Wednesday, September 28, 2016

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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
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Well, Dorothy Downing is the winner. She was the first to correctly identify the last mystery spot as one of the ice shoots at the old ice plant building now the Ice House
Theater. Nice work Dorothy and again thanks to Kim Gunter for suggesting this as a mystery spot.


Here are your clues for the next one:
1)      This sign is in plain view—not hidden in any way
2)      This 3 link emblem symbolizes that people are bound together
3)      At one time this building was sandwiched between Jasper Harrell’s building and a theater
4)      The 3 initials stand for what “ the organization “ believes are the 3 guiding principals of life.
On what building is this sign located? Good luck.


An Old Transit Center
Bruce Geiger found this neat old photograph of an Orange Belt Stage bus at the Visalia Bus Depot and boy is it nice. It is apparently a 1960 photograph showing the bus at the Greyhound Bus Depot at 211 S. Court Street. During this period of time the location served the community like the transit center does today.
This location was the pickup and drop-off point for Continental Trailways, Greyhound Bus lines, and Orange Belt stages. It  served as a taxi stand as well. The second photo shows on the far left a partial view of the depot and shows its position in downtown Visalia. It was on Court Street just south of the alley behind the Town Center Post Office. Great picture, Bruce. Thanks for sharing it.





Jean Shepard and Her Visalia Connection
On September 25, 2016, former Visalian and Country Music Hall of Famer, Jean Shepard passed away. Jean and her family came to Visalia from Oklahoma in the early 1940s looking for a better life. The whole family was musically inclined but Jean had the very special voice. All the family members worked in the fields picking fruit around Visalia including Tagus Ranch.  Even Jean did this as a youngster. Jean attended Visalia Senior High School and graduated in 1951. Carl Mathewson was in her class and remembered her wonderful voice especially when she sang at school assemblies.
Phil Kneeland also knew the Shepard family and knew early on that Jean was going to be a big country western star. Gary Holder knew Jean’s brother Hoyt and was also familiar with the family. While in high school Jean organized an all girl singing group which later became known as Noble’s Melody Ranch Girls. (Jean can be seen on the far right in both photographs.) When I talked to Jean about the advertising poster shown here and asked about “6 Musicians From Hollywood” she laughed and said they were not from Hollywood and she wasn’t sure how that got there. Jean’s big start began when Hank Thompson heard her sing in 1951. She and her fellow country singer, Ferlin Husky teamed up and their song “A Dear John Letter” made it to the top of the country chart. In 1953 she continued her climb, this time to the Grand Ole Opry and stayed a member until her passing. I had an opportunity to meet Jean in her dressing room at the Opry in 2011 and got to see her perform on stage. Quite a thrill for me.


Eleanor Calhoun—More Visalia Royalty
Speaking of Jean Shepard and her almost royalty status to country music fans, Visalia lays claim to another royal citizen—this one was actual royalty. Eleanor or Nellie Calhoun was born in Visalia in about 1862. Even though she left Visalia with her family for Bakersfield while still a young girl, Visalia still claims her. Nellie had a gift. She was an actor and boy could she act. She was a star in San Francisco and throughout the United States. She toured Europe and became a famous French actress learning to speak French fluently. She eventually married the Prince of Serbia and became Princess Eleanor. Here is a rather poor photograph of her as Dora in the stage play “Diplomacy” in about 1884.  She wrote her memoirs called Pleasures and Palaces. The second photograph was Eleanor at the time the book was published in 1915.


Chamber of Commerce—Over a Century of Promoting Business
The Visalia Chamber of Commerce has been around for a long time. In its early years, it was called the Board of Trade or Improvement Association, but regardless of its name, the group that promotes business in Visalia has always attempted to make the business climate a healthy one. Their  office locations have moved
around town over the years. In this photograph the chamber was housed in the old California Highway Patrol office building on the northeast corner of Stevenson and Mineral King. It stayed here for many years, then the building was torn down and the chamber was on the move again. Does anyone recognize this patch? I have had it for many years and need assistance  in identifying what years it was used. Help please!


Visalia Municipal Auditorium—A Popular Venue
In 1916, Visalia built a magnificent municipal auditorium large enough to attract conventions and groups of all sizes to town. For nearly 50 years, it  played host to all sorts of events, meetings and activities. In 1963, the building was determined to be unsafe and had to be torn down. During its heyday, it hosted wrestling matches, political rallies, National Guard exercise and so many other events. It had a stage and few, if any, remember the artwork on the main
curtain on the stage. It had a mountain scene in the middle and at the bottom it showed settlers heading west by covered wagon. There were also scenes of what I believe to be Giant Sequoias on either side. Many of these stage curtain paintings were created by well-known artists of the day, but the artist that painted this one remains a mystery. Does anyone know how we can find out?


***If you would like to know more about the historic Estrada’s Restaurant and its years in Visalia, take a look at the September 2016 issue of  Lifestyle Magazine beginning on page 12.

***Richard Drath shared a couple of things that I found interesting and I want to share them with you. He said, “I heard that Marni Nixon recently died. She did the voice over singing for many movie stars, including Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. I wonder if any of your followers remember her singing the lead role of Eliza Doolittle in the COS production of My Fair Lady. I don’t remember what year it was, but it many have been in the early to mid-1960s.”

***Richard also said, “I seem to remember in the mid-50s when the Lucy and Desi movie The Long Long Trailer was shown at the Visalia Theater (not the Fox, the one farther down Main Street) that there was a long, long trailer parked outside the theater that you could walk through after the movie. I’m hoping someone else might remember this and my memory isn’t playing tricks on me.”

***Start thinking about your December calendar. On Monday December 12th as part of the 210 Connect series, I will be doing a presentation that I am calling “Structures, Styles and Stories.” It will be about existing old buildings in Visalia with more information about them. It should be informative, so watch for more details as we get closer.  There will also be some pleasant surprises.



Emigrants are constantly coming into our town and valley. Scarcely a day passes but we can see from one to half a dozen wagon loads of emigrants coming in and passing through. Let them come, we have room to spare for all who desire to come to this, the garden valley of the State. Visalia Weekly Delta, November 24, 1869.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

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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
histerry@comcast.net. I will add you to the list. I will never share your email address with anyone without your permission.   

                                                    
Well, congratulations go out to Steve Gerrard – that makes 2 in a row for him—for
correctly identifying the last mystery spot as the old Southern California Edison power building at the corner of Main Street near Ben Maddox. Nice work again, Steve.


Now for the next one. By the way Kim Gunter, provided this mystery spot. Where is this feature? Here are the clues:
      1)    This would have been a popular spot on a hot summer day.
      2)      It was conveniently located near a major transportation route not functioning today.
      3)      The product that was once sold here is certainly taken for granted these days.
      4)     A variety of people work here now and there is regular turnover.
Good luck!




Tokens—They Enticed You to Return
My good friend Alan George recently shared a couple of Visalia tokens with me. Tokens were a merchant’s way of getting you to come back to their business and buy more product. In a way it was what we would call a loyalty program today. A merchant would hand out “good for” tokens to customers offering them a discount
or free merchandise on their next visit. It was reward for old customers and provided incentives for new ones to come to your business. The White Fawn was a saloon at 207 E. Main Street and this token, upon presentation, earned you 25 cents in trade. The other token shown here was for 12 ½ cent cigar at The Stag. Sweeney and Necklaussen (notice S & N on token) owned the saloon. Thanks Alan for sharing these wonderful relics with us.


Images of America—Visalia Book Now Available
For the past year and a half I have been compiling old Visalia photographs, some of which were generously provided by some of you,  for a book. This is another Arcadia book which happens to be the second one I have done for this publishing company. The current book which  was just released a couple of days ago is part of a series they call Images of America. The publisher will be placing the book at local outlets, but I have not heard yet where they will be offered locally. Amazon has them too. The book is a historical photograph book and features on the cover a picture of the Visalia Electric train in front of the old county jail on Oak Street. The Arcadia series is nice for anyone interested in old photographs of towns. It can be enjoyed straight through or glanced at with interruptions. Not a lot of text, so you don’t have to read very much, but I have included very good historical information in the captions. If you would like to purchase a copy and can’t find it locally, call me at (559) 901-3227 or email me at histerry@comcast.net and I will make sure you get access to a copy.

Visalia Landmarks in Pencil
David L. Smith is a local architect and pencil portraiture artist in Visalia and is he good! Recently he created a set of 4 note cards, each one drawn by him capturing an iconic Visalia landmark. The End of the Trail, the COS Giant, the Fox Theatre, and the former Mearle’s Drive-In, make up the four card set. His detail is amazing. For example, take a look at the Fox Theatre note card—he has even drawn the individual
ceramic tiles below the theater ticket windows. He is making these available to all of us and envelopes are also included. Printed on heavy white cardstock, the cards are top quality and perfect for sending a personal message to an old friend the old fashion way. Drop by his office at 303 No. Church Street in Visalia or make arrangements with him by telephone (559) 733-7833 to get a set or two. Perfect, too, for art collectors and Christmas stocking stuffers.


National Guard Gets Mascot
Laura Heberling recently shared with me some photos from her family scrapbook, and boy are they beauties. In mid 1916 the border with Mexico was a “hot” spot with Pancho Villa working it over pretty good. The United States was worried that the Mexican Revolution was going to spill over into the United States, so US troops were sent to the border including Visalia’s Company “D” 2nd Infantry Regiment of the California National Guard. On June 23rd of that year, about 100 Visalia national guardsmen boarded the train on Oak Street bound for their assigned border area near Nogales, Arizona. While the troops were in the field Visalia’s well-wishers found an abandoned bear cub in Giant Forest and shipped him down to them to keep the troops company. The little bear was a big hit and quickly became the company mascot. They named him Phil-Bear, and he was treated like royalty. Here Marvin Heberling, one of Visalia’s guardsmen, is shown holding him. Laura, thanks for keeping the family photos in such nice condition and thanks for sharing them with us. The other photo shows the troops in Visalia boarding the train with a huge sendoff.  


Sweet Building—Remodel and Recognition
Visalia’s Sweet building has been around a long time and stands as a constant reminder of the importance of the Sweet family in Visalia history. At one time the big Sweet building housed one of the largest, if not the largest department stores in Tulare County. The Sweet family later closed the store and sold the building. It was divided into three buildings and Links Clothing store occupied one portion. In the last couple of years Links closed and their portion of the building was sold to Sam and Marlene Sciacca. They have transformed it into a modern and 
luxurious apartment building utilizing the upper floors as well as the ground floor. Now the Visalia Kaweah Kollectors created a bronze plaque to place on the building recognizing the building’s history. It is part of the City of Visalia’s Historic Recognition Program, and it will be mounted soon. Thanks to the Visalia Times-Delta for covering the event, and appreciation goes out to Mike Alvarez, the photographer and Luis Hernandez, the reporter.



Buena Vista Grocery—A Rare Photograph
For a long time I have enjoyed and appreciated the era of the neighborhood market. Visalia had plenty of them sprinkled around residential neighborhood. They carried minimal groceries, lots of staples and had candy and ice cream bars for neighborhood kids to buy. Some even had pickle barrels where you could get a big dill pickle for a nickel. Many of them have disappeared from neighborhoods over the years forcing shoppers to go to the big supermarkets. Lucy Perez Stump, who I have known for many years, grew up in a family that owned and operated a neighborhood store in Visalia—Buena Vista Grocery. It was opened by her parents, Antonio and Alvina Perez at 117 E. Buena Vista in about 1937 and it stayed in the Perez family until it closed in about 1990. Lucy and her siblings worked there after school. Lucy shared this photograph of the store, and I think it is a rare one. Does anyone else have a photograph of a Visalia neighborhood market? Thanks a lot Lucy.


A Piece of the Old Tulare County Courthouse
Construction of the fancy Tulare County Courthouse in Visalia began in 1876 and was finished in 1877. It was built in Courthouse Square which is located on Court Street between Center and Oak streets. After the turn of the century, additional courthouse space was needed so they added north and south wings to the original building. In 1952 the big Tehachapi earthquake shook the old building and shut it down. It was red tagged as too dangerous to occupy. A few years later, the old timer was demolished. Some relics of the building were saved, like the redwood carving of Minerva, the goddess of wisdom which sat at the very top of the building. Minerva is at the Tulare County Museum. Many years ago, Annie Mitchell gave me another saved piece of the old building. This salvaged mail slot hardware had been given to her by probably someone in the demolition crew. The salvager etched on the back of the mail slot some important information about it. In her later years, she gave it to me as a keepsake and I have cherished it ever since.



***Not too long ago Bob Stewart contacted me and said he had an old milk bottle with Visalia California embossed on it, but he also said it had the letters MCDA. He is curious as to what those initials stood for. Does anyone know? A guess on my part says it stands for _____?________ Cooperative Dairy Association, but again only a guess.

***Recently, Joseph Vicenti while walking downtown spotted a small bronze or brass plaque embedded in the sidewalk. It is only about 3” x 5” in overall size and it has printed on it: Erdman Madison, Wisconsin. Does anyone know anything about the plaque or that name?

***If you’d like to read about Visalia’s “taming” Mill Creek take a look at the June 2016 issue of Lifestyle Magazine beginning on page 12 or you can read it online at https://issuu.com/lifestylemagazine/docs/lifestyle_1606_web




The oil sprinkler or sprayer, which is being operated on the streets in Visalia at present, is doing what appears to be splendid work. The oil is sprayed on to the streets, while highly heated, and as a result it dries into the dust very rapidly, and a buggy driving directly behind the sprayer, will pick up scarcely any of the oiled dust at all. Under the old plan, the oil was put on in large quantities, formed in puddles and stuck to the wheels of passing vehicles and the shoes of pedestrians for a week afterwards. Daily Visalia Delta, March 22, 1908

Saturday, May 28, 2016



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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
histerry@comcast.net. I will add you to the list. I will never share your email address with anyone without your permission.   

                                                   
Congratulations go out to many of you who correctly
identified the last mystery spot as the sidewalk clock on Main Street in front of the coin shop at 204 W Main Street, but special congratulations to Stephen Gerrard who was the first to get it right. Nice work, Steve. Ok here is your next one. The clues are:


1) This brick building is very close to the site of the old Mt.
Whitney Power Steam Plant. 
        2) The building is near “lots” of automobiles 
3) It is nearly hidden by vegetation so you have to look closely
       4) It is near a street with a name connected to early electricity in Visalia

Where is this building?


The Fox Loved Kids
Children have always been an important part of Visalia’s Fox Theatre. Whether it was when they performed on stage, or when
they came for children’s movies, youngsters were always welcome by the theater management. In the old days the theater even created a “Kiddie Club” for the youngsters, and it was a big hit. Guy Shelley shared this official Kiddie Club pin. What a nice keepsake.
Thanks Guy.


Concrete Post Mystery Solved


Back in 2008 Joseph Vicenti, a local historian, asked about a strange concrete post that poked up from the sidewalk on the northeast corner of Main and Liberty streets marked 1948. He wondered why it was there. It was a great question. David Miller and a couple of others commented that they thought it was an abandoned post that once held a post office mail collection box. Well, Henry McLaughlin, while perusing the archives of Historic Happenings read about the 2008 question and discussion and went to work. Henry happened to find similar posts in Fresno and eventually solved the mystery when he found this website http://forgotten-ny.com/1999/12/ancient-mailboxes/ Great piece of detective work, Henry. Now it is confirmed! Visalia’s post mystery is now solved for good …it once held a post office box. The Visalia post is the first image shown here.


Pioneer Judge—James S. Clack
For some time I have wanted to highlight a man who played an important part in Visalia’s criminal justice history. His name is James S. Clack. He came to Visalia in about 1884. He became an attorney, then justice of the peace for Visalia Township, then police judge and then superior court judge. He married Julia Hinds in 1907 and they lived in Visalia. She passed away in 1955, and the
judge died in 1934. For several years Justice’s Clack’s office was on the ground level floor of the Templars Building (205 N Court across from the courthouse.) On the far left you can see the Justice of the Peace sign hanging down. The building, of course, is now gone. Sorry about the poor quality of the portrait of Judge Clack here, but it’s all I have. If by chance you have one, or know where one can be found, I would appreciate knowing. Thanks.


Cloth Concrete Bag
Speaking of the Visalia Fox Theatre, Guy Shelley who worked in construction in Visalia for many years, also shared an unusual souvenir of the theater that was in the family. When construction for the theater project broke ground in April 1929,much of the building materials were brought in from out

of the area. The Spanish style building used cement or concrete from San Francisco. Hundreds if not thousands of these bags of
cement/concrete were shipped to Visalia by rail. The bags were opened and mixed on the site. The movie house had its grand opening in 1930. Here is a photograph of one of the empty cement bags that was part of the Fox Theatre construction. Thank Guy again for sharing.




Rodeo Buttons Were Everywhere
Rodeos historically have been a part of Visalia life for many years. In the heart of cattle country, Visalia has hosted some of the finest rodeo cowboys competing from throughout the country. For many years the local Moose Club organized the event and made it an annual one, and one to be proud of. Supporters of the different rodeos would buy these buttons and proudly wear them each year. Here is a partial collection showing just a few. I’m convinced that many of these and others are to be found tucked away in jewelry boxes and drawers. They represent some of Visalia’s exciting days.



More Tunnels in Visalia—Now the Mysterious Courthouse Tunnel

For several years I have heard about a mysterious tunnel that allegedly connected the old Tulare County Jail at Church and Oak Street to the Courthouse (presumed to be the Courthouse Annex) in old Courthouse Square. The Courthouse Annex building continues to stand on Court Street between Center and Oak. The people who I have talked to never actually saw or walked into the tunnel but swear it exists or existed. In each case, they had  heard about it from others. The idea of a tunnel makes sense. Prisoners in the jail could be escorted below ground to the courthouse for their judicial proceedings and therefore the authorities did not have to expose them to the public. A tunnel also could help in preventing escapes. Several people have mentioned that they found what looks like the tunnel opening, now caved in, in the basement of the Courthouse Annex building (note this building was finished in 1935). Recently, Faye Phillips, an employee of the Tulare County Probation Department offered to give us access to the basement, and we found what was purported to be the tunnel opening. My partner in this adventure, Russ Hurley, a prominent Visalia attorney and history buff, accompanied me and he climbed through the relatively small crawl opening leading to what was supposedly the beginning of the tunnel. Once nearby, he took a closer look at the alleged tunnel opening. Although interesting, he and I believe it was not a tunnel, but more than likely a small channel access to utility pipes and wires. But there are still several possible tunnel theories that could be in play here. Can you help?  Have you heard of the tunnel from sources other than me?  Please share if you have. If you have personal knowledge of the tunnel between the jail and the courthouse, I’d appreciate knowing. Also, if you have additional information about this, please share and help solve this mystery. Thanks Faye, for making this tour happen and thanks Russ, for your role as Indiana Jones.












***If you would like to learn more about the old Spanish style city hall/fire department that was located at Church and Acequia streets, please get a copy of  Lifestyle Magazine, May 2016 edition and go to page 12. You can see photographs and read about it. Or you can go online at https://issuu.com/lifestylemagazine/docs/lifestyle_1605_web
***Thanks, Sheila Caskey Holder for a nice photograph of Frank and Betty Lowe, owners of Commercial Printing at 123 N Court Street. They were important people of the day and it’s nice to have a photo of them.
***By the way, Dorothy Downing found out that Visalia changed to area code 559 on November 14, 1998. Thanks, Dorothy for that tidbit we wondered about.
***Betty Treaster shared a photograph of the Dedication of the Tulare County Historical marker at the old Liberty School that she attended back in 1992. Thanks Betty. By the way Betty was one of the finest Recording Secretaries any organization could ask for. She did it for the Tulare County Historical Society for many years.


Emergency Order Announced in Response to Spanish Influenza Pandemic:
“Now, therefore, it is ordered by the Board of  Trustees of the city of Visalia that every person within or who comes within the city of Visalia during the prevalence of the present epidemic of the influenza shall at all times and places within said city, wear a mask of a design approved by the health officer of said city:  provided, however, that said mask may be removed at all reasonable times for the purpose of eating and drinking and provided, further, that the mask shall not be worn in private homes or private rooms unless a case of influenza shall exist in said place. This order shall be effective immediately. Dated and done this 30th day of October, 1918 at a duly called meeting of said Board of Trustees.” Visalia Daily Times, October 31, 1918