Monday, December 22, 2008

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Well, It’s Done and It's A Beauty!

Local author Bill Allen has provided the Tulare County Historical Society with the much anticipated reprint of the Michael Mooney book. This is a limited reprint, so if you missed the first printing in 2002, don’t miss this one. It has beautiful red leather hard covers with gold print, and is autographed. The books are available through the Tulare County Historical Society, and for HH subscribers, you’re welcome to make arrangements for pickup in Visalia. $24.95 for the reprint or $39.95 for both volumes 1 and 2, plus tax. If you want it shipped, we can do that too. Call for more information (559) 732-5829. Still a couple of days left before Christmas, so don’t miss this one.

Prominent Arizona Man Loses His Daughter to Suicide

Some time back I asked a friend in Arizona about a pioneer family that was prominent in his home state. The family had a wayward daughter named Celia who came to Visalia and associated with a less than desirable crowd. She ended up taking her own life and is buried at the Visalia Cemetery (1892). Her story is interesting and tragic and is one that has been circulating here for quite a while. But a new wrinkle has surfaced. Some of Celia’s descendents are still alive and live near the family’s homestead in Arizona and probably do not know the fate of their unfortunate young relative. And likely don’t know the Visalia connection. Celia’s death was apparently not reported in the Arizona newspapers probably because of the family embarrassment it would cause. I have been asked to write an article about Celia and the circumstances surrounding her death, but I’m waiting to hear from historians of that area to make sure it’s not going to be uncomfortable for the living descendents. Cecil’s father is pictured at the left. I will fill you in on the details when I can share them.

History Sells!

On December, 13, 2008, local history books were flying off the shelves at the Visalia Costco store. Six local authors gathered to talk with fans and sign their books. Lots of Christmas wishes will be satisfied as result of that day, I’m sure. Rarely does one get an opportunity to have such a gathering in one location. Thanks Costco and especially Jon Carlton for making this nice event possible. After witnessing the event, it’s pretty clear to me—history is popular and it sells. [Shown left to right are: Robin Roberts, John Bergman, Bill Secrest, Ron Hughart, Chris Brewer, Jay O'Connell]

Visalia’s First Officer Killed in the Line of Duty

On November 5, 1946, Visalia Police Sergeant Charles “Hugh” Garrison was shot and killed by a stolen vehicle suspect in the alley by the Garden Street Plaza. He was the first Visalia police officer killed in the line of duty and for a long time there has been talk about placing a permanent plaque in his honor near the site of the shooting. Interest is building to make it happen. Details are being worked out, so please stay tuned. Were you a witness to any part of the incident, or did you hear family stories about this tragic event? I’d like to hear from you.


{{}} “Mystery Post” puzzle solved? David Miller, a Historic Happenings subscriber, believes the mystery post at Liberty and Main Street was probably a post that held a post office “collection box”. The metal box is gone; probably removed years ago. Thanks to David Miller, the mystery surrounding the post appears to be solved, and we appreciate his effort on this. One question I still have though, is why are there no more of these posts remaining? Well, Joseph, looks like the mystery is solved. Any more for us to work on?

{{}} In the last HH, I mentioned a group of local photographs that had surfaced. A couple depicted Gilmore Oil trucks at the CTC Battery Shop at 114 No. West Street. I shared these photos with the Gilmore Co. archivist in LA, and he was thrilled to add them to their collection. Gilmore oil and gas products were very popular here, and he sent a list of all the Gilmore stations in the area.

{{}} We are off and running! The new Tulare County agriculture and farm labor museum bid was awarded to Webb & Sons out of Porterville, so ground breaking cannot be far behind. Historical material is being sought from you and others that can help tell Tulare County’s agricultural story. If you have a family history in agriculture, we’d love to hear from you. Now is your chance to highlight your family and get them recognized in the museum.

There are a least twelve specimens of humanity in this town that have not done a day’s work in the past two years. It does not seem that it would be hard to convict them of vagrancy. Visalia Delta, February 28, 1892.

Friday, December 5, 2008

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Robin Fountain—Gateway to the Restored Children’s Library

As reported in an earlier edition of Historic Happenings (HH), the Robin Fountain at the library is being restored. This important Carroll Barnes sculpture was dedicated to the “Children of Visalia” in 1944. It was a gift to the community by Grace Eichmann and over the years the fountain has fallen into disrepair. Fundraising for the $6,000 restoration project is more than 80% complete, thanks to the most recent generous donation by Visalia Heritage. Restoration is being done through the local non-profit organization called First Arts. The re-dedication of this important piece of history and local art is being planned for the spring of 2009. We still need to find a vendor that is capable of assembling the pump system for the fountain. The internal plumbing has been restored, but the pump/filtering system needs to be installed. We have some funds to do this last phase, but we need a vendor. Suggestions for this possible provider would be appreciated. Artist Aaron Collins is now working on restoring the marble sculpture and he has noted damage from negative chemical reactions over the last 64 years. Please check out the video clip.

A Reader Shares Her Memories

Janet Moffett, a subscriber to Historic Happenings, shared recent comments about the Robin Fountain and Carroll Barnes. Janet lived in Visalia in her early years and attended school here all the way through COS. She now lives in Fresno and has allowed me to quote part of her email: “Every time I’d walk up the sidewalk to the library and see the bird fountain, I’d remember the day I was with a group of children and adults gathered around the fountain for its dedication [1944]. Little did I know then that 10 years later I would be with the group meeting at the Three Rivers studio of the same sculptor, Carroll Barnes, and accompanying him as he chose the redwood log he would use to carve the COS Giant. As president of the class that initiated and co-sponsored the COS Giant project, I returned to Visalia that winter to unveil the sculpture. Ours was a wonderful time and Visalia a wonderful place to grow up.”

Janet, thanks for sharing this and we want you back for the re-dedication of the Robin Fountain.

The Valley Oak—An Outing is Being Planned

Visalia human history is not our only history. Our Valley Oak trees, Quercus lobata, the scientific name to be exact, are an important part of our past and an oak tree outing is being planned for the spring of 2009. In 2005 fifty-five people gathered for an oak tree bus tour and there was so much interest the trip sold out quickly. On the tour we visited a number of large oak trees including the largest Valley Oak known to exist. It was at the Country Club and a whopping 23’ in circumference and estimated to be over 250 years old. It still stands today. Alan George (Mr. Oak Tree), Sandy Newman and I will lead another oak tree outing in the spring of 2009. Details are yet to be worked out, but Alan and Sandy assure me that they have found an even bigger Valley Oak. The monster that they will reveal is just outside the Visalia City limits. Stay tuned as the 2009 Oak Tree extravaganza develops. Other surprises will surely be included.

History and Food—Recipe for Success

Erin Capuchino, the Marketing and Tourism Coordinator for the Visalia Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, is working on an interesting idea with a historic theme. She is developing a progressive historic dinner. No, she’s not talking about serving old food that has passed its expiration date, but instead is talking about serving dinner courses at historic buildings and restaurants in Visalia, maybe with transportation provided between eating spots. She has tentatively set the date for Saturday, March 7, 2009. She’s got lots of ideas and promises to share them with us when her plan is fully developed. Erin, if history is involved, you’ve got our attention.

Old Photographs Surface

Last week a native Visalian with deep family roots, contacted me and wanted to share some old Visalia photographs. I met with him, and his photos were some that I’ve never seen before. Of particular interest to me was the interior of the CTC Automotive Co. at 114 No. West Street. The building is gone and the site is now a bank parking lot. In this photo, a Willard Battery technician can be seen demonstrating how a battery completely frozen could still start a truck. Photo was taken about 1928 inside the automotive company. Rare photographs are still out there and occasionally do surface.

‘What’s the Buzz’ About Mearle’s?

Mearle’s is one of the buildings/businesses that put Visalia on the map. It has fallen on hard times and continues to attract attention and discussion. Even Fresno is joining in. See veteran reporter Mike Scott’s blog (CBS.47, Channel 47—On Your Side) from November 28th:
Yesterday I talked with Tracy Robertshaw with the City of Visalia and she said that the owner of the building has been very cooperative with the city’s requests to clean up the property. Recently, the owner took the “auction” sign down, removed weeds, covered a hole in the roof and fixed the barrier cable around the property. Recently, the Ruby’s restaurant chain had been a serious candidate to take over the Mearle’s building, but I understand they have backed away. What Mearle’s needs is someone of the caliber of Mearle Heiztman, the namesake for this historic restaurant. Now, Mearle knew how to run a restaurant!


{{}} I forgot to mention in the last HH, that the photo of the brick building in the 400 block of East Main Street came from Sandy Newman’s collection. She took it in 1996. By the way, Steve Peck of the Mangano Co. is looking for any old photos of the buildings in the 400 block of E. Main.

{{}} In December 1941, Joe Link opened a store bearing his name, and so this month the Link’s clothing store is celebrating a birthday. Family owned and operated all these years, this is quite an accomplishment. Congratulations, Tom and Bob!

{{}} The Visalia Community Bank historic calendar for 2009 is out. Great photos again this year and the contest brought out some never before published photographs. VCB deserves credit for providing such a nice gift to the community. Stop by, say hi and pick one up.

{{}} To set the historical record straight, Leslie Caviglia, Deputy City Manager, wants everyone to know that Chief Deputy City Clerk, Donjia Huffmon, actually found the 1857 map in the vault. Thanks Donjia for your keen and perceptive Indiana Jones-like discovery. Anything else of historic value there?

{{}} The “mystery post” is still a mystery. No credible explanations for the post came in—sorry Randy, your explanation won’t “fly,” so to speak. The story of the post has got to be out there so we need to continue working on it. We need a good detective on this one.

{{}} Bill Allen’s Mooney book is scheduled to be shipped the week of December 8th, so we’re hoping to have them the following week, just in time for Christmas. Price for the reprinted hardback book is $24.95 plus tax, but a special rate of $39.95 plus tax is being offered for both volume 1 and volume 2. If you need shipping information or to arrange for pickup at the Ommen’s house, contact Lari Ommen at or call her at (559) 732-5829 for any questions. Proceeds go to the Tulare County Historical Society

{{}} Don’t forget the local author’s book signing event at Costco on December 13th. Scroll down to the previous HH for the details. It’s going to be a great event with displays and friendly author’s anxious to share their stories.

There is a tree in Tulare County so high that it takes two persons to see to its top. One person looks as far up the tree as he can, and the other begins where the first left off and looks to the top. Visalia Daily Morning Delta, March 4, 1896.