In the News - Friday,
September 25, 2009
stories written by John or
Elliott unless otherwise noted
this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
MURALS OF EXETER
art and tourism
In every success story of community development,
there are pitfalls, false starts, valleys, and peaks.
And currently, in the throes of a very difficult economy,
there are challenges to find new avenues of doing
business, social relationships, and an effective plan
for Tulare County’s future.
There is no more common thread among
our two communities — Three Rivers and Exeter
— than a love and appreciation for the arts.
Former Exeter mayor Alex Torres, who promoted the
mural idea in the 1990s, once said the goal of the
city in featuring a series of murals was to draw visitors
“It’s economic development through the
arts and tourism,” Torres proclaimed in 1996.
Exeter: a festival of the arts
In 1996, the City of Exeter planted the
seed money of $13,000 to ensure that the murals project
had a foundation. When the first was completed at
Pine and E streets, all who viewed the 98-foot wide
by 33-foot masterpiece knew the murals project was
already attracting tourists and would be a source
of civic pride.
But the key to the success of the ongoing
project — 26 murals and the next one with a
World War II theme will commence next week —
is to have a central theme – that theme is history.
In the annals of Tulare County, the Exeter story has
been an incredible chapter in the epic of the citrus
industry. Today, acreage planted to the mythic orange,
which surrounds this hopeful town of 10,730, is at
an all-time high.
But it wasn’t always that way.
Challenges of finding water, weather, transportation,
and market conditions made farming in these parts
a risky venture.
Unlike neighboring Visalia, which was
founded in 1852, Exeter did not attract early settlers
because it lacked a natural source of water. The nearest
settlements began at Deep Creek and Yokohl Valley,
northeast of the present-day town.
In 1877, John Firebaugh settled on what
is now the city of Exeter. He planned to call the
new town Firebaugh but his uncle Andrew Firebaugh
already named a small settlement on the west side
of Fresno County “Firebaugh’s Ferry.”
D.W. Parkhurst, land agent for the railroad,
came up with the name Exeter. That name was derived
from his hometown in England.
Until 1898, when the Southern Pacific Railroad connected
Exeter and Visalia, the fledgling town had gained
some prominence as a stage stop. Travelers to and
from the recently established Sequoia National Park
(1890) became well acquainted with this scenic Valley
route via Exeter.
Exeter became an important agricultural
crossroads being served by three railroads: the Southern
Pacific (1888), the Visalia Electric (1905), and the
Santa Fe (1912).
Exeter was incorporated March 2, 1911.
George Waddell served as the first mayor.
Emperor Grape, King Orange
The small community experienced little
growth until grapes and oranges were planted in the
1890s. Both crops did exceptionally well with the
Emperor grape achieving early success. In those days,
Exeter was touted as the “Home of the Emperor
It was not until advances in pump technology
and irrigation that orange groves became commercially
viable in Exeter. The extension of the railroads helped
to link growers to the consumers.
The Bonnie Brae Ranch near Merryman Station
(Highway 198 and Spruce) had the first local packinghouse.
In 1912, the Merryman railroad spur was the first
in the area to provide cold storage.
By the late-1920s, an average-sized grove
of 20 acres ensured a good living for many Exeter
families. World War II and the years that followed
stimulated citrus demand and production.
Concurrent with post-war growth in Southern
California, many displaced orange growers relocated
to Tulare County in the 1950s and 1960s.
In the 1980s, recurring freezes in Florida
brought record returns for Exeter growers. Agribusiness
giants invested even more capital.
The future is now
Today, Exeter is a peaceful, progressive
city with an exciting future. Blessed with rich farmland
and natural beauty, the ingenuity of its residents
and community spirit has infused the old farm town
with new life.
The 26 (soon to be 27) murals have been
the rallying cry. The murals have transformed the
downtown into one giant art gallery.
In the stories of Three Rivers and Exeter,
our neighbor to the west, we have much in common and
a great deal we can learn from each other. It is in
this cooperative spirit that THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH
publishes this inaugural Exeter special section.
Kaweah Marina burglarized
Desperate times call for desperate measures
and evidently there’s a desperate thief on the
prowl. Sometime between Monday evening and Wednesday
morning (Sept. 21-23) someone broke into the Kaweah
Marina and made off with more than $4,000 worth of
equipment and tools.
A generator and a compressor were the
biggest part of the loot.
“I’ve been here 45 years and in all my
time we never had anything like it,” Dale Mehrten
said, who with his wife Joy operates Kaweah Marina.
“We’ve had break-ins before but nothing
like this one.”
Tulare County Sheriff’s deputies were on the
scene after Dale reported the crime at 10 a.m. on
September 23. According to a police report, the thief
cut some locks to gain entry.
Sheriff’s Department deputies interviewed
some people on nearby houseboats and combed the scene
for physical evidence. No other burglaries or break-ins
were reported in the vicinity during that time period.
Anyone with information that might assist
in the investigation is asked to call the Tulare County
Sheriff’s Department at 733-6220.
A clean lake is a happy lake
By Brian Rothhammer
Lake Kaweah needs your help. While driving
around the lake on Highway 198 it is plain to see
that as the water has been released for irrigation
throughout California’s vast inland empire,
the lake in late summer has the appearance of a titanic
bathtub with the plug pulled out. A closer look reveals
what has been left behind.
Let’s talk trash. Tons of it. Everything
imaginable that can fall off of a boat or has simply
been pitched into the once deep waters is now left
exposed on the dry lakebed for all to see.
Along with the usual debris are tires,
bedsprings, even the occasional treasures such as
coins and firearms. Many of the trees are festooned
with surreal decorations of lost fishing tackle that
dangle in the breeze like a demented sort of tinsel.
What can be done to help clean up and
preserve the beauty of our Lake Kaweah? Just show
up at Horse Creek Campground at 8 a.m. tomorrow (Saturday,
Sept. 26) and pitch in with hundreds of fellow volunteers
for the annual cleanup on National Public Lands Day.
Past years at Lake Kaweah have been very
productive with tons of unsightly and environmentally
damaging refuse removed. Here’s how it goes:
Volunteers meet with staff at Horse Creek
Campground to choose project assignments while enjoying
coffee and doughnuts. Along with debris removal, projects
will include painting benches, landscaping, graffiti
removal, and other tasks. Comfortable work attire
and gloves are recommended.
Then it’s back to Horse Creek for
a barbecue lunch and live music. Some of the many
sponsors of this year’s event will have booths
set up and cold drinks will be provided.
So what are you waiting for? Grab the
gloves and hat, and let’s get out and support
our community while beautifying Lake Kaweah. YOU can
make a difference!
WELCOME TO MY FOOD COLUMN
Mom’s night off
By Tina St. John
Saturday evenings were my parents’
date night, all but one Saturday a month. That day
was reserved for my dad to cook dinner with us nine
Spaghetti was the specialty. The day
was about the sauce, a labor of love, mostly for my
This was her day to retreat to her library
to do whatever she wanted. The door was shut and we
kids were to leave her alone.
My dad was in charge of us, the dinner,
and anything else that came up. Well, let me tell
you that my dad was sort of a kid himself, but a very
well-organized kid. He had the routine down.
We would pile into our Ford station wagon
and off to the market we’d go to shop for the
ingredients pour le diner. Just going to the store
was an adventure.
I remember driving down the street and
when we’d come to a stoplight and were to obviously
stop the car, my dad would almost stop at the light,
only to tell us he was going to try and see if he
could keep the car going until the light turned green.
We would slowly creep along the road, inch by inch,
the car barely moving. And he would do it while always
joking about something.
After getting home with our bags of groceries,
my dad would delegate different kitchen duties to
us depending on our ages. Jobs included cleaning the
produce, cutting the tomatoes, and washing the dishes,
while some of us just watched.
After assembling all the ingredients
for the sauce, which usually was tomatoes, garlic,
onions, and herbs, he would leave the sauce at a very
low simmer on the stove. He cooked it for hours.
He said that was the secret, to cook
the sauce very slow, and slow it was. It took most
of the day. The idea behind his “secret sauce”
was not so much what was in it, but how long he cooked
So while his secret sauce cooked, my
dad would pass the time playing games with us. Every
now and then he would check on the sauce, stir it,
and go back to playing games. Looking back, I think
my dad chose to make spaghetti because it didn’t
require a lot of effort and he could spend more time
goofing off with us kids.
He was a very tall man, 6 feet, 4 inches,
to be exact. On our cooking day together we always
played a game were he would lie down on the living
room floor as if he had no life in him.
We kids had to bring him back to life
by picking up his limbs and standing him upright,
dead weight and all. This wasn’t easy because
he was a big man and we were all very young.
Once we got him standing up he would
sway back and forth, pretending to fall over and then
all of a sudden he would come alive with a slight
moan in his voice, his eyes moving back and forth.
We ran for our lives, anticipating what would happen
Our home was large with many rooms, and
even though we’d run and hide, he would walk
slowly throughout looking for us, which made our excitement
more than we could bear. Some of us couldn’t
help giggling, some of us would give up our cover,
and others would yell out in desperation, “Hey
Dad! What about the sauce?” to try to distract
That’s why I’m convinced
he picked spaghetti as the dinner of choice when cooking
with his kids. It only required an occasional stir.
But it was always worth spending that time with him.
When his sauce was done, he would give
it a taste, dipping the edge of his spoon in the thick,
deep, red, aromatic phenomenon (at least that’s
what I thought), taking a bite and wondering if more
salt was needed. We’d wait for the verdict.
Was dinner ready? Yes!
My mother would emerge from her place
of solitude and dinner was served. As my dad sat in
his place of glory, dishing out plates of noodles
and pouring his famous spaghetti sauce, I just knew
the reason he made the best sauce in the world was
because his love was the “secret” ingredient
that made it so good. And he always added a huge helping
I’ve included a sauce of my own
in this week’s column. It’s not my dad’s
secret recipe, but it does require slow cooking so
that you’ll have plenty of time to goof off
with the kids.
Tina St. John writes
from her Three Rivers studio.
DAD’S SECRET SPAGHETTI SAUCE
3 tbs. olive oil
1 medium white or yellow sweet onion, diced
15 medium-size ripe tomatoes or 2 large cans of organic
1 medium bunch of organic fresh basil, finely chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, grated
1 tbs. pure maple syrup
Sauté diced onions
in olive oil until golden brown (caramelized) in large
pot. Dice or blend tomatoes, depending if you like
your sauce chunky or smooth (I blend mine because
I like my sauce that way). Add the herbs, garlic and
maple syrup. Add sauce to onions in a pot and simmer
at a VERY low heat. This sauce will simmer for hours
or until the water is gone and the sauce is very thick.
Serve over noodles of your choice.
NOTE: For anyone who eats raw foods,
this also makes a great dip or sauce for pouring over
raw veggies. Blend these ingredients, add just 1 tablespoon
of olive oil, and do not cook it.
from Tina St. John’s “Welcome to My Food
Column,” published September 25, 2009, in THE
Several ways to support Three
By LORÉE LITTLE
Given the challenges associated with
the current economic climate, the financial stability
of many institutions, education included, has been
hit hard. Here at home, Three Rivers Union School
is no exception.
Students, teachers, and support staff
alike have experienced the fiscal crunch. From salary
reductions to combined classes, TRUS is making tough
choices and doing whatever it takes to weather the
Fortunately, TRUS is not a vessel unto
itself. Based on historical observation, the local
community supports and protects education and the
children it serves.
This academic year is evidence of that
unique relationship between school and community.
For example, despite the pervasive precipitation of
financial hardships for many, donations are arriving
daily for the school's major fundraiser of the year
— the Fall Carnival
Such demonstrations of continued support are deeply
appreciated by TRUS. These fundraising efforts translate
into improved opportunities for learning for our community's
Interested in supporting TRUS, but funds
are tight? Here are a few ways that community members
can get on board without getting soaked:
Box Tops for Education: TRUS
collects “Box Tops” found on a variety
of grocery items. All you need to do is cut out the
small pink and purple rectangular label on any participating
product, such as General Mills or Ziploc, and save
them for TRUS. Concerned that your contribution will
hardly make a difference? Think again.
Collectively, the contributions add up to a big deal
for TRUS. Ask your family, friends, and neighbors
to save their Box Tops too.
A collection box is located in the TRUS office. You
may also mail your collection of Box Tops to: Eagle
Booster Club, P.O. Box 99, Three Rivers, CA 93271.
For more information about this program, call Sue
Schwarz, 561-3042, or visit the Box Tops for Education
SHARES Cards: Now, more
than ever, it is important to shop local. We also
recognize, however, that there are folks that both
shop local and down the hill. For those folks who
do the latter, you can swipe a free SHARES card after
making a purchase at either SaveMart or Food Maxx.
By doing so, there is no charge to the
customer, yet the vendor will donate 3 percent of
every dollar spent to TRUS. Last quarter, TRUS earned
about $575 just because folks remembered to swipe.
Free SHARES cards are available at many
local businesses and at the TRUS main office. Feel
free to pick up a card or two for family, friends,
and co-workers too.
Gently Used Toys: Forgotten
toys collecting dust or creating clutter? The Eagle
Booster Club is collecting gently used toys to be
used as prizes at TRUS’s Halloween Carnival.
Drop your donations off at the TRUS office.
Attend the Carnival: The
Halloween Carnival at TRUS is the school's major fundraiser
of the year. Invite family, friends, and co-workers
for an old-fashioned evening of fun and entertainment.
This is one form of entertainment where spending with
a purpose makes sense, or is that cents? Any way you
spell it, it equals success for TRUS students. Let's
make this our biggest fundraising year yet!
is on the Eagle Booster Club advisory board.