Sunday, January 10, 2010

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Tiles, Tiles & More Tiles
This beautiful set of tiles adorns a nice old building in Visalia. Where is it? Here are the clues:
1) The building opened for the first time in 1929.
2) “Quality Is Job 1” was a slogan connected to the business that operated in this building.
3) A man named William Fox had something to do with its construction
4) When built it had more “floor space” than any other building of its type in the county.
Where is this building? Good luck.

There are at least three of these iron couplers or curb clamps in Visalia. These 3 are near each other on the east curb line of Court Street between Main and Center streets. Have you seen them? Have you seen any more in Visalia? They are very interesting. It appears as if when the separate blocks of granite curbs were placed on the street, these iron couplers or clamps were used to keep the adjacent granite curb blocks in alignment. The clamps were probably forged in a Visalia blacksmith shop in the late 1800s or early 1900s.

Mearles Gets Tagged ! – Talk About Getting Hit When You’re Down!
Today I was told that Mearle’s got tagged. In the last day or two taggers got on the roof of the classic old drive-in and spray painted much of the upper portion. How much more can this old building take? The no trespassing cable surrounding the property is gone, glass panels on the front door have been smashed and now graffiti. This old Visalia landmark is crying out for attention. Is anyone listening?

“In Cold Blood” – A Visalia Connection
Recently, Kathy Miller, an HH subscriber asked a question that I found very interesting. Here is her email: “A friend of mine was reading a book by Truman Capote, “In Cold Blood”…it’s about a Kansas family brutally killed in cold blood and the search for the killers. The story takes place around 1959. Well, the mother that was killed had a brother who lived in Visalia, CA, his name is Harold Fox. Supposedly the story is true. The wife’s maiden name is Fox, and she married Herb Clutter. So my friend was wondering if the Fox family is still in Visalia.”

The murder that took place in the book In Cold Blood did take place in 1959. I do not realize it, but it is based on a true story and with this book, Capote introduced the “non-fiction” novel. The book describes how the husband (Herb), wife (Bonnie) and two children were murdered in Holcomb, Kansas. To help me run down the Visalia connection, I asked HH subscriber and super sleuth extraordinaire, Marian Shippey Cote to work the case. She indeed found information that led me to be the answer. Her work led me to Harold Fox, a 92-year old man living in rural Visalia. He in fact, was Bonnie’s brother. When I talked to him about the loss of his sister, he mentioned that in 1959, the year of the murders, he had declined all interviews with the press related to his sister death. Now he was willing to talk and we had a nice chat. He’s a very nice man, and thanks Kathy for the email, and thanks Marian for your investigative talent.

Dotty Dean Fire
A few weeks ago, Jan Morrison, HH subscriber, mentioned to me, what she called, the Dotty Dean fire. At the time it didn’t sound at all familiar to me. However, when she showed me the photograph, I knew exactly the fire she was referring to. I knew it as the Elks Club building fire. On December 1, 1959, mysteriously the old 1917-1918 building caught fire and burned beyond repair. Jan was at the fire with her father, Leo Morrison, who took this picture. The Elks building was in the heart of Visalia on the southwest corner of Main and Locust streets. The fire wiped out a nice classic old Visalia building.

Ralston Purina
Mary Alice Johnson, an HH subscriber and former employee of the Ralston Purina Co. here in Visalia shared some Ralston photos recently. The Ralston Purina Co. bought the milling company on on the southeast corner of Main and Santa Fe streets in about 1946. Here you can see the Ralston building with the Santa Fe Railroad Depot on the far right. The S. F. Depot sat on the southwest corner. Ralston Purina burned to the ground in 1967. Photographs of the Ralston Purina Co. are hard to come by, so thanks Mary Alice for making these available.

**Thanks to all of you who took time out to comment about the Vic Lombardi inquiry. As you recall, he was a former Brooklyn Dodger and several of you knew him or knew of him. Doug Rains also passed along that Al Gionfriddo also lived in Visalia and was on the 1947 Brooklyn Dodger team. Larry Baldassaro said that both Lombardi and Gionfriddo were inducted into the Dodger Hall of Fame in 1993. By the way, I believe Jackie Robinson got his start with the Dodgers in 1947, too.

** Mary Beattie, an HH subscriber, introduced me to her husband, David, the other night and he issued a challenge to me to find out some history on a man known as Smokey Yunick. I have asked around, checked all my resources and no luck. David is this a joke? Anyone know anything about a man who lived in our area named Smokey Yunick? Great name! I really need to know about him!

** The idea of placing historic plaques on old Visalia buildings is coming up again. I certainly hope it actually happens as we have some old time buildings that deserve the recognition.

** More buggy step donations have come in, including one from Steve Salomon, Visalia’s City Manager. His personal donation and the sizeable donation from the Kaweah Kollectors will make it possible to get the step restored this month. Could use more donations for the dedication event though. Thanks to all of you who have donated to this worthy project so far.

“That the practice of dumping trash in the streets, alleys and side walks of the city must cease was the declaration of City Street Superintendent Henry, Saturday.

The equivalent of 1,000 ordinary wagon loads of trash were hauled away by the city, the Street Superintendent said, during the recent cleanup campaign. The cost to the city was about $400.”
Visalia Morning Delta, May 3, 1914

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