Wednesday, July 9, 2014



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Nice work Brent! Yes, Brent Nunes was the first to correctly identify the last mystery spot. It was the nice old Bank of Italy (Bank of America) building at the corner of Church and Main streets.

Now for the next one.  Where is this feature and what is it? Here are the clues:

1) This stands on the sidewalk.
2) It is about time that this feature became a mystery spot.
3) It is about 100 years old.
4) It is in plain sight.
Good luck.




Free Camping in the City
During the 1920s and later, some communities opened up their towns to campers. These sites were generally called auto camps and oftentimes the camps piped in water and added other improvements. These free camps offered travelers convenience and hospitality and were set up many times to encourage people to come back and relocate in the town. It was in a way  a marketing strategy. Visalia had one and it was called the Visalia Municipal Auto Camp and it was Bridge and Willow where the Convention Center/City Hall East complex is today. It was a popular camping spot for those passing through to visit Sequoia Park. In 1922, for example, 2,806 people stayed there as they traveled through town. The auto park closed as a free camping location in 1926. Notice in the photo, thru the trees, you can see a portion of the front of the Visalia Municipal Auditorium.


Another End of the Trail
Dallas Pattee shared this photograph she recently found on one of her many historical forays. At first glance, it looks like the famous Mooney Grove Park statue sculpted by James Earle Fraser. But a closer look quickly tells you it's clearly not that. This one is actually a carved redwood "knock off" of the original End of the Trail. This one stood at the entrance to a place called Trees of Mystery which is on the Redwood Highway (Highway 101) about 36 miles from the Oregon border. This replica just points out how popular the End of the Trail statue really is and was. I can only imagine how many versions of this famous statue there are in the world.


"Pappy" and His Harley
Over the months several of you mentioned Floyd Depew, one of Visalia's veteran police officers, now deceased. A number of you also mentioned his famous Harley Davidson motorcycle. Floyd Depew began his law enforcement career in the 1930s and as he approached his twilight years with Visalia PD, he took over parking enforcement duties downtown and used this 3-wheel
Harley Davidson. Floyd became a fixture downtown and many people remember him. The 3-wheel motorcycle he used was given to him when he retired in 1974. After he passed away, the family donated the motorcycle back to Visalia PD. "Pappy," as he was affectionately called, was an important, almost legendary, figure in the community for many years. There are so many Depew stories but I’d love to hear more.


The Mills of Visalia
Visalia's downtown skyline sure has changed over the years. On the southeast corner of Santa Fe and Main streets, now a medical office, stood a feed or grain mill. In fact, the location had been a mill site since the beginning of the town. Obviously, the many mills that stood there took  on different forms over the years and here you see two of them. The first shows Visalia Milling Co. in 1944. Notice on the far
right of the photograph is the Santa Fe Railroad Depot. The other photo is from the 1950s and shows the site when it was owned by Ralston Purina. Notice the rail cars being loaded. Ralston remained until it burned and many people still remember the famous Purina fire. It changed the skyline forever.


Another Hospital
In 1958 three Visalia doctors, Dr. Browning, Dr. Eckert, and Dr. Kleyn started Sierra Medical Group. The group had their offices near the Sierra Community Hospital on Court Street between Tulare and Walnut. Later Visalia Community Hospital was built, a complex now owned by Kaweah Delta.  I don't recall when Kaweah Delta acquired the property on Court Street, but as I remember there was some controversy surrounding it. The private Visalia Community Hospital at one time was administered by Hyatt Medical Enterprises and it was an alternative to Kaweah Delta. Does anyone remember when Kaweah Delta acquired the property.


***In the last HH I asked for confirmation of a photo of what I believe to be Charlie Hammer sitting at his desk. More than a dozen of you confirmed that in fact it was Charlie in the photograph. Thanks to all of you for taking the time.

***If you'd like to read about the smallest park in the world located right here in Visalia, pick up a copy of the Lifestyle Magazine June 2014 issue and starting on page 18 the story begins. Photos are included. Or you can read it on line at:  http://issuu.com/lifestylemagazine/docs/lifestyle_june14_web

***Patricia Geiger is interested in a photo of the Denny's Restaurant that was near Noble and Chinowth (Carls Jr. there now). Can anyone help with the picture?


Good News for Bachelors—A short time since a family arrived in Tulare county from Texas composed of the father, mother, twenty-one daughters and one son. During the past week another family from the same state arrived and took up their abode amongst us, in which were fourteen unmarried daughters.  Visalia Delta, April 14, 1860

Sunday, June 8, 2014



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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
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Congratulations go to Lloyd Trout who was first to identify the last mystery spot as the Buddhist Church or Temple on Center Street just east of Santa Fe.  Nice work, Lloyd.



Now for the next one. Where is this building? Here are your clues:
1) The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.
2) It is a classical revival style building.
3) It has a granite block base.
4) It once stood on the site of the Bank of Visalia.

Where is it? Good luck!


Visalia's Gothic Catholic Church
Well, we are lucky enough to have another of Albert Stroben's photographs supplied by his son Tom. It shows an earlier St. Mary's Catholic Church sometime between 1910 when it was built and 1954 when it was replaced with the current  Catholic church.   According to Bill Allen who wrote the history of the Catholic church here in Visalia in his book called It Started in a Stable, this $12,000 church was adorned with beautiful stained glass windows and was built using gray cement blocks. The gothic style structure was designed by local architect Morve Weaver and built by local builder J. M. Nelson. This photo is unique in that it shows a view from a perspective not often seen with the convent in the background. Again thanks to the wonderful photography of Albert Stroben and to Tom for sharing it.


Estrada's Spanish Kitchen
Many of you have mentioned Estrada's Restaurant over the years and suggested I add something about it in HH. Dana Lubich recently (within the last few months) did an internet search and found that even though Visalia's Estrada's no longer exists, there are other Estrada restaurants that do exist or did in other towns. Some are or were connected to the Visalia Estrada family. Although the Estrada
family had their culinary start in other Visalia locations, their restaurant was popular at two locations within our town. The first well-known location opened at 414 W. Main Street  in 1924 in the remodeled Vucovich home. In about 1958 Estrada's moved to 1545 S. Mooney Blvd. By 1992 the famous Visalia restaurant closed its doors. The Estrada story in Visalia is an interesting one and goes far beyond restaurants. They have a connection to the Visalia Stock Saddle.


AARP and a 1966 Visalia High Prom
Dana Lubich brought this to my attention recently and he thought HH readers might enjoy it. I agree with him. This interesting article appeared in the May, 2014 issue of AARP magazine on page 42. The author of the article is Marian Adamson and she wrote about her and boyfriend Larry's experience at the 1966 Prom at an unnamed Visalia high school. I think it's worth a read. Thanks, Dana for sharing it.


Charles Hammer—Another  Important Visalian
Well, here is another picture that was tucked away in the Albert Stroben photo collection. This unidentified and undated picture shows who I believe to be  Charles J. Hammer, owner of Hammer Machinery Co. The well-respected native Visalian was a successful businessman and served on the city council and served as mayor for a time in the 1930s. He was tireless in his civic involvement and he had a special love for local rodeo. Thanks again Tom for sharing. By the way the calendar on the wall advertises the Visalia Lumber Company, but the date is unclear. For those who can positively identify Charles Hammer in this photo, please let me know. I'd like to verify what I believe to be true.


Redwood High School Scrapbooks Surface
Recently I was contacted by Thomas Bowser, a student at Redwood High School, and he told me that his journalism instructor wanted to talk to me about a large number of Redwood High School scrapbooks.  A scrapbook was prepared each year by the journalism historian for the school. I talked with Nick Miller, a Redwood High School journalism teacher, who said that some years ago he witnessed the
"trashing" of the scrapbooks and admitted he just could not let them be destroyed. He "saved" them and kept them for years trying to figure out what to do with them. He and I talked and he asked if I knew of a home for the books, so I contacted Sheryll Strachen, a Tulare County Library staff member who works in the history room, and she accepted the 15 or so scrapbooks for the history room collection. Sheryll loves local history so I knew
what her answer would be. They are now saved in the History Room. The year ranges are  from  the 1960s through some in the 1990s, with obviously a number of the years missing. Thanks Nick, for dumpster diving to save these important historical scrapbooks packed with Redwood history. Shown here is a sample of the scrapbooks.


Etzenhauser Brickyard—Could It Be?
Ron Clevenger recently mentioned that in the 1960s he worked for Southern California Edison at the pole yard on Ben Maddox. He remembers while digging there with coworkers he found remnants of what he thought was a brickyard complete with kiln. Visalia had several brickyards in its history, and one in particular was in the area that he described. It was owned by a man named Etzenhauser and it was situated just east of Ben Madddox. Could Ron and his fellow workers have discovered what was left of Etzenhauser's Brickyard? This is a picture of the century-old brickyard in operation.



***Brian Blain asked about a farm "colony" near Farmersville. It was referenced with a November 1938 group photograph by the famous depression era photographer named Dorothea Lange. At the time the 500-acres farm was cooperatively run by about 10 families. The group farmed cotton, alfalfa and made dairy products. The group may have been called "Miner's Cooperative Farm." Has anyone ever heard of the colony?

***Dana Lubich reminds us that on June 24, 1983, nearly 31 years ago, the space shuttle Challenger landed at Edwards Air Force Base. Dana remembers that the Challenger's approach to the runway at Edwards was different on this mission in that as it approached the runway from the north, flying down the center of the San Joaquin Valley, it passed directly over Visalia and he remembers hearing  the "boom boom" here as it flew high above Bakersfield making its final approach to Edwards.

*** If you would like to know more about the historic Dudley House at Main and Giddings see the May, 2014 Lifestyle Magazine, page 18 or read it online at http://issuu.com/lifestylemagazine/docs/lifestyle_may14_web



Returned servicemen of this county were again entertained last evening at the "Welcome Home" dance given in their honor at the Municipal Auditorium. About 150 of the returned soldiers and sailors were in attendance and these together with a large number of local and out of town guests, spent the evening in the most enjoyable manner. It is estimated that about three hundred couples were on the floor at one time, this being the largest crowd of dancers with the exception of one other occasion, ever accommodated in the large auditorium.  Visalia Morning Delta, May 21, 1919

Sunday, May 11, 2014



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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
histerry@comcast.net. I will add you to the list. I will never share your email address with anyone without your permission.   


                                                                      
Congratulations go out to Wendy Kenison who was the first to correctly identify the last mystery spot. Nice work, Wendy. By the way it was the building where Grandma's Attic Antiques & Collectibles is on E. Main,  just west of the PPAV Hall.

For those of you who are up to it, here are the clues for the next mystery spot:
1) The building is near a church.
2) The building is near Mill Creek.
3) It holds meetings inside.
4) The building has its roots back to Asia.

Where is this building? Good luck!

Mooney Grove Speedway
Mooney Grove Park is full of historic surprises. Tom Rey's father was a veterinarian (Dr. Robert S. Rey) and he was also a model midget racing car hobbiest. These 1939 photos supplied by Tom, show the Mooney Grove Speedway—a track for model race cars. Who
would have thought there was such a thing? One of the photographs shows one of the cars and another shows Dr. Rey holding one in his hand. The sign seen in the first photograph says "Model Midget Racing
Club of Tulare County, Mooney Grove Speedway." Tom's father is identified as “track manager”. Thanks, Tom, for sharing these great old photos. What other surprises does the old park hold?



Rountree-Morris Furniture—Witness to a Tragedy
Quite by accident I found this 8x10 photograph on the wall in Visalia's Southern Pacific Depot Restaurant. I had never seen it there before. To most people the old Rountree-Morris Furniture store at 229 E. Main Street (Garden and
Main) isn't very special, but it was in the alley behind this building that Sergeant Charles Hugh Garrison was shot and killed in a shootout with a stolen vehicle suspect. He was Visalia's first police officer killed in the line of duty. It occurred on December 5, 1946.Thanks to the Depot restaurant for sharing this hard-to-find photograph.
Lone Oak Park—Smallest Park in the U.S.
In 1913 as the town was moving  west, Visalia encountered a large oak tree standing  right in the middle of what was going to be the extension of Main Street at Giddings. Rather than cut the tree down, the city built Main Street around it, surrounded the tree with curbing, and as a result created Lone Oak Park, the smallest park in the country. For many years this single oak tree park was praised for its beauty, but others saw it as a traffic safety hazard. Caution signs, reflectors and lights were mounted on it, but still autos crashed into it. The 1930s brought extra scrutiny to the old tree and discussion began to intensify about the future of  it. This photo dated December 7, 1934 shows
how intense the discussion became about the removal of the tree. It shows Visalia Councilman Rufus Connelly and Miss Marguerite Dunaway, a member of the Business and Professional women's Club". Both are shown guarding the tree to keep it from being cut down.   Their efforts bought some time for the big oak tree, but in September 1936, removal pressure became too strong and the city removed the tree. The smallest park in the U.S. was no more. Sure looks like a Bonnie & Clyde pose to me! Thanks Bruce Geiger for sharing this great old photograph. 



Navy Gas—A Downtown Filling Station
Occasionally when talking about historic Visalia, the name of a business called Navy Gas comes up. Photos of this early gas station are rare, but recently Tom Stroben shared this one, probably taken by his father Albert during the 1945 Visalia flood. Navy Gas was on the north side of the roadway at 901 E. Main Street. Charles "Chuck" Ehrhorn, a Stanford University graduate, owned the station for many years. The view of this photo is looking westbound on Main Street from about Burke. Thanks Tom for sharing your dad's great old photo.
George Reece—A Career Lawman
On May 5, 2014, George Reece came back to his hometown of Visalia from his home in northern California. At least part of his reason for returning was to allow me to interview him. For several hours we talked and toured Visalia and this nearly 90-year old man had some amazing stories about early Visalia. George was a juvenile officer here early in his career and later he became a liquor control officer for the state of California. George retired from the
Alcoholic Beverage Control  as Deputy Director . His insight into law enforcement in early Visalia, was so interesting  and I learned a lot. By the way, as a young man, George lived in the Harrell Building at the southeast corner of Main and Court Streets, and remembers the Wunder Bar just to the east. He shared a token from this old Visalia "watering hole." Thanks, George for spending time with me and giving me a wonderful education.


End of the Trail and Pioneer—Duct Tape and Bailing Wire
For many decades the End of the Trail and the Pioneer statues stood at Mooney Grove Park giving so many people so many memories. As a result, lots of photographs of these statues are available. Both statues were on exhibit at the Pan-Pacific Expo in 1915 in San Francisco. They were made out of plaster of Paris like material and were never intended to be permanent. As the years went by, chunks fell off and
they started to show their age. Brown paint was used to attempt to bond the statue together and to keep it from deteriorating any further. The first photograph shows a close-up of the bonding material used. The Pioneer eventually collapsed in a pile of rubble and was  destroyed, but the End of the Trail was given to the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City and it is now back to its original bright white color on display. These photos were probably taken by Tom Stroben's father Albert. Thanks, Tom for sharing.


***George Reece passed along that he believes the magic shop referred to in the previous Historic Happenings was in fact Ricardo's and named after the son of attorney Joe Lopes. Hope that helps Floyd.

***If you would like to know more about the Security Title business conducted in its beautiful old building that is still standing, read the Lifestyle magazine April issue and the story begins on page 18 or you can go online to: http://issuu.com/lifestylemagazine/docs/lifestyle_apr14_web


***Watch for the dedication and historic recognition of the famous Spalding House. The dedication is tentatively scheduled for later this month or early in June. Announcements with the detail should appear in the Visalia Times Delta in the next couple of weeks or so. Hope to see you there.


Good Whiskey—Persons desiring pure whiskey can find it at F. W. Blake's. We were the recipient of some of it, the other day and have been using it under the doctor's orders of course, and is the best we have met with in Visalia. Tulare Times (Visalia) October 2, 1869