Wednesday, January 27, 2010

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James Hitchcock was the first to correctly identify the Mystery Spot tile pattern as being on the old 1928 Biswell and Mahoney Building on the southeast corner of Garden and Center streets. This was the brick building the Ford dealership built after they sold the W. Main Street property to the William Fox organization for the Fox Theatre. It is now occupied by Provost & Pritchard. Good job James on quickly identifying the location and congratulations to all of you who were able to get it right.

Another Mystery Spot—Are You Ready?
This bronze plaque is mounted on an old tile water feature in Visalia. Where is the water feature? Here are your clues:
1) The water feature is visible from Main Street
2) The water feature has an Italian neighbor
3) The water feature resides in a grassy area between a creek and military veterans
4) The wooded area is named after Visalia’s highest ranking elected official.
OK so where is the plaque? Good Luck!

Smokey Yunick—Not Just Another Sequoia Field Cadet
As you may recall, I mentioned in the last HH that I was given a challenge by David Beatie who asked if I knew of a man named Smokey Yunick in Visalia’s history. I didn’t, so I put the question out to HH readers. Several of you indicated you knew the name and knew of his connection to auto racing, but did not know any connection to Visalia. But one of the responses I received was quite a surprise. The email came from Daytona Beach, Florida, and it was from Trish Yunick, Smokey’s daughter. She told me that Henry “Smokey” Yunick, her father, had trained at Sequoia Field as a pilot during World War II. I called her by telephone to ask more about him and she explained her dad had discribed his Visalia experiences in his autobiography called Best Damn Garage in Town. She indicated she had a website, so if you’d like to check out the book, you can see it at Thanks Trish, for your help in solving the Smokey Yunick mystery. Sounds like he was a very special guy and he really was part of our history! David, how’s that for solving the challenge? Do you have any more information to add to the story of Smokey? Both of these photographs are of Smokey. One of them shows him standing at the Visalia Gateway sign ( anyone know where this sign was? ) and the other is his class photo which appeared in the 1944 Sequoia Field Propwash 44B Class Book. Trish, if you do not have a Propwash photo of your dad let me know and I will make you one.

Apple Orchards in Visalia? You Betcha!
Marian Shippey Cote was one of the winners of the ROVER (Rootin’ Out Visalia’s Exciting Record) challenge and she won the old Visalia apple crate label. The label was somewhat mysterious to me and I believed it to be rare. Who would have ever connected Visalia with apple orchards? The nice old label advertised “Fancy White Astrachan Apples, Grown by James L. Parks of Visalia.” Once Marian received the label, she did her normal amazing investigative work, and come to find out, she even knew Virginia, the daughter of James L. Parks. Here is part of what Marian found out:
“I talked to Virginia Parks at length yesterday and got all the information. Her father, James Luther Parks, did have some apples here that were really big which he had planted and then grafted. He decided to sell them down south sometime in the 40’s so that is when the labels were produced. Virginia said that it turned out that the apples bruised and did not ship well and he had to abandon that. He ended up selling them on the street and they had many happy customers as they were great for cooking.

As always, Marian, I appreciate your skills at ferreting out our history.

A Piece of Visalia’s Horse & Buggy Days is Back
Well, the restoration of the buggy step is complete. David Arreola, who works for the Dennis Goebel Concrete Co., finished the restoration work on January 22, 2010. The plaque and dedication ceremony remain to be done and will probably take place some time in the spring 2010. I’ll keep you posted. Thanks to the following organizations and individuals who have made this restoration possible: Kaweah Kollectors, City of Visalia, Lynne Brumit, Sandy Newman, Steve Salomon, and James and Shirie Drath. This relic of Visalia’s horse and buggy days will now be around for many years as a reminder of Visalia’s interesting history.
The video shows David preparing the buggy step for concrete.

Mearle’s College Drive-In – For 70 Years An Icon
Mearle’s continues to be on the minds of people, with the graffiti being the latest event attracting attention to the old landmark. Brian Stone, an HH subscriber, commented that he was not happy about the vandalism there. He said “The picture of the Mearle’s building all graffitied up … was truly upsetting.” Others are expressing the same frustration. Many are asking when the owners of the building are going to be held accountable. The graffiti by the way has been painted over.

Speaking of Mearle’s, the building turns 70 years old in September of this year. Over the years, the old drive-in building has become an icon and there has never been a doubt as to the old drive-in’s status as a local and national landmark. In the last few days while watching national news on television, I saw a commercial that attracted my attention. It was a Cargill commercial explaining their new healthier cooking oil designed especially for cooking french fries, The theme of the commercial was old drive-ins and nostalgia and throughout the 30 second commercial, drive-in restaurants were pictured. And guess what? Mearle’s Drive-In was one shown! You have to look quickly, but clearly the famous Visalia restaurant is one of the featured photographs. Take a look at the 30 second commercial at . On the right side you will see a box titled “Television Commercial”. Click on the words “Fitter French Fries” and once the video screen appears, click on the arrow button on the bottom, to play. Watch closely and within a few seconds you will see a picture of Mearle’s Drive-In on the left side of the commercial. Another example of Mearle’s status as a landmark! Something needs to be done to see that this famous Visalia icon is brought back to its glory years. We need at big 70th birthday bash for the old timer! Thanks to Lucinda Lewis for her gorgeous photo of Mearle's at its best!

Mobil Station ------ What a Grand Opening in 1949
Dana Lubich, grandson of R. L. “Bob” Morris, shared with me the very interesting story of his grandfather’s Mobil Gas Station on the Northeast corner of Mineral King and Mooney Blvd. On the site now is Marie Callender’s restaurant. The Mobil Gas Station opened on October 27, 1949. The opening was big news and radio station KKIN 1400 on the dial was there with local radio personality Lyman Treaster. Lyman was “on the air” at the grand opening and interviewed a number of customers as they arrived at the service station. The on-scene radio broadcast lasted about 29 minutes and a recording of that radio event was preserved by Dana. It is scratchy, but understandable and I hope to have a portion of the recording in the next HH for you to enjoy. The recording includes interviews with various local people like Bob Morris, Reg Durham, Harold Barnhardt, Dick Ball, Lawrence Romanazzi, Ed Sullivan and Chuck Erhorn. Dana would be interested in hearing from you and if you have any stories about the Mobil Station or the General Petroleum Plant that was located on Highway 198. Email me at and I’ll pass any information on to Dana. Thanks Dana for preserving the old recording

**Duane Copley said that the morning of the Elks building fire, he was gong to work with his dad, John. They stopped to watch the fire for a time and the next day realized that a wall to the building had collapsed onto the area that they had been standing. Quite a close call!

**A number of you responded with comments about Harold Fox, the brother of murder victim Bonnie Clutter in the book “In Cold Blood.” Harold Fox, I find out has touched so many people’s lives over the years. What an amazing man with a huge following!

**Nancy Barnes is a new HH member and I can tell based on contact so far lots of interesting local history will be coming our way from her.

“Stockton has a preacher who describes hell so realistically that his hearers can hardly be restrained from turning in a fire alarm.” Visalia Daily Morning Delta, September 29, 1893

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