Sunday, December 27, 2009

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Thanks for visiting Historic Happenings! Happy New Year and wish everyone the best in 2010! 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 Terry Ommen at I will add you to the list. I will not share your email address with anyone without your permission.

This issue is an abbreviated one because of the introduction of Rover, the new treasure hunt challenge. Read more about Rover below. Historic Happenings will be back to its usual features shortly.

Congratulations go out to Virginia Strawser who was the first to identify the Mystery Spot location of the Fred Uhl building. It was a tough one and less than 10 of you got it right. It’s not surprising as this marking is high on the north building face, camouflaged among the trees. The Fred Uhl building can be found on the southeast corner of Church and Main streets, the site of the Gray Horse Harness Shop for many many years

No new Mystery Spot this issue.

Rover has arrived! Get on the Trail For a Great Treasure Challenge
Well, you’ve all been very patient and now its time to introduce to you Rover, the bloodhound. Rover is the mascot for the new Visalia history treasure hunt challenge, more specifically called Rootin’ Out Visalia’s Exciting Record or Rover for short. It’s the treasurer hunt I’ve been preparing you for. Bloodhounds, as you know, are recognized for their tracking abilities—just let them sniff the clues and get out of their way and they will find their target.

Shortly, you will be given an opportunity to be like Rover—sniffing out the clues and going after the prize. Of course, if you choose not to participate that is okay too. Regardless, you will continue to receive the regular Historic Happenings newsletters. But if you decide to take part in Rover, you will find it fun, challenging and rewarding! When will Rover begin? See Matthew 24:36 in the Christian Bible for the answer to that. To be eligible to participate and win, you must be on the Historic Happenings list before January 1, 2010. So, if you know someone who you think would like to be part of Rover, they must email or contact me requesting to be put on the free HH list.

Rover rules will be included in the release of the first clue, that will begin the challenge. The rules and clue will be the next posting you receive from me. There are a few of you who get HH by USPS First Class mail, so you’ll get your Rover rules and first clue by mail. The rest will get the clue via this website. For those of you not on the computer, it will be essential that you have access to someone who can check the Historic Happenings website at Maybe a friend or family member could help with this. Now is the time to find someone. Throughout the Rover challenge, I may need to provide updates and announcements, and the internet is the only way to do that to large numbers in a timely manner. An example of such an announcement might be when someone solves the challenge—I will announce on the HH website that there is a winner and Rover is over. Once a winner is announced, there is no need to continue. So it is important to stay in touch with the HH website. Those getting Rover over the internet should check the HH website often at

A number of you HH subscribers are former Visalians but now live away from our city. It is essential for you to have contact with a friend or relative that lives in or near Visalia. Rover will require a human visit to certain locations within Visalia to retrieve the next clue. Again for you ex-patriots, having a contact in or close to Visalia is essential.

Clues will require some historical knowledge or research capability. Knowledge of Visalia history will be a big part of solving clues and certain general research tools will be helpful.

Books you might consider consulting:
1) The Way It Was by Annie R. Mitchell
2) Visalia, Her First 50 Years by Annie R. Mitchell
3) Visalia – A Pictorial History by Visalia Heritage
4) Visalia, Then & Now by Terry L. Ommen
Other resources:
1) Internet
2) Tulare County Library
3) Tulare County Library History Room

Now for the Prize
The lucky winner of Rover will receive an original vintage City of Visalia Fire Alarm Box. The box marked #49 had been mounted at the corner of Clark and Main streets for many years, this being the eastern most alarm on Main Street. It was manufactured by the Gamewell Fire Alarm and Telegraph Company out of New York and on the front in large raised letters it says Fire Alarm Telegraph Station. In large numbers it is marked 49. The cast iron box measures about 19” high, about 13” wide and about 8” deep. It weighs about 65 lbs. It has seen some use as there is a repair crack across the entire front door, although the door is solid an intact now. The inner mechanism appears to be complete and the mechanism goes thru its motions when the lever is pulled. The key is in the front door so you can access the inner workings. I honestly believe, with the right electronics person, it could be made to work. It’s a beauty now but with some cleaning and restoration it would be even better-----a great conversation piece and just think, a really nice relic from Visalia’s past.

This box was removed from Visalia streets in 1959 I believe, and was part of an electric fire alarm system, believed to have been installed in 1910.

When a fire was observed, the reporting party would break the little glass window, turn the key, open the door and pull the lever. That lever would send a telegraph signal to the fire house identifying the box number and location of the box. The fire department would respond to that location. An internal bell inside the box would ring.

In the early 1970s, J. M. Bragg purchased this fire box at a city surplus auction at the Visalia Airport and he has had it ever since. Thanks to J.M. and his wife Peggy, this relic of an earlier Visalia can be yours. These two HH members have generously donated this fire alarm box to the Rover winner.

Important Notice: The winner is responsible for picking up the fire box in Visalia. It is heavy ( 65 lbs ) and can not be shipped. No one connected to any of the clues is eligible to win the prize.

Rover is about to start the hunt
So get ready for a hoot.
The clues will be out in front
To help you find the loot.

Any questions up to this point you can email or call me (559) 901 3227.

“And now we hurry home, stopping for a day at Visalia—we think one of the most beautiful of all the beautiful towns in our beautiful State, a village amid trees and through which runs a river, and on the banks of which the vegetation is semi-tropical; a village of health and beauty, scandalized by jealous neighbors; a village whose streets are thronged in business, and in the suburbs of which are vine-covered trees, embowered cottage homes, and homes of greater pretensions and architectural attractions; a village surrounded by the best and best-improved lands of Tulare County.” Words of Frank M. Pixley, newspaperman and namesake for the town of Pixley, California. Visalia Weekly Delta, August 12, 1886.

Wednesday, December 9, 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 Terry Ommen at I will add you to the list. I will not share your email address with anyone without your permission.

Congratulations to Peter Cowper who was first to identify the brass box as being the old letterbox in the Bank of Italy building at Church and Main streets. Many others got it right, and congratulations to all, but Peter, you’re the man.

Let the New Mystery Spot Game Begin
This name is embossed on the exterior wall of a building in Visalia. Where is the building? Here are the clues:
1) The building sets on a site that had been a harness shop continuously for 80 years.
2) The building was built in 1941 by Fred Uhl.
3) There are two financial institutions within sight of this building.
4) It is located at an intersection.
Good luck!

Stocking Repair Kit
My good friend Betty Treaster gave me this little advertising item the other day and it took me back to an early time. During World War II, this little sewing kit, that looks like a matchbook included something called a “matchless run arrestors.” The arrestors are shown here with the blue arrow pointing down to them. Got a run in your stockings? Remove one of these arrestors, moisten the tip, and apply it to each end of the run or snag in the stockings and it was suppose to stop the spread of the run. Repairing stockings was commonly done. as it was easier to repair them than it was to get a new pair. There were lots of shortages during the war. This little kit was a giveaway from the Hougham Richfield Service Station at the corner of Mineral King and Court streets in Visalia. Now that we are talking about it, whatever happened to the almost forgotten skill of “darning socks?”

The World is Interested in Visalia History
My daughter recently explained a feature that is available on the Historic Happenings blog that is kind of interesting. You’ll notice under “hit counter” on the left side margin, there is a heading called “Live Traffic Map.” You will also see a world map under the heading with little red dots. These dots represent the locations of visitors who have come to see HH. If you scroll down to the bottom of that section and click on “Watch in Real Time” you will see more information about where specifically the visitors to HH are coming from. Visalia history seems to be popular really throughout the world. One more thing, you can search past issues of HH by topic or name by typing in the topic/name in the “Search this Blog” section. Try it out. In effect it becomes the index to the collection of all HH issues.

Everybody Ready for the Treasure Hunt?
Well, the long awaited Visalia treasure hunt game is only about 3 weeks out. The game name been chosen and the prize has been acquired, and boy is it a good one. But remember, only subscribers to the free Historic Happenings newsletter are eligible to play and win the prize. So get your friends and relatives to join. Have them email or contact me in some way to get on the list. Remember, if they are not on my list, they can’t win. So…..
I know you’re getting anxious
But the time is not quite here
To search for the clues that will
Lead you to a prize so dear.

The prize will make the wait worthwhile,
I can certainly tell you this,
A relic from Visalia’s past
Is something you don’t want to miss.

Both the treasure hunt game name and prize will be announced in the next Historic Happenings.
Medal of Honor Winner Passes
Alejandro Ruiz died November 20, 2009 at the age of 85. This long time Visalian is one of few Americans to receive the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in Okinawa in 1945. I had the distinct pleasure of shaking his hand—it’s not often one comes face to face with a real American hero. He lived his last years in Yountville, California and is buried there. You can read about his historic actions during World War II at . Ruiz Park here in Visalia is named in his honor and is near the intersections of Burke and Buena Vista. The photograph shows Mr. Ruiz at the November 11, 2006 dedication of the Greatest Generation Wall on Mooney Blvd. He is shaking hands with an unidentified well-wisher, and singer song/writer Paulette Carlson of the country band Highway 101 is standing nearby.

Ben Maddox Way
I believe Ben Maddox Way has the distinction of being the only street in Visalia using an early pioneer’s full name. Born in 1859 in Georgia, Ben Maddox came to Visalia in 1890 via Bodie and other California communities. At that time he purchased the Tulare County Times newspaper and gained a reputation as a good newspaperman, an organizer of the Mt. Whitney Power Company and a key leader of the Visalia Electric Railroad. He died in 1933. Ben Maddox was well known in California and beyond.

Anybody Remember Victor Lombardi?
Larry Baldassaro, Professor Emeritus with the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, is looking for biographical information for a book I believe he is writing on the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers. He is looking for information on Victor Alvin Lombardi who was born on September 20, 1922. Lombardi played for the Dodgers and Pirates. In later life, he moved to Visalia and lived at 121 N. Turner, probably just a few years. While here he married a girl from Tulare whose first name was Margo. They were married sometime between 1958 and 1962. He does not know her maiden name or much about the short marriage, but he would be grateful for any help, especially with her maiden name. If you have any information, please contact me and I will relay it to him. By the way, Victor Lombardi was a golf pro at Sierra View Golf Course and is shown here on an early Pirates baseball card.

** The contractor that will restore the old buggy step has been selected and work will begin after January 1, 2010. The restoration is going to require about $300.00 so we want to encourage those of you who want to participate in this project to donate. The buggy step is believed to be the last one standing in Visalia, so it's an important project. Thanks to Lynne Brumit and Sandy Newman, who have already contributed $40.00 to the restoration fund. Any amount would be appreciated. We won’t start the restoration until we have the money needed to do the job. You can send any donation to Terry L. Ommen, P.O. Box 3864, Visalia, CA 93278. Thanks for your consideration.

** The Visalia Community Bank’s historic calendar for 2010 is available. It was released last night and it really is nice. This is their 11th consecutive year of putting out a historic calendar, and as always we owe them our thanks. Stop by any branch and ask for one. They are free and you will be happy you did.

** After the story of the collapse of the Pioneer statue in the last HH, Bill Allen brought to my attention that in his book Mooney’s Oak Grove, he covered the demise of the Pioneer in some detail and there is a picture of Tom Stillman holding a large piece of the collapse Pioneer. And it is not the horse head.

“We are pleased to note that the large hole at the corner of Court and Acequia streets has been filled up. Many a nocturnal pedestrian has waltzed around on his ear and cussed after unwarly plunging up to the knees in its slush and water. It had been there so long that it had become to be regarded as an institution of Visalia.” Visalia Weekly Delta, November 28, 1879