Thursday, August 6, 2015

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And we have a winner! Congratulations go out to Peggy

Peterson for being the first to correctly identify the last mystery spot as the old adobe Tulare County Farm Bureau building on the north side of Oak Street between Court and Church. Nice work, Peggy.

Here are your clues for the next one:
1) This nice old brick building was completed in 1928.
2) Reportedly, thousands came to the open house ceremony.
3) The brand of product that was originally sold here, everyone, and I mean everyone, has heard of it
4) The business moved to this location from a building that had been on the site of the Fox Theatre.

Where is this building? Good luck.

84-Year Old PTA Cookbook
Recently, I came across a Visalia cookbook dated 1931. It was compiled by the South Side Parent-Teacher Association in Visalia. In addition to recipes, it is filled with ads for local businesses and a list of the members of the Recipe Committee. Mrs. J. R. Burum is listed first on the committee,
identified as president of the South Side PTA. It is a soft cover book with 170 pages filled with recipes like Mock Turtle Soup, Glorified Squash, Pigs Feet, and Sea Foam Candy. All of the recipes include the name of the provider. Anyone know why this PTA was called "South Side?" Was it just an obvious geographic reference?

Deluxe Bakery On Main
And we have more one-of -a -kind Pete Sweeny photographs to share. Do you remember the Deluxe Bakery at 225 W Main Street? Well, here it is during what I believe to be the February 1945 flood. One of these photos shows a view looking south on Encina Street between Center and Main and
shows an inner tuber floating down the road. Also in the picture you can see the rear of Ralston's on the left and the side of the Fox Theatre on the right. Straight down the street you can see the Deluxe Bakery on Main Street. The other photo is a close up view of the front of the business. The building that housed the Deluxe Bakery still stands today on the south side of Main Street.

Masonic Lodge Building Façade Restored
George Pope wanted me to pass along the restoration of the façade of the old Masonic building at the Tulare County Museum at Mooney Grove Park. Recently it was restored by the Tulare County Historical Society using funds from the society and members of the Visalia Masonic lodge. As some of you know the Masonic lodge, which also served as the I.O.O.F. hall
for a time, was built at Church and Center Street. The cornerstone of the original building was laid February 22, 1873 with the dedication ceremony held the same year. Over the years the building fell into disrepair and in 1963 was torn down and the façade was donated to the historical society who had it placed at the museum. It continued to deteriorate and in 2015 Charles Iacono, a TCHS board member and master wood craftsman, took on the project of restoration. It's a beauty again now. Go out and take a look at it at the museum.

Have You Ever Seen a Crosley?
And yes, you guessed it, Pete Sweeney recently shared another photograph, this time it's a Crosley automobile that he used in the family business. Pete was a "part's chaser" for his dad who was also Pete Sweeney and here is the Crosley he used in his work. It is shown here parked in front of the Sweeney home at Locust and Cypress streets. By the way, sources tell me that the Crosley company stopped production in 1952. What a cute little buggy!

Miniature Golf in the Olden Days
And still another Pete Sweeney contribution. These two rare photographs from Pete show what I suspect to be the only surviving photos of Visalia's indoor
miniature golf course. It was an entrepreneurial venture by Pete's grandfather, Carter, Sweeney (unknown year.) The building in which the course was located was on Main Street cross from the Reed & Bell Root Beer stand (which was at 501 W. Main Street.) Anyone know of or remember this miniature golf course? Also, anyone know the approximate year of these two photos? Thanks again Pete for all your wonderful photos.

***Roy Dressel mentioned that he read an article in Motorcycle Consumer News recently about a company called Van Tech Engineering that had been a Visalia business from about 1960-1973. They designed motorcycle racing frames, apparently. Anyone know any history about this Visalia business?

***John Bergman found a great old Sanborn fire map showing the Sugar Beet factory and its location. Thanks for your legwork on this, John!

***The Sons of the San Joaquin are very talented Visalia boys who really know how to sing. They have performed all over the country, and guess what? They are putting on a big show at the Tulare County Museum on September 20, 2015. This event is sponsored by the Tulare County Historical Society and the $45.00 ticket price includes both a delicious bbq tri-tip dinner and the Sons' concert. What a bargain! For more information please contact Jill Brown at (559) 626-4988 or Lari Ommen at (559) 799-1164.  Hurry as seating is limited.

***If you'd like to know more about the long gone Tipton Lindsay School, pick up a copy of the July 2015 Lifestyle magazine and read about it beginning on page 12. Or you can go online and read it at

We advise all young men who intend to escort young ladies home from church, sociables, or balls, these dark evenings, to provide themselves with a lantern, or their fair companions may playfully lead them into numerous mud holes.  Visalia Weekly Delta, January 1, 1867

Friday, July 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.   

Tony Cornett was the first to identify the last mystery spot as a set of "bars"  of the old Tulare County Jail on the alley side.  Nice work, Tony, and I won't ask how you recognized it…especially so quickly. (Just kidding, of course.)

Here are the clues for the next mystery spot:
1) This building is made of adobe bricks.
2) It was built using all volunteer labor.
3) It was built in 1926.
4) Over 5,000 adobe bricks were made in three weeks to complete this building.
Where is it, and, no it is not a Spanish Mission?

The Visalia Stock Saddle – It made Visalia Famous
Dorothy Osborn took a photograph of this  sign she saw hanging in the "On the Border" restaurant in Milpitas, California. It just points out how popular the Visalia Stock Saddle was, and really, still is today. For
many cowboys/vaqueros in the day, it was the saddle of choice when working cattle. People still use and collect them as important western keepsakes. Dorothy correctly pointed out that the Visalia shop was on Main Street and this photograph shows the saddle storefront that was near where Brewbakers is today on East Main. Thanks, Dorothy.

Sierra Vista—The $7.50 School Name
Bill Allen, a graduate of Sierra Vista School, recently shared some school history. The school building at Mineral King and Dollner (Home Builder's Tract) was a WPA (Works Progress Administration) project and it was finished in 1939 with Ernest Kump the architect. At the time, it was a 7-8th grade school and this graduation exercise program belonged to Bill. In fact, he is listed as
Billy Allen in the Honorable Mention section.  The ceremony was held on Thursday evening, June 8, 1944 at 7:30pm. Just 5 years earlier and shortly after it was finished, the school was given the name Sierra Vista. A name-the-school contest in August 1939 brought in dozens of possible names, but Mrs. T. B. Thompson living at 106 N Court submitted Sierra Vista and she won the grand prize of $7.50. Thanks for sharing…Billy (sorry I could not resist Bill)!

Tulare County Jail—Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
In August, 1962, the old Tulare County Jail building across the street from  the Southern Pacific Depot restaurant was vacated and the Tulare County Sheriff's office moved to the new 4-story jail building on Burrel just West of Mooney. It was a modern building,
however, Monty Sands, a long time lawman and former Tulare County Deputy Sheriff under Sheriff Sandy Robinson, recalls a problem with the new building. He tells us, "When they moved from the old jail to the new one everyone was thrilled. It was suppose to be state of the art. It even had an indoor pistol range. One small problem soon became apparent. They had failed to install a ventilation system. After a few shots, the targets became invisible because of smoke. The room remained closed for years. It eventually was used for the crime lab and storage." Monty also shared that at the old jail sometimes crowds gathered outside the women's section as the women inmates would flash the crowd  through an open bar window.  By the way, Monty is a Tulare County native and worked as a peace officer with the Tulare County Sheriff's Department, the Visalia Police Department , Tulare County Probation Department, and Tulare County Lake patrol. He has authored 5 books—Murder in Matheny--the April Holly Story; Just a Few More Miles; The King of Nine-Mile Canyon, Welcome to Ocean's Mist; and In More Innocent Times. Thanks to him, some of our interesting county history has been recorded and published. Check them out on Amazon.  Thanks for all you've done, Monty.  (Thanks to Marian Shippey Cote, too, for this 1963 photograph of the jail.)

Christopher Evans – A Visalia Outlaw in Portland
Recently, my wife and I took a road trip to Oregon and stayed in Portland for a few days. When traveling I like to include the exploration of local Tulare County history connections when one exists. Well, Portland has a big Visalia/Tulare County connection. Christopher Evans, half of the outlaw team of
Evans and Sontag, is actually buried in Portland. After Evans served many years in California State Prison, he was allowed to be paroled to Portland, Oregon to live with family. By this time, Evans was a tired man with lots of physical problems including the loss of one arm and one eye. This photograph of the old outlaw was taken in 1916 in Los Angeles on a visit to see his daughter Eva. The following year he died in the City of Roses (Portland) and is buried at the Mt. Calvary Catholic Cemetery.

Floyd "Pappy" Depew—A Lawman From the Old School
There is a historic and legendary lawman in Visalia history who people talk to me about all the time. Floyd "Pappy" Depew was big in Visalia history, and physically big , too, standing 6 foot 2 inches! I was fortunate to have worked with Pappy in the last years he worked for VPD before his retirement. Pappy was born in Tulare County in 1909 and was officially hired by VPD in 1941. He witnessed the Hugh Garrison (first officer killed in the line
of duty) shooting in 1946. Floyd had a colorful career and he retired in 1974. Monty Sands who worked with Floyd, remembered Pappy as a police officer and said that Depew began his career when the "main requirement to be an officer was guts, size and strength." Fewer and fewer people remember him today, but those who do, talk about him with honor and respect. Was he polished and refined? No. No one would ever call him that. But everyone that knew him has a "Pappy" story they are willing to share. Rarely do you find a lawman so tough and so gentle at the same time. Rest in Peace Pappy!

***I received this request from Rosemary Dority Isbell:  "Am looking for relatives of the Florence Doe family. The Does were friends of my grandparents, John and Nina (Ninnettee) Huntley. I am interested in finding out if anyone has old letters or any information concerning them. Would enjoy hearing from anyone. Many thanks." Let me known and I'll connect you to Rosemary.

***This Tuesday, July 14, 2015, the Sequoia National Park and the City of Visalia will celebrate the Visalia connection to the beginning of the National Park Service. The Stephen Mather mountain party used Visalia as the kickoff for their Sierra adventure in 1915. The following year, the National Park Service was created and Stephen Mather became the first director. Visalia is truly a gateway city to Sequoia National Park.

***If you'd like to read more about the Visalia and Tulare Railroad, please look at the Lifestyle Magazine June, 2015 issue beginning on page 14 or go to:

A great deal has been said as to the general unhealthiness of Visalia the past winter. While there has undeniably been a great deal of sickness, and many deaths, yet, upon investigation and comparison this place has suffered no more than the country in general. It has been a very sickly year, so far, in other places as well as here. In San Francisco the death rate rose to double the usual number, and the type of diseases prevalent was about the same. Pneumonia and measles have run riot all over the State. In some places malignant scarlet fever and diphtheria have been superadded. In more distant parts, small-pox has been epidemic. On the whole there is no doubt but that Visalia is just about on a par with other localities. Visalia Weekly Delta, April 7, 1882

Monday, June 8, 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 Doug Silveria for being the first to identify the last mystery spot as the concrete overcrossing of Mill Creek on Main Street near Mayor's Park. It is a dominant feature there, but one we take for granted as we pass over it all the time. Nice work, Doug!

Now for the next one. It think it’s going to be easy. Here are your clues:
1) This building was finished in 1918.
2) People lived here on a temporary basis
3) Oftentimes those that occupied this building were noisy.
4) There was a strict code of conduct if you lived here.
Where is this building?

Ralph and Helen Drath—Educators Through & Through
The recent HH discussion of teachers in Visalia has led me to conclude that Visalian's really do love their teachers and educators. And in my opinion there are no better examples of respected educators than Ralph and Helen Drath. Ralph was born in Kansas in 1911 and moved to Visalia in the 1930s. He taught school here, then became a principal at Webster, Highland and Houston schools. He was also
one of the founders of SCICON. In 1932 he married Helen and the two built their home on Highland Ave. They raised 2 boys, Richard and James there. Later in life Helen worked as a library assistant at COS and served in that capacity for about 15 years. Both passed away in Visalia, Ralph in 1962 and Helen  in 2005 and each  had touched so many lives and had earned so much community respect.  The photo of Ralph was taken in 1952 and the photo of them as a couple was taken on their 5th anniversary in 1937.

Help, Help, I Need Your Help!
I recently came across this photograph marked "Visalia, May 3, 1908." It has no other markings. I do not recognize the house at all, but the man sitting on the steps is so familiar to me, but I can't recall his name. Does anyone recognize him or anyone else in this group? Come on, please!

76-Year Old Pioneer Newspaper Surfaces
Doug Silveria recently found an older "The Pioneer" newspaper for December 15, 1939. The Pioneer was the official Visalia High School newspaper and was written by journalism students. It reported on serious school news like, "Fourteen students receive all A's," but included lighthearted material as well like, "Gladys Trembly and Neal Ensign get the title of the cutest couple on the campus." Fun stuff to read. Thanks Doug for sharing this interesting old high school newspaper.

Wheaton Gray’s Home Becomes Mortuary
The carpenter's union building located on the southwest corner of Church and School streets was once home to Superior Court Judge Wheaton Gray. The residence was constructed about 1875, and over the years it went through several remodels and additions. At one time it was home to the A. E. Brooks Mortuary. Here is the building as a mortuary in 1929. Architect Michael Kreps is wondering if anyone has a photograph of this building when it was the judge's residence, before all the remodels and additions. Can anyone help?

Monty Sands Does it Again
Well, Monty Sands has written another. Yep it is another history book and this one is called In More Innocent Times. I have not read it yet, but it looks like another good one to me. In it he describes life in the San Joaquin Valley in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s. It has occasional mentions of Visalia and includes a short chapter on Spanish Town and saddle companies. Just glancing through it, I know you will recognize topics familiar to you. In More Innocent Times is available at Amazon and at Bargain Books  and Linda's Books in Visalia.

Photograph of the W. B. Wallace Home
Recently I was talking to Marilynn Mitchell at Josten's and she mentioned an old photograph that had been in her father's (Hank Speer, the well-respected identification officer with the Tulare County Sheriff's Dept.) collection. His picture is shown here and is of an old house on Acequia near Willis. Marilynn believes the house once belonged to a superior court judge. I did some further checking and I now believe that this house belonged to Judge W. B. Wallace. It was torn down years ago, but there is an interesting story connected to it. The judge complained vigorously to Herbert Askin who owned a tin smithing business nearby on Main Street. He said the business was too noisy and disturbed his peace. Askin moved his tin shop to a new location on E. Main Street. Thanks for the photo, Marilynn

Speaking of School Newspapers
I recently came across what I think to be a pretty rare item. The Visalia Junior College opened for the first time on the Visalia High School campus in 1926. The junior college which became COS stayed on the high school campus until 1940 when it relocated to its new location on Mooney Blvd, where it is now. This Volume 1 Number 1 VJC campus  newspaper was issued on September 29, 1933 and was 4 pages single sided and 8 ½" x 13" in size. It says it was "mimeographed" no less. Now there's a term we rarely hear anymore.

City Hall Covered In Snow
Recently Bob Hargrove, Troy Tuggle and I had coffee and Bob shared these photographs. They are undated, but I believe they were taken during the snowfall in Visalia in January 1962. The two pictures on top show the Visalia City Hall complex on Johnson Street. The bottom photo shows a parked Visalia police car covered in snow also at city hall. The snow sure looks refreshing in these days of triple digits. Thanks, Bob, for sharing.

***Troy Tuggle reminds us all that just in case you didn't know, Black Bart, the famous California stage robber, was last seen in Visalia before he disappeared. Finding his burial location would be a real find. It's a mystery that should be solved.

***An HH follower asked about a bar near Mooney and Walnut called something like "Monkey's Uncle." A little checking found out that the bar was in fact near Mooney and Walnut in the late 1960s and it was called "Monkey's Eye."

***For those interested in Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, these two famous ball players appeared in Visalia—well, sort of. You can read more about it in the May 2015 issue of Lifestyle Magazine starting on page 13. Or you can read the article online at

***The teachers in Visalia that were listed in the school directory in the last HH created quite a lot of interest. So many of you recognized names and remembered stories about the beloved teachers. Thanks to all of you who shared them.

***John Bergman was able to confirm that Betty Treaster's memory was correct. The Sugar Beet Factory was at K Road and Santa Fe. Thanks John and Betty for that confirmation.

 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.  Visalia Tulare Times, October 2, 1869