Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Images of America - Santa Cruz, California by Sheila O'Hare and Irene Barry

First published in 2002.

Located on Monterey Bay, Santa Cruz's mild climate and natural resources have drawn entrepreneurs and visionaries, as well as tourists, since its earliest days. Over time, Santa Cruz city and county became home to a classic seaside amusement park, luxury hotels and beachside mansions, cottage cities and revival camps. Captains of industry, inventors, movie stars, and mountain men all made their homes here. Cap
tured in over 200 photographs is a visiual history of this notable California city.

Santa Cruz County was created in 1850 as one of the new State of California's original counties. Santa Cruz received its city charter in 1876 and developed quickly. The photographic history presented here highlights the shift from pioneer Santa Cruz to its numerous pre-tourism industries, up to the tourist trade of the 20th century. It features many rarely seen images of the boardwalk and beach, early silent-movie making, the therapeutic baths and sanitariums, earthquakes and floods, and the early era of tourism.
(book back blurb)

Have I ever said how much I love these books? I’m sure you’ve seen them before at your local bookstore. They’re local interest books highlighting the town you’re standing in and the surrounding areas, visually recounting the local history, how the town came to be, hot points of the past, major events and so on. If you’re a history buff like me, snagging one of these for your own personal collection just to have the pictures is a definite plus, not to mention they're wonderful pictorial history books for any research you might need about real cities.

Yes, I am from Connecticut and yes, I am currently living here but why a beach town in California? First off, this was no easy book for me to get without having to order it. Thankfully I was able to pick it up while I was in San Francisco for a reading I did. It was just local enough to the city that Barnes and Noble had this doozy on their shelf. I quickly grabbed it and had to pound on my chest a couple of times to restart the heart when I realized how much it cost. For a paperback book 128 pages long that has at most 10,000 words which are all captioning pictures, it cost $20. From the looks of it, you’d probably never think that much. I certainly didn’t but I guess it could be considered a research text or the price can be set that much because of the amount of research that went into it. Either way, it was 20 bucks. Ordering it online wouldn’t have cost me much less, especially when shipping was factored in.

I was first introduced to Santa Cruz thanks to my all time favorite movie, The Lost Boys. It’s been a relative obsession ever since. I visited it for the first time in 2007 and fell in love with it. It’s such a nice beach town, I love the area and holy lord the weather is fantastic. I can’t tell you how nice it was to escape the New England 98 degree summer heat with 100% humidity for the lovely 76 degree summers of California’s Central Coast. My hair appreciated it. So did my writing. Currently I have two YA series (or will have) set in and around Santa Cruz (well, a California town based on Santa Cruz, at least).

Do I love the area because of the movie? No, not really. I love it because of its feel, because of its sense of nostalgia and because it’s just a really nice place to be. I won't lie. I went there initially because of the movie but that's about it. I actually went back out there in October of 2008 for another vacation. Travel in the fall = cheaper rates = happy bank account. Plus I also get the benefits of nice weather, even in October (try fantabulously amazing weather!). I’ve always been enamored with the state of California, probably because it’s not Connecticut and they don’t have winters but now that I’ve actually been there, it just justifies my want to move there even more. And it's something I'm working on.

This book is a lovely pictorial history of Santa Cruz and the outlying towns of Watsonville, Aptos (pronounced app-toss) and Soquel (so-kel). I love looking at the history of the town through those lenses and the researchers certainly put a lot of work into it. It makes the feeling I have for the area run that much deeper and, perhaps, even heightens the fantasy of it for me just a little more. If you’re interested in the history of any city, I would certainly start with one of these books if I were you.

Now if I could get my hands on one for Coney Island and Gravesend, I’d be really happy (I'm working on another series set there). Jaw crunching as it was, the Barnes and Noble I went to in New York had one for every other piece of New York City except Coney Island. Figures, right? Looks like I’ll be scouring Amazon and Half.com for it, won’t I?

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