Sunday, August 1, 2010

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Congratulations go out to Virginia Strawser who correctly identified the Acequia Street post office as the last mystery spot. The cornerstone is right behind the newspaper racks. It’s interesting, so take a look. Over 25 of you correctly got the mystery spot correct. Good job everyone, especially to you Virginia for being the first.

Are you ready for another? Where is this historic feature in Visalia. Here are the clues:

1) This decorative granite feature is one of several nearby.
2) Minerva looked down on these for many years.
3) This particular one stood across the street from the old Farm Bureau of Tulare County building for many years, and in fact it still does.
4) Train whistles serenade this granite feature on a regular basis, and have for many years.
Good luck.

The Travelers Hotel - A Gruesome Scene of a Homicide
Recently retired Tulare County Superior Court Judge David Allen asked about Visalia’s old and long gone Traveler’s Hotel which was located on the northwest corner of Main and Garden streets. His interest in the hotel is because of its connection to the murder of Paul “Shorty” Check, that took place there. The gruesome crime that occurred in the early morning hours of September 23, 1955 is unsolved and the judge would like to see justice prevail. At the time of the homicide, Judge Allen remembers how unsettling and upset residents were. He hopes there is still a chance to solve this homicide case. In the meantime he is preparing an article summarizing the 55-year old crime. It will be published by the Tulare County Historical Society in their Los Tulares newsletter soon. Does anyone remember hearing about the Shorty Check murder? Anyone have any information that could lead to the killer? A true Visalia cold case!

Hobo Jungle – A Truly Wild Place
David Lacy asked about the large open area between Ben Maddox and Burke and Center and Murray streets. That is the area that has been identified, the last I heard, as being the location for a new city hall complex. David remembers the area being called the “Hobo Jungle” in the 1950s. Actually, at least a portion of that area has been considered “Hobo Jungle” or “The Jungle” for almost a 100 years that I’m aware of. This is part of what I on the jungle in my file:
I believe in the 1930s they had circuses set up on at least part of that site. It has been known as “the jungle” or “hobo jungle” or “the jungles” for a very long time. I have references that date back to 1914. Even then it was a homeless camp that oftentimes attracted crime and criminals. At least part of the reason for the “hobos” using the location was its proximity to the SP railroad tracks. It was a convenient location to get on and off the train as the tracks made the curve and the train had to slow down. A slower train was easier to board. Oak trees provided shade also. It has been mentioned a lot in the historical record.

David and I would sure enjoy hearing from you if you have any stories about this interesting place.

Santa Fe Street
The original east townsite boundary for Visalia was called East Street. Pretty clever, huh? The name was changed to Santa Fe after 1900 when the Santa Fe Railroad came to Visalia and used that street. With the recent opening of the S.F Railroad Highway 198 overpass to ordinary vehicles, Santa Fe Street has become a major north/south thoroughfare through town.

Before Lumber It Was Mattresses
James Hitchcock is wondering about the northern most building of the Visalia Lumber Co. located on Ben Maddox near Center. That north building has been part of the lumber yard for many years, but James thought it looked like it had been something before it was acquired by the lumberyard. When I went by, I noticed what James did about the building--an unusual appearance—especially the small section in front, as you can see in this contemporary photo. I stopped in and talked with some of the veteran employees there, and yes, the north building was a mattress company when it was purchased by the Visalia Lumber Co. A directory search confirmed the building was The Visalia Mattress Co.

More About Bob Morris’ Business Interests
Dana Lubich, grandson of Robert “Bob” Morris is looking for more material regarding his grandfather. Dana as you remember provided us with a photo and information on the Mobil Service Station at Mineral King and Mooney (where Marie Callender’s is now.) It is also the photo in which we included an audio recording of its grand opening. Dana’s grandfather also had a butane service in Visalia around the same time. It was located about where Rebel Lumber is today just east of Visalia and on the same side of the street he thought. There is a propane company now on the Southside of Hwy 198 again near Rebel, so if this is what use to be his grandfathers, how did it get on the south of 198? So, can any readers help determine the exact location of the Morris Butane Service?

***There is optimism in the air about Mearle’s. Could it be that the Mearle’s building could be getting its dignity back soon?

***Native Visalian Jane Nash doesn’t believe the old Grand Theater by the Hotel Johnson was ever named the Bijou. The only Bijou Theater in Visalia she recalls was the one on the south side of Main Street near what is now Las Palmas Restaurant. A couple of you and one document that I have indicates that the Bijou was at one time where the Grand was.

***I received an inquiry about the Johnson Hotel and its operators William and Annie Smith and there son James and daughter-in-law Marian. William operated the Johnson Hotel from about 1927 to 1937. Anybody know anything about the Smiths during their operation of the hotel?

A large group of Lions Club conventioneers “stopped at Visalia, a go-getter sort of town of about 7000 people. About dinner time when the boosters were getting hungry and Visalia was reached, they were ready for a good meal, which was awaiting them in the City Auditorium, which comfortably can take care of about 400 people at one sitting. Inviting guest rooms were in evidence while waiting for the last of the stragglers to appear. Cards or dancing, reading or lounging were possible right at hand. The party voted Visalia some town. And that vote caused us to admit a blush of shame, for do you, fellow citizens (of Sacramento) know of any place in Sacramento where 400 people could dine together, as was done in Visalia? We don’t. We wish we did.” From the Visalia Morning Delta, May 31, 1922 reporting on what the Sacramento Bee had written.

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