Thursday, July 30, 2009

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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 me, Terry Ommen at I will add you to the list.

Mystery Spot Identified!

Congratulations go to Virginia Strawser for identifying the mystery spot and doing it so quickly! A handful of you got this one, but she was the first to solve it and did it in just 37 minutes. The tile segment was part of the front of the Visalia Tea Garden located at 325 E. Main. Liberally trimmed with tile, the Visalia Tea Garden could be Visalia’s longest continuously operating restaurant. I think it may deserve that distinction, what do you think? It was established in 1922. It would be a great project for historical research.

Visalians Visit Visalia—Visalia, Kentucky, That Is

Back in May of this year HH subscriber, Ann Shaw and her sister Cathy Drennen took a month long cross country road trip which included stops in Canada. On the trip they stopped in Visalia, Kentucky and made their presence known as best they could, but could find very little evidence of the town. The town of Visalia, Kentucky (the namesake for Visalia, California) is quickly disappearing with not much left to photograph. Although, Ann did say it was beautiful country. Here is one of their photographs of the Visalia Baptist Church that sets on a green rolling hill. On the same trip, Ann and Cathy stopped in a Canadian restaurant and to their surprise they looked on the wall and found the famous Mearle’s Drive-In lighted picture. The legendary drive-in restaurant had found its way to Canada!

We Need Help On This One!

Bill Allen would like reader help to see if anyone knows anything about this bell. His sister allegedly got it from a Visalia firefighter in the 1960s and as the story goes the firefighter picked it out of a pile of surplus fire equipment. The iron arm that you see was part of it and it is welded in a fixed position. I think the iron arm may have still been added later. The bell works great and the opening on it is about 6 ½” in diameter and from end to end the bell itself stands about 5” high. There are no markings on it at all and as you can see the iron brace is an unusual shape. Can anyone confirm this bell or a bell like it might have been connected to the Visalia Fire Dept in any way? The bell was used on Bill’s sister’s boat.

Santa Fe Railroad Sign Recovered!

Well, the old Santa Fe Railroad sign that was mounted on the railroad overpass for the past 47 years has been found. As you know, the old Santa Fe track over crossing has been removed to make way for a new vehicular bridge that is being constructed in its place. During the removal of the old bridge, the two mounted Santa Fe Railroad signs disappeared, but thanks to the efforts of John Bergman, railroad historian and local banker, and Fred Lampe, Associate City Engineer with the City of Visalia, at least one of the two signs has been found. Now the question is, what do we do with this 47-year old sign?

Estrada’s Restaurant Gone—But Its History Remains

Gilbert Gia, historian and president of the Kern County Historical Society, is related through marriage to Louisa Estrada—the key family member that made Estrada’s Restaurant a household name in Visalia. He recently completed a 10-page history of the Estrada family and the Estrada Restaurant which includes great family photographs. The picture shown here is Estrada’s Restaurant which was located at 414 W. Main Street but is now gone. Take a look at Gil Gia’s well-written Estrada article at Thanks Gil for sharing your valuable research with our readers

New Mystery Spot: Step Up and Solve This One

Back in Visalia’s horse and buggy days, it is said that this partially broken concrete and brick structure helped buggy riders step up into their buggies more easily. This alleged “buggy step” as it is being called is in open view and thanks to HH subscriber Jay Belt for offering this interesting feature as our mystery spot. Here are the clues:
1) The building adjacent to this was built in 1911
2) The adjacent building once held “one man’s treasurers and another man’s junk.”
3) People often go here when something is broken.
4) If you add up the numbers of the street address it totals 9.
Good luck!


{{}} The Tulare County Historical Society will be holding its annual BBQ and auction on Saturday, September 26th at Mooney Grove Park on the museum grounds. We’d love to have you join us and if by chance you would like to provide an item or two for our auction, we’d love to receive them. All proceeds go to museum improvement projects.
{{}} At the end of next month HH will be one year old. Watch for some new features to help celebrate the 1-year anniversary.
{{}} Don’t forget, if you have any interest in being part of the new docent program at the Museum of Farm Labor, contact Curator Kathy McGowan at 733-6616.

“No murders this week.” October 26, 1878 Tulare Weekly Times.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

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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, me, Terry Ommen at and I will add you to the list.

Mystery Spot Identified—Wow, Was It Ever!

Within 21 minutes of the posting of the last Historic Happenings, the amazing Randy Groom identified the Veterans Memorial Building as the latest mystery spot. Four minutes later, Rita Gardner got it also. Then the floodgates opened up and many of you got it right. Congratulations to all of you.

Tulare County Agricultural Museum—New Docent Program Being Formed

The new ag museum at Mooney Grove Park is moving along nicely. The building will be completed in September, and Kathy McGowan, the curator is creating a volunteer docent program to work inside. She wants to talk to anyone who might be interested in getting involved with the Museum. What a ground floor opportunity! If you think you might want to be part of this exciting program, contact Kathy McGowan at or call her at (559) 733-6616. By the way, this photo shows Brian Summers, Tulare County Building Projects Manager, holding a sample museum banner high up in the air inside the new building. This building is going to be very impressive.

Yokohl Valley –A New History Book Is Published

Scott Barker loves Yokohl Valley and we are lucky he does. He has compiled much of the history of this special place in his brand new book called Yokohl—A History of Its People and Their Culture. This is a very limited print book so don’t wait to long to get yours. Many references of course to Visalia are included. It retails for $24.99, but call Scott at (559) 539-1004 and he may offer you a better price, you never know. Valhalla’s in Visalia is carrying the book also.

Remember When? It Wasn’t That Long Ago

Rudy, one of our newer HH members was in a nostalgic mood and asked about photographs of more contemporary businesses and buildings that have undergone a change over the last few years. He specifically asked about the old Thrifty Drug store downtown at Locust and Main St (now Starbucks). Well, here it is Rudy, this is Thrifty as it appeared in 1970, almost 40 years ago. Sometimes we forget history doesn’t have to be ancient. Thanks for the reminder of that.

Speaking of a Flood of Photographs

Claudia Allred Ward, an HH member, sent me a number of great 1955 flood photos. Claude Allred, her father, owned the Buick- Pontiac automobile dealership on the southeast corner of Bridge and Main St. The photo in the lower left shows that dealership almost underwater. The other photos were taken at various Main St. locations and show businesses such as the Wunder Stag, Hotel Johnson, Pryor Music, Palace Hotel, Togni, Purina, Sweeney’s CafĂ©, and Chop Suey. By the way, the photo on the lower right shows the Tulare County National Bank of Visalia at the location now that is now the Visalia Coffee Co. at Church and Main streets. How Visalia’s landscape has changed in really such a short amount of time!

New Mystery Spot – This One is Going To Be Much Tougher

Okay, the days of easy pickin’s are over. This new mystery spot should separate the pros from the novices. Decorative tiles as trim on buildings, gave buildings some color, uniqueness, and a touch of class. Here is a portion of old tile trim. What building or structure is it part of? Here are some clues:
1) If you add up the numbers in the address it totals 10
2) It has been a family owned business since 1922
3) Its location gives a feeling of being connected to the “south”
4) It is located just south of Mill Creek


{{}} Local professional photographer Ron Holman is leading a Visalia photo walk on July 18th, starting at 9:00am. The walk includes historical homes and other downtown sites and is part of the second-annual worldwide photo walk. Should be loads of fun. It is limited on the number that can participate, so if you have an interest, don’t waste and time and go to

{{}} Joseph Vicenti wants to know if anyone has heard of a celebrity horse named Visalia Abbe. He thinks it may have been a movie horse for class “B” movies, but he’s not sure. Obviously, because of the name he is curious as to whether there is a Visalia, California connection or could it be connected to Visalia, Kentucky?

{{}} Jon Carlton, the book manager at Visalia Costco, has made arrangements to have valley author Mark Arax of King of California fame at Visalia Costco on July 18th starting at 11:00am. He will be signing his book West of the West: Dreamers, Believers, Buildings and Killers in the Golden State. Great opportunity to meet this well-respected valley author.

Our platform is a good broad plank—Make Visalia dry, make Visalia a place so clean, so wholesome, that you could have your little ones grow up among environments free from the influence of the saloon. Anyone not agreeing with me is not a good citizen to live in Visalia. An excerpt from a temperance speech giving by Carrie Barnett as President of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Good Government League. February 13, 1914, Visalia Morning Delta.