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In the News - Friday, August 23, 2013



Harry Kulick (1920-2013):

War hero, owner/founder

of Kaweah General Store

  Harry Kulick died Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013, at his longtime Three Rivers home, surrounded by his family. He was 92.
   Harry was born December 6, 1920, to John and Eva Kulick in Granite City, Ill. Even in his adolescent years, Harry was always industrious, selling newspapers on the corner, picking up scrap iron to be sold, and grazing the family milk cow to help his family.
   In 1935, he enlisted in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCCs) and went to work in St. Croix Falls, Wisc. Harry often lamented about the tough and frustrating work of fighting peat bog fires there, which were notoriously hard to put out.
   Upon his discharge from the CCCs and returning home, his father gave him all the money that Harry had made in the C’s and required to be sent home, thus giving him his first financial start in life.
   Harry married Rose Koroby on October 18, 1941. In 1942, he enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II. He recalled that Rose had to sign her approval for him to enlist in the Army.
   Harry got his first look at the West by training with the 741st Tank Battalion as a tank driver in the Mojave Desert in preparation for operations in North Africa. Ultimately, the 741st made the initial landing on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944 (now known as D-Day), where his tank was one of only three out of 30 in his group to actually make it ashore and fight the day-long battle against the Axis powers.
   Harry soon became a tank dozer commander and participated in heavy fighting through France, Belgium, and across the Rhine River into Germany.
   He was awarded the Bronze Star for bravery under fire for his actions during the Battle of the Bulge.
   After being discharged from the Army, the call of the West brought Harry, Rose, and their first-born son, Harry Jr., to Sacramento. After a few years, they decided to look for a smaller town in which to raise their family and moved to Visalia where Harry quickly found work with Sears and Roebuck.
   Harry worked at the Sears store on Main Street for 14 years where he was in charge of electrical, hardware, paint, and toys. While in Visalia, Harry and Rose were blessed with three more boys, John, Michael, and George.
   Harry’s boyhood experiences of being his own boss fueled his desire to start his own business. In 1957, Harry and Rose purchased land along Highway 198 in Three Rivers, where they built Kaweah General Store, which opened to the public in 1961.
   In 1964, the family relocated from Visalia to Three Rivers after Harry Jr. and John graduated from Mt. Whitney High School.
   Harry worked diligently and established the Kaweah General Store into a beloved and indispensable Three Rivers establishment. In 1982, Harry and Rose retired from full-time operation of the business that sold “a little bit of almost everything.” They continued to own the property until 1995.
   Harry and Rose were an active part of Three Rivers even during retirement. Harry was commander of VFW Post 3939 for multiple years and also served for many years on the   Three Rivers Memorial District board of directors during the key years of reconstruction of the facility. They were active members of St. Clement Anglican Church in Woodlake.
   In the “Neighbor Profile” feature of The Kaweah Commonwealth on May 22, 1998, Harry made a point to say, “We should never forget those in the military who gave their lives — the crippled, the wounded, and those in the vet hospitals who have been there for years.”
   He also stated that he had achieved his goal in life, which was to be his own boss. And he gave credit to Rose for his success. “I never could have done much without her.”
   Harry was preceded in death by his wife of 68 years, Rose (1923-2010); by his two eldest sons, Harry Jr. and John; and one great grandson.
   Harry is survived by his two sons, Michael Kulick of Mariposa and George Kulick of Three Rivers; 10 grandchildren; 14 great-grandchildren; and 7 great-great-grandchildren.
   Visitation will be Friday, Aug. 23, 2013, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Three Rivers Veterans Memorial Building. A funeral service will be Saturday, Aug. 24, 9 a.m., at St. Clement Anglican Church in Woodlake, with burial following at the Three Rivers Cemetery.
   In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made in Harry’s name to St. Clement Anglican Church, 498 N. Valencia Blvd., Woodlake, CA 93286.

Lightning storms spark new fires, power outages

  In the wake of the cut-off low that swirled through Kaweah Country on Sunday, Aug. 18, and the next evening, Three Rivers made it through relatively unscathed. Areas on the North Fork and higher elevations of the nearby mountains reported the most rainfall; in town it was approximately a half of an inch (total for both nights), depending on location.
   Local areas in the San Joaquin Valley narrowly averted a major disaster when a lightning strike accompanied by high winds estimated to be 70 mph at times started a fire at a Visalia-area electrical substation at 8 p.m., knocking out the power to more than 120,000 customers in Tulare and Kings counties. Power was restored to most locations within a few hours but there were sporadic outages like the one at College of the Sequoias that lasted all night.
   The gusty winds played havoc with boaters at Lake Kaweah while trying to get back to shore. That task was made even more risky when a portion of the marina dock at Lemon Hill Recreation Area broke loose from its moorings.
   Boaters had to dodge the section of dock that still had houseboats attached. Several people on the houseboats had an anxious float in the darkness until rescue personnel could reach them and secure the dock.
   For most of Three Rivers the power flickered, surged several times, then went out. Service was restored in a few minutes though some outlying customers were not restored until the pre-dawn hours.
   Of greater concern were dozens of lightning strikes in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and Sequoia National Forest in tinder-dry conditions. If any of those strikes were to cause a big fire to get rolling, it would be problematic to find the resources to fight the blaze given the fact that so many other fires are burning throughout the western states.
   Both federal agencies reported a spate of new fires but only a handful required immediate attention. The largest within the boundaries of Sequoia National Forest is the Shirley Fire, located near the Shirley Meadows Ski Area above Lake Isabella.
   That fire has grown to nearly 500 acres and has forest officials concerned. A fire burning near Blue Ridge has been extinguished.
   Rex Emerson, spokesperson for Sequoia National Forest, said these lightning fires can go undetected for days. His agency, he said, will take more aggressive action as fire crews become available.
   Deb Schweizer, fire education specialist for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, reported on Wednesday that park firefighters suppressed the Hotel Creek Fire near Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon National Park at 30 acres. The Hockett Fire in the backcountry of southern Sequoia National Park, which caused a closure of the trail to Evelyn Lake and Cahoon Rock, has been contained.
   A couple newly discovered smaller fires are currently being assessed to see if they are accessible for ground personnel.
   The Chagoopa Fire, on the Chagoopa Plateau in the Sequoia backcountry, is estimated at to be a quarter-acre in size. This fire is in the wilderness and there are no threats to life or property. It remains unstaffed until the higher priority, front-country fires are contained.
   There are no triple-digit temperatures in the seven-day forecast, and that’s great news for firefighters and those locals who long to put the hot, dry summer of 2013 in the rearview mirror. The shorter days mean cooler nights and an increasing chance for the season’s first significant rainfall... without lightning.

TRUS is back in session

School enrollment increases

  What a difference a couple of years can make. Two years ago, the enrollment at Three Rivers Union School was 144 and trending downward.
   There was talk of closing the school or at least consolidation of the one-school district with Woodlake Unified. But as classes reconvened this week, at least a dozen new pupils (155) were counted over last year, and that represents a nine percent spike in enrollment since 2011.
   Sue Sherwood, superintendent, principal, and the eighth-grade teacher, said the increasing enrollment is due to some transfers and the fact that there are families with school-age kids moving into town. That’s good news for a small district that’s looking for new ways to make ends meet.
  “We didn’t have to make any major cuts in this year’s programs or the budget,” Sue said. “The staff was able to get a two percent increase in salary but, unfortunately, that was eaten up by the increase in the health insurance.”
   The medical and dental package that cost the district approximately $13,200 per person last year increased $700 for the current school year. Teachers will make up the difference from their paychecks.
   Of course there are staff who don’t like paying the difference, Sue said, but she called the coverage and benefits “excellent.”

  With all the changes and shuffling of combination classes, the Three Rivers Union School District continues to do what it has done for the past 86 years — provide a quality educational experience for its students in kindergarten through eighth grade. The school’s test scores remain among the highest in the county, and it is still doing an outstanding job of preparing its graduates for high school.
   NEW TEACHER— The newest addition to the teaching staff is Liz Harrelson. Liz, a resident of Three Rivers and Woodlake High alum, was hired to teach kindergarten.
   A teaching position became available when Laura Harrison, last year’s first-grade teacher, returned to her home state of Michigan to continue her teaching career. For Liz, she begins what she calls her “dream job” and a chance to teach at the school where her daughter, Hope, is a second-grader.
  “I’m just following what Katie set up,” Liz said. “I’m really excited to start my 16 students on their school experience here at Three Rivers School.”
   Liz’s path to TRUS started with a journalism degree from San Francisco State University. After graduating in 2004, she continued to reside in the Bay Area where she worked for two years as a beat reporter for the San Mateo Daily News.
  “I covered the city council, planning commission, education, and crime, too,” Liz said. “When my daughter came along, I wanted her to go to Three Rivers School. It’s such a great school environment.”
   Upon her move back to Three Rivers a few years ago, Liz began the extra years of courses she would need to land a position in the classroom.
  “I never really considered taking any other job,” Liz said. “Whenever an opening came up at TRUS in the last few years I dreamed the person they hired was me.”
   To make room for Liz, Katie St. Martin, kindergarten teacher for the past four years, moved to first grade; Jami Beck remains the second-grade teacher. Linda Warner continues as the third-grade teacher while her son Isaac, who was hired last year, will have a grade 4-5 combo.
   Rob Ojeda, who has taught both sixth and seventh graders at Three Rivers, will have a grade 5-6 combination while Athena Saenz, the band teacher for the last six years, now assumes some of Sue Sherwood’s grade 7-8 combo responsibilities.
  “Athena will continue as the band teacher, and we will also be able to pay her as a part-time teacher to work with the seventh-graders in the mornings,” Sue said.
   Looking ahead, Sue also reported a modernization program is in the works.
  “After we submit all the paperwork to the state, we’ll be in line for a $1.5 million grant that will be used to remodel the primary and hexagon wings,” Sue said. “If all goes according to plan, we could complete construction in 2015.”

Stephen Mather’s creation turns 97 on Sunday

Sequoia pack trip started the conversation

of creating the National Park Service

Well, men, we’ve had a glorious ten days together, and we’ll have a few more before we part in Yosemite. I think the time has come, though, that I confess why I wanted you to come along with me on this adventure. Not only for your interesting company, but to hope you’d see the significance of these mountains in the whole picture of what we are trying to do. Hopefully, you will take this message and spread it throughout the land in your own avenue and style. These valleys and heights of the Sierra Nevada are just one small part of the majesty of America.... To each of you, to all of you, remember that God has given us these beautiful lands. Try to save them for, and share them with, future generations...
—Stephen Mather
Mather Mountain Party
July 27, 1915

  It was a hot afternoon in Visalia on Wednesday, July 15, 1915, when a contingent of government bureaucrats, writers, politicians, businessmen, and others arrived at the Palace Hotel for a dinner party that featured Mexican cuisine. Horace Albright later wrote that someone had compared their Mexican fare with the Central Valley weather, stating “the coolest condition was the Tabasco sauce.”
   The group of a dozen-and-a-half or so men was hand-picked by Stephen T. Mather. Their topic of conversation was about the trek that would commence in the morning that would take them into and through the high country that rose sharply above the Central Valley beginning less than 20 miles to the east.
   Mather had carefully selected these men from influential circles, hoping that by the end of the trip they would be as convinced as he was that the national parks needed to be protected under one federal agency.
   It worked.
   After nearly two weeks of forging the rugged trails, witnessing stunning vistas, and scaling Mount Whitney, these key members of the “Mather Mountain Party,” as it became known, began spreading the word.
   Over the next year, a reluctant Congress was slowly persuaded. And on August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the law creating the National Park Service.
   In the 97 years since Mather’s dream came true, the system has grown from 13 parks to 401 parks, seashores, lakeshores, battlefields, and other historic sites, covering nearly 85 million acres.
   Mather, an avid outdoorsman and self-made millionaire who spent a lot of his own money in his crusade, is well known within small circles connected to the wilderness movement. But as the National Park Service marks its anniversary on Sunday, Aug. 25, the man who made it all happen remains virtually unknown to the visiting public.

   Mather worked as a reporter for the New York Sun before making his fortune in the borax business. He made annual sojourns into the western wilderness, and in 1914, wrote to Secretary of the Interior Franklin K. Lane to complain of the conditions of California’s national parks, which were looked after by the military.
   Lane, a fellow graduate of Mather’s from the University of California, Berkeley, responded:
“Dear Steve. If you don’t like the way the national parks are being run, come on down to Washington and run them yourself.”
   He did, serving first as Lane’s assistant.
   Knowing he would need public support to win grant money from Congress for a national agency, he planned the first of many camping trips, wisely inviting people who could help bring attention to the parks.
   In the summer of 1915, he led a group of 18, including Horace C. Albright, legal assistant to Mather in the Department of the Interior; Gilbert Grosvenor, editor of National Geographic magazine; Peter Clark Macfarlane, freelance writer for the Saturday Evening Post; Henry Fairfield Osborn, president of the American Museum of Natural History; Congressman Frederick H. Gillett of Massachusetts, ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee (at age 65, he was the oldest member of the party); Ernest O. McCormick, vice president of the Southern Pacific Railroad and leader in the creation of Crater Lake National Park; Wilbur McClure, California state engineer; Ben Maddox, owner and publisher of the Visalia Daily Times; and George Stewart, Visalia newspaper editor who was behind the movement to create Sequoia and General Grant national parks. Joining this esteemed group were Frank Ewing, a Sequoia National Park ranger who would serve as the lead packer, and Ty Sing, camp “chef” and his assistant Eugene.
   The party left Visalia in cars and traveled the original road to Sequoia National Park, what Horace Albright described as “the narrow, rut-filled, steep, and torturous Colony Mill Road. It was a terrible road, so bad that the passengers often had to pile out of the cars and push to get them over the worst places.”

   They spent their first night of the excursion outdoors and under the giant sequoias in the Giant Forest. The next morning, they switched modes of transportation from automobiles to horse and mules.
   A photo was taken of the men, about 30 in all, encircling the General Sherman Tree with a  couple of horses hidden on the backside of the trunk to complete the circle. It later was published in National Geographic magazine.
   The men began their journey with a tour of the Giant Forest, led by Walter Fry, a Three Rivers resident, naturalist, and first civilian superintendent of Sequoia National Park. When the party arrived at Moro Rock, Mather insisted that everyone make the climb to the top via the rickety wooden staircase (the permanent concrete stairs in use today were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1931).
   After ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the magnificent view from the top of the rock, they left the Big Trees behind at Panther Gap, descending into the Kaweah’s Middle Fork Canyon with their destination being Redwood Meadow.
   In 1915, Redwood Meadow was still in private hands. But Mather was attached to this giant sequoia grove and later bought it with his own funds, then donated it to the U.S. government.
   Mather also would buy the Old Tioga Road, a rundown dirt route that transected the Sierra near Yosemite National Park. The government didn’t have the funds for improvements to the road, so Mather bought it for $15,500, repaired it, and donated it to the government in an effort to improve automobile access to the national parks.
   After Redwood Meadow, the group headed to Mineral King, then also not a part of Sequoia National Park. They crossed the Great Western Divide via Franklin Pass, descended into Rattlesnake Canyon, and eventually into Kern Canyon.
   They spent a night at Upper Funston Meadow, discovering with pleasure the hot spring located just up the trail and along the Kern River.
   The next stop was Junction Meadow in the upper Kern Canyon. It was here that Mather, Albright, and Grosvenor climbed into the Kern-Kaweah Canyon to Colby Pass. While sitting there looking over Cloud Canyon to the Kaweah Peaks Ridge, the trio discussed the protection of the Kern, Kings, and Whitney regions via national park status, either by enlarging Sequoia or creating a new national park. They even came up with a name for the new park: “The Sierra Wilderness Park.”
   Today, these areas are protected by both means mentioned above. Sequoia was enlarged to include Mount Whitney and the Kern Canyon, and General Grant National Park became Kings Canyon National Park and encompassed a much larger area than the original creation.
Next on the group’s itinerary was to head east out of Kern Canyon toward Mount Whitney (elevation 14,500). They camped at Crabtree Meadow.
   From this base camp, they rode horses up about four more miles, then left them to graze while they set off on foot.
   Eventually, 12 of the Mather Mountain Party reached the summit. (Ben Maddox gave up his quest at about the 13,000-foot level.)

  “The view from the top was incredible,” wrote Horace Albirght. “Waves of majestic peaks fanned out in all directions: the Kaweahs of the Great Western Divide to the west; the main spine of the Sierra from north to south; its eastern ramparts dropping off abruptly to the low Alabama Hills and the Owens Valley. Across the flatlands were the dimly seen Panamints and Funeral Mountains, enclosing Death Valley.”
   The irony was not lost on the men that they could see the lowest point in the United States while standing on the highest point in the United States.
   The group left the wilderness after a night at Big Whitney Meadow then descending Cottonwood Pass to Horseshoe Meadows. They ended their trip on Tuesday, July 27, 1915.

   On August 25, 1916, Congress passed legislation creating the National Park Service. Mather, who was leading another camping trip in Sequoia at the time, didn’t receive the news until the next morning. A telegram from Horace Albright said: “Park Service bill signed nine o’clock last night. Have pen used by President in signing for you.”
   Mather was appointed the NPS’s first director; Horace Albright continued to share Mather’s vision and remained by his side as assistant director.

   Various places within today’s National Park System are named after Stephen Tyng Mather (July 4, 1867-January 22, 1930), including:
   Mather Pass in Kings Canyon National Park; Mather District and Camp Mather in Yosemite National Park; Mather Point on the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park; Mather Gorge on the border of Great Falls Park and Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park; Mount Mather in Denali National Park; and the Stephen T. Mather Training Center, which serves the entire National Park System and is located at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia.
   Other places were named in his honor are Stephen Tyng Mather High School in Chicago, Ill.; Stephen Mather Memorial Parkway (Washington State Route 410) in the Mount Rainier National Park and the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest; and Stephen Mather Wilderness, comprising much of the North Cascades National Park.
   And for anyone who has visited a national park, they have more than likely passed by a Mather memorial plaque (see photo on page 6), a metal marker with inscription and profile view of the “father of the National Park Service” that is mounted somewhere in most national parks (in Sequoia, it used to be along the Crescent Meadow Road just beyond Tunnel Log, but it may have been removed in recent years due to prescribed fires that have occurred in the area).

   This Sunday, Aug. 25, the Park Service celebrates its birthday by letting all who wish to visit the national parks do so for free. Entrance fees will be waived for the day.
   Since 1990, the NPS has been looking forward to its centennial with new visions for an updated and relevant Park Service. With just three years to go, the park is working toward strategies that will connect more people to the national parks and educate them on the significance of this most magnificent of places.
   Which seems to be the same strategy that Stephen Mather used when assembling his Mather Mountain Party a century ago.

Honors students partner with

parks to explore, study wilderness

  It’s no mystery to educators. Often the most meaningful learning in today’s college experience occurs outside the walls of the traditional classroom.
   And where better to explore profound questions and probe relevant issues than in national parks like Sequoia and Kings Canyon?
   That’s the rationale for a program called Partners in the Parks (partnersintheparks.org) that offers a select group of honors students an opportunity for one week each summer to explore one or more of the unique treasures that make up the National Park System.
   This year’s project was sponsored by Southern Utah University. Group leaders were Dr. Johnny MacLean, an SUU geology professor at the Cedar City, Utah, campus; and Dr. Brian White, an English professor from Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa. The two instructors led a group of 11 students on a visit to Sequoia National Park, several of whom were first-time backpackers and had never before visited any of the western parks.
   The focus of the week here (August 5-10) was to explore the legal and personal definitions of wilderness and take advantage of the knowledge of local experts. On the first day of the six-day visit, the group toured the Giant Forest with Bill Tweed, Sequoia’s former chief of interpretation.
   The highlight of Day 2 was a tour of Crystal Cave and then a service project at Ash Mountain to earn their keep.
   On Day 3, Alysia Schmidt, sub-district ranger, led a backpacking adventure to Monarch Lake.
   On Thursday, the group went up and over Sawtooth Pass to Columbine Lake. En route, several of the group climbed Sawtooth Peak and experienced the unique rush of standing atop the highest point in the area at 12,343 feet above sea level.
   After returning to Monarch Lake on Friday, the group was met by Colleen Bathe, Sequoia-Kings Canyon’s chief of interpretation, who escorted the group back to Mineral King on Saturday, Aug. 10. The entire week, especially the challenging backpacking, was an experience that these students and their instructors won’t soon forget.

Deposit and withdrawal (photo caption)

A new automated-teller machine was installed Thursday, Aug. 22, at Bank of the Sierra in Three Rivers. The previous ATM was damaged during an unsuccessful burglary attempt on June 29.

Wood ‘N’ Horse show team competes at trail show

  The Wood ‘N’ Horse show team of Three Rivers had fun at a competition a few weeks ago in Sanger. It was a horse show with just trail obstacles, which means the riders have to negotiate their horses with precision and skill over 20 natural obstacles that might also be found on any trail.
   The local show team’s newest member, Jacey Reisinger of Three Rivers, showed Pie, Erin Farnsworth’s award-winning horse, to a second place in the Green Rider division. Erin showed Pie also and won the Amateur division.
   Jamie Thompson of Visalia won the 14-18 Youth division riding Christy Wood’s horse, Blue Suede Dude.
   Maryrose Kulick of Three Rivers showed Cowboy, also owned by Christy Wood, to a third in the 14-18 Youth division. Titiana Smith of Exeter, showed her horse, Zippo, to a fifth in her 12-and-Under Youth division. Christy, the show team’s founder and coach, showed her new three-year-old filly, Nugget, who had only had 80 rides, to a fifth in the Green Horse division.




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