Sunday, December 27, 2009

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Thanks for visiting Historic Happenings! Happy New Year and wish everyone the best in 2010! If you are not on the email list yet, 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 not share your email address with anyone without your permission.

This issue is an abbreviated one because of the introduction of Rover, the new treasure hunt challenge. Read more about Rover below. Historic Happenings will be back to its usual features shortly.

Congratulations go out to Virginia Strawser who was the first to identify the Mystery Spot location of the Fred Uhl building. It was a tough one and less than 10 of you got it right. It’s not surprising as this marking is high on the north building face, camouflaged among the trees. The Fred Uhl building can be found on the southeast corner of Church and Main streets, the site of the Gray Horse Harness Shop for many many years

No new Mystery Spot this issue.

Rover has arrived! Get on the Trail For a Great Treasure Challenge
Well, you’ve all been very patient and now its time to introduce to you Rover, the bloodhound. Rover is the mascot for the new Visalia history treasure hunt challenge, more specifically called Rootin’ Out Visalia’s Exciting Record or Rover for short. It’s the treasurer hunt I’ve been preparing you for. Bloodhounds, as you know, are recognized for their tracking abilities—just let them sniff the clues and get out of their way and they will find their target.

Shortly, you will be given an opportunity to be like Rover—sniffing out the clues and going after the prize. Of course, if you choose not to participate that is okay too. Regardless, you will continue to receive the regular Historic Happenings newsletters. But if you decide to take part in Rover, you will find it fun, challenging and rewarding! When will Rover begin? See Matthew 24:36 in the Christian Bible for the answer to that. To be eligible to participate and win, you must be on the Historic Happenings list before January 1, 2010. So, if you know someone who you think would like to be part of Rover, they must email or contact me requesting to be put on the free HH list.

Rover rules will be included in the release of the first clue, that will begin the challenge. The rules and clue will be the next posting you receive from me. There are a few of you who get HH by USPS First Class mail, so you’ll get your Rover rules and first clue by mail. The rest will get the clue via this website. For those of you not on the computer, it will be essential that you have access to someone who can check the Historic Happenings website at Maybe a friend or family member could help with this. Now is the time to find someone. Throughout the Rover challenge, I may need to provide updates and announcements, and the internet is the only way to do that to large numbers in a timely manner. An example of such an announcement might be when someone solves the challenge—I will announce on the HH website that there is a winner and Rover is over. Once a winner is announced, there is no need to continue. So it is important to stay in touch with the HH website. Those getting Rover over the internet should check the HH website often at

A number of you HH subscribers are former Visalians but now live away from our city. It is essential for you to have contact with a friend or relative that lives in or near Visalia. Rover will require a human visit to certain locations within Visalia to retrieve the next clue. Again for you ex-patriots, having a contact in or close to Visalia is essential.

Clues will require some historical knowledge or research capability. Knowledge of Visalia history will be a big part of solving clues and certain general research tools will be helpful.

Books you might consider consulting:
1) The Way It Was by Annie R. Mitchell
2) Visalia, Her First 50 Years by Annie R. Mitchell
3) Visalia – A Pictorial History by Visalia Heritage
4) Visalia, Then & Now by Terry L. Ommen
Other resources:
1) Internet
2) Tulare County Library
3) Tulare County Library History Room

Now for the Prize
The lucky winner of Rover will receive an original vintage City of Visalia Fire Alarm Box. The box marked #49 had been mounted at the corner of Clark and Main streets for many years, this being the eastern most alarm on Main Street. It was manufactured by the Gamewell Fire Alarm and Telegraph Company out of New York and on the front in large raised letters it says Fire Alarm Telegraph Station. In large numbers it is marked 49. The cast iron box measures about 19” high, about 13” wide and about 8” deep. It weighs about 65 lbs. It has seen some use as there is a repair crack across the entire front door, although the door is solid an intact now. The inner mechanism appears to be complete and the mechanism goes thru its motions when the lever is pulled. The key is in the front door so you can access the inner workings. I honestly believe, with the right electronics person, it could be made to work. It’s a beauty now but with some cleaning and restoration it would be even better-----a great conversation piece and just think, a really nice relic from Visalia’s past.

This box was removed from Visalia streets in 1959 I believe, and was part of an electric fire alarm system, believed to have been installed in 1910.

When a fire was observed, the reporting party would break the little glass window, turn the key, open the door and pull the lever. That lever would send a telegraph signal to the fire house identifying the box number and location of the box. The fire department would respond to that location. An internal bell inside the box would ring.

In the early 1970s, J. M. Bragg purchased this fire box at a city surplus auction at the Visalia Airport and he has had it ever since. Thanks to J.M. and his wife Peggy, this relic of an earlier Visalia can be yours. These two HH members have generously donated this fire alarm box to the Rover winner.

Important Notice: The winner is responsible for picking up the fire box in Visalia. It is heavy ( 65 lbs ) and can not be shipped. No one connected to any of the clues is eligible to win the prize.

Rover is about to start the hunt
So get ready for a hoot.
The clues will be out in front
To help you find the loot.

Any questions up to this point you can email or call me (559) 901 3227.

“And now we hurry home, stopping for a day at Visalia—we think one of the most beautiful of all the beautiful towns in our beautiful State, a village amid trees and through which runs a river, and on the banks of which the vegetation is semi-tropical; a village of health and beauty, scandalized by jealous neighbors; a village whose streets are thronged in business, and in the suburbs of which are vine-covered trees, embowered cottage homes, and homes of greater pretensions and architectural attractions; a village surrounded by the best and best-improved lands of Tulare County.” Words of Frank M. Pixley, newspaperman and namesake for the town of Pixley, California. Visalia Weekly Delta, August 12, 1886.

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