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

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