Wednesday, April 9, 2014

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Well, the last mystery spot proved to be a very difficult one. Very few were able to get this spot correctly located. Marian Shippey Cote was the first to correctly identify the old employment office at the northeast corner of Garden and Murray streets. Good job, Marian, on a very tough one.

Are you ready for the next? Here are the clues:
1) This Main Street building is near a "stand" of large oak trees.
2) The building once contained spark plugs and fan belts.
3) It is adjacent to a meeting place.
4) The building once contained a business whose name meant good fortune.

Where is this building? Good luck!

Shiffert's—A Visalia Seegar Store
Bruce Geiger recently mentioned Shiffert's Cigar store to me and it was a good time to highlight this long-term historic business. Irvin Shiffert founded the cigar company in 1898 on N. Court Street in the Palace Hotel annex building. A short time later, he moved it to 204 W. Main and then to the southeast corner of Court and Main. He employed 7-9 makers at one time. In 1939 Shiffert's moved again, and discontinued cigar making. I believe Shiffert's is still conducting business, however I don't know
that for sure. The last I knew it was a wholesale distribution company offering a wide range of products. The sign on this old photo shows the logo for the company. Many people think it is strictly a dollar sign. It may have been, but it had a double meaning. Irvin Shiffert is the founder and the one with facial hair in the photo, a photo taken at his Main and Court location. His initials are "I S" which would be the double meaning of the sign. The other photograph shows Shiffert and workers in the cigar making room.

Butterfield Plaque—Something is Missing!
In 1973 the Jim Savage Chapter # 1852 of E. Clampus Vitus placed a Butterfield Overland Mail marker on Visalia's Main Street in front of the old Togni-Branch store. The bronze marker described the inaugural trip of the famed stage line and highlighted Visalia's role in the old transportation route. The marker was placed on a granite boulder and next to the rectangular one was another marker—an illustration showing  the stage in action. The illustration as you can see shows a stagecoach being pulled by a team of horses. In the last few years, this illustrated marker was apparently stolen. Now the Tulare County chapter of E. Clampus Vitus, the Dr. Samuel Gregg George Chapter
# 1855 is working with Jim Savage chapter to get this illustration plaque replaced. I think the person who took the marker was looking, not for recycling material, but a collector’s item or souvenir. If scrap value recycling was the motive, why not take the larger plaque weighing a lot more?  That’s my theory and with that in mind, by chance does anyone know the whereabouts of the illustration plaque. I know it's a long shot, but perhaps someone will recognize it after seeing this photo. Pete Cowper, an HH follower and a clamper, is working to make this replacement happen.

More About Mooney's Grove
In the last HH, discussion about Mooney Grove Park brought back many memories
for so many. So I need to highlight it again. Pete Cowper remembers as a boy, his neighbor Harry Wilson, worked on the Mooney Grove locomotive engine. Pete also shared his mother's photograph of the "tunnel" that many of you remember. Jan Morrison remembered the tunnel, too, and she also shared the close
up of the old locomotive. By the way, Jan Andrews provided a glimpse of the great old carousel that was once part of the amusement area at the park. It is now in the city of Hanford.

Visalia Appears in Old Happy Birthday Card
HH follower and historian Dallas Pattee, recently found this unused "Happy Birthday" card in a thrift store. It is interesting in a number of ways. It is a collage of nostalgic memorabilia that caught her eye, and as she examined it closely, she found in the lower left an image of the Visalia Palace Hotel's letterhead. The card was printed for Marcel Schurman Co. and the card is
dated 1989. Marcel apparently lived in Fairfield, California. The card credits the layout and photography to Rose Hodges. Just goes to show that Visalia does pop up from time to time in all sorts of places. Does anyone know if this is merely a random mention of Visalia, or is there a Visalia connection to either the company or the artist? Thanks for sharing, Dallas. You have the eye of an eagle!

David R. Douglass—A Generous Man
I've been trying for some time to share a photograph that I received from Debbie Hopkins. She was kind enough to give me a copy of it and I want to share it with you. It's a photo of David R. Douglass, an important man in Visalia's past. Born in New York in 1814, Douglass lived for a time in Chihuahua, Mexico and actually lived there during the Mexican war with the United States. In 1857 he came to Visalia, established a business and became heavily involved in civic affairs. He helped organize
the Visalia Fire Department and donated the land where the first fire department building stood. This building was at the southeast corner of Church and Acequia streets, now part of the courtyard area of the convention center. Close to this building was a huge eucalyptus tree known as the "Douglass Tree" planted by the Douglass family. It is now gone from the convention center grounds, as is this old building, but there is a marker pointing out where the tree stood.

***The Sierra Ballroom brought back memories for lots of people. Lynne Brumit recalled in the mid-1940s, Visalia's seventh and eighth graders would go to the ballroom for Friday night dance lessons. Students learned formality and the etiquette of dance and afterwards many of them walked to Peden's on Main for ice cream. Those were the gold old days for many. By the way the Sierra Ballroom closed its doors in 1948.

***Floyd Fagundes has asked a question about a magic shop in downtown Visalia in the 1940s or possibly 1950s. He thinks it might have been called Ricardo's but he's not sure.  Does anyone have any information about the magic shop?

***Although not necessarily connected to Visalia, the question came up from a man in Florida who asked about a killing in Tulare County in about 1902. The alleged murder victim was Eddie Mort, who was a rancher in Tulare County. Sound familiar to anyone?

***If you would like to know more about the Mt. Whitney Power and Electric Co. and its connection to Visalia, go to the March 2014 Lifestyle Magazine and turn to page 18.. You can also visit it online at the following link, beginning on page 18

The Colored Baptist church of Visalia will present a program at the Methodist church tomorrow at 7:30 p.m., and included on the program will be Mrs. Sarah Wilson of Visalia, who will tell of her experiences as a slave prior to the Civil War. Visalia Times Delta, February 15, 1941

Thursday, March 6, 2014

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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 Virginia Strawser. She was the first to correctly identify the latest Mystery Spot as the Malick Motors building at 510 E Acequia Street, now vacant. The length of the old brick building  runs from Acequia to Main Street. Again congratulations, Virginia, and thanks to all who got it right or made a stab at it.

Now for the next Mystery Spot. Where is this building? For those that like the challenge, here are the clues:
1) The building celebrated its open house in 1941.
2) It was built by the City of Visalia probably with federal funds.
3) When it was built it contained about 3,000 square feet of interior space and was used to help people find jobs.
4) When built it stood at an intersection with North Street.

Good luck!

Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe Depot
Historically, Visalia was not a stranger to railroads. Although the Southern Pacific seems to get most of the railroad attention, the Santa Fe played a big part in the development and life of the town. Bruce Geiger was going through his grandfather's (Edwin Geiger) photo collection and came upon these two great old negatives. Both show the Santa Fe Depot which stood on the southwest corner of Main and Santa Fe. The first picture shows the railroad depot probably in the 1930s and
the second shows the old depot in March of 1948. Love the old locomotive in this one, too. The old depot stood in Visalia for many years and was torn down in about 1968 or 1969. Thanks Bruce for sharing your grandfather's great old pictures.

The Mooney Grove Railroad
Recently Margaret Schultz shared a number of photographs from her father's collection. Her father was Albert Stroben. Many of the pictures were obvious as to subject matter or in some cases had identification on the back, but some did not. These two were unidentified, but they appeared to clearly show the amusement park train at Mooney Grove Park. I checked Bill Allen's book Mooney's Oak Grove and sure enough the train was part of
the Mooney Grove amusement park. Was this train just for children? Sure looks like some big kids on board the train. Margaret,  again, many thanks for your generosity in sharing your father's pictures and thanks Tom for your help in identification.

Sierra Ballroom on Bridge Street
In the last Historic Happenings,  a Sierra Plunge photograph was shown        ( also taken by Albert Stroben ) for identification, and believe me, many of you spoke loud and clear confirming that  it was the Sierra Plunge. Located just to the south of the pool was  the Sierra Ballroom.  This old dancehall played an important part in the lives of many people. The plunge and dancehall were on the eastside of Bridge Street between Acequia and Willow. The plunge is gone, but the dancehall/ballroom building is still standing and is now an auto parts store. Some years ago, the owner gave me a tour of the old building  and I saw some of the perimeter bench seating still in place  along the interior walls. Recently, having toured it again, I noticed
virtually all evidence that it was a  ballroom is gone. This interior shot shows the existing employee break room on the right hand side of the picture and I'm wondering if that by any chance it was the  ballroom or a dancehall concession stand back in the day. Does anyone know? Does anyone have an old exterior ballroom photograph?

U.S. Post Office Mail Wagon
Prior to home delivery, mail recipients had to go to the post office and pick up their letters and packages. The use of post office boxes was common. After home delivery began and mail routes were started, postal employees walked their routes and used buggies and wagons to carrying the mail. James E. Wright, a mail carrier in Visalia for many years, is shown here standing by an early delivery wagon. The location of this photograph has not been identified. Thanks Gary Wright, grandson of James Wright, for sharing these nice old photographs. The dapper James Wright is shown here in 1898.

Thrifty Drug at Court and Main
Tony Cornett came across this photograph of Visalia's famed Thrifty Drug Store. It was located on the northwest corner of Main and Court streets. Looks to me to be about 1970 era, but could be late 1960s. The building now has Starbucks directly in the corner of this structure. I have memories of this drug store and remember the cheap (inexpensive) ice cream cones. (Do I remember 5 and 10 cents each?) I also remember the special scooper they used to extract the ice cream from the tub to make the cone. This special scoop was designed I guess to consistently measure the size of the scoop. As an historical note, this famous corner had a drugstore on the site for over 100 years. At one time it was called the Visalia Drug Store and was known as "the corner drug store." One more thing, did I remember a "tube tester" machine in Thrifty? Seems like I do. Thanks, Tony for the nice photograph.

***Wow, did the verification flood gates open up on the "plunge" photo. So many of you confirmed the photo as actually Visalia's plunge and I thank you for that. Many of you also shared your stories about the famous swimming pool. Thanks to all of you for your input. A special thanks goes to George Reece who sent a 1939 Times-Delta article about the former plunge and also to Carole Mathewson who freely shared  her memories. Lynne Brumit made an interesting observation about the plunge. She said "that in the late '30s or '40s it was thought polio and swimming water were connected (perhaps because it seemed there were more polio outbreaks in the summer.) So they put so much chlorine in the plunge pool you could smell it for blocks around."

***Well, J. C. Hickman, former Visalia Times-Delta reporter and managing editor, shared some information he found on the mysterious statue located on the island in the pond at Mooney Grove Park. J. C. said he had never heard the story of drowned children connected to the statue, but he does recall that the statue was of two children and was entitled "Knowledge and Wisdom." This statue was mentioned in Dean Krakel's book End of the Trail, and although no verification is possible, could it be that  the statue was also part of the Pan Pacific Expo in 1915 like the Pioneer and the End of the Trail? Viola Vollmer is quoted in Krakel's  book and she makes no reference to the statue representing two drowned children, but she does identify it as being the statue of Knowledge and Wisdom. Thanks J. C. for your good detective work and being an HH follower.

***Erick Broyles wonders if the legendary Tulare County "hanging tree" may be the oak tree on which the body of John Wood  was hung  in 1850 at the time of  the so called "Wood's massacre." The story of a hanging tree has been around along time. Could this be the  hanging tree?  Quien sabe?

***Anne Brazil is trying to find a picture of Hipwell's Market, a Visalia grocery store in the mid-1940s. It was located near Bridge and Tulare streets. Can anyone help with a photograph?

***Pat Haddock is looking for a photo and/or information of the Mt. Whitney High School Band and their trip to Disneyland. She is specifically looking for band or trip photos that were taken in the latter part of 1955 or mid 1956. Can anyone help?

James J. Kennedy, 21, said by police to have passed at least $15 in counterfeit half dollars to Visalia merchants since last night, was taken into custody by Chief of Police Harold Hicks shortly after 11 o'clock this morning near the Santa Fe depot, where he had been inquiring about a train to Lindsay.  Visalia Times Delta, February 17, 1938

Saturday, February 8, 2014

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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.    NOTICE: You can now comment publicly and directly about topics on this blog. Just click on the "Comments" after the "Say What" portion and let your voice be heard!

Congratulations Jaime Hitchcock for being the first to correctly identify last month's mystery spot. The beautiful windows that you saw were part of the 1908 German Evangelical Lutheran Grace Church building located on the northeast corner of Court and Sequoia streets. The beautiful old building is still standing and is being well-cared for. By the way, it is still a church. Again Jaime, thanks again for a quick correct answer.

OK, here are the clues for the next one.
1)  The building reportedly dates back to at least 1914.
2) This building was an auto repair shop for virtually all of its life.
3) The name associated with this building was a well-known family and the family name is still connected to it.
4) The last business operating there closed in 2009.
Where is this building? Good luck.

Theatre Visalia—A Wonderful Entertainment Venue
Wayne Yada sure brought back memories for me. He recently shared this photograph and as soon as I saw it I remembered it as one of the first historic Visalia photographs I had ever seen. It was and is a fascinating picture showing the marquee of Theatre Visalia as the backdrop with vehicles of the Sigsbee-Ellis Road Show parked in front. So many interesting aspects to this picture. Captain, the educated horse and Madam Ellis, a mental telepathist, as you can see are boldly advertised on the highly decorated vehicles. I believe this photo to be circa 1920. The old Theatre Visalia was torn down in the early 1930s. Thanks Wayne for sharing, and thanks to the Ingram family who had this photograph.

Colonel Thomas Baker—A New Book
In 2013 a new book with a strong Visalia connection was released called Colonel Baker's Field—An American Pioneer Story. It was written by Judy Salamacha and Sandy Mittelsteadt with Chris Brewer a major contributor. Beautifully illustrated by Salamacha-Hollier, the book is an interesting look at Thomas Baker, the namesake for the Kern County town of Bakersfield. Baker was an important pioneer in Visalia and was here when Visalia first began. It is hard to imagine a more interesting early figure in Visalia history. Baker left Visalia and is the founder of Bakersfield. The book is available at the Book Garden in Exeter, and  by the way Chris Brewer is the great great grandson of Colonel Baker. I'm glad to have this book as part of my library. Again, the Book Garden in Exeter has it.

A Look Back to 1950 Visalia
In 1950 Visalia had a population of slightly less than 12,000 people. It looked a lot different then compared to now. Recently Alan George came across this 1950 topographical map of Visalia and the surrounding area, published by the U. S. Department of Interior Geological Survey. It's a very interesting map showing Sierra Blvd (now Mineral King Ave), various schools and the Tulare county hospital near Bridge and Murray streets. This is Visalia 64 years ago, and is pretty amazing. Visalia now has a population of over 125,000 and many of the schools you see on this map are gone.  By the way, the map is stamped with Togni Branch Stationers, Visalia—the place it was purchased. Thanks Alan for the historic trip back in time.

Melody Kids on Stage at Theatre Visalia
Speaking of Theatre Visalia, Lavene McWhorter Douglas recently share this great old (circa 1925) photograph. It was taken on the stage of the old theater which I indicated earlier no longer exists. It
was located on the northeast corner of Court and Acequia streets (now a parking lot). The photo is captioned "Melody Kids Orchestra" and the cute little girl in the front is Lavene at about age 8. The remainder of the group is identified as follows: (L-R) Leland Stokes (trumpet), Ernie Caldwell (drums, possible last name of Rutledge), Johnny Clore (saxophone), Delia Clore Ayers (piano). By the way, this theater was Visalia's first Fox owned theater. Lavene, thanks for the picture.

A Plunge Photograph!  Could it be?
A couple of months ago, Paul Thomas asked about a swimming pool he remembered on S. Bridge Street across from what is now the Convention Center/City Hall complex. I knew based on previous research that there was a pool near that location called "The Plunge," but unfortunately, I had never seen a photograph of it. Well, guess what? I believe we now have a "plunge" picture. It came from Margaret Schultz as part of her father's photograph collection. Her father's name was Albert Stroben. It was not labeled, but I believe it to be the famous swimming pool in Visalia called "The Plunge." I need to hear from some of you old-timers. Can you confirm that this photo was in fact "The Plunge?" If it is, it is a pretty rare photo. Paul, I would especially like to hear from you. I'm sure this popular summer spot dates back to the 1940s, although this photo looks more recent. The printing on the back fence of the photo says "Keep Off  the Fence." Thanks, Margaret for sharing.

***If you'd like to learn more about Visalia's Bank of Italy building on Main Street, get a January 2014 copy of Lifestyle Magazine. Or you can read about it online at

***A number of you offered Paul Spencer your best thoughts on the bar/card room that he was inquiring about in the last posing of HH. Seems like the Wunder or the Stag is the consensus for the name of the bar and card room.

***Dana Lubich commented on the big antenna/tower near Walnut and Woodland. He said his friend Jim Pardue, who lived in Visalia in the 1950s has story to tell. According to Dana, "He used to climb all the way up the tower with friends and would feel the 'sway' at the top. He thought he was safe that far up, so that his mother wouldn't hear him, but one day his voice was carried down to her, and he was in trouble. In '62/'63 he painted a sign of a local gang's symbol (harmless compared to today), and which he didn't even belong to—on a bed sheet, and hung it from the tower. The next day a photo ended up in the Times-Delta!"

***Dan Veyna discovered a number of years ago, that the  story of the Visalia Saddle  had a far reach. He came across a saddle shop in Vale, Oregon and there he found Visalia Saddle memorabilia and people who knew about our famous saddle.

***Marian Shippey Cote, one of the best genealogy detectives I know, did some very helpful searching under the name Samstag who by the way was another famous Visalia Saddle maker.

How A Woman Kisses A Tobacco Chewer—Did you ever see a woman do it? Did you ever see a woman kiss a tobacco chewer? This is the way: There is a preliminary shudder, and then she sets her teeth hard, holds her breath, and makes a little pigeon dip at the foul lips of the grinning beast, and then, pale with horror, flies to the kitchen, where, if you follow her, you will find her disinfecting with soap and water. Many of the blessed little hypocrites pretend that they like the smell of a cigar; but even hypocrisy is powerless to force from a woman the confession of a fondness for hanging, "like a bee upon the flower," on the lips of a tobacco chewer.  Visalia Weekly Delta, June 30, 1882