PHOTOS OF EARLY SIMI VALLEY RICHLY ILLUSTRATE HISTORY BOOK.
The Historical Society's long ride from inspiration to publication ended this week with the delivery of 2,750 copies of ``Simi Valley: A Journey Through Time.''
The 512-page comprehensive history of Simi Valley took historian Patricia Havens and photographer Bill Appleton six years to compile, edit and design. They're optimistic that the result will be surprising as well as informative.
``People who are new to Simi Valley may have the impression that nothing ever happens here,'' Appleton said. ``I think people will be surprised to see Simi Valley has quite a rich history, and we have the photos to prove it.''
The book begins with a chapter about the Chumash Indians, who settled in Simi Valley centuries before missionaries arrived in the 1700s. It concludes with a brisk treatment of recent history in Simi Valley, culminating with the opening in 1991 of the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum.
Havens hopes someone will do a comprehensive study of what she calls the rapid-growth period that started in the 1960s.
``As the next years go by, there will be a lot of change,'' she said. ``Someone else will do that, I hope.''
Appleton said that many of the 546 photographs reprinted in the book, which is now on sale at the Strathearn Historical Park & Museum, are one-of-a-kind scenes of Simi Valley.
About 70 of the photographs were taken by Appleton's great-grandfather John Sparhawk Appleton, who took up photography after purchasing a camera in 1906.
Despite all the images used in the book, Appleton continues to sift for more for future publications about Simi Valley.
``It's almost like gold-mining. Once you get digging for new stuff, you don't want to stop,'' he said. ``We hope the book will be like a magnet for people who have other pictures that belong in a larger collection.''
Now that the book is finally available, Historical Society member Larry Silverman has the task of promoting it. He thinks the large, handsome tome - which cost $30,000 to print but already has generated $20,000 in advance orders - may be an easy sell.
``I think the interest is out there,'' he said. ``We just have to let people know the book is finally here.''
Silverman has placed advertisements in the Chamber of Commerce newsletter and notified service clubs and real estate agencies for their bulletins.
He has scheduled book-signing events from from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 17 and Jan. 24. Contributors to the book, as well as descendants of the Simi Valley pioneer families described in the book, will sign copies on request.
``This is a tremendous reference book,'' he said. ``It brings that much more history about Simi Valley.''
About 75 percent of the books, printed by Book Crafters in Chelsea, Mich., are softcover and cost $29.95. Regular hardcover copies cost $49.95. There also are 100 souvenir editions - many of them already sold - for $100 each, Havens said.
SIMI VALLEY HISTORY
Indians settlements and cowboy lore are not the only elements that make for a rich, and sometimes curious, Simi Valley history:
Three religious cults settled at different times in the secluded, mountainous terrain of east Simi Valley. The most notorious may have been the Blackburn Cult, which created a sensation in 1929 when newspapers reported ``weird rituals'' that included sacrificing animals and attempts to resurrect a dead 16-year-old girl. Sex scandals also haunted the leaders of the cult, May Otis Blackburn and her daughter Ruth Wieland Rizzio.
The Appleton & Bagnall Honey Company was started in 1900 and included four large apiaries in the Simi Valley canyons. The bees were essential to local citrus groves because they ensured that trees properly pollinated.
A small private landing strip near the southerly end of Tapo Street was converted into Santa Susana Airport in the mid-1940s by Chester ``Chet'' Foster. Although the airport closed in the mid-1970s, in its heyday it enjoyed 500 takeoffs and landings on a busy Sunday.
2 Photos, Box
PHOTO (1) Bill Appleton and Pat Havens show their just-published book, ``Simi Valley: A Journey Through Time.''
(2--ran in Conejo and Simi editions only) Cowhands of another era brand a steer in one of 546 photographs reproduced in a new book on Simi Valley history.
Michael Owen Baker/Daily News
BOX: (ran in Simi edition only) SIMI VALLEY HISTORY (see text)