Sunday, December 6, 2015

Click on photo for larger image
Thanks for visiting Historic Happenings! If you are not on the email list, 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 never share your email address with anyone without your permission.   


Congratulations to Steve Gerrard for being the first to
correctly identify the building that once housed the Railroad Express Agency. It is now one of the Southern Pacific Depot Restaurant buildings on the southwest corner of Garden and Oak streets. Nice work Steve!

Now, for the next mystery spot. Here are your clues:
1) This is a corner building
2) The building was at one time affiliated with the local telephone company
3) At one time you could get news here.
4) If you add up the numbers in the street address of this building it will total 12.
Where is the building?

S & N Token—A Real Beauty
Kate Gibson-Cates recently inherited a cigar token from her grandmother. It is marked S & N Visalia, Calif. on one side and the other says Good For The Stag 12 1/2 Cent Cigar. Her keepsake is a beauty and originated from The Stag saloon and cigar store (100 block of E Main Street, south side of the street.)  It was owned by Carter Sweeney and Al Necklausson (S & N). It opened in 1921 and was a popular hangout and later
combined to become the Wunder Stag. A few of these old tokens still exist and surface occasionally. Thanks Kate, for sharing what are sometimes called "Good For" tokens. Anyone have any other Visalia tokens to share?

Church Street Before 1907
Recently Paul Green shared this real photo type postcard of Church Street in Visalia. It doesn't say whether it was north or south Church Street but it shows an unpaved street with horse and buggy marks in the dirt. Anyone recognize the cross street?  Off in the distance horses and buggies can be seen. This old postcard is postmarked on the back with 1907, so we know that this street photograph was taken in 1907 or before. Thanks Paul, for sharing this great old picture.

Visalia Map—A Half Century Old, Maybe
Phil Esbenshade recently shared a couple of images of a Visalia map he recently acquired. It is not dated, but has some clues as to its age. He was wondering when it was published and hopes someone can help him. The map was
obviously professionally printed and has some advertisers listed on it. Another clue—the map itself does not show the Royal Oaks Drive cul-de-sac. Anyone have an idea when this map was published? I'm thinking 1966/1967.

Armistice - A Cause for Celebration
Fairly recently, someone (forgive me but I don't remember who) shared this Visalia Morning Delta newspaper with me and I have to share it with you. It is dated November 11, 1918, and the bold headline reads ARMISTICE. The
sub headline anxiously announced that the "World War will come to an end" at 11:00 o'clock Paris time and that the armistice was signed at 5 o'clock by German representatives. Today we celebrate Veterans Day on the same day. If you look at the second image, you will see that Visalia celebrated this great day with a parade.

WPA—More Than Just Buildings
The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was one of the federal organizations of the 1930s-1940s during the Great Depression era. The federal government was concerned about the nation's high unemployment, so they were working with local government to try
to get public work projects done. Visalia had several buildings built with WPA funding, but obviously sidewalks, storm drains, etc. were part of that program. Richard Zack recently found some signed work by the WPA in Visalia on one of his walks. These two locations are in front of Miller's Mortuary in the sidewalk on Goshen Avenue near the cemetery. These are the first "signed" WPA projects (other than buildings) that I have seen in Visalia. Good observations Richard, and thanks for sharing.

Harry Tow—A Historian is Honored
On Thursday, October 22, 2015, former Visalia City Manager Harry Tow was honored as the Sequoia Council Boy Scouts of America Distinguished Citizen for 2015. As Visalia City Manager from 1958 to 1972, Harry was at the helm of Visalia's serious growth (population went from 15,000 to 30,000 during his tenure.) The 1960s were especially eventful and Harry was right there to witness it. He is always willing to share. By the way, when he left as city manager, he founded Quad Consultants and he still lives and works in Visalia.

The American Civil War…A Dark Time in Visalia History
When the American Civil War began (1861), Visalia wasn't even a decade old. Many of the settlers were southern born and supported the Confederacy during the war. As a result, the southern sympathizers made life difficult for the northern supporters. Concerned about Visalia's negative influence in the Union war effort, the north established Camp Babbitt just outside the Visalia city limits and stationed troops there to keep the peace. Peace was hard to come by and the little town suffered enormously. Here is a photograph of Camp Babbitt. On Monday, December 14th at 7:00pm I will present a historical program on Visalia's Civil War at the 210 Center in Visalia. See the electronic flyer attached for more details or email me.

**I got such a chuckle from Lori Chan Luna who shared a childhood story. For me it was so cute I have to share it with you. A few posts ago I included a small piece on Ralph Drath, a long time Visalia educator. After reading it, Lori reminisced and wrote, "When we were attending Highland Have School so many years ago, Mr. Drath was Principal. Everyone called him Mr. Giraffe and it wasn't until I left Highland to attend Houston Avenue School that I realized his name was actually M. Drath! It seems to me that maybe because he appeared so tall, we students figured that the name was appropriate! Anyway, thanks for helping me to remember this kind man."

**Richard Garcia has a question. Can anyone help? "In the early 1970s my favorite hangout was a classy little cocktail lounge in Visalia's Chinatown called the Nine Dragon Room. Located where the Hong Kong Market Place Restaurant is currently, its entrance was off Center Street. The entire length of the wall behind the bar (opposite side of the wall behind the current bar) was a mural of 9 beautiful dragons. A barmaid named Katie told me that an artist from San Francisco who was a heroin addict had painted it years ago. That's all I remember through a smoky haze of black lights, cigars and Canadian whiskey. Was it a canvas that someone saved? A wall that was covered? Or was it lost forever? Anyone have a photo?"

** It you'd like more history of Visalia's St. Charles Saloon and its collapse, read the story in the Lifestyle Magazine for November 2015, beginning on page 12, or you can read it online at

For the Lord's sake somebody, let up on our wood pile. If you can't steal from someone else, give us the proper direction, and we will send a load. Visalia Delta, December 25, 1862 (Commenting in frustration after repeated thefts of their firewood.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Click on photo for larger image
Thanks for visiting Historic Happenings! If you are not on the email list, 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 never share your email address with anyone without your permission.   

And we have a winner! Brent Nunes was the first to correctly identify the last mystery spot as the top decoration section of the old Bank of Italy building (now Bank of Sierra at Main and Church). Nice long distance identification, Brent!

Here is the next one. Your clues are:
1) It was a business that oftentimes went by the initials R.E.A.
2) Shipments of merchandise from this location generally went by rail.
3) It was located at an intersection.
4) This national company was started in 1917 and went out of business as a company in 1975.

What is this company name and where is the building?

The Granite Entrance to Cutler Park Or Is It?
Sally Saunders asked about the granite pillars at the entrance to Cutler Park. Does anyone know anything about them? I am
convinced they are original to the park and I would guess quarried at the Rocky Point Granite Works on Rocky Hill east of Exeter. Any concrete (no pun intended) information about them would be appreciated. By the way, the Cutler Park land was donated in 1919 to the county by John Cutler Jr. as parklands in his father's honor. The park was dedicated in 1921. Thanks for your question Sally, but after looking at these pillars, I'm wondering, are they really granite?

Painting by Ralph Homan Now at COS
On September 22, 2015, Richard Drath, along with his brother Jim, organized an event involving a painting to be displayed at the College of the Sequoias. The brothers had inherited the Ralph
Homan painting from their parents and it just so happened to be an original oil painting of a local Visalia scene. Because Ralph was a long time art instructor at COS, and because the Drath's mom Helen had worked at the library at COS for quite some time, they decided to donate the painting to COS. On September 22nd the dedication event took place at the Learning Resource Center where the painting is now on permanent display. Ralph Homan was invited and is the man on the left in this photo, and Richard Drath is on the right. A nice honor for Ralph. Go by and take a look. Thanks Richard and Jim!

Two Newspapers Merge into One

J. C. Hickman, a Visalia Times-Delta reporter in the 1960s who later became the managing editor of the newspaper shared a replica newspaper from March 1, 1928. It was an important newspaper in that it represented a historic time in Visalia newspaper history. In this edition,  the Visalia Times and the Visalia Delta became one newspaper—the Visalia Times-Delta. Morley Maddox, the owner of the Visalia Times and Charles Whitmore, the owner of the Delta shared equal ownership when the two papers merged. So now if you're ever asked when did the Times-Delta begin publication, you can say without question, it was March 1, 1928, nearly 90 years ago. Thanks, J. C. for this interesting piece of history.

Disney Becomes Part of the War Effort
Dana Lubich recently brought something to my attention—something I didn't realize. Many know that during World War II the Visalia Airport was home to a military bomber base (part of
Hammer Field out of Fresno). The unit was the 47th Bombardment Squadron, and Dana found that the unit had a patch or logo to represent them. That's interesting enough, but he found that the patch was created by Disney artists and actually found the patch displayed in a book called Disney Dons Dogtags: The Best of Disney Military Insignia from World War II. Apparently Disney artists were asked to create military patches for other units as well. Has anyone ever seen one of these? I'd love to see one. Thanks, Dana, for the neat historical tidbit.

A Peak at a Fire Alarm Box 
Eagle eye J. M. Bragg spotted something in the Masonic Lodge photo in the August 2015 posting of Historic Happenings. It is something that I believe no one else noticed on the wooden electrical pole. In that photo you will see two white horizontal stripes on the pole and J. M. believes that between these two lines was
mounted a fire alarm box. I have included here a close up of that electrical pole (sorry, it’s so blurry). Look closely and see if you think J. M. is correct. If he is, that fire box which was similar to the one shown here, is box #123 and is listed as mounted at Church and Center streets. J. M. remembers riding his bicycle to George McCann School as a youngster and feeling the urge to pull the alarm handle. Funny how sometimes delinquent habits follow one even through adulthood, huh J. M. ?

A Newspaper First 
Recently, J. C. Hickman shared another fascinating newspaper replica, this one of Visalia's first newspaper. On June 25, 1859, the first Visalia newspaper was published with the fancy name of Tulare County Record and Fresno Examiner. It proclaimed that it was a politically independent publication and a "journal for the people." The owner was Isaac Carpenter. The masthead was eye catching and allegedly represented a scene on Main Street in Visalia with a Butterfield Stagecoach being pulled by a four-horse team. Also in the image is a sign that says "246 miles to San Francisco." This newspaper gave Visalia the bragging rights for having the earliest newspaper in the Southern San Joaquin Valley. Thanks J.C. for sharing another nice historical tidbit.

**Lynne Brumit saw the Hong Kong restaurant menu in the last HH and remembers as a young girl her father bringing home "yummy fried rice, egg foo young, chow mein, wonton, and sweet and sour pork." Almost makes your mouth water, doesn't it?

**If you would like to read about how the Visalia baseball team nearly killed Baseball Hall of Famer Frank Chance, pick up a copy of September 2015 Lifestyle Magazine. The article begins on page 12. Otherwise you can go online and read it at

Another First in Visalia…"It was on July 4, 1858 that Mr. E. F. Warner received a consignment of fire crackers from Hornitos in Mariposa County. The man holds the distinction of making the first fire cracker noise in this city." Visalia Times, July 6, 1908

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Click on photo for larger image
Thanks for visiting Historic Happenings! If you are not on the email list, 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 never share your email address with anyone without your permission.   

Well, here's a familiar mystery spot winner! Virginia
Strawser was the first to correctly identify the red brick building
feature as part of the old Ford building (now, at least partly occupied by Family Health Care). The mystery spot was the top portion of the building at Bridge and Center streets. Nice work, Virginia.

For those of up to it, and I hope you are, here are the clues for the next one:
1) This feature is on a corner building
2) The building was finished in 1923
3) R. F. Felchlin and Co. of Fresno built the structure
4) It is a dominate building downtown.

Where is this building? Good luck!

Hong Kong—Food For Thought on the Menu
Everyone has heard of Visalia's Hong Kong restaurant at 417 E. Center Street in the heart of old Visalia Chinatown. I don't know when the restaurant first opened but it has been around for a long time. I know it dates back to at least 1938, but I suspect it has been around much longer than that. Recently, I found an old undated menu from that
eatery. What a fun read! It includes prices and some fun dishes like chop suey, fried noodles, boiled noodles, mince meat, etc. In small print at the bottom of the menu (cut off from this scan) it says "Please do not deface or mar the furniture." You don't see that sort of request very often on menus today. Must have been a rough crowd!

Visalia Manufacturing Co. – The Ice Age
Ice in the early days was an important commodity especially in the valley heat, so in 1897 after Visalia decided to stop having it delivered from out of the area, the town built an ice plant. It was constructed near east Main Street at Santa Fe adjacent to the Visalia Water Works. At

that time ice was sold to commercial establishments for about $6.00 per ton or for smaller quantities it for a half a cent per pound. Delivery of ice became routine much like milk deliveries in the day. Early ice boxes in homes needed plenty of ice to keep food cool during the hot summers. Ice is another item we take for granted these days.

Dallas Pattee—Historian Loses Everything in Fire Except Positive Attitude
Many of you know Dallas Pattee and others at least know of her. She is a Tulare County historian who specializes in cemetery history and is the creator of the long-running "Tales From the Tomb" program. Dallas, a 60-year old native of Tulare County, lives a simple life style without a lot of so-called "creature comforts," but she thrives on writing and researching local history and she does a great job. She has been a regular fixture at the Visalia Cemetery visiting graves, researching Tulare County pioneers, and directing "Tales From the Tomb." On May 12, 2015, her home near Munson
burned to the ground. Fortunately, she was not home at the time, but she lost virtually everything—her family keepsakes, furnishings and equally important to her, her historical research material including books and papers. The incident of course is devastating to her as we can all imagine, but despite her losses, serious on-going health issues, and limited financial resources, she maintains a positive attitude. She currently lives with friends until she can find other more permanent housing arrangements. Dallas has the same tough spirit as the pioneers she often writes about. I will keep you posted in HH on her situation. The photographs included here are of Dallas in costume (widow's weeds) as she appeared in various productions of "Tales From the Tomb." If you'd like to correspond or talk to her, I can provide contact information.

Visalia Junior College—An Important Institution
Recently, Sandy Newman shared this Visalia Junior College (now called COS) booklet for the school year 1941-1942. The 58-page publication describes school rules, suggestions for college life, etc. for prospective students. It also includes class offerings and lists administrators and faculty. One of the student requirements mentioned in the booklet under the title "Living Accommodations" is that students attending college from outside of the area get
pre-approval for their new quarters from the Dean of the school.
They also discouraged students from living in apartments.
Interesting? By the way, the Visalia Junior College was organized in November, 1925 and was part of the Visalia Union High School District. This booklet includes a diagram of the master plan for the campus as part of a centerfold, and is shown here.

Harrell Building Undergoing Major Work
Back in February, HH mentioned the remodeling project going on in the former Mike's Camera location in the old Harrell building. As you may recall, James Jessen (of Tazzeria fame) is making a new restaurant there. It is going to be amazing space, I'm sure, and as part of the job it looks like he is
incorporating the vacated Christian Science Reading Room area as well. I can't wait to see what James does with this project. Wouldn't it be nice if the Harrell Bank safe, especially the fancy safe door, could be highlighted in this new restaurant. By the way, as a historical note, the building was built in 1889 and was originally a 3-story beauty. In 1962, a fire reduced the building to the one-story that we see today. Good luck, James, on your project.

Christian Science Reading Room Vacated
Well, there have been a few recent developments regarding the First Church of Christ Scientist in Visalia. Their public Reading Room has been in the old Harrell building (110 So. Court Street) for many years, but they recently vacated and it looks like a new tenant (James Jessen) has taken over. See more of the story above.  The Reading Room staff over
the years has always been so accommodating in allowing visitors to look at the old bank safe there. Also, regarding the Christian Science church, the Visalia Arts Consortium has taken over the building at 400 N. Church Street, the former Christian Science church building. According to my records, the Christian Science Society of Visalia was organized in February 1904 and in 1914, they moved to this building on Church Street. The site was their church until 1968. Michael Kreps provided this old photograph of the Church Street building in its early years.

***For those of you who would like to read a history of the Acequia post office, pick up a copy of the Lifestyle Magazine for an article that starts on page 12, or you can read it online at  again starting on page 12

***Thanks to all of you that shared information on Van Tech Engineering. Your information was much appreciated.

***In the last HH I shared that the Masonic Lodge building fa├žade at the Tulare County Museum had been restored and I heard from Phil Kneeland who shared a few interesting historic Masonic tidbits. First of all, he said that Masonic Lodges are generally in upstairs locations for privacy purposes, and secondly, he gave insight into a curiosity I have had for many years. In Visalia's first Masonic Lodge the upstairs windows were painted over in what to me looked like a checkerboard pattern. Phil indicated that the pattern had significance in Masonic ritual. Thanks, Phil, for your information.

***Alfred Williams, referring to the last HH story on the Deluxe Bakery, said that when the announcement of the Japanese surrender during World War II was made, he was in the Deluxe Bakery picking up something for his mother. He indicated that following the announcement, Main Street was "a mad house."  He added, "People in the street, cars racing up and down honking their horns. Kind of a mini Times Square, I suppose. We lived north of Main Street and I had a difficult time getting myself and my bicycle back across Main Street to go home. One of those things, like when I heard about Pearl Harbor, that I will never forget. The day it started and the day it ended." Thanks Al, for sharing.

Great Joy Among City Sewer Rats and Bugs—Quantity of Liquid Evidence is Poured Into Sewer by Marshal. Two barrels of beer and several bottles of whiskey, the results of raids on blind pigs in the past few weeks were dumped into the sewer at the city hall yesterday by City Marshal Ed Rowland the act being witnessed by Mayor Cutler and others. The value of the stuff was about $25, but it being against the law to convert it into money in Visalia, the marshal was forced to destroy it. Visalia Morning Delta, September 19, 1914