Friday, April 10, 2015

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Thanks for visiting Historic Happenings! If you are not on the email list, and would like to be notified via email when a new posting of this newsletter is made, please email Terry Ommen at I will add you to the list. I will never share your email address with anyone without your permission.   

Congratulations go out to Larry Doss who correctly identified last month's mystery spot as Dr. Steve McAuliff's dental office building near Hall on Main Street. The building started its life as the Tulare County Health Department. Good eye, Larry!

Ok, here is the next one for those of you interested. Here are the clues:

1) At one time it was the only business of its type operating downtown.

2) People often come here to relax

3) It has a Main Street address

4) It is very close to “power”  in Visalia.

Where is this building? Good luck!

Pacific Sugar Co.—How Sweet It Was
Recently, Bruce Geiger asked about the Pacific Sugar Co. in Visalia. The company began here in 1905 and for about 10 years it processed sugar beets and had a sizeable workforce. But where was it located? The factory was either at Bridge and Tulare streets or Santa Fe and K Road. Good sources tell me it was located where the Pacific Olive Plant was once located. The problem is, I believe Pacific Olive had locations at both of the above locations. Bruce would like to know where the factory was located and I would too. Can anyone help with this mystery? Thanks Bruce.

Santa Fe—The Other Train Depot

When we hear the word "depot" mentioned in Visalia history, we
almost always think about the Southern Pacific Depot, now a restaurant. It's logical as the nearly century old building still stands today.  But Visalia had another depot that was nearly as famous. The Santa Fe Depot was located on the southwest corner of Main and Santa Fe streets and it stood there for decades providing passenger and freight service. The first Santa Fe "through train" came to Visalia in 1900 and 1,000 people were on hand to greet it, although  not at this station. This Santa Fe Depot building came later and was torn down in 1968 to make way for the expanding downtown auto trade. In fact, Arnold Wiebe Buick and Pontiac brought the property.

The Altar Adorns the Museum at Mooney Grove

Mary Haven recently brought to my attention an interesting family fact. Her grandfather, John Kotchevar, an immigrant from Austria, built a wooden altar for St.
Anne's Catholic Church in Porterville. It's a beautiful piece of work and eventually it was donated to the Tulare County Museum. The Mooney Grove museum has it on display and I'd encourage you to stop by and take a look at it and the other displays there as well. Amy King, the curator, is always happy to have visitors looking at the displays. Thanks, Mary, for your family story.

Hyde Ranch—A Whole Lot More Than A Giant Milk Bottle

The Hyde name is a well-known and well-respected name in Visalia and is recognized throughout California. Recently I heard from Dorothy Pifer Osborn who was born on the Hyde Ranch. The ranch was large and included the dairy property near where K-Mart is today which by the way is where the giant milk bottle was perched on a
wooden tower. The larger part of the ranch was located to the north of there and would now be where the golf course is at the Visalia Country Club. Luella B. Hyde was born in 1883 to Cuthbert Burrel and she married Richard E. Hyde. They lived in this ranch house on what is now the golf course of the country club. Dorothy recalls the palm tree lane that you would enter off of Goshen Ave which led to the ranch property. The Hyde home was on the ranch property and Dorothy was nice enough to sketch her recollection of what the ranch looked like in its heyday. The photos show the Hyde home that was on that property. Also, as you can see, the palm lined lane can still be seen on the golf course today.

Motley's Restaurant—A Popular Hangout

Some time back, Lee Warren, Jr. paid Visalia visit and shared some interesting stories about his father Lee  Otto "Sandy"
Warren. Sandy was a local musician who earned quite a reputation playing music at various locations around Visalia. When Lee came to town, he shared pictures of his father, some of which were stored for protection in a Motley's Café menu. It is a kick to look at the old bill of fare, so take a look and have some fun. By the way, Motley's was a popular hangout near the corner of
Main and Church streets on the south side of Main. It was named after the man that opened it, Jim Motley. In the early 1930s Jim sold the restaurant to his brother John and Jim moved to Fresno where he opened another restaurant. In this photograph Motley's can be seen on the left side of this presumed 1945 flood picture. Thanks Lee for sharing this relic of early Visalia.

***If you'd like to read about the disastrous Elks Lodge fire downtown, pick up a copy of the March 2015 Lifestyle Magazine. The article appears starting on page 12, or you can go online and read the story at   By the way the Lifestyle Magazine website has a comprehensive section on Visalia history where many historical articles are archived.

***In the last HH I mentioned the name Verfurth. It was the name on an automobile store here in Visalia and I asked you whether or not you knew anything about the name. Jason Hughes and Marian Shippey Cote did some great detective work and gave me an education on Henry J. Verfurth. If you're interested in knowing more, let me know and I'll share their findings.

***We have talked about the Cross building (Pacific Treasure's building now) in the past, and recently Jane Cross Shepard shared another tidbit about the building. She said in the building's earlier life (and I mean way back), there was a health club of sorts there complete with a swimming pool in the basement. Yes, I said swimming pool. Does anyone have more information about that?

***Visalia's Wunder Bar has been a frequent topic in HH over the years and Katherine Mangini shared another interesting story about the old tavern. She wrote, "When I came to teach and coach at the Visalia Union High School and Junior College in 1941, it was customary for some of the established women teachers, after the school day, to go to the Wunder Bar to talk. Against the west wall there were several booths each with a table and chair; on each side of the booth entry way a curtain draped, which could be pulled to closet the patrons. I was invited to go with them, this clutch of female teachers had been here a long time and were well established with the community. Behind the curtain we could have a beer without criticism, free of the social restraints. Here we could exchange gossip, talk about the school board policy as we sympathize, supporting each other. It was fun—a method of reducing the pressure expectations of female teachers. Exciting to do so illicit an act, defying the culture."

***Cindy Medrano asked me recently when Costco came to town. I don’t remember, do you?

***Erin Olm-Shipman and Matthew Spindler are the co executive directors of the Fox Theatre. As part of the 85th anniversary celebration, they are asking for our stories about the Fox and our experiences there. They would like to incorporate the stories into the big festivities. Come on! Don't be shy! Call them at the Fox office (559) 625-1369 and share. They'd love to hear from you.

On last Sabbath, a little girl living with Mr. Samuel Evans brought into the house, warm from the nest, a singular-looking hen’s egg upon which was plainly inscribed the words "O ye inhabitants of Visalia. Repent for the prophet will be in your midst in 1867." The letters appear as though raised on the surface of the egg by an impression made from within. This may or may not be a matter of great importance to Visalia, but at all events, the admonition to repent is timely and highly appropriate. Visalia Weekly Delta, February 27, 1867

Saturday, March 7, 2015

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Thanks for visiting Historic Happenings! If you are not on the email list, and would like to be notified via email when a new posting of this newsletter is made, please email Terry Ommen at I will add you to the list. I will never share your email address with anyone without your permission.   

Pete Cowper is the winner! He was the first to correctly identify the last mystery spot as the 210 Café building or the Studebaker building as it was called in its day located at Locust and Center streets. Nice work, Pete!

Okay, here are the clues for the next one:
1) This building was built in 1921.
2) It started as a health related facility and it continues so today
3) The local architect for this Main Street structure was Harry Michaels and the contractor was Noble & Toothacre.
4) Mrs. Medda V. Keener lived here.
Where is this building? Good luck.

Sandy Warren—He Made Lots of Sweet Music
Recently I met with Lee Otto Warren to talk about his father who is also Lee Otto Warren. Senior was born in 1910 and was probably known more by his nickname, Sandy Warren. Sandy was quite a musician and he lived on Center Street near Taylor's Hot Dog Stand. He attended Visalia High School but dropped out in his senior year to join Augie Schultz and the Hayseed Band. He played multiple instruments over the years, was artistic and at various times, worked as a ranch cowboy. During his years as a musician he played with various local bands including
the Sleepy Heads, Smokey Mountain Rangers, Hayseeds and Rolling Stones (no, not those Rolling Stones). Sandy performed frequently at the KTKC radio station in Visalia. By the way, Sandy entered the military service in 1939 and was discharged in 1943 with a full disability. He died in 1966 and his family has kept his musical instruments. In this group photo, Sandy is on the far left and the band is called the Smokey Mountain Rangers. The other photo is Sandy working the microphone solo. Does anyone recognize any of the other band members? Thanks Lee for sharing some of the story of your father.

The Waste of War – A Civil War Veteran Visalia Doctor
Native Visalia Carole Mathewson (now of Payson, Arizona) has recently gone to press with a Civil War novel based upon the lives of her great-grandparents who served in the Civil War. Dr. Harley P. Mathewson, a graduate of Dartmouth Medical School, served as a Union surgeon from the beginning of the war until several months after the war had ended. His wife, Mary Sanborn Mathewson, a nurse, was beside him throughout the war. In order to write story lines, Carole has researched all the
battles, campaigns and hospital in which the duo served. Dr. Mathewson and his wife joined his brother Arthur in Visalia in about 1893. He practiced medicine in Visalia from 1893 until his death in 1901. He and his wife were interred in Arlington National Cemetery. The writer's background includes many years as a secretary (executive and legal) and a number of years as a newspaper reporter/copy editor. The Waste of War by Carole Emma Mathewson is available online through and in printed form and as an e-book. In printed form the book sells for $17.99. The doctor's shingle is shown here (circa 1897) on the Main Street side of the Elias Jacob Building at Main and Church streets where he had his office.

2nd Floor Archaeology Reveals Hidden Sign
Some time back, Michelle Wiebe, owner of Pacific Treasures in downtown Visalia, alerted me to an interesting discovery she made on the second floor of her building at 219 W Main Street.  The building appears to have been built before 1912, however, I cannot find its construction date.  Over the years the front of the building has been modified. At one time the second story had windows facing Main Street, but they are now
covered with a façade. Since at least the 1940s, it has been known as the Cross Building where Robert F. Cross had has real estate and insurance office. By the mid 1950s the upstairs rooms were called the Cross Apartments. At that time Lloyd F. Fletcher, a local architect, had his office on the second floor. And his name could be seen painted on the window advertising his services. While Michelle was looking in the vacant upstairs, she discovered the window painted sign showing his name, now covered with the facade. This is what she found with the partial name of Fletcher. It's not visible today from the outside. Thanks, Michelle, for your attic archaeology.

John Bergman Discovers A Rare Mooney Grove Postcard
John Bergman recently found this neat old postcard. The front shows a grove of oak trees and the caption says, "An oak grove owned by the county, purchased for a park site, near Visalia, Cal." The back says: Published by Newman Postcard Co., Los Angeles and it says Made in Germany. The unused postcard gives no direct clue as to where  this grove was located, but given
the fact that the land that is Mooney Grove Park was purchased by the county in 1909, it really has to be Mooney Grove.  The other park possibility is Cutler Park, however the land that it is located on, was donated by the Cutler family to become a park. The county did not purchase the land. Since the caption on the postcard says "purchased," it leads me to believe the postcard is Mooney Grove Park.  Thanks John for sharing this postcard – one I had never seen before.

Wunder Bar—A Wunderful Discovery
As everyone knows, Link's clothing store in the old Sweet building downtown, has closed its doors and that part of the Sweet building is going through a remodel. In the course of the construction, Tom Link
noticed that the workers had unearthed a piece of early Visalia history. The Link's store was pretty much on the exact location of the Wunder Bar—a Visalia "watering hole" for many years. As you can see, the entrance to the saloon/restaurant had Wunder Bar printed in tile on the floor at the entrance. If only these tiles could talk. Thanks Tom for your good eye for history.

Verfurth—A New One for Me
Recently I was looking in the 1926 Visalia Directory classified section when I spotted this picture. The name Verfurth is not a local name that I am familiar with, so when I saw it, it caught my attention. The building at one time housed the local Dodge
dealership. The structure still stands today, I believe as part of Kaweah Delta on the southwest corner of Acequia and Locust streets. The unique 3-diamond pattern at the top of the building clearly identifies it as the same old timer that is there today. The more contemporary photo of the building included here is one I took in 2009. Does anyone recognize the name Verfurth in Visalia history?

***I was recently contacted and asked about a pioneer who the inquirer says was born in Visalia in 1855. His name was Jerome Frank Reno. Anyone know anything about him?

***For those interested in history of the old and long- gone Visalia House, you can go to the February 2015 Lifestyle Magazine page 12 and read about it. It can also be found on line at

***In the last HH I featured a photograph of an old school allegedly near Visalia. A few of you suggested it might be Venice Hill School before the bell tower was added. I haven't been able to confirm this, but if anyone can help in doing that, I'd appreciate it.

***Dennis Whistler, an architect here in Visalia, is looking for an older photograph of the R. A. Mahoney brick building, later the Mooney and O'Dell Ford dealership located at Center and Garden streets. Anyone have a photograph to help Dennis?

Mrs. King, the woman hobo who was arrested in Goshen, was arraigned in Justice Buckman's court yesterday morning and pleaded guilty. She was given a floating sentence. She left on the evening train for Goshen. Visalia Daily Morning Delta, November 18, 1893

Monday, February 2, 2015

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Thanks for visiting Historic Happenings! If you are not on the email list, and would like to be notified via email when a new posting of this newsletter is made, please email Terry Ommen at I will add you to the list. I will never share your email address with anyone without your permission.   

Congratulations go out to Russ Dahler for being the first to identify last month's mystery spot as one of the north side windows of the Palace Hotel building (Main and Courts streets) looking into the Lunch Box restaurant. Good eye Russ. You really know your downtown.

Now for the next mystery spot.  Here are the clues:

1) There are 11 of these brick recessed rectangular spaces in this building and each is about 1foot by 6 feet.

2) This building was built in 1916.

3) The building has an early connection to automobiles.

4) At one time the building was part of Monkey Wards.

Where is this building? Good luck.  

Mooney Family & Mooney Grove Park

Hugh Baca, part of the Visalia Mooney family, shared this article from the Fresno Bee. In it some of the Mooney descendents are shown by a plaque placed in Mooney Grove on October 26, 1958. The granite/bronze marker stood near the Mooney Grove Park entrance
until 2006 when the Hugh Mooney statue was placed on the site. At that time, the bronze marker was removed from the granite rock and remounted on the new base of the Mooney statue. The park was officially designated a park in 1909 when the county purchased the land from the Mooney family. But the land was being used as picnic grounds for at least 20 years before that. The Mooney family was very generous with their land allowing people to use it regularly. Thanks, Hugh, for sharing this clipping.

A Mysterious Visalia School

Peter Neeley is working on a couple of mysteries. One involves a Visalia teacher named Vera Jones who after marriage became Vera Dice. In about 1909, Vera, shown here on the far left in this 1909 Visalia postmarked class picture, taught school in Visalia. Anyone have any history on Vera? The second mystery involves this school itself. Does anyone
recognize it? Apparently it was near Visalia. There is no indication as to its name, so help identifying it would be nice. (Also shown here is a close up of Vera.) It is interesting to me that these small schools were made up of young and older students. The older students played an important part in teaching the young ones. The older students benefited from their teaching role as well. Thanks for sharing, Peter. Let's see if anyone can help.

Biggest Milk Bottle in the World

It was called the "greatest milk bottle in the world." It stood 21 ½ ' high with a diameter at the base of about 8'. It weighed a ton, literally. When it was placed at the Hyde
Ranch Dairy, it was mounted on a 44' high tower and it was used as a long-time advertisement for the dairy which was located about where K-Mart is today. The giant bottle was a well-known landmark and a helpful point of reference for Sequoia Field airplane pilot cadets circling the area.  The bottle was made in 1926 by Isaac Clark (far left) owner of Visalia Plumbing Co. Thanks to Christine Walker Clark who shared this family photograph. Anyone know what happened to this bottle?

Secret Numbers on the Wall

Kathy Looper recently alerted me to a remodeling project going on downtown. It was at the former Mike's Camera location on the south side of Main Street just east of Court St. James Jessen, the owner of
Tazzaria and the man remodeling the building, invited me to come by for a look. The space is very historical and is part of the Jasper Harrell Building which for many years was the site of the Ernest L. Smith Drugstore and Smith Bros. Jewelry. James took me down into the basement and there he pointed out some numerical records that he found written on a
wall dating from the early 1900s. Why are these apparent financial records written on the wall? Anyone have a clue? By the way, James will be opening his upscale "hamburger joint" (his words) in the old drugstore. With all his work pending, it is obvious James will be establishing a showcase business. I for one am anxious to see what he does with this historical location and will local history play a part?  Thanks Kathy and James for your hospitality.

Directories—A Basic Tool for Historical Research

This is old news for serious genealogists and veteran historical researchers, but there are plenty of folks that are just starting out and can benefit from this information. Directories are books that are basically old telephone books, but they are much more. Yes, they are an alphabetical list of residents with occupations and addresses, and they also give spouses first names. The directories are often called "reverse directories" because in addition to an alphabetical listing of names, they give a listing of streets and identify occupants based on their numerical address on the street. So if you know that someone lived on a certain street in a certain year, but you have forgotten their name, you can search the addresses on the street and refresh your memory on the forgotten name. In later years directories provided a listing of telephone numbers, so if you just have a phone number, you could find out who had that number. Classified ads and types of business listings are included as well. Directories are a very helpful tool in research and they can also provide further investigative leads for a more indepth search. The first directory book for Tulare County is 1888. The History Room at the Tulare County Library has almost a complete set of these directories, so stop by and take a look. Volunteers can help you get started. Guaranteed, you'll have fun with these.

***Well, Judie Fleming helped solve the mystery of the Main Street clock. In Anne Bonacich's obituary, it was reported that Anne's husband and his brother bought the clock for their jewelry store. Thanks for your help on this, Judie. 

Doctors state that Visalia is in a good sanitary condition, and that there is very little sickness prevailing in the city, except in the southern portion, where a stinking slough breeds malaria. Visalia Weekly Delta, October 22, 1891