Monthly news & updates
April 1, 2022
A Message from the President

Dear Friends, Supporters and Members, 
As our 104th fiscal year begins today, and on behalf of the Board of Trustees, Staff and Volunteers, I applaud each of you for assisting the Fresno County Historical Society make our way through the past two years despite a myriad of obstacles that were certainly game-changing. Our 2022/2023 budget is vibrant and includes a number of activities that proved popular recently as well as several new events and projects. I urge you to keep up with our calendar via this newsletter and, for more in-depth information, visit often. There, you will truly find something for everyone.

Also, if you didn’t make it to THE PARTY OF THE YEAR on March 25th, you missed out on an unforgettable trip to the 1930s and, alongside the Depression, the luxury and glamor only found in Hollywood at The Cocoanut Grove nightclub. The hot-spot, located in The Ambassador Hotel for decades, does have a checkered past that would never be acceptable today but, for one magical evening, our guests were swept back in time for a good cause – FCHS educational programs, both online and in-person. We did sell out so be sure to put the last weekend in March on your calendars for 2023 as we head to the 1940s and the USO that brought our military members just a little closer to home. Click HERE to enjoy some photos – we certainly did make history that night!

With all that is happening across the globe right now, I was pondering the millions of people over the past century who have been innocent victims of war-time violence. In this digital world, the images are so readily available and heartbreaking, we must ensure we do not become jaded and blasé at the horror of what is happening.

Throughout modern history, one organization has continued to willingly venture to anywhere they are needed and have brought care and comfort abroad and on the home front. Sometimes if feels that they are so ubiquitous that they might be taken for granted a bit. Even in Fresno County, the Red Cross has performed vital functions for those in crisis. I would like to share more…
Red Cross volunteers gave returning Fresno servicemen from all branches a welcome taste of home at the Fresno train station upon their return from the battlefields of Europe in 1919. Photo courtesy of the Pop Laval Foundation
The American Red Cross of the Central Valley serves five counties throughout the heart of California: Fresno, Tulare, Kings, Madera, and Mariposa. From the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the fertile Valley floor, Red Cross volunteers provide hope, relief and resiliency to residents throughout the chapter every day.

Since its founding by Clara Barton on May 21, 1881, the American Red Cross has been dedicated to serving people in need. The first congressional charter began in 1900 and continues to this day to be tasked by the federal government to provide services to members of the American armed forces and their families as well as providing disaster relief in the United States and around the world. In 2021, the Red Cross celebrated 140 years of compassionate service.
In September 1917, the local Red Cross chapter created a multi-faceted display at the Fresno Fair showcasing the multitude of services they were providing on the Homefront and overseas during WWI. A hospital, workroom, nursery and more demonstrated the sacrifices that are being made by the women of this county. Photo courtesy of the Pop Laval Foundation
The Red Cross responds to tens of thousands of disasters each year, including fires, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hazardous materials spills, transportation accidents, and explosions. In the field, Red Cross workers provide shelter, food, physical and mental health services, financial assistance, transportation, medications and tools. The Red Cross also serves as a liaison with government agencies and insurance agencies, and when all other avenues have been exhausted, the Red Cross provides long-term assistance. 
Through its affiliation with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, the American Red Cross also travels internationally to provide disaster relief and establish development programs. In addition to providing disaster relief, the American Red Cross oversees the collection, testing, storage and distribution of blood donations. Other services include community assistance to the economically disadvantaged, support for members of the military and their families, and health and safety education, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), first aid and lifeguarding classes.
Red Cross campaigned to collect shoes for French and Belgian refugees, October 6, 1917. Photo courtesy of the Pop Laval Foundation
The American Red Cross is supported entirely by donations and proceeds from Red Cross products. Approximately nine-tenths of the organizational budget is earmarked for humanitarian efforts. The American Red Cross also depends on practical support from a wide range of individuals and organizations and on its collaboration with other health organizations.

As with any other public health service organization, advocacy is part of the essential work of the American Red Cross in its mission to serve and protect the public. Therefore, it works with legislators and administrators at all levels of government to pursue the public interest. The advocacy function involves developing policy statements, testifying at hearings, generating position statements and serving on external task forces and committees. An amazing organization in so many ways.
Red Cross Salvage Warehouse sorted, prepared and cleaned donated items for the Red Cross Shop located at 1146-48 I street. Volunteers of all ages and professions wanted to help the cause and ease hardships on families who were without loved ones at the height of WWI on July 13, 1918. 
As we enjoy our springtime weather and lengthening daylight hours, please pause to be thankful for those willing to serve in whatever way they can – from soldiers to law enforcement, from medical workers to researchers trying to combat illnesses in laboratories – and give a special thought about the Red Cross. Oh, and do come see the Medical Exhibit at Kearney Mansion – you will be amazed (and a little frightened) by the early techniques employed by doctors in our area!
Warmest wishes,  
Elizabeth Laval
President, Fresno County Historical Society
Join us and celebrate Mom on Saturday, May 7, 2022 at the Kearney Mansion Museum with a traditional tea party. This special event offers your choice of seating in the Mansion dining room or on the veranda overlooking Kearney Park at 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM.

Guests will enjoy a traditional tea service complete with sweet and savory treats, flower arranging demonstration and an engaging tour of the Kearney Mansion Museum and Gallery along with a 10% discount on store merchandise. 

Seating is limited, secure your tickets today.
Today, the fourth Ag Tour in our monthly series, Fields of Fresno, is underway visiting Mulholland Citrus in Orange Cove, CA. The experience includes a visit to both the insectary and the nursery along with lunch and a wine tasting in a beautiful party barn on the farm.

There are five more opportunities to join a trip and enjoy the bounty of the Valley first hand. Each excursion begins at the Kearney Mansion and includes a curated visit to local farms aboard a luxury motor coach, the chance to hear from famers and experts about local agriculture, a hardy lunch and wine tastings.

The remaining Ag Tours on our 2022 schedule are:

Friday, May 20, 2022 - Peaches 

Friday, July 29, 2022 - Fruit Trail

Saturday, August 27, 2022 - Tomatoes 

Saturday, September 10, 2022 - Almonds & Wine

Saturday, October 15, 2022 - Farmers Markets

Plan to join us on the tour of your choice before the season ends. Take a moment now to book your seat today.

Fields of Fresno Ag Tours are scheduled by the Fresno County Historical Society. Each adventure features a different route that focuses on what is in season at that time. Visit for updates and schedules. All proceeds will benefit educational programs at FCHS.
Historic Fresno Photo by Pop Laval on an 8 Foot Limited Edition Banner
The Historical Society is offering large format prints of the Pop Laval images below for sale for a limited time only. These 8-foot high banners are printed on high quality vinyl, are hemmed and include a pole pocket for easy display. Join a very special group of people and own one (or more) of these irreplaceable moments in time today.
Click the image below for an order form. Thank you!
Hello friends of the Archives! Because we are currently featuring our medical exhibit, The Doctor Is In: Medicine in Early Fresno County, this month’s Archives Spotlight will feature a physician’s kit that was donated to the Fresno County Historical Society fully equipped with all a healer might need! This case contains antique medical books, prescriptions and a collection of retail bottles, tins and boxes of late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century medicine. Some of these items include arsenic, mercury, various salves, herbs, soaps and much more!

Ian Bell was a local pharmaceutical company representative here in the Valley. He constructed the case to display these items for medical history lectures. He donated the case to the Fresno County Historical Society Archives in 1995. In the nineteenth century, medical education was largely gained through practical training and reading textbooks on a variety of specific ailments. These medical books are from several collections in the Fresno County Historical Society Archives. To view the odds and ends in this physician’s kit, come visit our medical exhibit which is available for viewing following our public Kearney Mansion tours. Tickets are available on our website

For all up-to-date happenings, information, and fun facts, follow us @ourvalleyhistory on Instagram and FaceBook!
Bitwise Industries Launches National Apprenticeship Program
Bitwise Industries of Fresno, CA announced a massive nationwide expansion of its apprenticeship program, adding locations in five new states: New York, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming. This rapid growth further validates Bitwise Industries' proven model of providing pathways into the technology industry for people coming from stories of poverty and/or exclusion. After raising over $100M in venture capital, Bitwise is now located in 10 cities across the country which include the California cities of: Fresno, Bakersfield, Merced, Oakland, Toledo, OH, Buffalo, NY, El Paso, TX, Greeley, CO, Las Cruces, NM, and Cheyenne, WY.

Bitwise Industries uses its unique two-sided marketplace approach to drive outcomes and growth. The company teaches people the skills they need to access opportunities in the tech economy–ranging from Salesforce administration to web development–and hires many of those trainees to build enterprise technology solutions for customers as a part of Bitwise Technology Consulting.

As such, training drives both individual transformation for the trainee and commercial scale for Bitwise. Customers and partners can work with Bitwise in purchasing talent pipelines or technology solutions. Bitwise surrounds students and companies with inspiring technology hubs in Bitwise cities, supportive amenities, and programming. Trainees have access to a robust set of non-technical resources like counseling, transportation, and childcare.

Today Bitwise operates one of the largest federally accredited apprenticeship programs in the country, which enables it to pay Bitwise apprentices to learn. It has trained over 8,000 non-traditional tech students in its Workforce Training program, with 80 percent of job seekers going on to earn technical employment.

In each city that it serves, Bitwise renovates blighted historical buildings, creates a technology hub and houses its operations at the city's urban core to bring back life to the area. The company has already transformed a combined total of nearly a million square feet of downtown commercial space and will continue to do the same in new cities.
Imagine, if you will, stepping onto a red carpet, surrounded by visions of Downtown Fresno in the 1930s and feeling as though you just walked into a movie from the past - only instead of black and white, it was presented in rich technicolor - a feast for the eyes and ears. Glorious buildings with incredible art deco architecture, surrounded by shoppers of all kinds, scurrying here and there with packages and errands to run. It was almost surreal, the feeling of being transported to an era populated with torch singers and orchestras; their music creating an all-encompassing lush environment that was A Night At The Cocoanut Grove last Friday evening, celebrating the 103rd birthday of the Fresno County Historical Society. From the start to the finish, it was extraordinary. Upon entry, one was welcomed with the signature Cocoanut Grove cocktail, and escorted into a luxurious lounge area, where party-goers mixed and mingled in their finest evening wear, opening up into the Grand Ballroom. Behold the marine-blue and gold table accouterments set for an elegant dinner while melodic sounds fill the air! Then after feasting on delicious food, cocktail in hand, imagine being whisked away to the 10th floor by elevator porters, where one is moved by the flurry of activity! How about a cocktail, while perusing the casino-like gaming tables? Or perhaps one would prefer to step out on the patio for a cigar and port, while the sounds of a big-band orchestra, the cocktail tables and delicate lamplight create an atmosphere of opulent intimacy. This was an evening not soon to be forgotten, a true vignette of the lush life in the 1930s. Happy Birthday, Fresno County Historical Society. 

Many thanks to AJ Fox for serving as our MC, Diamonds After Dark and the Joe Lenigan Band for the entertainment, Pardini's and One Sweet Table for feeding us, Stefanelli Distributing and CRU Winery for the wine and cocktails and to Sceptre & Sash and Karkazian Jewelers for the sparkling prizes.

Remember: We Are Making History Every Day.
Thank you to our generous businesses and friends for their sponsorship.
Click to VIEW ENTRIRE MESSAGE to read this complete story
Nothing announces the changing season more than a plethora of sports in full swing. From T-Ball to Baseball, Tennis, Golf, Swimming, Track & Field – every parent and grandparent knows to pull out their folding chairs and ice chests for snacks (never, ever forget when it is your turn!) for Saturday morning competitions and tournaments. While the gear has certainly changed, the enthusiasm for fair competition has been ingrained in our region for more than 160 years.
Fresno County has a history of producing outstanding ball players who have gone on to play professionally. It is not unusual for dozens of locals to be competing in the minor and major leagues. Thousands of others play the national pastime, from Little League and Babe Ruth League up through high school, college and other amateur teams. In a list that could be an entire book on its own, here are a few unique examples –
• A standout at Fresno High School, Fresno City College and USC, Tom Seaver won 311 games and struck out 3,640 batters Gus Zernial, sharing a moment with young Mickey Mantle at Yankee Stadium in 1952, led the American League with home runs and 129 RBIs for the Philadelphia Athletics. He later became a Fresno sportscaster in a 20-year major league career, leading the New York “Miracle” Mets to their first World Series victory in 1969.

• Fresno native Jim Maloney was one of the biggest 1960s pitching stars with 134 wins. He threw two no-hitters, both while with the Cincinnati Reds, and later managed the Fresno Giants.

• The only pitcher in Big West Conference history to earn first-team all-league honors three consecutive times, Fresno State’s Bobby Jones was the first-round draft choice of the Mets in 1993.
Tom Seaver
• Gus Zernial, sharing a moment with young Mickey Mantle at Yankee Stadium in 1952, led the American League with home runs and 129 RBIs for the Philadelphia Athletics. He later became a Fresno sportscaster.
As for teams, here is a brief timeline –

1875 – First recorded baseball game in Fresno, between Fresno and Magnolia clubs.

1883 - Fresno Stars, first baseball team, formed; 1885 – Selma’s town baseball team plays initial game; first athletic organization in town.

1917 – The Fresno Sun-Maids were the talk of the entire San Joaquin Valley when the team beat the Chicago Cubs 1-0 in an early Spring Exhibition game. Hubert (Dutch) Leonard, to the left of Manager Roy Payne, got the shutout.

1958 - Fresno High School fields one of the greatest high school teams ever assembled under the tutelage of legendary coach Ollie Bidwell. Dick Ellsworth, Jim Maloney, and Pat Corrales would go on to star in the major league ranks. The ‘58 Warriors went 25-1 on the season, losing only to a college team.
The Expositors team, named after a Fresno newspaper, in an 1889 photograph. Legendary catcher, Frank Homan is fourth in the back row and Frank Chance is on the left lying down. Chance went on to play for the Fresno Tigers in 1897 and a year later moved on to the Chicago Cubs. Known as the “Peerless Leader” of the Cubbies, Chance led the team, as a player and a manager, to four National League Championships and two World Series. The Baseball Hall of Famer was also famous for the folklore status of the Tinkers, to Evers to Chance double play combination.
First responders made time to form teams of their own and on May 28, 1922, the Firemen & Policemen’s Base-Ball Park was opened as the first local baseball venue since 1914. “Record Crowd Expected To Turn Out For First League Game Played In Fresno Since 1914 - Approximately three thousand fans can be taken care of. The seating arrangement in the new stands were carefully planned and every occupant of the grandstand will have a comfortable seat with a clear vision of the playing field. The bleachers sections in right and left field will accommodate a thousand sun gods.”
In the days before television, many companies, such as Danish Creamery, found it valuable to sponsor a competitive baseball team . The Rinky Dink League, Division 1, included the Cosmos Golds, the St. Alphonsus Midgets and the Cosmos Blues.
Both male and female softball teams met with tremendous success in national play. This photo gathered members of the Fresno Rockets 1953, 1954, and 1957 World Championship Teams with all three trophies. Bottom row L-R: Joan Alsup, Rita Dobbs, Theresa Urrutia, bat girl JoEllen Chandler, Rose Williamson, Pat Richmond, Coach Bernice Amaral. Row 2: Charles "Dutch" Chandler, Barbara Prather, Yvonne Andersen, Jeanne Contel, Gloria May, Kay Rich, Carol Nelson, Betty Schlegel, Irene Huber, Vera Miller. Top Row: Bernice Coffman, Virginia Busick, Tommie Slappey, Marilyn Sypriano, Dorothy Stolze, Pat Gosland and Joan Fuchs.

Amongst a team of superstars, two of the Fresno Rockets National Softball Hall of Famers, Gloria May, first base, and Jeanne Contel, third base posed for a publicity shot. The two additional Rocket inductees were superstar pitcher, Virginia Busick, and all-around standout, Kay Rich. Although they were national champs, the ladies were given no amenities and had to travel and often sleep in crowded personal vehicles.
For over a century, golfing has been a favored Fresno County activity, both to play and to watch. Sunnyside, the area’s first course, was originally comprised of nine holes laid out on bare ground. Another nine holes were soon added, along with grass greens, and the course soon became a golfing showplace. Ladies were welcome, high heels required! Ft. Washington is also celebrating its centennial in 2022.
Since the first ball was driven down the fairway in 1906, Sunnyside Country Club has been the place to be seen by duffers and fashionable ladies alike. Designed by William P. Bell, the classic course is known for its small greens and abundance of mature Eucalyptus trees. Above a crowd gathers to watch the creation of the cup on the 9th green - April 14, 1923.
One of the first renowned local pros was Charles Seaver, who entered his first tournament in 1920 at the age of nine. In 1932, Charles led the USA Walker Cup squad to an 8-1 victory over Great Britain and Ireland. Seaver won the Fresno City title six times in the 1940s and the 1949 Northern California Open. In 1998, the Seaver Cup competition was launched, an event pitting the state’s top amateurs against each other. This photograph was taken during one of Seaver’s many rounds at his home club, Sunnyside. Athletic prowess clearly runs in the family as Charles is the father to baseball great, Tom Seaver.
Fort Washington Golf and Country Club began operations in late 1922 as a nine-hole course with dirt fairways and sand greens. Its original design was the work of Mr. William Watson. The name Fort Washington was inspired by the area’s military fort built to protect early pioneers and settlers. The wooden arch was a familiar landmark at “The Fort” for more than half a century.
Tennis was mentioned quite regularly in local newspapers as early as the 1880s. This article from The Daily Morning Republican, dated August 7, 1891, talks about the growing popularity of the sport.
“The Tennis Club – Fresno Club Nearly Filled to its Complement – How Americans Are Making Strides in the Old English Game – The Champions.”

“The Fresno tennis club is becoming one of the features of the social summer life of the city. In fact, it is nearly the only social feature of the city at present. The three courts at the corner of N and Tulare streets are crowded with practicing players. Last evening, the number who desired to play was so large that two parties were made up to go to two private courts at Mr. Helm’s and Dr. Maupin’s to practice.

“The games at the club grounds and at the other places are developing some excellent players, many of whom understood the game before the Fresno club was thought of…

“An eastern tennis enthusiast lately made the statement that ‘if all the lawn tennis players of America were to stand shoulder to shoulder they would make a double line reaching from New York to San Francisco and back again,’ Doubtless this is something of an exaggeration, but to those who have no appreciation of, or interest in a game which to them seems but an aimless knocking of a rubber ball back and forth over a net, the fact that the tennis players of this country alone, number millions, might be something of a surprise…

“Wherever these matches are held today in every section of the country, large numbers of spectators gather, many of them sufficiently posted to appreciate to a nicety the beauty and skill of every week returned balls, to discriminate between judgment as to the ability or good form of the several players.”
This truly is a fascinating article, both in content and in writing style and we hope to have the entirely posted on our website soon. While some fans may feel tennis wear has not evolved much, these final photos will dispel that myth quickly. Don’t miss checking out the footwear!

More sports in upcoming ROOTS OF THE VALLEY including a history of the Fig Garden Swim and Racquet Club…