Tuesday, March 30, 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 histerry@comcast.net. I will add you to the list. I will not share your email address with anyone without your permission.

Congratulations go out to Peter Cowper who was the first to correctly identify the Mystery Spot as the Visalia sign at the top of the Depot Restaurant. Good job Peter.

For those of you ready for the next Mystery Spot challenge, here it is. Where is this tank located? Here are some clues:
1) It is connected to a building officially opened in 1924.
2) The building to which this tank is connected has many ornate art deco features inside.
3) The building is on a corner.
4) The numbers of the address of the building, when added together become a “prime number.”

Another Visalia Church Anniversary Coming Up!
In 1961 Christ Lutheran Church began in Visalia. It started small, meeting at various downtown locations and eventually the congregation bought land on Tulare Ave just west of Demaree, and it was there they built their church building, which is where the church stands today. In 2011, the church will celebrate its golden anniversary and I am in the process of writing a 50-year history of the church. I would appreciate any information that you may have about Christ Lutheran Church.

The Save Mearle’s Effort Joins Visalia Heritage, Inc.
The effort to save Mearle’s College Drive-In has made a positive step forward. Rather than create a new organization, the group has affiliated with Visalia Heritage, Inc. to work toward saving Mearle’s. This is a very important step. Visalia Heritage has a very positive reputation in the community and has a very enviable list of accomplishments. By the way, TAD’s opened in September 1940, and so in just a few short months, the building that became Mearle’s will be 70 years old. Sounds like a celebration to me! For the fun of it, Google Mearle’s Visalia on the internet and see what happens. There is no question about it, Mearle’s has been a positive influence in our community and needs to be again.

ViZalia or Visalia?
Recently, Rob Hansen asked a very interesting question about the correct pronunciation of the name Visalia. We’ve all heard non-locals pronounce it and in some cases slaughter it. Or did they? Those that live here, have a certain way of pronouncing it, but how did Visalians living here in 1853 pronounce it? How would Nathaniel Vise have pronounced it? ViZalia or Visalia or ? I really don’t know the answer to that, and I really don’t know how to find out. Anyone have a clue? But the question got me thinking. Maybe there are some HH followers who have never seen photographs of Nathaniel Vise or his wife, Matilda, so here they are. Nat Vise of course is considered the namesake for our town.

War Memories Abound
All the talk in past HH newsletters about Sequoia Field, World War II and the military use of the Visalia Airport, brought back memories for Rita Loffland Cooley and her sister Janet Loffland Moffett. Both lived here as children in their home near Willis and Oak streets during the war. Rita recalls having trains coming from Goshen into Visalia at night, pass her home and as they did , she and Janet “would crawl to the foot of our bed, put our pillows in the windowsill and watch the servicemen sitting at the [train] windows.” The soldiers were reporting for duty at Sequoia Field and were being dropped off at the train depot [now the Depot Restaurant]. Rita remembers Visalia streetlights painted over to dim the light they emitted. She also remembers saving tinfoil and string. Bed sheets were hard to come by and she recalls standing in line with her mom at Montgomery Wards on Main Street hoping to buy a set. Janet recalls the crescent shaped mounded enclosures at the airport which she thought were created to protect the parked aircraft. But she’s anxious to know more about the enclosures as well. Janet also asked if anyone knew what happened to a man named Eddie Nolan (sp?) who was an instructor at Sequoia Field. He was also connected to the First Christian Church in Visalia. Can anyone help Janet? She also believes that after the war the Sequoia Field buses became Visalia’s buses used in their first municipal rapid transit system. By the way, this World War II era Visalia airport photograph shows the airport during the war years. Sure looks like protective enclosure for the planes or maybe gun enclosures, or both. Thank you Dana Lubich for taking this photo from the photo hanging in the pilot's lounge at the Visalia Airport.

***Peggy Perazzo discovered HH because I had previously mentioned the granite quarry at Rocky Point Granite Works near Exeter. She has a website dealing with stone quarries and in this website she lists 17 pages of stone quarries in Tulare County and has some photographs. As you recall, much of Visalia’s granite curbing, building trim, etc. came from the Rocky Point Granite Works. Take a look at her website at http://quarriesandbeyond.org/states/ca/quarry_photo/ca-tulare_photos.html

***Bill Allen who is writing a sesquicentennial history of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Visalia, will stop at nothing in his pursuit of historic morsels. He has apparently found a “bone yard” of old church building blocks that were salvaged from an earlier church building demolition.

***Recently I had a contact from a biographer looking for information on George Bucknam Dorr. According him, Dorr was a member of a trans-Sierra group in 1904 who started their 3-week journey to Mt Whitney from Visalia. Dorr became the founder and first Superintendent of Acadia National Park in the state of Maine. Visalia has played host to many prominent visitors.

“The Oak will be on sale for three weeks beginning Monday, January 12 and closing definitely January 30. There will be one and only one sale, and in order to get your Oak at the close of school you must pay your $1.25 to one of the salesmen on the campus.
Price Remains Same
The price of your yearbook has remained the same, $1.25. Oaks may be purchased from these salesmen: Nishon Moorvartian, Alene Smith, Eula Lee Hiner, Masahara Hashimoto, Jim Cook, Clement Renzi, Maurine Condit, Mada Faucet, Janice Condit, Elwood Cantrell, Ellen Nelson, and some members of the Oak staff.”
“The Pioneer” newspaper, Visalia High School, January 9, 1942.

Saturday, March 13, 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 histerry@comcast.net. I will add you to the list. I will not share your email address with anyone without your permission.

Congratulations go out to Ron Morrison who was the first to correctly identify the location of this mystery billboard. It stands on the west edge of the parking lot at Encina and Center streets across the street from Taylor’s Hot Dog Stand and Franey’s . Good job, Ron.

Now for the Next Mystery Spot!
This Visalia sign is permanently displayed on a Visalia building. What building is it? Here are your clues:
1) The building was completed in 1916.
2) The building has been restored and is currently in use.
3) It stands across the street from the old Visalia Cooperative Creamery building
4) In years past, Visalia’s problem children lived nearby.
Where is this building?

Dollner Street
L. A. Dollner, a native of Minnesota, was a well-respected jeweler in Visalia. He owned a jewelry store and also served as a Visalia City Trustee (councilmember) for 4 years. He was a longtime member of the Visalia Volunteer Fire Department and died in 1923. Dollner Street carries his name.

Old Jewelry Store Pocket Watch Becomes A Nice Gift
Speaking of Dollner, recently, Peggy Bragg told me she acquired an antique pocket watch for her husband, J. M. It was his birthday and she wanted to give him something nice. The watch is marked Dollner’s Special, Visalia, Calif. L.A. Dollner was in the jewelry business in Visalia for many years and retired in 1917. Dollner’s jewelry store advertisement can be seen on the street clock on the far right side of this photograph The street clock shown here was on the south side of Main Street, just west of Church Street. The view is looking northeast through the intersection of Church and Main. Peggy, great gift choice for J. M., and I know he’ll appreciate it.

Reo Rooms—In Visalia’s Tenderloin Section
If you follow HH, you probably remember there is an effort being made to write the history of an old business called “Visalia Furniture Exchange.” According to Bill Fuller, that company started on the ground floor of a building just to the east of the Ralston Purina Mill which was located on the southeast corner of Main and Santa Fe. I know that building as the Reo Rooms—a 2-story building where I’m told questionable activities occurred on the second floor at some time during the business’ life. The Reo Rooms building was destroyed in the disastrous 1967 Ralston Purina fire. I’d like to know more about the Reo Rooms. Please share any “Reo” stories that you’ve heard. By the way, the Reo Rooms in his picture was above the Jones Mattress Factory. You can see a little sign on the far right of the building.

Pope On A Pope
As you probably know, George Pope dabbles in lots of things. Recently, he reminded me of his interest in motorcycle racing and restoration. He sent me this photograph of him on a 1912 Pope Motorcycle, racing a guy on a Whizzer Motorcycle. George is the blurry one closest to the camera. By the way, many people have referred to him as “blurry”, huh George? By the way this photo was taken at Mooney Grove Park as part of the very enjoyable and well attended 2000 Motor Sports Festival.

Sequoia Field Turned Visalia Into A Military Town
If you’ve been following the Smokey Yunick Story in HH, you may recall that he was a cadet at Sequoia Field where he took primary pilot training during World War II and in fact, came here in 1944. He later became legendary as a top-notched driver/mechanic in stock cars. In Yunick’s 3-volume autobiographical set called “Best Damn Garage in Town,” he describes in colorful language his brief experience at Sequoia Field and includes his escapades in Visalia while on “pass”. He called this Sequoia Field bus “The Drunk’s Special,” so one can get the feeling for Visalia as a military town. Thanks to David Beattie for sharing his prized and fascinating 3-volume book set with me. Trish, Smokey’s daughter created a website, so take a look at http://www.smokeyyunick.com/

Pacific House—A Nice Old Hotel Building Still With Us
Recently John Bianco and I were talking about the Pacific House building located on the northwest corner of Church and Oak streets. His father, Phil Bianco, restored it and he owns it today. It is a great example of 19th century architecture. Over the years, at various times, it was called The Pacific House, Pacific Lodging House, and Pacific Hotel. I would sure like to know when it was built and I know John would like to know more about it as well. The earliest reference in my files shows 1886, but it could have been much earlier than that. Any help would be appreciated.

Amazing Coincidence Involving Former Tulare County Sheriff Sandy Robinson
Sandy Robinson was Sheriff of Tulare County from 1951-1966. After he left office, he also left Tulare County and thanks to Troy Tuggle we now know, Sandy for a time at least, lived in Baxter Springs, Kansas. Troy found this interesting article in the Milwaukee Journal newspaper for September 17, 1969.

***Jay Moring, a retired Visalia architect, recently sent me some great old Visalia stuff including his hand-drawn map of another Visalia carriage house. I am collecting information about old Visalia carriage houses, and for those of you unfamiliar with them, a carriage house is a building generally separated from the main house in which was stored the family carriage or buggy, much like a detached garage. I now have 3 carriage houses identified and still in existence in Visalia today. If you know of any, please let me know. Thanks, Jay for the stuff and map.

***During World War II the Visalia Airport was used by the military and Dana Lubich has asked if the old plaza rodeo grounds, now a race track was the site of a revetment (protective embankment or enclosure) used to provide cover for big anti-aircraft guns. Anyone know anything about revetments in the Plaza Park area? Was the bleacher area embankment part of an anti aircraft site?

***Tom Link has passed along a great internet website for us to visit. The site offers a chance to see old homes that were part of our past. It isn’t necessarily limited to Visalia. Go to the site and type in an address including city and state and if you’re lucky, up pops a photograph of your old home. It really is an amazing site. Thanks Tom for sharing this with us. Here’s the site http://www.vpike.com/

***Brian Goss asked if I had any old pictures of the warehouses that were located on Santa Fe between Center and Douglas streets. I had a couple and sent them to him and he was very happy to see in one of the photos the old warehouse in which he worked in the early 1990s.

“Have you a home for a little boy or girl? If so, Probation Officer Grimes wishes to get into touch with you. He has four little girls and one boy from one to eight years old whom he wishes to place in good homes. They are American and all in good health. The names of the children are suppressed for obvious reasons. There parents, owing to ill fortune and economic conditions, are unable to take care of them. Probation Officer Grimes states that he will vouch for the children’s characters. He is very anxious for the successful placing of the children among good people.” Visalia Morning Delta, June 7, 1914.