Wednesday, February 24, 2010

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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 It’s fun and it’s free! I will add you to the list. I will not share your email address with anyone without your permission.

Congratulations go out to Mark Kucala for being the first to correctly identify the beautiful architectural feature on the old Security Title building located on the northwest corner of Acequia and Locust. It’s a beautiful old building and several of you got it right.

Here’s the New One!
Find the billboard:
1) This billboard is in downtown Visalia—yes, I said downtown. It is located between Conyer and Santa Fe and Murray and Mineral King Ave. I’m sure you drive by it quite often. But have you noticed it?
2) It is about 27’ wide and 12’ height, so it’s not a small billboard; it’s pretty big.
3) It is mounted relatively low to the ground and can only be seen from one direction; it’s a one-sided billboard.
4) It casts a shadow over the site of a building that once stood nearby from 1952 to 1984.
Where is this billboard? And no this is not a paid commercial ad or endorsement for Bud Light.

Mearle’s: The Momentum is Building!
Art Brumley, a former Visalian, contacted me after the last HH and offered to help do what he could to see that Mearle’s opens again. Art is not just another fan of this famous drive-in, and by the way, there are many of them, but he actually had created a Mearle’s Facebook page a year or so ago. He has hundreds of followers who value what Mearle’s has meant to them and to Visalia. On his Mearle’s Facebook site, many Mearle’s fans share their memories. Only an drive-in icon could have that kind of following—imagine a Facebook page and hundreds of followers, now that’s a following. Check it out and join in the Mearle’s conversation. Thank you Art for keeping the Mearle’s good times alive. We welcome HH subscribers to join us in our effort to make sure that Mearle’s opens again. Contact me and I will add you to the growing list of Mearle’s Drive-In supporters. By the way before it was Mearle’s, it was Nielsen and you can see the sign in this 1955 flood photograph.

Dinuba Blvd.
For almost 40 years I have been hearing people call one of the main northbound roadways out of Visalia “the old Dinuba Highway.” I really couldn’t figure out why for a long time. It doesn’t ever pass through the town of Dinuba, so why would it be called “the old Dinuba Highway.” The official street name of course is Dinuba Blvd. and is actually State Route 63 as it travels north to Cutler and Orosi. So how did Visalia get a road named Dinuba? The answer is, that prior to the Visalia Airport/Dinuba Highway (Road 80), which was constructed in the 1930s, Dinuba Blvd. was the most direct and popular route between Dinuba and Visalia.

Amazing Grand Opening Audio Recording - Mobil GAS Station - 1949
In the last HH, I indicated that we were still working on the grand opening audio tape for the Mobile Service Station at Mineral King and Mooney, where Marie Callender’s is now. Well we did it! Dana Lubich had provided the recording. The original 1949 recording that you will be able to listen to part of, actually lasts about 30 minutes. It was an on-scene live production. I was not able to include all 30 minutes, but was able to use the first 4 minutes or so. Listen closely to this recording and you will hear the broadcaster, Lyman Treaster of KKIN radio, talk to the owner of the new Mobile Service Station, Robert “Bob” Morris, Dana’s grandfather. Throughout the entire 30-minute tape, Lyman interviews well-known Visalia citizens, however again this only includes the first 4 minutes or so. If by chance you’d like to hear the entire recording, let me know and I would be happy to make it available to you. So sit back, close your eyes and listen to this amazing piece of history. It is sometimes garbled and a little scratchy , but keep in mind that this was on location at the Grand Opening of the Mobil Station at Mineral King and Mooney in October, 1949. (To hear the audio and view the photo, click on the arrow in the box below, lower left. You may have to adjust your volume.)

Lyman Treaster (left) Robert "Bob" Morris (right)

Patricia “Tricia” Morris at the Fox and Beyond
Speaking of Dana Lubich, he is obviously very proud of his mother, Patricia “Tricia” Morris, as he reminds us that she worked at Visalia’s Fox Theatre concession stand in 1950-1951. This photograph appeared in the Visalia’s Fabulous Fox book on page 102 but the reproduction there was of poor quality. Here is a much better picture of Tricia working the candy counter at the Fox. By the way, her involvement in the entertainment business didn’t end when she was left the Fox. Interestingly, Tricia took her love of movies and entertainment to San Jose State University and Stanford, where she became the first woman to graduate from SJSU with a degree in Radio and Television (now “and Film”). She went on to work at television station KPIX and KNTV in the Bay Area, and worked in Summer Stock Theater in Southern California. Tricia was also the daughter of Bob and Mary Louise Morris of Mobil Gas Station fame. The Morris family really knew how to make history!

The Visalia Clock Manufacturing Co. – It is about Time!
Jan Morrison contacted me about a clock she inherited. It is an unusual one as it is marked “Visalia Clock Manufacturing Co., Visalia, California.” She asked if I knew any information about the company that made it. I don’t know anything about the company, but about 10 years Harvey Hosman told me that he thought the Lipson family had something to do with the business. Anyone know anything about this clock company?

Rare Interior Photo of Mahoney Ford Dealership – Byron Rector
Darl Cecil Rector shared recently a photograph of Byron Rector, the father of her husband, Gene. Here you will see Byron on the left in the R. A. Mahoney Ford dealership in Visalia. This appears to be a parts department photo and if you look closely, you can see various items on display. Byron worked at the dealership from the mid 1920s to the late 1930s. Photographs of the interior of the Ford dealership are a rare find, so thanks Daryl for sharing this with us.

***Jan Brackett Andrews passed along a number of historical tidbits. One is that her parents moved to Visalia in 1949 when her father, John Brackett, was named Managing Editor of the Visalia Times Delta. Later he became publisher and he retired in 1974.

***Norman Atkins shared an old 1930’s era photo negative of the Southern California Gas Co. building at 401 W. Main Street. It’s a beautiful image with old cars, street light, window display showing appliances, etc. When I figure out how to get it developed or made into a print, I will share it with you in a future HH newsletter.

***This has nothing to do with Visalia, but William Martin shared a 1905 movie that he found on the internet of San Francisco before the big earthquake fire. It’s really an impressive and interesting old motion picture and it’s worth watching. By the way Sophie Britten, as I recall brought this to my attention as well, and I’m appreciative to both. Talk about a trip through time! Take a look at

“Hitting Hard Times in San Francisco – Parties have just returned from San Francisco inform us that we in Tulare County have no reason to complain of hard times. San Francisco at present leads in this respect. Whole rows of buildings in different blocks and streets are unoccupied and never before in the history of that city was the sign “to let” displayed so conspicuously and extensively as at present. Quite a number of wholesale merchants and retailers by the score are going out of business and there is no mistake that San Francisco is declining.” Visalia Morning Delta, June 3, 1893

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

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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.

The last Mystery Spot location was correctly identified by Kathryn Miller and she did it within 14 minutes of the posting. The bronze plaque Mystery Spot is mounted on the tile water fountain at Mayor’s Park on the south side of Main Street near Park Avenue. Congratulations Kathryn and to all of you who got it right. Thanks for participating.

Ready for Another?
Here are your clues!
1) This building was built in 1923 for about $60,000.
2) It was built to house an “abstract” or title and escrow business. And the Visalia Daily Times reported when it opened, that it “is undoubtedly the finest building in California devoted entirely to the abstract business.”
3) The numbers in the address will added together total eleven (11). 4) Directly across the street in 1923 was the Martha Washington Grocery Store.
Where is this building? Good luck.

Turner Street
In 1909 Charles A. Turner, owner of the Blue Ribbon Real Estate Co. filed a plat with the Visalia City Council for a new subdivision called Parkside Tract. He filed it on his behalf and on behalf of Messrs. Dudley and Martin. The housing tract was on the west end of Main Street near Giddings. In the tract homes built on lots on Main Street were required to have values of at least $1,250. Center Street homes needed to have a value of at least $800. As a result of this subdivision, we now have Turner, Dudley, and Martin streets.

The 1935 courthouse annex building stands next to the east sidewalk on Court Street between Center and Oak. People oftentimes wonder why it was placed so close to the sidewalk and street, and why it is so offset on the lot. This should help answer that question.

James “Cal” Shepherd: Airplane Crash About 1951?
Recently, someone asked about James “Cal” Shepherd. They produced an article about his fatal car crash, but they were looking for more information on a plane crash involving him in about 1951, which was somehow related to the Piepgrass Airport (small airfield north of Visalia). Cal was apparently seriously injured in that crash but survived, only to be killed in an automobile accident near Nogales, Arizona in 1953. I have not been able to find any information about that airplane crash. If anyone knows anything about this plane crash, please let me know. By the way, his father was Visalian Pete Shepherd, I think the Chevy dealer.

Mearle’s Group is Being Formed. You Are Invited.
Mearle’s College Drive-In has a long history as being a gathering place. Whether it was a place to meet for a date or whether it was a car rendezvous point for a car club, or whether it was just a family dining destination, Mearles has been bringing people together for about 70 years. Well, it’s doing it again. A group is being formed to explore ways to get this Visalia icon back in operation again. So just think, it is becoming a gathering point again. Please call me at (559) 901-3227 or email me if you would like to be part of this “forming group.” And yes, Mearle and his wife Marilyn are part of the group as well.

Nancy Barnes Has Many Memories To Share
As I mentioned in the last HH, new subscriber Nancy Barnes has deep and wide Visalia/Tulare County roots and boy is she willing to share. Her knowledge is broad and her interests are varied. Here is a small sampling of some future HH topics that she will share with us.
***The Sims Cling Peach—and her family connection; also the Dawson Peach
***The Clotfelters
***The Spaldings
***Palace Hotel—Her father jumped from the 2nd story during a fire
***Taylor’s Hot Dog Stand
***Lots of Visalia Schools
And the list goes on and on. So, stand by. Oh, did I mention she danced on stage at the Fox? Nancy is in this photo. Can anyone pick her out? By the way, several HH subscribers are in this Claudia Allred Ward photograph.

Judge W. B. Wallace Comes to California by Covered Wagon
Kathy McGowan, Tulare County Museum Curator, and I have been working with Sue Hudgins-Hodes. Sue was hunting for a photograph of one her early relatives named William Brown Wallace who later became a judge here in Visalia. We were able to help her with a photo and she offered us a copy of a diary in which Wallace (who became Superior Court Judge here) was mentioned. Judge Wallace, as a baby, crossed the plains in a covered wagon traveling from Missouri to California during the 1849 Gold Rush. These are photos of Tulare County Superior Court Judge Wallace that we were able to provide to her. Sue tells us the diary is very interesting.

***Still working to get the 1949 grand opening Mobil Gas Station interview on HH. Adding an audio file is proving difficult to do, but we’re going to give it another try. Stay tuned. It will be worth the wait.
***The miniature dollhouse called The Visalian is getting closer to being back to Visalia. As soon as I hear it’s in route or here HH will let you know.

“Immigrants are coming into the country faster than ideas into Congress.” Visalia Delta, January 16, 1880