Friday, December 17, 2010

Click on photo for larger image
Thanks for visiting Historic Happenings! 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.

Wow, it’s four in a row for James Hitchcock. He sure knows his architecture. Congratulations again James! The last mystery spot he identified was the Jordan Building built by John F. Jordan in about 1888.  Thanks for all of you who gave it that good ole college try.

Now for the new one. Where is this building? Here are your clues:
1)      The building officially opened in 1923
2)      Building was built for $300,000
3)      The numbers in the address add up to 11
4)      It sets on a corner
Good luck.

Houston Ave
Houston Ave was named for the pioneer Houston family. James Houston came to Visalia about 1860. While here, he and his wife, Frances, had 11 children and reportedly, James was a second cousin to Sam Houston of the “lone star state.”

Annie R. Mitchell – A Nice Reminder
Recently Russ Dahler shared a portion of an old Visalia Times Delta newspaper dated April 15, 1969 in which the reporter at the time, J. C. Hickman (who by the way is a follower of HH), wrote a full page article about local history with an emphasis on Annie R. Mitchell and her contributions. Annie did so much to help us understand and appreciate Visalia's past. Born in 1906 in the now Tulare County ghost town of Tailholt or White River, Annie gave her first local history presentation in 1933. So many people knew her and respected her. In 2000 this Tulare County native, who generously shared so much with us, passed away. J.C. do you remember this full page story and your interview with her? It must have been a memorable conversation.  Thanks for doing it and thanks also to Russ for this old reminder of a great lady.

Mid Town Lanes – Bowling on Acequia
Recently, Marian Shippey Cote received some old slides from former Visalian Lloyd Ellis. In the group of slides was a series of Mid Town Lanes bowling alley photographs. Mid Town Lanes was here in 1950s and was located on Acequia just west of where Mid Town News is now. (The corner of Church and Acequia.) This 1959 photo shows what appears to be a remodel/upgrade project  in progress. On the forklift is what I believe to be a new pin setter. The bowling alley/building is gone today; it moved from here to Mooney Blvd. By the way, notice the green parking meter just to the rear of the forklift. Thanks, Lloyd and Marian for sharing.

Fort Visalia, Can You Dig It?
Well, the Fort Visalia story is really out there now. Lots of buzz! The city now owns the site of the birthplace of Visalia. What will happen at this site? What ideas do you have? A fully re-created fort? Only a segment of the fort re-created? A kiosk with an artist rendering of the fort in a courtyard area? Let's hear your ideas and let the creative juices flow. By the way, I think some serious archeology might be in order for the site. This would help us understand how the earlier settlers lived their lives. Are there any archeologists out there? Any of you know an archeologist?

San Francisco & San Joaquin Valley Railroad Arrives – Souvenir Survives
In 1897 Visalia cheered at the arrival of a new railroad that came into town; a railroad that was going to provide competition to the oftentimes hated Southern Pacific.  With a competitive RR, lower rates for both travel and for freight were in store. When the train arrived for the first time in 1897, the biggest crowd ever assembled in Visalia’s history was there to greet it. Many of those in attendance were wearing souvenir pins like this one. Recently, a man found this one while going through his grandfather’s belongings. It’s a great old example of how important this event was to Visalia. By the way, the San Francisco and San Joaquin Valley Railroad soon became the Santa Fe Railroad. As a result, East Street was later changed to Santa Fe Avenue.

Good Old Days  -- Willie Greenlaw
Dana Lubich shared this want ad that he found in the current issue (Nov-Dec 2010) of Good Old Days magazine, a magazine with national circulation. Anyone know anything about this baseball player named William “Willie” K. Greenlaw? According to the ad he played minor league baseball in Visalia in 1958. Good eye Dana, now let's see if we can solve this one.

***Recently I received the biography on Florence Faria, the lady who owned the Visalia sweater that was mentioned in the previous HH posting. She was a long term Visalia area resident and I have a fairly complete history on her.  If you’re at all interested in knowing more about her, let me know.

***Recently I heard from an old friend, Tony Cornett, who shared many of his early Visalia memories with me. One that especially caught my attention was  about Visalia police officer Floyd Depew. Tony first met Floyd as a small child and sadly was on the ambulance that took Floyd to the hospital before he died. Thanks Tony for sharing.

***I recently received an email from Monty Sands who asked about a metal tower that he remembers in the 1940s or early 1950s on Hwy 198. He said in part, “I was just a young boy. The metal tower was east of the airport on the same side of the road.” He said it was there for years. He was just curious if anyone new anything about the tower; he thinks it could have had an advertisement for the gas company on it. Any help would be appreciated.

***In the last HH issue, an old segment of the old freeway 99 was shown and one of readers inquired about the pipe that seemed to stand out near the old roadway. What could that pipe have been used for? Any ideas? A little bit of a mystery here.

***Virginia Strawser is the current chair of the Historic Preservation Advisory Committee for the City of Visalia. They have several vacancies on the committee so anyone interested in historic preservation issues should contact the City of Visalia via their website or contact me and I will connect you with Virginia so she can answer any questions. Looks like a good opportunity here.

***Recently I was contacted by someone who found HH on the internet and she asked about a stable involving her father William Bowen. I was able to find the stable he owned. It was the Palace Stable across the street from where the Fox Theatre is now. The stable would have been there in the late 1800s and early 1900s. She was thrilled to get the information and a photo.

***A few issues ago, I mentioned the Happy Go Lucky Dance Hall in connection with other dance halls in the Visalia area. I have since received an inquiry specifically about the Happy Go Lucky, so if anyone knows anything about it, like location or anything else pertaining to it, I would appreciate the information.  

“The Visalia Silver Cornet Band gave the town a serenade on Friday , much to the pleasure of citizens in general. The band has made marked improvement in the few short months it has been organized, and is deserving of much praise. The several pieces played were mastered thoroughly and would be a credit to any band. We congratulate the boys upon their success." Visalia’s Tulare Times, April 14, 1877. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Click on photo for larger image
Thanks for visiting Historic Happenings! 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.

Wow, James Hitchcock has done it again. For the 3rd time in a row he has been the first one to identify the Mystery Spot. This time he correctly identified the Dudley House on the northwest corner of Main and Giddings. This beautifully restored home is now a business office. Benjamin and Helen Dudley built this beautiful structure in about 1915.  Amazing house and amazing work, James—congratulations!

Now for the new one. Where is this building? Here are your clues:
  1. The building was built in or before  1888
  2. It was built to be an “abstract” company
  3. Originally it was called the Jordan Building
  4. The vault in this building has been converted to a wine cellar
Good luck.

Burke Street
James M. Burke, born in Placer County, California in 1879, came to Tulare County and served as a Tulare County Deputy District Attorney from 1911 through 1919.  He was also in  private practice and was on the Visalia City Council for a number of years. Burke was well respected and was involved in many civic activities and   played a leading role in the creation of Central Valley [Water] Project. He died in 1940 and a Visalia street is named in his honor.

The Habit Moves Forward with Mearle’s
Things seem to be moving along with The Habit’s plan to open their restaurant in the 1940s Mearles’ building. A meeting was held recently with “The Habit” executives and they seem excited. They chose the site because of its amazing history and plan to incorporate and honor as much of it as they can. It’s just another great example of how historic buildings attract positive attention and become the reason businesses are attracted to them. Enlightened businesses recognize that history sells! The new restaurant will not be Mearle’s but it will be a new chapter in the life of this 70-year landmark building.

Remnants of the Golden State Highway Found
Sometime back, Dana Lubich shared a discovery he made. After looking at an old airport photograph showing part of Hwy 99, Dana got an itch to go exploring. He looked at satellite images of the area and walked the airport/Hwy 99 area and guess what, he found remnants of the old Golden State Highway or what we now call Freeway 99. Shown here is a fairly recent satellite image of the Caldwell overpass at Hwy 99 and it was near there he found small sections of the old concrete roadway. By the way, I don’t recommend exploring freeway areas as they can be dangerous. Dana is a a very talented history detective and his discovery is very interesting. Exactly how far back these old concrete remnants date is unclear, but we know that pavement, not concrete was used on the roadways in the 1920s thru at least the 1930s. Thanks for sharing, Dana.  

Have you ever wondered why the railroad tracks coming into Visalia from the west have a dramatic curve near Recreation Park/Rawhide Stadium? They didn’t always. When the first train depot was established in Visalia in the 1870s near the stadium, the tracks were straight and ended at the depot. When the depot moved to Oak and Church streets (Depot Restaurant site) in the 1890s, the tracks had to be extended. In order to lay the tracks to the new depot, with an Oak Street alignment, an “S” curve was necessary. This photograph, looking west, shows a part of that curve at Oak and Johnson streets.

69-Year Old Visalia Sweater Surfaces
Recently, I was contacted by a man who lives in Fresno and he shared an interesting piece of Visalia history. It is a dark green Visalia High School girl’s sweater with a “V41” patch on it. It is absolutely gorgeous in design and condition. It belonged to Florence Faria, who was a relative of the Fresno man’s wife and Florence attended school here. Anyone out there know her? According to the label it was sold at Schwabs in Visalia, but I can’t find any information on Schwabs. Does that sound familiar to anyone? Notice also the little metal pin on the pocket that says “Fight Infantile Paralysis” which is more commonly called Polio. Really amazing piece of Visalia history!

Ideas Needed for Fort Visalia Block
As was mentioned in a previous HH, the City is in escrow on the old site of Fort Visalia—a place recognized really as the beginning of the town. Ideas have been circulating about how best to commemorate the landmark site. Should we re-create the fort, re-create part of the fort, or do something else to recognize the birthplace of the city. If you have any ideas please share those with me and I will make sure they get to the appropriate people. Susan Mangini, and architect Michael Kreps are working on some ideas as well. No pictures exist of the old 1852-53 fort, but we have a word description and based on that, here is a rendering of the fort prepared by Dave Smith. We have a real opportunity here so let the ideas flow!

***Bill Allen asked recently about 2 black lava rock houses (both in the shape of a conical beehive) that reportedly were on the outskirts of Visalia. Someone mentioned them to him, but we don’t know anything about them, including location. Anyone ever heard of them?

***Claudia Allred Ward is on the hunt for the builder of the “McSwain Mansion”---the beautiful house on the southwest corner of Court and Tulare avenues. The house is now a dentist’s office but was made famous by Dr. Thomas O. McSwain an early occupant. Dr. McSwain is the grandfather of Claudia and any help in trying to pin down builder or date of construction would be appreciated.

***More famous Visalia visitors are being added to the list. Karen Kirkpatrick recently added Bob Feller (famous baseball hall of famer). She also added Buddy Epson (actor). But clearly her favorites are Mike Lookinland and Christopher Knight. Both of these gentlemen are better known as Bobby and Peter Brady, stars of the old tv show “The Brady Bunch.”

***Some of you continue to try to identify the old Acme Beer delivery truck that was posted a few HH issues ago. I think Jay Belt has found the answer—a 1936 C-1 International.

***A number of you have visited San Antonio, Texas and have enjoyed their river walk. Couldn’t a segment of Visalia’s Mill Creek become a river walk? Jennifer Allen Gomez wonders about pedestrian and recreational trails along the exposed waterway!

“Tuesday morning, after a most refreshing rain during Monday night, clearing the atmosphere and washing the leaves of our majestic oaks, afforded a most beautiful view from the dome of our courthouse. We observed for several hours citizens gazing, stretching their optics towards the lofty peaks eastward, and level plain westward, toward Tulare Lake. The view that morning was grand and Professor Bienstadt would find it a profitable occupation to devote a morning and evening to observation, as it will realize him a rich scene of Tulare valley, not to be excelled anywhere in the state. The dome of our courthouse has become a favorite place of observation.” Visalia’s Tulare Times, June 2, 1887 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thanks for visiting Historic Happenings! 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.

Congratulations go out to James Hitchcock for getting the latest Mystery Spot correct. The mystery photo was taken on the east side of the Jacob Building which is located on the southwest corner of Church and Main streets. (Visalia Coffee Co. is there no.) There are many granite features built into this building--a building built by Elias Jacob in 1894.

Here’s the new one. Where is this building? Here are your clues:

  1. This building was built in the mission revival style.
  2. The architect was Alvin J. Stern.
  3. The building has a carriage house adjacent it.
  4. It stood near the “smallest park in the world” for many years.
Good luck!

Murray Ave.

Murray Ave was once called North Street in the town’searly years and was the north boundary of the original Visalia townsite. The street name was changed to Murray in honor of Abram Hunter Murray, a pioneer born in 1827 in Missouri and

who came to Visalia in1852. He was one of the first settlers here and actually lived in the stockade that became known as Fort Visalia.

Rare Old Kern County Pioneer Photograph

Found in Visalia

A nice story of discovery came to light recently, a story that connects a long time Visalian’s grandfather with the Frazier Mine, and Frazier Mountain at Frazier Park, CA. Betty Treaster has long known that her grandfather (William Frazier) and his brother were the discoverers of the Frazier Mine in Southern Kern County. She found a photo of William recently and showed it to me. I contacted Bonnie Kane, a Kern County historian. She has written several books and is connected to the museum on the Ridge Route and I mentioned the photograph to her. She said she had historical information about William, but no photo. Betty allowed me to send her a copy of the photo and she was excited about adding it to the historic collection dealing with Frazier Park. It was a nice find and it just points out that there are are new discoveries lurking out there everywhere, waiting to be discovered. Thanks Betty for your discovery. Who knows what other secrets lie in old boxes of photographs, letters or documents!

House Becomes Insurance Office

Peter Cowper was going through some old family slides recently and came across this old “neighborhood parade” (December 1949)

slide with an image of himself in the wagon being pulled by his sister Judi. In the background is the house on the southeast corner of Tulare and Crow streets and was occupied at the time by the Lindsay family. The Lindsay house in the background still stands and is now the Allstate Insurance Co. Nice to see old homes saved and turned into offices. Thanks Peter and Judi for sharing your family pictures.

Mearle's Coming Back to Life?

Could it be true! After months of rumors and hushed conversation, could Mearle’s again be ready to open? The Valley Voice newspaper and Fresno Channel CBS47 recently scooped the Mearle’s story. The Habit Burger Grill has apparently worked out some agreement with the property owners of Mearle’s. It is not clear what the agreement involves yet, but I’m sure in the next days and weeks, details will follow. Pick up a copy of the latest Valley Voice or go online at To see Channel 47’s online story go to Could be some exciting times a comin’!

Old Scrapbook Discovered

Recently while the Visalia Parks & Recreation Department was going thru their historic scrapbooks, they discovered one scrapbook unrelated to Parks & Recreation. They are not sure how it got in their collection but they would really like to get it back to its rightful owner. Lots of old photos of people inside, labeled with names like, Frank Burchett, Roxie Delia Burchett, Alice Burchett, Ethel Nichols, Lulu Burchette, Juck Nodine, Ernest Schmelzia, Mr. Webster and family and Ada Melvina Medlock. Please let me know if any of these names sound familiar as the Parks & Rec people would really like to return it to the original owner.

Mill Creek—Way Down Under

As you know, historic Mill Creek flows under downtown Visalia. The waterway is one ofthe reasons the town was founded.It provided much needed water to the settlers. Recently, I had an opportunity to accompany Patrick Barszcz and actually go in the subsurface channel where it drops under Santa Fe between Main and Center. How exciting it was to be there knowing that the creek had been covered for over a century. Mill Creek is a historical asset and cries out for creative ideas to capitalize on its unique qualities as a historic water feature. Anyone been to San Antonio's Riverwalk?

Fort Visalia Coming Back?

Well, the old Fort Visalia site (northeast corner of Garden and Oak) looks like it might become city property. If that happens, part of the block could become a commemorative or legacy site for the fort that once stood there in 1852-53. So now those with an interest in the past have an opportunity to offer creative ideas for at least part of that historic block. A Sutter Fort type replica? A portion of the fort built on the site? A nice plaque with a raised relief of the fort’s image? Start thinking about the possibilities and I know Susan Mangini would love to her some of your ideas. It has been a dream of hers for a long time to do something about that Fort Visalia site. Stay tuned!

Nice Photo Surfaces!

Recently, George Reece sent me this great old 1946 photo. It shows his father, Paul Reece in the middle between Visalia Police Chief Paul Finley on the left and Frank Bentzen who at the time was the Identification Officer for VPD on the right. In 1947, Bentzen became Visalia’s new police chief. Thanks George for sharing this nice old photo.

***In the last HH, Dennis Whistler asked for help in the identification of all the young ladies in a photograph he found in an old house. Shortly after HH was released, Dana Lubich’s mother, Patricia Morris, identified the unknown ladies in the photograph. The power of networking really paid off. Thanks Patricia for your eagle eye.

***Also in the last HH, a photograph of the celebrity, Aunt Jemima, was included when she visited Visalia. A number of you contacted me and mentioned other celebrities that had visited Visalia in the past and we had a lot of them. Bill Fuller mentioned Richard Nixon came here when he was running for California State Senator; Art Browning mentioned several, Gov. Pat Brown, Goodwyn Knight, Ricky Nelson, Ray Charles, Tom T. Hall, Johnny Rivers, The Platters, Coasters, The Drifters, Willie Nelson, Ben Johnson, and Tex Ritter.

***And again in the last HH a nice old photo of the Acme Beer delivery truck was included. A number of you took a stab at the year and make of the pickup truck and the guesses included 1937 International C-1, 1936 or ’37 Chevy, 1941 or ’42 International. So it appears to be anyone’s guess, but we got the idea.

***Justeson’s continues to be a topic of historical discussion. Several of you wrote about experiences at Justeson’s, but Rod Robinson shared, “I was too young to remember, but my father, Wayne Robinson, worked at Justeson’s with the fellow that founded Sheperd’s Market in Patterson Tract. My father left Justeson’s to go to work delivering milk to the ‘mom and pop’ stores in Tulare County for Knudsen’s Creamery. After that he went into partnership with Sleepy Sutton to form the S & R Market on Pine and Filbert in Exeter.”

"Wonder if all Visalians have noticed the view of the mountains from this city recently? We very much doubt whether any part of the country affords the sight of such a beautiful mountain range. The Sierra Nevadas of Tulare County are a delight both in winter and in summer. They are an asset which the county should prize highly.” Visalia Daily Times, January 18, 1913

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Click on photo for larger image.
Thanks for visiting Historic Happenings! 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.

Congratulations go out to James Hitchcock for correctly identifying the last mystery spot. This was a tough one and only a handful of you got it right. Thanks to all for trying. I also want to thank Peter Cowper for suggesting this interesting façade as a mystery spot. By the way, a short time after James correctly identified it, Jay Belt identified it also and sent a link which simply amazed me. If you'd like to see the link on Google Maps, let me know and I'll email it to you. It's quite interesting. Thanks Jay for pointing out that technology can be a helpful in all sorts of ways.

This façade was the building that housed Adeline Marie’s, a clothing store at 114 So Locust owned by Emma Martel. Thanks Duane Copley for remembering the name of business. At another time the building was either a part of Justeson’s Market or adjacent to it. When I mentioned Justeson’s, it elicited a reaction from several of you. Carole Mathewson remembered Justeson’s as a child and recalls proudly walking through the market with a box of animal crackers dangling by a string from her waist. Remember the little string on the box of animal crackers? Sometimes it’s the tiny little things we remember. Rita Loffland Cooley can remember exactly where the drinking fountain was in the back of the Justeson’s store.

Now for the next mystery spot. Where is this building? Here are the clues:
1) The granite used in this building came from the Rocky Point Granite Works.
2) The building was built in 1894.
3) Elias Jacob built the building.
4) The site at one time housed the Masonic Lodge.
Good luck to you.

Acme Beer Remembered
Ann Shaw recently shared with me a great old Visalia photo. It shows a man, Herbert Turner, standing by his Acme Beer delivery truck which was parked in front of the J. E. Frame Wholesale Liquor dealership. This is the same dealership that Ann’s father worked at delivering beer and she has fond memories of riding with him in his delivery truck. This liquor dealership was located on Murray Ave about where Glick’s Meat Market was for years. Nice one, Ann! Anyone know the make and year on this truck?

Linwood Street
In 1890 the acreage around what is now Linwood and 198 was undeveloped and still a huge oak forest covered in grass. One of Visalia’s prominent pioneers, Tipton Lindsey (no connection to either the town of Tipton or Lindsay) bought the land and two years later transformed it into a showcase fruit producing area. He called it Lindwood Colony or Linwood Colony, I’ve seen it both ways. Somehow when the street was named the "d" was dropped, but it is clearly connected to Tipton Lindsey's premier fruit growing region.

Do You Remember “Alice in Wonderland,” Rated X at the Fox?
Photographer James “Jim” Davis, now deceased, captured on film a rather rare scene and one that I have only read about. As you can see in this photo, the marquee says “Alice in Wonderland” X Rated. This movie was released in 1976 and is considered the last film that was shown at the Fox Theatre prior to its conversion to a tri-plex which was started in 1976. James Davis had lots of photographic experience in the Navy and I’m told he was a long-time employee of the Edison Company. Thanks to him, we have this historical Fox photo and thanks Peter Cowper for sharing it with us.

Mystery Photograph Found Tucked Away ---- Need Help On This One!
Dennis Whistler, a Visalia architect and his associates, purchased a home at 904 W. Main Street, and converted it into their office. In the mid 1970s, Dennis found a small negative stuck behind a built-in buffet and he had it developed. Through investigative work, he has identified Nancy Iseman on the right who he said later married Leo Swanson. He identified Chris Akers, second from the right who later married Keith Devine. The others remain unknown and requests help from anyone who knows who they might be. He thinks the group might be from the class of 1949. Let me know and I’ll pass it along to Dennis.

Remember These Old Auto Symbols?
Russ Dahler shared this old photograph with us. It shows the advertising logos on the building that at one time was the Claude Allred Dealership at the corner of Bridge and Main streets in Visalia. Later Arnold Wiebe occupied the building and it was when the Wiebe dealership was there that the old ad logos were uncovered on the backside of the building. This building was demolished to make way for the multiplex Regal Theater that is there now. The old Larson Hotel can be seen in the background on the right hand side of the photo and of course it is now gone, too. There is something very nostalgic about these old automobile logos, don’t you think? By the way this photo is dated on the back, November 1988.

Pancakes Anyone -- A Celebrity Comes to Visalia
Betty Treaster shared something interesting with me a couple of weeks ago. She and her husband Lyman, now deceased, belonged to Visalia’s Sequoia Lions Club and she remembered when Aunt Jemima came to the club for “Pancake Day.” The Quaker Oats Co. would send Aunt Jemima out to promote their products and this photo dated December 1, 1955, indicates she had come to Visalia. It was taken at the Orchid Room in the old Moose Club and this picture shows Aunt Jemima and Lyman Treaster. Anyone know anything about this visit or any other celebrities that paid Visalia visit?

***Success! The Star Laundry explosion information made it to the right person. Pat Hanson’s grandmother was injured in that explosion and was listed in the newspaper articles at the time.

***Rosie Longan wanted me to pass along this important information. The Sequoia Genealogical Society is in its new beautiful home in the new Tulare Library. It is located at 475 No. “M” Street, telephone 685-2342; hours of operation are 11:00am to 3:00pm Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Wednesday’s from 3:00pm to 7:00pm.

***Regarding John Brackett, Jan Andrews his daughter said, "Dad worked for the Times Delta before it was acquired by Gannett. I believe the sale occurred a year after he retired. Dad worked for Bob Speidel from 1948 to approximately 1966. Ed Quilla succeeded Bob Speidel as publisher and was transferred to Poughkeepsie, New York after a year or so and then dad was named publisher."

“Dance Music – That Will Make the Sap Run in a Wooden Leg.” Part of an advertisement for Visalia’s Sierra Park, Visalia Morning Delta, July 13, 1926.