Wednesday, October 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.   

Well, we have a winner! Shirley Kirkpartrick was the first to identify the short segment of railroad tracks still embedded in the pavement located on Oak Street next to the Visalia Times-Delta building. Good observation, Shirley, and fast too.

Okay everyone are you ready for the next one?  If so, where is this plaque embedded in the sidewalk? Here are your clues:

1) The location is on Main Street.
2) It is about 2 blocks from the site of Fort Visalia.
3) It is directly in front of Si Lovern's saloon site.
4) It is directly in front an existing building that was built in 1949.
Where is this Mystery Spot?

The Mysterious Shack 
The other day I was looking through some photographs working on a project  and noticed one image I hadn't looked at in quite a while. As I spent time studying the detail in this circa 1925 photo, I noticed something that I had never seen before. Next to the large brick structure ( almost looks like it is attached on the left) is a small building. It really blends in with its
huge neighbor. The little building says "The Shack - Root Beer and Light Lunches." Has anyone ever heard of The Shack? Of course it's gone now. The site is now part of the parking lot across the street from the downtown post office. This view is looking to the west side of Court St between Main and Acequia. Other signs on the large brick structure say W.O.W. (Woodmen of the World), Wing Bros, The Times (newspaper). Just thought I'd share this great old photo and I was wondering if anyone knows anything about The Shack?

The Former Home of the Times-Delta
Visalia is the oldest existing town in the valley between Los Angeles, nearly all the way to Stockton.  It had the first newspaper in the southern San Joaquin Valley (began in 1859.) Newspapers have played an important part in Visalia's history and the newspaper offices have been in a number of places around town. For over 47 years the Visalia Times-Delta has been at its current location at 330 No West Street. I strongly believe fewer and fewer people remember its previous location. The building shown here was the Visalia Times-Delta office for many years located at 214 W. Acequia—a building that is gone now. In April 1967, the Visalia Times-Delta moved from this location to their current home.

More On Yuet Sue's
As you may recall, Jaime Hitchcock recently asked about Yuet Sue's restaurant on So. Mooney Blvd. (where Denny's is now.) He asked specifically about what happened to the pair of decorative lions that welcomed you or some may say, scared you at the entrance to the restaurant. I had never seen a photo of the
restaurant and I didn't remember the  lions, so I couldn't really picture what the pair looked like. But thanks to many of you,  I was able to contact Gerald Sue, the son of  Yuet and Elsie Sue.  He was able to help solve at least part of the mystery. Thanks to Gerald, we now have at least a partial photograph of this famous Visalia restaurant. In this picture you can even see one of the decorative lions. By the way, Gerald began working at the family restaurant as a young boy while he was attending
Divisadero School. Yuet Sue's building was constructed in 1960 and the general contractor was Red Miner. About 1975 the restaurant closed and the building went through several different restaurant names and owners. Gerald does not know what happened to the lions. Maybe this photo will help figure out where they ended up. The last photo is of Yuet and Elsie Sue. Thanks to all of you who helped to track down Gerald. Thanks also to Jaime for giving us a mystery to at least partially solve. But the lion safari is not over!

David Bice James—A Pretty Amazing Man
Some time back Peter Neeley asked about one-time Tulare County resident David Bice James. He had done some research on this Tulare County and Visalia pioneer, and was curious as to where he died and where he was buried. I did not have the information, but recently I received a contact from Monica, a descendent of James. We exchanged material on him and she was able to tell us that David Bice James died in Fallon, Nevada,
Churchill County, in 1907.  However, Monica did not have his obituary and I would love to get a copy. Anyone have access to the Churchill County Eagle Newspaper for about August 1907?  Peter, thanks for putting the word out. I believe you are responsible for the contact I received from Monica. By the way James was very talented and among many things, he was the inventor of a one-rail railroad and actually demonstrated it in Visalia in 1879 on Main Street. James is identified as the man standing 2nd from the left in this circa 1896 photograph.

Las Palmas—Probably Visalia's 2nd Oldest Family Restaurant
Recently, Joseph Vicenti invited me to join him on a visit to Las Palmas Restaurant on E. Main Street. The building that houses this popular restaurant is in a wonderful old historic structure dating back to 1904 or so. Gilbert and Alicia Cortez own the building and restaurant, but the restaurant was started by Gilbert's parents, Louie and Lena. They opened Las Palmas originally in about 1943 on the west side of Garden Street
between Main and Center (now a parking lot.) In the fall of 1967, the Cortez family moved to their present location at 309 E. Main Street. Gilbert and Alicia are hands-on owners and are so proud of their restaurant, and they should be. They have a very loyal customer base. This couple prides themselves on "made from scratch" meals and they are also proud of their very old historic building.  This two-story building housed businesses prior to the Cortez family occupying it. It held the Pioneer Market, Money-Back Harry's, Edelstien's Mens Clothing, Soo's Meat Market, Fairway Meat Market and Lowrey Organ Company. All of those were on the ground floor at one time. The second story was once the St. Elmo House, Pioneer Apts, Cozy Rooms, and a boarding house. Thanks Joseph for arranging our visit to Las Palmas and thanks to Gilbert and Alicia for their gracious hospitality. They are shown here standing in the front of their building. The second photo shows the Garden Street location during the 1955-56 flood. Notice the sign above the entrance.

***Debbie Harland has a question. She was raised in Visalia and recently was "cruising the internet looking for reference to a corner market that was in Visalia when I was growing up called Allen Way Market. I remember it as being very small and plunked in the middle of a residential neighborhood over by Highland School. My friend there tells me it was near the Four Square Church. Any idea, or am I imagining things," she asks? Can anyone help Debbie?

***Barbara Tootle O'Dell is looking for information about her father's side (the Tootle side) of her family. Anyone with information on the Tootle family in Visalia, she would love to hear about it. By the way, her mom's mother, Celia Thompson owned Celia's Café near where the Red Carpet Car Wash is today. Anyone remember Celia's or members of the Tootle family?

***If you'd like to know more about the old "Good Templars Hall" on Court Street across from the old courthouse, pick up a copy of the September 2014 Lifestyle Magazine. There is an article with photos on the old time building starting on page 14. You can also read online by going to:

***Jo Audino remembers a Sportsman's Club banquet on Main Street maybe in June of each year. She also remembers a car show that may have had a bbq, and wonders if there was a connection. Or were the Main St food events separate? But she is specifically asking about the Sportsman's Club banquet. Anyone have any memories of that?

***Okay, I have more information on the old farm homestead at Caldwell and Linwood. The barn and tank house are still standing on the site. The site is being developed as the new home for a  Montessori school. For many years it was the ranch of Charles and Lucene Raibley. John Raibley believes they moved there in 1917. Go by and take a look. These relics of the past, namely the barns and tank houses, are disappearing very quickly in Tulare County. Thanks to all of you who led me to John Raibley for more information about this property.

Another much-needed permanent improvement which Visalia must make as soon as possible—if this city is to keep pace with other towns of the county and valley in attracting outsiders and tourists—is the main approaches to Visalia, those streets leading into the city from the east and north in particular. Approaches such as that on West Main Street for the principal roads into Visalia would be a wonderful betterment to this city; and it is hoped that the city board will find itself in a position to make these notable improvements soon. Visalia Daily Times, May 10, 1919

Thursday, September 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.   

Congratulations go to Peggy Bragg for correctly identifying the last mystery spot. She was the first identify the old Safeway Supermarket building on Center Street at Willis. The building now houses Smart and Final. Nice work Peggy!

Now for the next one.  This is an unusual mystery spot as it is not a building but rather remnants of a railroad spur left embedded in the street. Where is this track remnant? Here are your clues:
1) These tracks are on a street running east and west.
2) According to Spiro Agnew, a type of business near these provided lining for the bottom of birdcages.
3) I believe this spur line was once used to deliver products.
4) The cross street adjacent to these tracks was the west boundary of the earliest city boundaries.
Good luck!

Wreck of the Visalia-Tulare Railroad
Patricia Geiger recently asked about the train wreck involving the Visalia & Tulare Railroad. It is an interesting story and deserves a mention here. In 1888 a little commuter train was kicked off between the towns of Visalia and Tulare. The little line travelled  between Visalia and Tulare and back again. It struggled to stay alive financially, but its survival was not in the cards. On May 5, 1900 with 35 passengers onboard it left Visalia for Tulare. Cruising at about 20 mph near what is now Caldwell and Mooney, Engineer Inness was loading wood in the engine firebox and didn't see a cow,
some say calf, that wandered onto the tracks. Inness applied the brakes but not in time. He hit the animal and it wrecked the little train. The cow was killed and the accident was also fatal for the railroad. Shortly after the incident, the remaining rolling stock, rails, ties and other equipment was sold to a lumber company in Seattle. That ended the Visalia & Tulare Railroad.

More 1955 Flood Pictures Float to the Surface
Karyn Crowe Ruiz recently shared some photographs she found in her parent's house. Her parents, Dan and Shirley Crowe, both deceased, lived in Visalia and Karyn was cleaning out the house when she found some 1955 flood photos. These two show some
interesting birds eye views of Visalia during the infamous flood. Notice the Christmas decorations and all the business signs on both of these pictures. The marquee at the Fox advertises Martin & Lewis in "Artists and Models" and the marquee also mentions Walt Disney's "Music Land" in Technicolor. The other photograph shows a view northbound on Locust from about Main Street. Notice Chan Bros. Market, Purity Store, Main Drug and the old Jordan Building ( Charley’s Shoes ). All these buildings still stand today.

Yuet Sue's—A Hunt for a Photograph
Jaime Hitchcock is looking for a photograph of Yuet Sue's restaurant. It was was once located at 2332 So. Mooney Blvd. (where Denny's Restaurant is now.) He remembers the entrance to the restaurant which had two decorative lions in front, one on each side of the entrance. Sometime while the restaurant was still operating, the lions disappeared. Were they stolen, salvaged, or destroyed? No one seems to know. We are on the hunt for a picture of  Yuet Sue's so we can see the lions. Anyone have a photo or information  about the lions? By the way, this is a souvenir ashtray from the restaurant.

J. Thomas Crowe—Well-known Visalia Attorney
Karyn Crowe Ruiz also found in her parent's belongings some photographs of  her grandfather, J. Thomas Crowe. Tom Crowe , as he was called, was a prominent attorney as well as a well-respected community leader. In 1970 Tom became the only attorney from the San Joaquin Valley to ever serve as President of the California State Bar. He was a lifelong Boy Scout advocate and
in 1980 he was given the 1st  Distinguished Citizen award from the Mt. Whitney area council for the Boy Scouts. In 1936 he married Wanda Walston of Visalia, and three children resulted from that marriage—Marilyn, John and Dan. Tom Crowe was named Grand Marshall of the Rodeo Parade in 1970 and is shown here with his wife Wanda.

Acequia— Wow Have We Slaughtered the Pronunciation!
Recently, I was listening to a historical podcast and the narrator was talking about water and irrigation on the land that is now in New Mexico. He kept referring to a small irrigation channel that he pronouncedd "a say kia". I was intrigued by the word and finally realized he was using the correct Spanish pronunciation for the word we are all familiar with: Acequia as in Acequia Avenue. I understand California is full of Spanish names like Sierra Nevada, Los Angeles, Santa Clara, and so on, and frequently, the Anglo pronunciation is a little different from the Spanish. The Anglo pronunciation of Acequia isn't anything like the Spanish pronunciation. If you'd like to hear the exact pronunciation of the word, go to:  In the search bar at the top, type the word acequia and click search. Midway down in bold is the word acequia with a little speaker next to it. Click on the speaker and hear the correct pronunciation of acequia. I think you will be surprised.

***Dana Lubich checked with Central Valley Community Bank, the successor to Visalia Community Bank, and asked if the yearly historical calendar was going to continue. He was told it would not. Too bad as this calendar had a good run. Maybe some other business will pick up the historical calendar idea.

***Barb Armo asked about cotton crops around Visalia. She remembers a lot of them in the earlier years, and remembers a group of women who called themselves Cotton Wives. What happened to the local cotton crops and what happened to Cotton Wives? Anyone know?

***Recently, Jas David Lacey noticed the old barn and tank house at the corner of Caldwell & Linwood. These old structures had been hidden for so many years and because of some clearing of land, they are now exposed. Does anyone know anything about the old farmhouse history or the property history? It is on the northeast corner of Linwood and Caldwell. Drive by and take a look.

***If you'd like to know more about the historic Armory Hall here in Visalia, pick up a copy of the August 2014 Lifestyle Magazine and on page 50 you can read about the interesting old building, or you can read it online at:

***There is a skateboard museum in Morro Bay and when Paul Spencer visited it, he heard through the owner that the skateboard park that used to be at Mooney's Grove "was the very first skateboard park built in the United States." Does anyone know anything about this distinction?


His head swelled, his voice is harsh,
When he awakes at morn.
Because each night he loves to drink
The well-aged juice of corn.
The Visalia Daily Morning Delta, January 2, 1900  Note: Published  right after a big New Year's bash, I'm sure!

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