know this thrill.

 Fourteen years ago, when I spotted this condo in a realtor magazine while sitting in the chair at a beauty shop, the building was one of only two on this road, which lines the north ridge of the hill. Since then, we early Signal Hillbillies have been surrounded by cookie cutter “estate” homes. Most were built during the boom of the 1990, bought for sky-high prices and now unable to be sold for those million-dollar price tags. 

 Those early times were the good years, when a skunk could prance down the middle of the road and not get squashed by a speeding Mercedes. Hawks soared majestically overhead, peering down to where rodents were invariably scurrying between protective clumps of brush.

 The only things circling slowly overhead now are the blimps that come into town and park at the airport, or that big gas-bag dirigible that comes to town to sell scenic rides for big bucks (and scare my unsuspecting guests when they turn toward the window and see a gigantic white cigar floating by). Evidently, this place was meant to be my home. I had “marked the territory” three years before that day in the beauty shop when nagged into an ill-advised Signal Hill 10k.  At one point midrace, I kind of staggered to the curb of this very building and did a small version of the Technicolor yawn. Who knew? Now I call the cops if anyone even lets their dog barf on the lawn.

 Yes, it’s fun to walk the trails and stare northward at the mountains on those crystal-clear days after a rain when several far-off ranges rear their peaks—and all the flatlanders drive up with their cameras. To the south, the view is of the ocean and the Long Beach skyline. Once a year, on July 4th, we allow all the flatlanders to climb the hill to see the fireworks show.  Every April—in fact, just this past weekend—the buzz of the Grand Prix cars is in the air and the circling blimps and banner planes on the horizon designate without needing GPS the location of the course.

 Lately, we’ve been looking down at poor Long Beach, all tied up in a budget-deficit predicament. Makes me remember one of the solutions dreamed up in the old Press Club bar—which used to sit across the street from the Press-Telegram when both were located on the 600 block of Pine Ave—before it burned down and the P-T moved away. It was Dave Wielenga’s idea, actually, conceived when Signal Hill was just beginning to lure away Long Beach’s auto dealerships and intercept other economic investment.

 Realizing that the best thing about living in Signal Hill was the view of Long Beach, Dave suggested making those Signal Hillbillies pay for it: that is, constructing a sky-high, retractable wall around the hilltop city that could be lowered—in places, for a price—to reveal the view. There’s an idea WAY ahead of its time.  Think what that would have done for the deficit. 

 Signal Hill is like a snug little bug in a Long Beach rug. We love our city. Even the cops are friendly, frequently heroic and no longer seen as bullies—or worse, for those who remember the tragic jailhouse death of Ron Settles all those years ago.

 I believe in paying back, so I’ve been involved for several years with the cultural arts group, and the last five as a parks and recreation commissioner, appointed by the city council. This has lead to what is so far my greatest contribution to people of Signal Hill—well, to their pets, actually.

 A couple years ago I was sitting on my balcony watching the many dogs being walked around the hill on a warm day. Their owners would lift them up to the drinking fountain for a much-needed slurp. This often involved not only the dog slobbering on the fountain, but their nether parts sitting in the bowl. At my suggestion the city agreed to replace the old fountains with newer models that not only include a bowl at the bottom for poochie, but a second level spout for smaller people or those in a wheelchair. 

 OK, so it’s not the cure for cancer, but someday Signal Hill dogs will howl my name.

  1. Dwight K Snider
    April 11, 2010 at 7:08 am

    Citizen Journalist Question of the Day: Who killed Ron Settles?

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