Monday, August 4, 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.   

And the winner is…Rick Mangini! Rick was the first to get the last mystery spot correctly identified as the base of the antique street clock that is mounted on sidewalk in front of Visalia Coin Company on Main Street.  That, by the way is the old Plunkett Coin Shop.  Must be great Visalia history with that clock. Wish I knew more about it. Good job Rick!

Now for the next one! Where is this building? Here are your clues:

1)  This is a very large structure in downtown Visalia
2)  Much of this building is in the form of a Quonset Hut.
3)  It once housed one of the big grocery chain markets—a chain that started in 1925.
4)  The building and its adjacent parking lot fills one entire city block.

Good luck!

Ralston-Purina Goes Up in Flames
After I mentioned the Ralston-Purina mill in the last HH, Bruce Geiger came through with this amazing and important photograph. The day of the fire, August 21, 1967, Bruce's father loaded up his children, including Bruce and went to the intersection of Mineral King and Santa Fe to watch the building in flames at Main and Santa Fe. Bruce's dad took this picture. Embers and heat surrounded the Geiger family and they left in a hurry and this picture shows the fire. Tony Cornett was a new Visalia Fire Department cadet at the time and was on the scene and remembers the intensity of the fire. The cleanup lasted for days. Thanks to several of you who shared your memories of that historic fire. Thank you for the great photo, Bruce.

Grand Army of the Republic Roster
Bill Allen with the help of History Room staff at the Tulare County
Library brought this to our attention. It was in the "vault." It is the roster of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) members who served in or near Visalia after the Civil War. To qualify to be a member of the GAR you needed to have served in the Union Army during the Great War. This roster contains the names of 120 or so members of the GAR post in Visalia with biographical material on each. It includes the units they served with and many other important facts about each of the veterans. A notation on one member for example said  that he received a gunshot wound in the Battle of Chickamauga in Georgia. The roster is filled with considerable material on these old soldiers. Thanks Bill for bringing it to our attention and thanks to the library staff for their work in finding it. By the way, the History Room staff and volunteers are always willing to help with research needs, so don't be shy.

Elias Jacob's Building
We can learn so much history from photographs. This one is a good example. Dennis Whistler happened onto this 1904 photo while looking through material in his office. Dennis wanted to share it and fortunately for us the building is still standing on the southwest corner of Church and Main streets in Visalia. It was called the Jacob Building and it was built by Elias Jacob in 1894. The building looks different because of changes to the exterior, but it is the same. So many things to talk about in this photo, but I love the natural  image of people milling around in front of it, not just on the sidewalk but in the street as well. Everyone appears so natural – this is what living in Visalia looked like in the early 1900s. Notice the little catering cart on the Church Street side of the building (probably a peanut cart), also notice the electrical street light, power poles, fire hydrant, business signs and the bicycle. This photo was taken according to the photo caption in 1904 when Visalia had a population of about 4,000 people. Very cool picture and thanks, Dennis, for sharing.

Rainfall Records for 63 Years
Marian Shippey Cote recently found this historical keepsake and
wanted to share. It is so timely! It is a rainfall chart that was distributed by the Visalia Times- Delta about 1940. The chart displaying 63 years worth of data shows totals by years and months starting in 1877 and going through the winter of 1939/1940. Check it out. Pay special note to the winter of 1905/1906 in the month of March when there was almost 6 inches of rain and 19 inches for the year. By the way, 1906 is when Visalia had a devastating flood.

Visalian Becomes San Diego's Police Chief
Tom Rey, formerly of Visalia and a retired San Diego police officer, recently brought an interesting fact to my attention. Former Chief of Police for the San Diego PD Jefferson "Keno" Wilson was born in Visalia in 1862 at the height of Civil War animosity here. In 1870 he left Visalia with his parents and relocated to Texas. Eventually they worked their way back to California and he settled in the San Diego area. This lean 6'3" man worked for a time with customs on the border with Mexico and eventually went to San Diego Police Department. He led the department (1909-1917) through some of its toughest years and died in 1934. Thanks to the San Diego Police Museum for the use of the photo and thanks Tom for mentioning this interesting and little known fact to us.

Historic Newspapers—A Sober Reminder
Sheila Caskey Holder uncovered some interesting historical items that she and her family had collected over the years. Part of what surfaced in that discovery were these old Visalia Times-Delta newspapers. The two shown here boldly announced the sobering
news in 1941. One says "War Declared" as the headline on the December 8, 1941 issue and on December 11, 1941, the sad news was shared, "World in Total War." Thanks Sheila for the reminder of our violent world.

Grand Jury Artifact
Superior Court Judge Gary Paden is responsible for the Tulare County Grand Jury. When new jurors are needed for service on the grand jury, their names are placed on slips of paper and dropped into a small squirrel cage-like barrel for random selection. As the barrel is cranked and turns, the names are mixed and then names are drawn from the little locked barrel. Recently Judge Paden asked about any available history on the
little squirrel cage. Sure is an interesting little contraption with no manufacturer or any other markings. No clue as to its history. It is clearly old and the key is marked C. Parker Co., Meridia, Connecticut. Does anyone have any information about this little squirrel cage? If you do please let me know. I guess it's possible it could date back to the beginning of the county. Who knows? Thanks to Sandy Newman for taking the time to get this photographs for me for this HH edition.

***In the last HH I mentioned the old Visalia Community Hospital on Court Street between Tulare and Walnut, and asked if anyone knew when Kaweah Delta acquired the hospital. Several of you responded and indicated mid 1990s. Roy Dressel gave an internet link indicating that Kaweah Delta Hospital considers1996 as the year of acquisition. Thanks everyone for your help.

***Also in the last HH I featured Visalia Police Office Floyd Depew. Several of you commented about him. Here's one example. Joe Romanazzi said, "I have vivid memories of Floyd Depew cruising down Main Street and its alleyways. He could be tough when he had to be, but also could be a trickster and not beyond giving one a break. Life was good in Visalia in the 1950s and 1960s."

***If you would like to know more history about the old Tulare County Jail, pick up a copy of the July 2014 edition of Lifestyle Magazine. The story begins on page 12 or you can always go online and read it at: 

Deserters From Army Pass Through Visalia—Three carloads of U. S. soldiers passed through Visalia last night on Santa Fe train No. 11 from Los Angeles on their way to San Francisco. These soldiers consisted almost entirely of deserters from the army who have been picked up at various points in the country. They will be compelled to serve time in the government prison located on an island in San Francisco Bay. Visalia Daily Times, September 2, 1914

Wednesday, July 9, 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.   

Nice work Brent! Yes, Brent Nunes was the first to correctly identify the last mystery spot. It was the nice old Bank of Italy (Bank of America) building at the corner of Church and Main streets.

Now for the next one.  Where is this feature and what is it? Here are the clues:

1) This stands on the sidewalk.
2) It is about time that this feature became a mystery spot.
3) It is about 100 years old.
4) It is in plain sight.
Good luck.

Free Camping in the City
During the 1920s and later, some communities opened up their towns to campers. These sites were generally called auto camps and oftentimes the camps piped in water and added other improvements. These free camps offered travelers convenience and hospitality and were set up many times to encourage people to come back and relocate in the town. It was in a way  a marketing strategy. Visalia had one and it was called the Visalia Municipal Auto Camp and it was Bridge and Willow where the Convention Center/City Hall East complex is today. It was a popular camping spot for those passing through to visit Sequoia Park. In 1922, for example, 2,806 people stayed there as they traveled through town. The auto park closed as a free camping location in 1926. Notice in the photo, thru the trees, you can see a portion of the front of the Visalia Municipal Auditorium.

Another End of the Trail
Dallas Pattee shared this photograph she recently found on one of her many historical forays. At first glance, it looks like the famous Mooney Grove Park statue sculpted by James Earle Fraser. But a closer look quickly tells you it's clearly not that. This one is actually a carved redwood "knock off" of the original End of the Trail. This one stood at the entrance to a place called Trees of Mystery which is on the Redwood Highway (Highway 101) about 36 miles from the Oregon border. This replica just points out how popular the End of the Trail statue really is and was. I can only imagine how many versions of this famous statue there are in the world.

"Pappy" and His Harley
Over the months several of you mentioned Floyd Depew, one of Visalia's veteran police officers, now deceased. A number of you also mentioned his famous Harley Davidson motorcycle. Floyd Depew began his law enforcement career in the 1930s and as he approached his twilight years with Visalia PD, he took over parking enforcement duties downtown and used this 3-wheel
Harley Davidson. Floyd became a fixture downtown and many people remember him. The 3-wheel motorcycle he used was given to him when he retired in 1974. After he passed away, the family donated the motorcycle back to Visalia PD. "Pappy," as he was affectionately called, was an important, almost legendary, figure in the community for many years. There are so many Depew stories but I’d love to hear more.

The Mills of Visalia
Visalia's downtown skyline sure has changed over the years. On the southeast corner of Santa Fe and Main streets, now a medical office, stood a feed or grain mill. In fact, the location had been a mill site since the beginning of the town. Obviously, the many mills that stood there took  on different forms over the years and here you see two of them. The first shows Visalia Milling Co. in 1944. Notice on the far
right of the photograph is the Santa Fe Railroad Depot. The other photo is from the 1950s and shows the site when it was owned by Ralston Purina. Notice the rail cars being loaded. Ralston remained until it burned and many people still remember the famous Purina fire. It changed the skyline forever.

Another Hospital
In 1958 three Visalia doctors, Dr. Browning, Dr. Eckert, and Dr. Kleyn started Sierra Medical Group. The group had their offices near the Sierra Community Hospital on Court Street between Tulare and Walnut. Later Visalia Community Hospital was built, a complex now owned by Kaweah Delta.  I don't recall when Kaweah Delta acquired the property on Court Street, but as I remember there was some controversy surrounding it. The private Visalia Community Hospital at one time was administered by Hyatt Medical Enterprises and it was an alternative to Kaweah Delta. Does anyone remember when Kaweah Delta acquired the property.

***In the last HH I asked for confirmation of a photo of what I believe to be Charlie Hammer sitting at his desk. More than a dozen of you confirmed that in fact it was Charlie in the photograph. Thanks to all of you for taking the time.

***If you'd like to read about the smallest park in the world located right here in Visalia, pick up a copy of the Lifestyle Magazine June 2014 issue and starting on page 18 the story begins. Photos are included. Or you can read it on line at:

***Patricia Geiger is interested in a photo of the Denny's Restaurant that was near Noble and Chinowth (Carls Jr. there now). Can anyone help with the picture?

Good News for Bachelors—A short time since a family arrived in Tulare county from Texas composed of the father, mother, twenty-one daughters and one son. During the past week another family from the same state arrived and took up their abode amongst us, in which were fourteen unmarried daughters.  Visalia Delta, April 14, 1860

Sunday, June 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.   

Congratulations go to Lloyd Trout who was first to identify the last mystery spot as the Buddhist Church or Temple on Center Street just east of Santa Fe.  Nice work, Lloyd.

Now for the next one. Where is this building? Here are your clues:
1) The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.
2) It is a classical revival style building.
3) It has a granite block base.
4) It once stood on the site of the Bank of Visalia.

Where is it? Good luck!

Visalia's Gothic Catholic Church
Well, we are lucky enough to have another of Albert Stroben's photographs supplied by his son Tom. It shows an earlier St. Mary's Catholic Church sometime between 1910 when it was built and 1954 when it was replaced with the current  Catholic church.   According to Bill Allen who wrote the history of the Catholic church here in Visalia in his book called It Started in a Stable, this $12,000 church was adorned with beautiful stained glass windows and was built using gray cement blocks. The gothic style structure was designed by local architect Morve Weaver and built by local builder J. M. Nelson. This photo is unique in that it shows a view from a perspective not often seen with the convent in the background. Again thanks to the wonderful photography of Albert Stroben and to Tom for sharing it.

Estrada's Spanish Kitchen
Many of you have mentioned Estrada's Restaurant over the years and suggested I add something about it in HH. Dana Lubich recently (within the last few months) did an internet search and found that even though Visalia's Estrada's no longer exists, there are other Estrada restaurants that do exist or did in other towns. Some are or were connected to the Visalia Estrada family. Although the Estrada
family had their culinary start in other Visalia locations, their restaurant was popular at two locations within our town. The first well-known location opened at 414 W. Main Street  in 1924 in the remodeled Vucovich home. In about 1958 Estrada's moved to 1545 S. Mooney Blvd. By 1992 the famous Visalia restaurant closed its doors. The Estrada story in Visalia is an interesting one and goes far beyond restaurants. They have a connection to the Visalia Stock Saddle.

AARP and a 1966 Visalia High Prom
Dana Lubich brought this to my attention recently and he thought HH readers might enjoy it. I agree with him. This interesting article appeared in the May, 2014 issue of AARP magazine on page 42. The author of the article is Marian Adamson and she wrote about her and boyfriend Larry's experience at the 1966 Prom at an unnamed Visalia high school. I think it's worth a read. Thanks, Dana for sharing it.

Charles Hammer—Another  Important Visalian
Well, here is another picture that was tucked away in the Albert Stroben photo collection. This unidentified and undated picture shows who I believe to be  Charles J. Hammer, owner of Hammer Machinery Co. The well-respected native Visalian was a successful businessman and served on the city council and served as mayor for a time in the 1930s. He was tireless in his civic involvement and he had a special love for local rodeo. Thanks again Tom for sharing. By the way the calendar on the wall advertises the Visalia Lumber Company, but the date is unclear. For those who can positively identify Charles Hammer in this photo, please let me know. I'd like to verify what I believe to be true.

Redwood High School Scrapbooks Surface
Recently I was contacted by Thomas Bowser, a student at Redwood High School, and he told me that his journalism instructor wanted to talk to me about a large number of Redwood High School scrapbooks.  A scrapbook was prepared each year by the journalism historian for the school. I talked with Nick Miller, a Redwood High School journalism teacher, who said that some years ago he witnessed the
"trashing" of the scrapbooks and admitted he just could not let them be destroyed. He "saved" them and kept them for years trying to figure out what to do with them. He and I talked and he asked if I knew of a home for the books, so I contacted Sheryll Strachen, a Tulare County Library staff member who works in the history room, and she accepted the 15 or so scrapbooks for the history room collection. Sheryll loves local history so I knew
what her answer would be. They are now saved in the History Room. The year ranges are  from  the 1960s through some in the 1990s, with obviously a number of the years missing. Thanks Nick, for dumpster diving to save these important historical scrapbooks packed with Redwood history. Shown here is a sample of the scrapbooks.

Etzenhauser Brickyard—Could It Be?
Ron Clevenger recently mentioned that in the 1960s he worked for Southern California Edison at the pole yard on Ben Maddox. He remembers while digging there with coworkers he found remnants of what he thought was a brickyard complete with kiln. Visalia had several brickyards in its history, and one in particular was in the area that he described. It was owned by a man named Etzenhauser and it was situated just east of Ben Madddox. Could Ron and his fellow workers have discovered what was left of Etzenhauser's Brickyard? This is a picture of the century-old brickyard in operation.

***Brian Blain asked about a farm "colony" near Farmersville. It was referenced with a November 1938 group photograph by the famous depression era photographer named Dorothea Lange. At the time the 500-acres farm was cooperatively run by about 10 families. The group farmed cotton, alfalfa and made dairy products. The group may have been called "Miner's Cooperative Farm." Has anyone ever heard of the colony?

***Dana Lubich reminds us that on June 24, 1983, nearly 31 years ago, the space shuttle Challenger landed at Edwards Air Force Base. Dana remembers that the Challenger's approach to the runway at Edwards was different on this mission in that as it approached the runway from the north, flying down the center of the San Joaquin Valley, it passed directly over Visalia and he remembers hearing  the "boom boom" here as it flew high above Bakersfield making its final approach to Edwards.

*** If you would like to know more about the historic Dudley House at Main and Giddings see the May, 2014 Lifestyle Magazine, page 18 or read it online at

Returned servicemen of this county were again entertained last evening at the "Welcome Home" dance given in their honor at the Municipal Auditorium. About 150 of the returned soldiers and sailors were in attendance and these together with a large number of local and out of town guests, spent the evening in the most enjoyable manner. It is estimated that about three hundred couples were on the floor at one time, this being the largest crowd of dancers with the exception of one other occasion, ever accommodated in the large auditorium.  Visalia Morning Delta, May 21, 1919