Friday, July 10, 2015

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Tony Cornett was the first to identify the last mystery spot as a set of "bars"  of the old Tulare County Jail on the alley side.  Nice work, Tony, and I won't ask how you recognized it…especially so quickly. (Just kidding, of course.)

Here are the clues for the next mystery spot:
1) This building is made of adobe bricks.
2) It was built using all volunteer labor.
3) It was built in 1926.
4) Over 5,000 adobe bricks were made in three weeks to complete this building.
Where is it, and, no it is not a Spanish Mission?

The Visalia Stock Saddle – It made Visalia Famous
Dorothy Osborn took a photograph of this  sign she saw hanging in the "On the Border" restaurant in Milpitas, California. It just points out how popular the Visalia Stock Saddle was, and really, still is today. For
many cowboys/vaqueros in the day, it was the saddle of choice when working cattle. People still use and collect them as important western keepsakes. Dorothy correctly pointed out that the Visalia shop was on Main Street and this photograph shows the saddle storefront that was near where Brewbakers is today on East Main. Thanks, Dorothy.

Sierra Vista—The $7.50 School Name
Bill Allen, a graduate of Sierra Vista School, recently shared some school history. The school building at Mineral King and Dollner (Home Builder's Tract) was a WPA (Works Progress Administration) project and it was finished in 1939 with Ernest Kump the architect. At the time, it was a 7-8th grade school and this graduation exercise program belonged to Bill. In fact, he is listed as
Billy Allen in the Honorable Mention section.  The ceremony was held on Thursday evening, June 8, 1944 at 7:30pm. Just 5 years earlier and shortly after it was finished, the school was given the name Sierra Vista. A name-the-school contest in August 1939 brought in dozens of possible names, but Mrs. T. B. Thompson living at 106 N Court submitted Sierra Vista and she won the grand prize of $7.50. Thanks for sharing…Billy (sorry I could not resist Bill)!

Tulare County Jail—Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
In August, 1962, the old Tulare County Jail building across the street from  the Southern Pacific Depot restaurant was vacated and the Tulare County Sheriff's office moved to the new 4-story jail building on Burrel just West of Mooney. It was a modern building,
however, Monty Sands, a long time lawman and former Tulare County Deputy Sheriff under Sheriff Sandy Robinson, recalls a problem with the new building. He tells us, "When they moved from the old jail to the new one everyone was thrilled. It was suppose to be state of the art. It even had an indoor pistol range. One small problem soon became apparent. They had failed to install a ventilation system. After a few shots, the targets became invisible because of smoke. The room remained closed for years. It eventually was used for the crime lab and storage." Monty also shared that at the old jail sometimes crowds gathered outside the women's section as the women inmates would flash the crowd  through an open bar window.  By the way, Monty is a Tulare County native and worked as a peace officer with the Tulare County Sheriff's Department, the Visalia Police Department , Tulare County Probation Department, and Tulare County Lake patrol. He has authored 5 books—Murder in Matheny--the April Holly Story; Just a Few More Miles; The King of Nine-Mile Canyon, Welcome to Ocean's Mist; and In More Innocent Times. Thanks to him, some of our interesting county history has been recorded and published. Check them out on Amazon.  Thanks for all you've done, Monty.  (Thanks to Marian Shippey Cote, too, for this 1963 photograph of the jail.)

Christopher Evans – A Visalia Outlaw in Portland
Recently, my wife and I took a road trip to Oregon and stayed in Portland for a few days. When traveling I like to include the exploration of local Tulare County history connections when one exists. Well, Portland has a big Visalia/Tulare County connection. Christopher Evans, half of the outlaw team of
Evans and Sontag, is actually buried in Portland. After Evans served many years in California State Prison, he was allowed to be paroled to Portland, Oregon to live with family. By this time, Evans was a tired man with lots of physical problems including the loss of one arm and one eye. This photograph of the old outlaw was taken in 1916 in Los Angeles on a visit to see his daughter Eva. The following year he died in the City of Roses (Portland) and is buried at the Mt. Calvary Catholic Cemetery.

Floyd "Pappy" Depew—A Lawman From the Old School
There is a historic and legendary lawman in Visalia history who people talk to me about all the time. Floyd "Pappy" Depew was big in Visalia history, and physically big , too, standing 6 foot 2 inches! I was fortunate to have worked with Pappy in the last years he worked for VPD before his retirement. Pappy was born in Tulare County in 1909 and was officially hired by VPD in 1941. He witnessed the Hugh Garrison (first officer killed in the line
of duty) shooting in 1946. Floyd had a colorful career and he retired in 1974. Monty Sands who worked with Floyd, remembered Pappy as a police officer and said that Depew began his career when the "main requirement to be an officer was guts, size and strength." Fewer and fewer people remember him today, but those who do, talk about him with honor and respect. Was he polished and refined? No. No one would ever call him that. But everyone that knew him has a "Pappy" story they are willing to share. Rarely do you find a lawman so tough and so gentle at the same time. Rest in Peace Pappy!

***I received this request from Rosemary Dority Isbell:  "Am looking for relatives of the Florence Doe family. The Does were friends of my grandparents, John and Nina (Ninnettee) Huntley. I am interested in finding out if anyone has old letters or any information concerning them. Would enjoy hearing from anyone. Many thanks." Let me known and I'll connect you to Rosemary.

***This Tuesday, July 14, 2015, the Sequoia National Park and the City of Visalia will celebrate the Visalia connection to the beginning of the National Park Service. The Stephen Mather mountain party used Visalia as the kickoff for their Sierra adventure in 1915. The following year, the National Park Service was created and Stephen Mather became the first director. Visalia is truly a gateway city to Sequoia National Park.

***If you'd like to read more about the Visalia and Tulare Railroad, please look at the Lifestyle Magazine June, 2015 issue beginning on page 14 or go to:

A great deal has been said as to the general unhealthiness of Visalia the past winter. While there has undeniably been a great deal of sickness, and many deaths, yet, upon investigation and comparison this place has suffered no more than the country in general. It has been a very sickly year, so far, in other places as well as here. In San Francisco the death rate rose to double the usual number, and the type of diseases prevalent was about the same. Pneumonia and measles have run riot all over the State. In some places malignant scarlet fever and diphtheria have been superadded. In more distant parts, small-pox has been epidemic. On the whole there is no doubt but that Visalia is just about on a par with other localities. Visalia Weekly Delta, April 7, 1882

Monday, June 8, 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 to Doug Silveria for being the first to identify the last mystery spot as the concrete overcrossing of Mill Creek on Main Street near Mayor's Park. It is a dominant feature there, but one we take for granted as we pass over it all the time. Nice work, Doug!

Now for the next one. It think it’s going to be easy. Here are your clues:
1) This building was finished in 1918.
2) People lived here on a temporary basis
3) Oftentimes those that occupied this building were noisy.
4) There was a strict code of conduct if you lived here.
Where is this building?

Ralph and Helen Drath—Educators Through & Through
The recent HH discussion of teachers in Visalia has led me to conclude that Visalian's really do love their teachers and educators. And in my opinion there are no better examples of respected educators than Ralph and Helen Drath. Ralph was born in Kansas in 1911 and moved to Visalia in the 1930s. He taught school here, then became a principal at Webster, Highland and Houston schools. He was also
one of the founders of SCICON. In 1932 he married Helen and the two built their home on Highland Ave. They raised 2 boys, Richard and James there. Later in life Helen worked as a library assistant at COS and served in that capacity for about 15 years. Both passed away in Visalia, Ralph in 1962 and Helen  in 2005 and each  had touched so many lives and had earned so much community respect.  The photo of Ralph was taken in 1952 and the photo of them as a couple was taken on their 5th anniversary in 1937.

Help, Help, I Need Your Help!
I recently came across this photograph marked "Visalia, May 3, 1908." It has no other markings. I do not recognize the house at all, but the man sitting on the steps is so familiar to me, but I can't recall his name. Does anyone recognize him or anyone else in this group? Come on, please!

76-Year Old Pioneer Newspaper Surfaces
Doug Silveria recently found an older "The Pioneer" newspaper for December 15, 1939. The Pioneer was the official Visalia High School newspaper and was written by journalism students. It reported on serious school news like, "Fourteen students receive all A's," but included lighthearted material as well like, "Gladys Trembly and Neal Ensign get the title of the cutest couple on the campus." Fun stuff to read. Thanks Doug for sharing this interesting old high school newspaper.

Wheaton Gray’s Home Becomes Mortuary
The carpenter's union building located on the southwest corner of Church and School streets was once home to Superior Court Judge Wheaton Gray. The residence was constructed about 1875, and over the years it went through several remodels and additions. At one time it was home to the A. E. Brooks Mortuary. Here is the building as a mortuary in 1929. Architect Michael Kreps is wondering if anyone has a photograph of this building when it was the judge's residence, before all the remodels and additions. Can anyone help?

Monty Sands Does it Again
Well, Monty Sands has written another. Yep it is another history book and this one is called In More Innocent Times. I have not read it yet, but it looks like another good one to me. In it he describes life in the San Joaquin Valley in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s. It has occasional mentions of Visalia and includes a short chapter on Spanish Town and saddle companies. Just glancing through it, I know you will recognize topics familiar to you. In More Innocent Times is available at Amazon and at Bargain Books  and Linda's Books in Visalia.

Photograph of the W. B. Wallace Home
Recently I was talking to Marilynn Mitchell at Josten's and she mentioned an old photograph that had been in her father's (Hank Speer, the well-respected identification officer with the Tulare County Sheriff's Dept.) collection. His picture is shown here and is of an old house on Acequia near Willis. Marilynn believes the house once belonged to a superior court judge. I did some further checking and I now believe that this house belonged to Judge W. B. Wallace. It was torn down years ago, but there is an interesting story connected to it. The judge complained vigorously to Herbert Askin who owned a tin smithing business nearby on Main Street. He said the business was too noisy and disturbed his peace. Askin moved his tin shop to a new location on E. Main Street. Thanks for the photo, Marilynn

Speaking of School Newspapers
I recently came across what I think to be a pretty rare item. The Visalia Junior College opened for the first time on the Visalia High School campus in 1926. The junior college which became COS stayed on the high school campus until 1940 when it relocated to its new location on Mooney Blvd, where it is now. This Volume 1 Number 1 VJC campus  newspaper was issued on September 29, 1933 and was 4 pages single sided and 8 ½" x 13" in size. It says it was "mimeographed" no less. Now there's a term we rarely hear anymore.

City Hall Covered In Snow
Recently Bob Hargrove, Troy Tuggle and I had coffee and Bob shared these photographs. They are undated, but I believe they were taken during the snowfall in Visalia in January 1962. The two pictures on top show the Visalia City Hall complex on Johnson Street. The bottom photo shows a parked Visalia police car covered in snow also at city hall. The snow sure looks refreshing in these days of triple digits. Thanks, Bob, for sharing.

***Troy Tuggle reminds us all that just in case you didn't know, Black Bart, the famous California stage robber, was last seen in Visalia before he disappeared. Finding his burial location would be a real find. It's a mystery that should be solved.

***An HH follower asked about a bar near Mooney and Walnut called something like "Monkey's Uncle." A little checking found out that the bar was in fact near Mooney and Walnut in the late 1960s and it was called "Monkey's Eye."

***For those interested in Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, these two famous ball players appeared in Visalia—well, sort of. You can read more about it in the May 2015 issue of Lifestyle Magazine starting on page 13. Or you can read the article online at

***The teachers in Visalia that were listed in the school directory in the last HH created quite a lot of interest. So many of you recognized names and remembered stories about the beloved teachers. Thanks to all of you who shared them.

***John Bergman was able to confirm that Betty Treaster's memory was correct. The Sugar Beet Factory was at K Road and Santa Fe. Thanks John and Betty for that confirmation.

 Good Whiskey – Persons desiring pure whiskey can find it at F. W. Blake's. We were the recipient of some of it, the other day and have been using it under the doctor's orders of course, and is the best we have met with in Visalia.  Visalia Tulare Times, October 2, 1869

Thursday, May 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.   

Congratulations to Virginia Strawser who was the first to correctly identify last month's mystery spot. It was of course the motel at the corner of Johnson and Main streets—a motel that has been there for many years. It is has had several names over the years and is now America's Best Value Inn.

If you're ready for the next mystery spot, here are the clues:
1) It is an overcrossing of Mill Creek. (Hint: Mill Creek as you know goes under Main Street in several spots in downtown Visalia, but this crossing has the creek exposed on either side of it.
2) This overcrossing was constructed by Thompson Brothers, Central Contractors, Fresno Cal and has that marking on it.
3) It is near a park.
4) It is surrounded by oak trees.
Where is it? Good luck.

Mt. Whitney Power Company—At Its Home On Court
Bruce Geiger found this nice old photograph showing a view looking north on Court Street from about Acequia. Taken in about 1910, it shows Mt. Whitney Power Company when it leased office space in the S. C. Brown building on the east side of Court. In 1912 Mt. Whitney Power built a new building on W. Main Street (where Quality Jewelers is now.) In this photograph you can see adjacent to the Brown to the left, the Harrell Building. And and to the left of that on the same side of the street, but across Main is the Palace Hotel. Notice the evidence of transition from horse and buggy to automobile. Nice find, Bruce!

Visalia Public School & Teachers for 1939

Sandy Newman found an interesting piece of history lately and wanted to share it. It is an original 1939-1940 Public School Directory for Tulare County which includes Visalia. Visalia schools are listed by name as well as teachers, and it even gives their home addresses. There are some other tidbits of local school information included as well. Only 3 of the 7 school listed in this booklet are still with us today. They others are gone. Do you recognize the names of any of the teachers or administrators mentioned here? Thanks, Sandy for sharing.

Edison Pole Yard
Marian Shippey Cote found this very interesting aerial photo in her family possessions of the Southern California Edison Company "pole yard." It was located on Ben Maddox at Goshen Ave. After Edison vacated this site, the land sat vacant for a number of years and is now occupied at least in part by Sonic, the fast food drive-in. By the way, Mt. Whitney Power Co. was bought by Southern California Edison many years ago. Marian tells us that her father worked at this pole yard as a "mapper." It doesn’t look like Goshen Ave went through when this picture was taken. Thanks, Marian, for sharing.

Tipton Lindsey School Grounds Become City Library
Contrary to what the public believes, the Tipton Lindsey School
was not named for the towns of Tipton or Lindsay. The school in fact was named after a pioneering and prominent school official named Tipton Lindsey. Built in 1891 at Oak and Locust streets, the school was poorly constructed and in 1916 it was deemed unsafe for students. As the future of the abandoned site was being discussed, citizens of Visalia fought hard to make sure the City of Visalia acquired it for a future city library. Their wish came true and the city did buy it, and in 1936 the Visalia City Library was built there.

Knudsen Creamery Had A Big Presence
The Knudsen Creamery Co. located on Goshen Avenue near Leslie had its open house in 1927 with Tom Knudsen, president of the company present. In this 1932 photograph, employees of the company posed in front of the plant.
Sandy Newman shared this Knudsen Christmas Greetings/Party songbook for 1930. In it are the lyrics to a song called the "Visalia Song." Anyone have the music to go with these lyrics? Thanks, Sandy, for sharing.

***Hugh Baca is looking for a photograph of his dad's grandfather, a man named Harold Santos Baca. Harold lived most of his life in the Porterville area. If anyone can help with a photograph, I know Hugh would be appreciative

***Peter Cowper mentioned that when he was a youngster he would go into Cross Horlock Hardware store and recalled that when he walked on the wood floor, it would "give" under his weight, and the glassware and general merchandise in the display cases would rattle. It's an interesting observation and I remember the same thing. Those hardwood floors would tend to creak and loosen up and there would be a little shaking and rattling going on with the display cases nearby. Are there any of those floors around anymore in Visalia.

***Speaking of the Hyde Ranch, Charlene Langdon Cates passed along that her grandparents Ernest and Alta Langdon lived on the Hyde ranch for over 50 years, and she and her parents lived there also for a few years. Her folks, as you may recall, owned the Langdon Electric Motor & Pump Co. at 410 E. Main , then moved to 910 E. Acequia.

***I thought we had the sugar beet factory location mystery solved. Information came that it looked like it had been at Tulare and Bridge streets, but 94-year old Betty Treaster, who lived just south of Visalia, remembers seeing the abandoned buildings at the K Road/Santa Fe location. She recalls the abandoned buildings being referred to as the "old sugar beet plant" by old timers.

***For those who would like to read about Anna May Bell, a bright young Visalia girl in our history, be sure to pick up a copy of the April 2015 Lifestyle Magazine and go to page 12. Or you can go online and read it at

Facing national prohibition, the local newspaper asked: Announcement is made that 60,000 tons of ice have been placed in cold storage for next July. What good will ice be in the month of July when all the cocktails and high-ball making places have gone out of business?" Visalia Morning Delta, May 13, 1919