Sunday, September 2, 2012

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Back in June when the last mystery spot location was featured, very few of you got it right. It was a tough one. Art Browning was the first to identify the north end cap of the building at 115 So. Locust Street. It used to be McMahan’s Furniture in the days of old. Nice work, Art!

Okay, here is one that will separate the rookie detectives from the seasoned veterans. Most of you go by it every day or almost every day. Where is this building. Here are your  clues:

It serves as a meeting hall.
The building had a cornerstone put in place in 1934.
Many prominent local leaders frequented this building.
The dedication ceremony for this building was led building by Frank W. Mixter.
 Good luck!

The Cost of Living Down Stream
Visalia has been a flood target for many years, but the 1945 flood was a big one. In fact, it had been the worst one for Visalia since the 1906 flood. Torrential rain in the Sierra in late January and early February of 1945 caused the St. Johns River to overflow its banks. Over 7” of rain fell in the Giant Forest area in one evening with the total storm dropping more than 12” of rain over the mountain region. Chuck Loffland remembered his father and other family members worked at the Edison yard on Ben Maddox (near what is now the Sonic Drive-In) at the time of the flood. He shared this photograph which appeared in the Edison News, March 1945. The flood was so news worthy the Visalia Times Delta prepared a souvenir photograph folder (sold for 10 cents) that showed different flood scenes within the city and area. It was designed to be mailed.  Some of these early souvenir folders can still be found. Thanks Chuck, for sharing your flood story and photograph.

Naughty Marietta
Bill Allen shared this photograph that he received from Don Clark, now deceased. It shows the 1939 Washington School cast of the famous operetta “Naughty Marietta.” Good looking group. This photo was taken at the Montgomery Auditorium (now the L. J. Williams.) Mrs. McClosky was the teacher and is shown in the top row center. Thanks, Bill for sharing this with us.

Short Life of the Visalia Parking Meter
According to some experts, the first parking meters as we know them were first installed in Oklahoma City in about 1935. The City of Visalia approved parking meters for the downtown district in 1947. By July of that year 529 meter posts were in place and by the first week in August, the meters were installed and in use. A quick evaluation of the success of these new parking control gadgets showed lots of available parking spaces in the downtown—perhaps too much. In 1963, the community including business owners were pushing for their removal. By May 1963, the city began to remove the meters and time limits signs for free parking soon took over on city streets. Richard Drath acquired one of these removed meters and shared that his brother Jim, while in high school, worked part time for the city, emptying the belly of these coin eating monsters. Later, Jim Drath became a peace officer with Visalia PD. By the way, when rookie Visalia police officer, Dale Treece, now deceased, had parking meter enforcement duty, he was given city provided coins for the meters. When he found an expired meter, he was instructed to put a coin in the meter and leave a card thanking the motorist for shopping in Visalia.  Thanks Richard for sharing this relic from bygone days. This 1955 flood picture shows meters lined up on court Street between Center and Oak streets.

We Need Some Help On This One
Nancy Wann was kind enough to share this great old picture. On the back it says “Cousin’s Service Station and Overnight Cabins (motel?) about 1926 near Visalia.” As you can see the picture is packed with interesting objects like the old car, gas pumps, lots of signs, trees and buildings. Can anyone identify this building or know where it was located? Nancy is part of the Moore family, so could it be a business owned by one of the Moores? Could it be Mills Grove? Help on identifying this nice old picture would be greatly appreciated. Thanks Nancy, for providing this beautiful mystery photo.

Aurora Borealis – Northern Lights in the Southern San Joaquin
Dana Lubich, an artist, amateur historian, and astronomer brought this interesting historical tidbit to my addition and wanted me to share it. Dana said, “This year (2012) marks the 153rd anniversary of the largest solar storm to have hit the earth (Sept 1-2). It was so powerful that even Visalia saw an aurora in the sky. In some places, but not in Visalia, telegraph keys sparked and when batteries were disconnected, telegraph systems still worked from the power the sun imposed on the cables.” Here is the article that Dana found in the September 3, 1859 edition of the Tulare County Record and Fresno Examiner newspaper. As you might expect there were no photos of this phenomenon, but if you go to this website you can get an idea of how it might have looked in the Visalia sky. Nice piece of history, Dana, thanks.

***Fresno State University is working on a project to identify a list of valley “firsts” which will eventually work into a display at the Madden Library in early 2013. They are looking for things like first automobile in the valley, first planted crop, etc. Know of any Visalia firsts? Know of any Tulare County firsts? Let me know and we’ll compare them with other valley counties to see if we were the first in the valley. The area covered is from the southern end of Kern County to San Joaquin County on the north.

***Still hunting for a photograph of old Nathaniel Vise. As you recall the picture of him was misidentified, so we need a photo of the illusive Nat. A number of you, including Marian Shippey Cote and Dana Lubich are working hard on this hunt for a photo. We know the “bear hunter” was a nomadic man, but he is proving to be very hard to find.

***Lynne Brumit shared her recollection of the Visalia J.C. Penney store’s  overhead pneumatic tube system. Small items like currency or paperwork were placed in the “little capsule” at the checkout stand the capsule was then sucked up thru the tube into the balcony office. I’m with you, Lynne, these systems sure fascinated me. I think the tube was another casualty of the electronic age.

***Phil Kneeland mentioned the Navy Gas facility on E. Main Street. Anyone remember it? Anyone have a picture of it?

***Roller skating has been a long tradition in Visalia appearing as early as 1906. Gary Holder remembers the skating rink near where the convention center is now in the 1950s. I remember it was still there in the early 70s. Any stories or pictures of roller skating in Visalia?

***Bill Allen is at it again. He reports that he has undertaken another history writing project. This one has three parts. In the first, he will be reviewing the details of early Visalia Public Cemetery history up to where Annie Mitchell left off. A second part will cover the fascinating information about early plans for a second Visalia Cemetery outside of town. The third part deals with Dallas Pattee’s Tales From the Tomb, her unique contribution to how history may be learned through drama with lives actors. Good luck, Bill, on your history project. By the way “Tales” will be performed at the Visalia Cemetery on Saturday, October 20, 2012. Let me know if you want more details.

At Recreation Park:

Advertisement in the Visalia Times Delta July 22, 1936