Thursday, May 7, 2015

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

Congratulations to Virginia Strawser who was the first to correctly identify last month's mystery spot. It was of course the motel at the corner of Johnson and Main streets—a motel that has been there for many years. It is has had several names over the years and is now America's Best Value Inn.

If you're ready for the next mystery spot, here are the clues:
1) It is an overcrossing of Mill Creek. (Hint: Mill Creek as you know goes under Main Street in several spots in downtown Visalia, but this crossing has the creek exposed on either side of it.
2) This overcrossing was constructed by Thompson Brothers, Central Contractors, Fresno Cal and has that marking on it.
3) It is near a park.
4) It is surrounded by oak trees.
Where is it? Good luck.

Mt. Whitney Power Company—At Its Home On Court
Bruce Geiger found this nice old photograph showing a view looking north on Court Street from about Acequia. Taken in about 1910, it shows Mt. Whitney Power Company when it leased office space in the S. C. Brown building on the east side of Court. In 1912 Mt. Whitney Power built a new building on W. Main Street (where Quality Jewelers is now.) In this photograph you can see adjacent to the Brown to the left, the Harrell Building. And and to the left of that on the same side of the street, but across Main is the Palace Hotel. Notice the evidence of transition from horse and buggy to automobile. Nice find, Bruce!

Visalia Public School & Teachers for 1939

Sandy Newman found an interesting piece of history lately and wanted to share it. It is an original 1939-1940 Public School Directory for Tulare County which includes Visalia. Visalia schools are listed by name as well as teachers, and it even gives their home addresses. There are some other tidbits of local school information included as well. Only 3 of the 7 school listed in this booklet are still with us today. They others are gone. Do you recognize the names of any of the teachers or administrators mentioned here? Thanks, Sandy for sharing.

Edison Pole Yard
Marian Shippey Cote found this very interesting aerial photo in her family possessions of the Southern California Edison Company "pole yard." It was located on Ben Maddox at Goshen Ave. After Edison vacated this site, the land sat vacant for a number of years and is now occupied at least in part by Sonic, the fast food drive-in. By the way, Mt. Whitney Power Co. was bought by Southern California Edison many years ago. Marian tells us that her father worked at this pole yard as a "mapper." It doesn’t look like Goshen Ave went through when this picture was taken. Thanks, Marian, for sharing.

Tipton Lindsey School Grounds Become City Library
Contrary to what the public believes, the Tipton Lindsey School
was not named for the towns of Tipton or Lindsay. The school in fact was named after a pioneering and prominent school official named Tipton Lindsey. Built in 1891 at Oak and Locust streets, the school was poorly constructed and in 1916 it was deemed unsafe for students. As the future of the abandoned site was being discussed, citizens of Visalia fought hard to make sure the City of Visalia acquired it for a future city library. Their wish came true and the city did buy it, and in 1936 the Visalia City Library was built there.

Knudsen Creamery Had A Big Presence
The Knudsen Creamery Co. located on Goshen Avenue near Leslie had its open house in 1927 with Tom Knudsen, president of the company present. In this 1932 photograph, employees of the company posed in front of the plant.
Sandy Newman shared this Knudsen Christmas Greetings/Party songbook for 1930. In it are the lyrics to a song called the "Visalia Song." Anyone have the music to go with these lyrics? Thanks, Sandy, for sharing.

***Hugh Baca is looking for a photograph of his dad's grandfather, a man named Harold Santos Baca. Harold lived most of his life in the Porterville area. If anyone can help with a photograph, I know Hugh would be appreciative

***Peter Cowper mentioned that when he was a youngster he would go into Cross Horlock Hardware store and recalled that when he walked on the wood floor, it would "give" under his weight, and the glassware and general merchandise in the display cases would rattle. It's an interesting observation and I remember the same thing. Those hardwood floors would tend to creak and loosen up and there would be a little shaking and rattling going on with the display cases nearby. Are there any of those floors around anymore in Visalia.

***Speaking of the Hyde Ranch, Charlene Langdon Cates passed along that her grandparents Ernest and Alta Langdon lived on the Hyde ranch for over 50 years, and she and her parents lived there also for a few years. Her folks, as you may recall, owned the Langdon Electric Motor & Pump Co. at 410 E. Main , then moved to 910 E. Acequia.

***I thought we had the sugar beet factory location mystery solved. Information came that it looked like it had been at Tulare and Bridge streets, but 94-year old Betty Treaster, who lived just south of Visalia, remembers seeing the abandoned buildings at the K Road/Santa Fe location. She recalls the abandoned buildings being referred to as the "old sugar beet plant" by old timers.

***For those who would like to read about Anna May Bell, a bright young Visalia girl in our history, be sure to pick up a copy of the April 2015 Lifestyle Magazine and go to page 12. Or you can go online and read it at

Facing national prohibition, the local newspaper asked: Announcement is made that 60,000 tons of ice have been placed in cold storage for next July. What good will ice be in the month of July when all the cocktails and high-ball making places have gone out of business?" Visalia Morning Delta, May 13, 1919

Friday, April 10, 2015

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

Congratulations go out to Larry Doss who correctly identified last month's mystery spot as Dr. Steve McAuliff's dental office building near Hall on Main Street. The building started its life as the Tulare County Health Department. Good eye, Larry!

Ok, here is the next one for those of you interested. Here are the clues:

1) At one time it was the only business of its type operating downtown.

2) People often come here to relax

3) It has a Main Street address

4) It is very close to “power”  in Visalia.

Where is this building? Good luck!

Pacific Sugar Co.—How Sweet It Was
Recently, Bruce Geiger asked about the Pacific Sugar Co. in Visalia. The company began here in 1905 and for about 10 years it processed sugar beets and had a sizeable workforce. But where was it located? The factory was either at Bridge and Tulare streets or Santa Fe and K Road. Good sources tell me it was located where the Pacific Olive Plant was once located. The problem is, I believe Pacific Olive had locations at both of the above locations. Bruce would like to know where the factory was located and I would too. Can anyone help with this mystery? Thanks Bruce.

Santa Fe—The Other Train Depot

When we hear the word "depot" mentioned in Visalia history, we
almost always think about the Southern Pacific Depot, now a restaurant. It's logical as the nearly century old building still stands today.  But Visalia had another depot that was nearly as famous. The Santa Fe Depot was located on the southwest corner of Main and Santa Fe streets and it stood there for decades providing passenger and freight service. The first Santa Fe "through train" came to Visalia in 1900 and 1,000 people were on hand to greet it, although  not at this station. This Santa Fe Depot building came later and was torn down in 1968 to make way for the expanding downtown auto trade. In fact, Arnold Wiebe Buick and Pontiac brought the property.

The Altar Adorns the Museum at Mooney Grove

Mary Haven recently brought to my attention an interesting family fact. Her grandfather, John Kotchevar, an immigrant from Austria, built a wooden altar for St.
Anne's Catholic Church in Porterville. It's a beautiful piece of work and eventually it was donated to the Tulare County Museum. The Mooney Grove museum has it on display and I'd encourage you to stop by and take a look at it and the other displays there as well. Amy King, the curator, is always happy to have visitors looking at the displays. Thanks, Mary, for your family story.

Hyde Ranch—A Whole Lot More Than A Giant Milk Bottle

The Hyde name is a well-known and well-respected name in Visalia and is recognized throughout California. Recently I heard from Dorothy Pifer Osborn who was born on the Hyde Ranch. The ranch was large and included the dairy property near where K-Mart is today which by the way is where the giant milk bottle was perched on a
wooden tower. The larger part of the ranch was located to the north of there and would now be where the golf course is at the Visalia Country Club. Luella B. Hyde was born in 1883 to Cuthbert Burrel and she married Richard E. Hyde. They lived in this ranch house on what is now the golf course of the country club. Dorothy recalls the palm tree lane that you would enter off of Goshen Ave which led to the ranch property. The Hyde home was on the ranch property and Dorothy was nice enough to sketch her recollection of what the ranch looked like in its heyday. The photos show the Hyde home that was on that property. Also, as you can see, the palm lined lane can still be seen on the golf course today.

Motley's Restaurant—A Popular Hangout

Some time back, Lee Warren, Jr. paid Visalia visit and shared some interesting stories about his father Lee  Otto "Sandy"
Warren. Sandy was a local musician who earned quite a reputation playing music at various locations around Visalia. When Lee came to town, he shared pictures of his father, some of which were stored for protection in a Motley's Café menu. It is a kick to look at the old bill of fare, so take a look and have some fun. By the way, Motley's was a popular hangout near the corner of
Main and Church streets on the south side of Main. It was named after the man that opened it, Jim Motley. In the early 1930s Jim sold the restaurant to his brother John and Jim moved to Fresno where he opened another restaurant. In this photograph Motley's can be seen on the left side of this presumed 1945 flood picture. Thanks Lee for sharing this relic of early Visalia.

***If you'd like to read about the disastrous Elks Lodge fire downtown, pick up a copy of the March 2015 Lifestyle Magazine. The article appears starting on page 12, or you can go online and read the story at   By the way the Lifestyle Magazine website has a comprehensive section on Visalia history where many historical articles are archived.

***In the last HH I mentioned the name Verfurth. It was the name on an automobile store here in Visalia and I asked you whether or not you knew anything about the name. Jason Hughes and Marian Shippey Cote did some great detective work and gave me an education on Henry J. Verfurth. If you're interested in knowing more, let me know and I'll share their findings.

***We have talked about the Cross building (Pacific Treasure's building now) in the past, and recently Jane Cross Shepard shared another tidbit about the building. She said in the building's earlier life (and I mean way back), there was a health club of sorts there complete with a swimming pool in the basement. Yes, I said swimming pool. Does anyone have more information about that?

***Visalia's Wunder Bar has been a frequent topic in HH over the years and Katherine Mangini shared another interesting story about the old tavern. She wrote, "When I came to teach and coach at the Visalia Union High School and Junior College in 1941, it was customary for some of the established women teachers, after the school day, to go to the Wunder Bar to talk. Against the west wall there were several booths each with a table and chair; on each side of the booth entry way a curtain draped, which could be pulled to closet the patrons. I was invited to go with them, this clutch of female teachers had been here a long time and were well established with the community. Behind the curtain we could have a beer without criticism, free of the social restraints. Here we could exchange gossip, talk about the school board policy as we sympathize, supporting each other. It was fun—a method of reducing the pressure expectations of female teachers. Exciting to do so illicit an act, defying the culture."

***Cindy Medrano asked me recently when Costco came to town. I don’t remember, do you?

***Erin Olm-Shipman and Matthew Spindler are the co executive directors of the Fox Theatre. As part of the 85th anniversary celebration, they are asking for our stories about the Fox and our experiences there. They would like to incorporate the stories into the big festivities. Come on! Don't be shy! Call them at the Fox office (559) 625-1369 and share. They'd love to hear from you.

On last Sabbath, a little girl living with Mr. Samuel Evans brought into the house, warm from the nest, a singular-looking hen’s egg upon which was plainly inscribed the words "O ye inhabitants of Visalia. Repent for the prophet will be in your midst in 1867." The letters appear as though raised on the surface of the egg by an impression made from within. This may or may not be a matter of great importance to Visalia, but at all events, the admonition to repent is timely and highly appropriate. Visalia Weekly Delta, February 27, 1867

Saturday, March 7, 2015

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

Pete Cowper is the winner! He was the first to correctly identify the last mystery spot as the 210 Café building or the Studebaker building as it was called in its day located at Locust and Center streets. Nice work, Pete!

Okay, here are the clues for the next one:
1) This building was built in 1921.
2) It started as a health related facility and it continues so today
3) The local architect for this Main Street structure was Harry Michaels and the contractor was Noble & Toothacre.
4) Mrs. Medda V. Keener lived here.
Where is this building? Good luck.

Sandy Warren—He Made Lots of Sweet Music
Recently I met with Lee Otto Warren to talk about his father who is also Lee Otto Warren. Senior was born in 1910 and was probably known more by his nickname, Sandy Warren. Sandy was quite a musician and he lived on Center Street near Taylor's Hot Dog Stand. He attended Visalia High School but dropped out in his senior year to join Augie Schultz and the Hayseed Band. He played multiple instruments over the years, was artistic and at various times, worked as a ranch cowboy. During his years as a musician he played with various local bands including
the Sleepy Heads, Smokey Mountain Rangers, Hayseeds and Rolling Stones (no, not those Rolling Stones). Sandy performed frequently at the KTKC radio station in Visalia. By the way, Sandy entered the military service in 1939 and was discharged in 1943 with a full disability. He died in 1966 and his family has kept his musical instruments. In this group photo, Sandy is on the far left and the band is called the Smokey Mountain Rangers. The other photo is Sandy working the microphone solo. Does anyone recognize any of the other band members? Thanks Lee for sharing some of the story of your father.

The Waste of War – A Civil War Veteran Visalia Doctor
Native Visalia Carole Mathewson (now of Payson, Arizona) has recently gone to press with a Civil War novel based upon the lives of her great-grandparents who served in the Civil War. Dr. Harley P. Mathewson, a graduate of Dartmouth Medical School, served as a Union surgeon from the beginning of the war until several months after the war had ended. His wife, Mary Sanborn Mathewson, a nurse, was beside him throughout the war. In order to write story lines, Carole has researched all the
battles, campaigns and hospital in which the duo served. Dr. Mathewson and his wife joined his brother Arthur in Visalia in about 1893. He practiced medicine in Visalia from 1893 until his death in 1901. He and his wife were interred in Arlington National Cemetery. The writer's background includes many years as a secretary (executive and legal) and a number of years as a newspaper reporter/copy editor. The Waste of War by Carole Emma Mathewson is available online through and in printed form and as an e-book. In printed form the book sells for $17.99. The doctor's shingle is shown here (circa 1897) on the Main Street side of the Elias Jacob Building at Main and Church streets where he had his office.

2nd Floor Archaeology Reveals Hidden Sign
Some time back, Michelle Wiebe, owner of Pacific Treasures in downtown Visalia, alerted me to an interesting discovery she made on the second floor of her building at 219 W Main Street.  The building appears to have been built before 1912, however, I cannot find its construction date.  Over the years the front of the building has been modified. At one time the second story had windows facing Main Street, but they are now
covered with a façade. Since at least the 1940s, it has been known as the Cross Building where Robert F. Cross had has real estate and insurance office. By the mid 1950s the upstairs rooms were called the Cross Apartments. At that time Lloyd F. Fletcher, a local architect, had his office on the second floor. And his name could be seen painted on the window advertising his services. While Michelle was looking in the vacant upstairs, she discovered the window painted sign showing his name, now covered with the facade. This is what she found with the partial name of Fletcher. It's not visible today from the outside. Thanks, Michelle, for your attic archaeology.

John Bergman Discovers A Rare Mooney Grove Postcard
John Bergman recently found this neat old postcard. The front shows a grove of oak trees and the caption says, "An oak grove owned by the county, purchased for a park site, near Visalia, Cal." The back says: Published by Newman Postcard Co., Los Angeles and it says Made in Germany. The unused postcard gives no direct clue as to where  this grove was located, but given
the fact that the land that is Mooney Grove Park was purchased by the county in 1909, it really has to be Mooney Grove.  The other park possibility is Cutler Park, however the land that it is located on, was donated by the Cutler family to become a park. The county did not purchase the land. Since the caption on the postcard says "purchased," it leads me to believe the postcard is Mooney Grove Park.  Thanks John for sharing this postcard – one I had never seen before.

Wunder Bar—A Wunderful Discovery
As everyone knows, Link's clothing store in the old Sweet building downtown, has closed its doors and that part of the Sweet building is going through a remodel. In the course of the construction, Tom Link
noticed that the workers had unearthed a piece of early Visalia history. The Link's store was pretty much on the exact location of the Wunder Bar—a Visalia "watering hole" for many years. As you can see, the entrance to the saloon/restaurant had Wunder Bar printed in tile on the floor at the entrance. If only these tiles could talk. Thanks Tom for your good eye for history.

Verfurth—A New One for Me
Recently I was looking in the 1926 Visalia Directory classified section when I spotted this picture. The name Verfurth is not a local name that I am familiar with, so when I saw it, it caught my attention. The building at one time housed the local Dodge
dealership. The structure still stands today, I believe as part of Kaweah Delta on the southwest corner of Acequia and Locust streets. The unique 3-diamond pattern at the top of the building clearly identifies it as the same old timer that is there today. The more contemporary photo of the building included here is one I took in 2009. Does anyone recognize the name Verfurth in Visalia history?

***I was recently contacted and asked about a pioneer who the inquirer says was born in Visalia in 1855. His name was Jerome Frank Reno. Anyone know anything about him?

***For those interested in history of the old and long- gone Visalia House, you can go to the February 2015 Lifestyle Magazine page 12 and read about it. It can also be found on line at

***In the last HH I featured a photograph of an old school allegedly near Visalia. A few of you suggested it might be Venice Hill School before the bell tower was added. I haven't been able to confirm this, but if anyone can help in doing that, I'd appreciate it.

***Dennis Whistler, an architect here in Visalia, is looking for an older photograph of the R. A. Mahoney brick building, later the Mooney and O'Dell Ford dealership located at Center and Garden streets. Anyone have a photograph to help Dennis?

Mrs. King, the woman hobo who was arrested in Goshen, was arraigned in Justice Buckman's court yesterday morning and pleaded guilty. She was given a floating sentence. She left on the evening train for Goshen. Visalia Daily Morning Delta, November 18, 1893