Compiling local history is a two-way street: public records, for the most part, being either scant or unhelpful (who would want to read a book dealing entirely with building permits?), the historian must depend, like a
Tennessee Williams character, on the kindness of strangers. Williams, incidentally, had a good eye for local history; there really was a “Desire” streetcar (it went to a district of that name in New Orleans). The streetcars that ran through our District may never be as famous, but they are still worth noting because of what they meant to its early residents: a welcome if somewhat noisy link with jobs and other opportunities in Oakland and San Francisco.
The local historian’s task is to uncover the meanings of everyday sights and happenings over a particular period of time in a particular (generally rather small) place. Sometimes this can be done with documents -- letters, newspaper items, snapshots like the ones on our home page -- helped by a little imagination. The greater the admixture of imagination, the more the task approaches the novelist’s. But in order to depict the life of a community rather than one’s own subjective view of it, there is no substitute for talking with the people who live there.
MSHHIG has already begun doing this (see History: Oral Histories). We need to do much more. Not that we want to invade anyone’s privacy. But if any visitors to this website, after sampling our work, feel that they or other family members have a history of living in this District that they would like to share with us, we would be more than glad to hear from them.
We would also like to see any old photographs, letters, or other personal documents that may be of historical interest. Our wish list includes documents about houses, many of which have histories far more complicated than the public record suggests. Of course, no document or interview of yours will ever appear here without your consent. You can write, call, or e-mail us at any time (see Contact Us).