Wednesday, January 26, 2011

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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.

Well the James Hitchcock run has been broken. This time, Art Browning was the first to get the last mystery spot correct. The little skylight structure is on top of the old Palace Hotel building on the northeast corner of Court and Main streets. It is currently owned and appreciated by William Martin. Oh, by the way and not a big surprise, William got it right, too.

The next mystery spot is much easier. Here are the clues:
1)      The building was once the home to one of the biggest, if not the biggest department store in Tulare County
2)      The family that owned the building was also connected to a famous local pioneer aviator
3)      As ____________as candy
4)      On this building site, the famous Fashion Saloon stood in the 1860s
Good luck.

Giddings Street
C.J. Giddings was born in Ohio in 1843, came to California at the age of 26 and in 1876 he arrived in Visalia. He was a businessman but is probably most well-known as a banker and eventually became President of the Bank of Visalia. He died in 1928 and is buried in the Visalia Cemetery. It is his name that is on one of Visalia’s most traveled streets.

Officer Floyd Depew – A Special Man
Recently Bea Moring passed along a story about one of  the Visalia Police Department’s most well-known and legendary officers. He  was Floyd Depew. I had the pleasure to know and work with Floyd or “Pappy” as we called him. He started fulltime with the Visalia Police Department in 1937 and in his later years worked parking enforcement. Bea fondly remembered him and said, “Some 50 years ago, I was shopping downtown with my two small children. Upon returning to my car I found that my parking meter had expired and Mr. Depew was there ready to write a ticket—until he saw I was carrying two shoe boxes with new shoes for my children. He then smiled and said, ‘You’ve just bought new shoes for your kids, you don’t need a parking ticket,’ and walked away. He must have been a special guy from all the things I’ve heard about him over the years," she added.  He retired from VPD in 1974 and has passed on.

Soldiers Head Down to the Border
Recently, I was discussing the classic photograph showing soldiers seated on the steps of the old Tulare County Courthouse. The photo is oftentimes connected to World War I, but in fact, it was taken just before Visalia’s Co. D 2nd Infantry Regiment of the California National Guard unit was ordered to the Mexican border in 1916. The photo quality is so good that many Visalians can be identified. Really a nice old photo. Marian Shippey Cote supplied this one.

Bob Hope and Bing Crosby Play Visalia

 In the last HH posting, Marian Shippey Cote passed along that she had heard the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby had been at Sequoia Field during World War II. I still cannot verify this, but we can now confirm that the two were in Visalia at the Visalia Golf Club (now Visalia Country Club) on April 12, 1942 for a fundraiser. I can say this thanks to a recent contact I had with Pete Sweeney. He indicated that he actually saw them here. Hope and Crosby and others came as part of a fundraising effort for the American Red Cross. Pete was 11 years old at the time and was a big fan of the radio celebrity Bob Hope, so when he heard Bob was going to be here, he paid the 50 cent admission fee to get into the small clubhouse. He got Bob’s autograph and someone said to him, “Why don’t you get his too,” and pointed to Bing Crosby. He did, but at the time, he had no clue who Bing Crosby was. Pete is shown here with his wife Shirley, and he is holding his precious autographed keepsake. Thanks Pete for sharing your story. Now we still need to see if the celebrities paid a visit to Sequoia Field at the same time. Regarding the Hope and Crosby visit, George Reece also shared his story about the celebrities and their visit. He said, “They came [to Visalia] on a War Bond drive. Prior to the show that they put on at the airport (which I attended), they played a round of golf. I was a caddy at that time, so when they played, several of us got to tag along. Julian Phillipe was one of their caddies. Their banter on the course was as entertaining as the show. Thanks to Pete and George for sharing their remembrances, and by the way, happy 60th wedding anniversary to George and Colleen Reece.

End of the Trail – The Story Never Gets Old
Madaline McKillip, brother to Visalia newspaper publisher John Brackett, wrote that her brother was a big advocate for getting the original End of the Trail statue to the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. He included a lot about the famous statue in the newspaper. Eventually a deal was made to get the classic original piece of Fraser art to Oklahoma City. We now have a replica as part of that deal at Mooney Grove Park. Tulare County’s End of the Trail story never gets old. For many years, Mooney Grove Park was home to this famous artist’s signature piece —the End of the Trail. And if you ever visit Oklahoma City, stop by the museum and see the original; the restored statue will take your breath away. This photograph shows the End of the Trail statue in San Francisco at the Pan Pacific Expo in 1915. This one was at Mooney Grove Park before it made it to its new home in Oklahoma City.

***On February 12, a John Muir impersonator (Frank Helling) will be at the Arts Visalia as part of the annual sofa art show. It is a free show and for more information you can contact Caroline Koontz with the Arts Consortium at 713-4324 or email her at By the way, John Muir came to Visalia in 1901 and talked about the Giant Sequoias.

***An HH read asked if anyone has any recollection of a bar just east of Visalia on Road 156 called “The Blood Bucket.” Get this, the story goes that “the bar had a history of someone’s head being cut off while the person was running thru the front saloon type doors and their body kept going for a little distance until they dropped dead.” Any of this sound familiar to anyone? Anybody out there ever heard of “The Blood Bucket” or can anyone add to this Tulare County version of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”?

***Lots of comments came in about the 1955-56 flood story in the last HH. Duane Copley, son of Mayor John Copley at the time, recalls visiting the problem areas on Mill Creek during the blockage. He described the scene as he saw holes being dug to find the blockage.  He said the debris kept moving downstream and became a moving target. He said finally workers dug a hole at Court and Center streets, dropped iron rails into the channel to form a grate. The log eventual collected on the grate and workers were able to pull it out.

***Several of you knew Visalia soldiers killed in Vietnam. I included a website listing them in the last HH. I was told that long term Visalian Sergeant Richard Allen White was also killed, but is listed as being from Monterey. He probably was drafted or enlisted from there.

***Jan Morrison really enjoyed Mid Town Lanes when she was a youngster. Her family spent a lot of time there and she remembers the bowling leagues and climbing on the pinsetter machines when her uncle Arthur “Art” Pendola worked there. Jan has wonderful memories of the old bowling alley.

***Eleanor Bergthold was thumbing through some old Visalia newspaper files and came across some old quotes. Here’s a cute one from 1878: “Mosquitoes are holding nightly concerts to crowded houses along Mill Creek. They are so numerous that the sun’s rays never seem to reach earth.” I don’t love mosquitoes, but I sure do love the words crafted by early writers!

“The Chinese New Year commences Thursday Evening. The popping of fire crackers during the past few days is only preliminary to the pandemonium that will commence Friday in real earnest.”  Daily Morning Delta, January 23, 1895

Saturday, January 8, 2011

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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.

Unbelievable! James Hitchcock has done it again. Number 5 in a row – he was the first to correctly identify the mystery spot feature as part of the old Bank of Italy (Bank of America) building which now houses the Bank of the Sierra. Does James know his architecture or what?

Are you ready for the next one? Here are the clues:
1)      It is a little skylight rooftop structure on top of a building  (sorry it is a little blurry)
2)      It sets atop probably the oldest commercial building in Visalia
3)      When the building opened, the governor of the State of California was there for the dedication
4)      The feature can only be viewed from a block or more away.
What building is this? Good luck.

Whitendale Ave
I was talking with Louis Whitendale the other day and I asked him about the street name of Whitendale. He said that Ida Whitendale owned the 80-acre parcel near what is now Whitendale and Court streets and she is the one the street was named after. By the way, the correct pronunciation of Whitendale is: White-n-dale not Whitt-n-dale. For many years I pronounced it wrong and I know others have too.

Speaking of Water—Amazing Log Jam
All the recent rains have brought back memories of Visalia’s flood history, especially the flood that occurred in 1955-56. One of the hazards of having a creek flowing under our city, is that occasionally a plumbing problem develops. This happened in January 1956, before Terminus Dam was in place. December had brought lots of rain and the waterways in and around Visalia overflowed their banks. And the following month, more rain came and Mill Creek, the waterway that flows for a third mile below downtown Visalia, overflowed again. This time, somehow a very large log about 3’ in diameter and about 12-14’ long got wedged in the Mill Creek channel at the intersection of Center and Court streets. The log clogged the below surface channel, causing water to gush up at points throughout town. Once the clog was found, a hole had to be dug through the street to the channel and a crane was used to remove the huge log. How a log of that size was able to flow that far in Mill Creek is still a mystery.

Visalia’s Fallen Heroes in the Vietnam War
 Sophie Britten recently sent me an internet link that identifies the American casualties in the Vietnam conflict and many of the soldier’s named have their pictures and biographical information included. The site Virtual Wall lists these Visalians as killed during that war: SP4 Danny David Dye, SSG James Louis Keller, CWO Phillip Sherman Mohnike, SP4 Lawrence Robert Warf, PFC Reynaldo B. Florez, Sgt Lour Le Desma, CPL Michael Mallory Montgomery, SGT Floyd Daniel Wimer, Pvt Charles Denny Hight, SGT Roger Gordon Leadbetter, CWO James Mitchell Stever, SGT Alonzo Dale Woods. And you can check on soldiers killed from  other cities throughout the country as well. Go to the webpage at
and first click on a state. When it opens, scroll down to the city and the names will appear. Then click on their names. It should show you a picture of the person, or at minimum, their bio and medals. A very sobering site, but worth the visit. By the way, did any of you know any of the Visalia soldiers killed? Thanks, Sophie for providing this to us. 

Annie’s Rose
In the last HH, I highlighted a 1969 Visalia Times Delta article written by J. C. Hickman on Annie R. Mitchell, well-respected historian for Tulare County. After it appeared, J.C. contacted me and said he remembered the interview. He shared a comment she made when people would say to her, “those were the good old days,” she would respond back with “yes, but thank goodness they are not coming back.” A number of you responded with memories of Annie Mitchell after that posting and one came from Eleanor Moore Bergthold, the daughter of Ralph Moore. Ralph was a well-known miniature rose expert and was recognized for his amazing breeding of miniature roses. Ralph was born in 1907 and Annie was born in 1906 and they became friends. In 1996, Ralph Moore bred a special miniature rose in honor of Annie. The rose was called Annie R. Mitchell and was a soft creamy yellow colored miniature. It was featured in one of his catalogs. In 1996, he had a ceremony at his Sequoia Nursery and honored Annie with that special rose. Annie died in 2007 and Ralph in 2009. Thanks Eleanor for reminding us of your father’s tribute to Annie. By the way, Mary Hill was honored with a specially developed rose as well.

Visalia Electric Featured at the Tulare County Museum
Recently, a scale model replica of the Visalia Electric Railroad was set up at the Tulare County Museum complete with working model train, buildings and land features. The train travels the route of the Visalia Electric Railroad on a track which passes by a number of landmarks and cities on its journey. Several railroad model historians worked on this for a long time and just recently got it set up at the museum for people to enjoy. You may have read about it in the Valley Voice newspaper. Louis Whitendale, shown here, and Doc Humason and others were responsible for this labor of love. It’s well worth a trip out to the museum to see.

***The request I made for information on the Happy Go Lucky Dance Hall brought in many responses. It was quite a social spot in Tulare and was located near what is now Mooney Blvd and Tulare. Building is gone now. Thanks to all of you who shared on this one.

***The inquiry from Monty Sands on the metal tower west of town brought in lots of possible answers, but no luck on identification.

**Marian Shippey Cote corrected one thing I said in the last HH about the bowling alley. Mid-Town Lanes on Acequia continued to operate for a short time along with  the bowling alley on Mooney Blvd. (where the Goodwill store is now.) Mid-Town Lanes was later demolished to make a parking lot behind what is now Midtown News on Acequia.

***James Hughes describes himself as “historic retail [architecture] junky.” He is very interested in how the retail buildings have changed over the years, especially the Sweet building (where Links Clothing store is now.) Quite a change there over the years.

**Marian Shippey Cote recently learned that Bob Hope and Bing Crosby visited Sequoia Field during World War II. I don’t believe I’d ever heard that before and I would be interested to know if anyone else had any knowledge of these two great entertainers coming to this area?

“Uncut wood and old clothing is now a pressing need of the Central Welfare Council, and the officers are making an appeal to the public to furnish the supplies. Uncut wood is needed to reestablish the woodpile in the yard at the city hall, where transients and others may work a few hours chopping wood in return for meals, food or clothing.”  Visalia Times Delta, November 16, 1933.