News and Information
for residents and visitors
Three Rivers,
Sequoia and Kings Canyon
National Parks,
Lemon Cove and Woodlake
Kaweah Kam


The Best of Kaweah Country

2004 readers' poll results --


Go to: The Best of Kaweah Country


  In the News - Friday, SEPTEMBER 24, 2004

Years of planning evolves

into 3R visitor center



   For the past decade, a group of civic-minded promoters, led by Janine Chilcott of Three Rivers, have been touting the virtues of a roadside attraction in Three Rivers where tourists on the way to Sequoia National Park could stop, use the restroom, and maybe even picnic. The facilities with parking lot on three acres were planned for the parcel adjacent to Paul Bunyan and the Three Rivers Historical Museum.
   There are many benefits for such a project, its boosters claim, including just getting more visitors to stop and consider what Three Rivers might have to offer. Engineering and environmental studies on the parcel were completed a couple of years ago, a portion of which was paid for by Tulare County grant money.
   The rest stop plans were submitted to Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG) during two separate funding cycles, but although the project was approved in concept, it never received the approximate $800,000 for its completion.
   TCAG oversees the distribution of several million in federal funds every couple of years. The money is the county’s share of gasoline tax funding earmarked for transportation-enhancement projects.
   Scott Cochran, a staff planner with TCAG said that the “rest stop” concept evidently was not strong enough to meet project criteria in Sacramento. After falling short on the two previous proposals within the last decade, county planners are retooling the project that now views Three Rivers more as a destination rather than a stop along the way to somewhere else.

  “The roadside property has an obvious link to local transportation, but if we establish that the site will promote tourism and local history then the project would have a much better chance to be funded,” Cochran said.
   Ironically, the critical distinction in the two projects is how the visitor chooses to get to the site. Cochran says projects that de-emphasize the use of vehicles will receive the higher grade and almost certainly the grant money.
   What planners are trying to do now is demonstrate that if you build it they will come… by walking or riding a bicycle, not necessarily by auto, although the site will have a 28-stall parking lot. The new visitor center will focus on interpreting local history, especially those resources directly linked to the area’s transportation.
   The dilemma of the project, and perhaps a stumbling block of the past, is that it does contain significant historical resources, including Jessie Bequette’s former house and segments of the old Bahwell ditch, as well as unexplored archaeological resources. The best resource, in terms of the project criteria, is an abandoned stretch of the Mineral King Road that meanders across the property and was a determining factor in the 1870s as to where area homes and, later, roads were built.
   In plain language, the site is a treasure trove of early Three Rivers history awaiting just such a project for its appropriate care and interpretation. The way the proposal is currently taking shape its proponents are asking for $802,000 to do the following:
—Purchase three acres;
—Rehabilitate the Bequette house;
—Landscape and build a trail to the neighboring Three Rivers Historical Society’s museum;
—Enhance the Bahwell ditch and former Mineral King Road;
—Pave a parking lot and add storm drains; and
—Install a 780-square-foot restroom.
   That current project, a decade in the making, is another example of how difficult it is to garner federal grant money for projects in small communities like Three Rivers. But maybe, just maybe, the third submittal will be successful.

First snow dusts Alta

   As the clouds parted early Monday from their resting place on the mountain peaks above Three Rivers, a smattering of snow could be seen on Alta Peak, elevation 11,204 feet. The fast-moving low pressure system brought four inches of the white stuff to elevations above 7,000 feet within days of the first day of autumn, which occurred Wednesday, Sept. 22.
   The brief snowfall melted quickly with the week’s ascending temperatures, but are a preview of what some weather watchers believe will be a mild El Nino snowpack.

Marion Polly, Descendant of

pioneer Pogues and Homers,

lifetime Lemon Cove resident
1909 ~ 2004

   Lemon Cove lost its matriarch this week with the passing of Marion Polly. Descended from two prominent pioneer families, Marion spent a lifetime carrying on her family’s 125-year-old tradition of citrus farming.
   A memorial service will be held today (Friday, Sept. 24) at 4 p.m. at the Lemon Cove Presbyterian Church.
   Marion died Monday, Sept. 20, 2004, at the age of 95. Her family reports that she passed away at her home with her ever-present dignity and grace after a courageous battle with cancer.
   Except for her college years, Marion resided her entire life in the Lemon Cove area. Marion’s grandfather was J.W.C. Pogue, the founder of the community of Lemon Cove who, in 1879, built the Pogue Hotel, which is now the home of the Lemon Cove Woman’s Club, and planted the area’s first citrus.
   Marion Melvina Pogue was born Sept. 8, 1909, in Lemon Cove to Jonathan Earl and Della Kate Pogue.
   Marion’s mother and grandmother were both born within a few miles of Lemon Cove. Marion’s father had been born in Stringtown, which was located on the shores of Bravo Lake in what is now Woodlake.
   Marion is the third generation of the Homer family (on her mother’s side) to be born in the area. She is also the third generation of Pogues to reside in Lemon Cove.
   Marion graduated from Lemon Cove Grammar School and Exeter High School. She met her husband-to-be, Eldon Runciman, while attending high school.
   They both attended Oregon State College, where Marion graduated in 1931. Following their graduation, the couple was married at the Pogue’s Lemon Cove home.
   Marion and Eldon were involved in the citrus industry, as well as the Earli-Best Packinghouse with Marion’s father and Runciman & Runciman Cold Storage in Exeter with Eldon’s father.
   The couple built a home in Lemon Cove, which is where Marion lived the rest of her life. Marion and Eldon had two children, Jere Eldon and Martha Louise. Her husband, Eldon, preceded her in death as did her son, Jere, in 2003.
   On June 14, 1966, Marion married Norman Polly. The couple continued working in the citrus industry with Marion, an astute businesswoman, being president of the family corporation.
   As a child, Marion’s summers were spent at the family cabin in Mineral King. She passed on her love of nature and her desire to nurture the environment to her children and grandchildren. In Lemon Cove, her garden provided her with a daily appreciation of creation and beauty.
   Marion’s parents and other family members chartered the Lemon Cove Presbyterian Church in Lemon Cove in 1907. Her uncompromising faith and gentle leadership made her a mainstay in the church.
   Marion was a lifelong member of Sunkist, carrying on the family tradition of citrus farming that began with her grandfather and father.
   Marion and Norman were also dedicated to the preservation of the Lemon Cove Woman’s Clubhouse and its history. She was a past president of the club.
   After Norman’s retirement in 1978, the couple enjoyed traveling with Marion’s favorite vacation destination being Hawaii. She returned often to her island paradise.
   Marion is survived by her husband of 38 years, Norman; her daughter, Martha and husband Jim Mosley of Visalia; daughter-in-law Vivian Runciman of Exeter; Norman’s sons, Jim Polly and wife Carolyn of Arcata and Richard Polly and wife Mary of Tucson, Ariz.; nine grandchildren, Jere Runciman Jr. of Fresno, Jon Runciman of Exeter, Jeff Simkins of Florida, Scott Simkins of New York, John Warren of Visalia, Samuel Polly of Arcata, Mary Polly Hillier of Hawaii, and Jonathan and Stacy Polly of Tucson; nine great-grandchildren; her sister, Doris Laubban of Fresno; her niece, Susan Murphy; and nephew Don Dunham.
   A private burial was held at the Exeter District Cemetery.
   Remembrances in Marion’s name may be made to the Lemon Cove Woman’s Club, P.O. Box 44307, Lemon Cove, CA 93244; or the Lemon Cove Presbyterian Church, P.O. Box 44337, Lemon Cove, CA 93244.

Jim Lang
1930 ~ 2004

   Jim Lang of Three Rivers died Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2004. He was 73.
   A memorial service was held Saturday, Sept. 18, at the home of Tyler and Teddi Johnson.
   Jim was born Sept. 22, 1930, in Minneapolis, Minn., to Erwin and Ruth Lang. The family moved to La Crescenta in 1941.
   While attending Glendale High School, Jim built and raced cars on the salt flats of Southern California. He developed a love for the West Coast jazz sound, listening to musicians such as Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker at The Haag Club in Los Angeles.
   He entered the U.S. Air Force and served in Germany during the Korean War.
   In the mid-1950s, while helping his parents at their Three Rivers business, Lang’s Motel and Coffee Shop (known today as the Sierra Lodge), Jim met Mary Anne Savage of Three Rivers. They married in 1956 and were blessed with two children, Jan and Bill.
Jim later followed his brother, Dick Lang, into the building trades.
   The family moved to Prospect, Ore., in 1971, where Jim and partners Jim Fawkes and Jerry West started 3-J Construction Company. During this time, he also worked in Alaska on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.
   In Prospect, he served on the volunteer fire department and was a member of the Cascade Gorge Christian Church.
   In 1979, Jim returned to Three Rivers and continued his building construction business.
   In 1987, he married Mickey Hardy. After retiring, he and Mickey became full-time RVers and enjoyed traveling the United States in their motor home. They spent most winter months at the home of Mickey’s daughter, Teddi, in Three Rivers.
   Jim enjoyed gardening, wine-making, cooking, mechanical repair, and listening to music. He will be missed dearly by his friends and family and remembered most for his bright smile and funny one-liners that brought laughter when it was least expected.
   Jim is survived by his children, Jan Lang of Washington, Bill Lang of Oregon, Tina Cunningham of Idaho, Ron Bloomfield of Washington, and Teddi Johnson of Three Rivers; his former wife, Mary Anne Savage of Woodlake; his sister-in-law, Anne Lang of Three Rivers; his niece, Mary Chagnon of Morgan Hill; 12 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.
   Jim was preceded in death by his wife, Mickey Hardy, in August 2003; his brother, Dick Lang; and his niece, Carol Lang.

By road and trail:

Two books tell the story

of transportation in the Sierra

What people love, they love to read about. That explains the
recent release of two local history books and the constant demand for books on area travel, nature, natural-resource policy, and outdoor life. Out of this, these two books deserve a place on Three Rivers bookshelves. —SARAH ELLIOTT


by Louise A. Jackson
Mountain Press Publishing Company, 2004
264 pages, paper, $12

   IT’S A STORY about men and mules and mountains told over a period of two centuries. Louise Jackson of Three Rivers tells the epic tale of a way of life in the Sierra Nevada that developed in the 1750s and continued through the 1950s and only then began to wane with each decade.
   Packers were, and still are, the most reliable source of transportation used to access the Sierra backcountry. The men and their mules have been the explorers, have built trails and bridges, have been guides and cooks and firefighters and business owners, and they have saved countless lives.

  “The owners of a pack outfit usually were its operators,” writes Louise. “Most often, in the early days especially, the owners not only managed the business and ran the pack station, but they led the trips, too.”
   The story is told in three parts: “A History of Sierra Packing,” “Land Use and Protection,” and “The Packing Life.” The pages are sprinkled with anecdotes both harrowing and amusing, many of which include familiar Three Rivers surnames such as McKee, Maloy, Buckman, McDowall, Loverin, Thorn, Hengst, Fry, and Maxon.
   The book, which the author has been researching and writing for eight years, traverses the southern portion of the Sierra Nevada range from the Tuolumne River region in the north to the Kern River in the south and east to west from Mammoth Lakes to Three Rivers and Springville. Many locally known place-names are visited, including Mineral King, Rae Lakes, Hockett Meadows, Lewis Camp, Elizabeth Pass, and more, as well as eastern Sierra sites and the valley and high country of Yosemite.
   Included in the book are black-and-white photographs, maps, a glossary, endnotes, bibliography, and index.
   Author Louise A. Jackson of Three Rivers has spent most of her life living and playing in the Sierra. She is a descendant of the pioneer Crowley family of whom John Crowley, her great-grandfather, built the Mineral King Road (1879) and the Crowley Resort at road’s end.
   Louise still spends her summers in the Crowley family’s Mineral King cabin, all that remains of what once included a hotel, store, post office, butcher shop, stable, dance hall, and rental cabins.
Her first book is Beulah: A Biography of the Mineral King Valley of California (Westernlore Press, 1988).
   The Mule Men will be available beginning Friday, Oct. 15. It will be sold locally at the Three Rivers Historical Museum, but may also be purchased in bookstores or directly from Mountain Press Publishing Company (Misooula, Mont.) by calling 1-800-234-5308 or logging on to


by Linda A. Wallace
Self-published, 2004
94 pages, paper,
$20 (includes shipping)

   WRITTEN BY ONE who came to know the road intimately through commuting to work and public-safety patrols, former National Park Service ranger Linda Wallace has compiled historical material and personal communication to create a timeline of the building of the Mineral King Road.

  “I am a lucky woman,” Linda writes. “As a National Park Service ranger, I called Mineral King home for 11 years. I fell in love the first time I saw the Mineral King valley. The road and I became old friends. I still feel the same way. Those who share that feeling will understand this emotional relationship; the rest will have to put up with us.”
   This book was written because of the author’s insatiable thirst to know everything she could about the road that, she reports, is “25 miles long, but has 698 curves with an altitude gain of 6,654 feet.”
   Any story about the Mineral King Road is not complete without details of the settlement of Three Rivers and the various camps in the high-country valley. Linda writes about these events in a way that will make readers feel they are being told tales around a mountain campfire.
   In addition to the contextual history that describes the need for a road to such a remote place in the latter quarter of the 19th century, readers are taken on “an imaginary trip on the just completed road.” The original road is then traveled mile by mile with many historic points of interest that assist readers in understanding how difficult the journey once was as travelers pass Starvation Canyon, Cape Horn, High Point, Hard Scrabble, Grand Canyon Creek, Trauger’s Last Chance, High Bridge, and Graveyard Hill.
   But, the author writes, the most dreaded section of the old road was River Hill Grade, which was at a 35 to 42 percent grade.
“Loaded wagons, stages and even pack animals took up to an hour or more to climb this torturous hill. Coming down was even more difficult and dangerous.”
   The River Hill Grade was negotiated by horse and wagon and, later, automobiles, until, in 1913, the road was realigned to the south side of the river where it remains today.
   The book contains dozens of graphics, including photos, historic documents, and old newspaper articles and advertisements. There are maps, an appendix with dozens of items of interest from historic place names to minerals found in Mineral King, and an index.
   A Short History of the Mineral King Road is being distributed by the Mineral King District Association. To order a copy, go online to, click on “How to Help,” then click on “Order Mineral King Books, Videos, and Photographs” to be directed to an order form.

Fall is in the air:

October deadlines, events

   An array of activities will keep Kaweah Country residents busy during the next several weeks.
   Vote— The presidential election is less than six weeks away. Top priority is ensuring all those eligible are registered to vote.
The last day to register to vote in the Tuesday, Nov. 2, election is Monday, Oct. 18. In addition, absentee ballots will be available beginning Monday, Oct. 4.
   Absentee ballots must be received by the Tulare County Elections Department by Tuesday, Oct. 26.
   A Purpose Driven Life— The Community Presbyterian Church will host a free dinner for all those who wish to participate in a faith-based campaign based on the popular book, The Purpose Driven Life, by Southern California pastor Rick Warren. The church joins a network of thousands of churches worldwide in communicating “God’s five purposes” during the 40 Days of Purpose Campaign.
   After the kick-off dinner on Sunday, Oct. 6, beginning at 6 p.m., an all-church simulcast seminar will be presented that details the program and its founder, Rick Warren. Over the next 40 days, participants will receive direction via a weekly message from Pastor Rich Latta, a personal or family daily devotional reading, a weekly Scripture memory verse, and weekly small group lessons.

  “We are really excited about what this can mean for our church and for the community,” said Rich Latta, interim pastor of Community Presbyterian Church. “There is a tangible sense of anticipation about how this series can impact our community.”
   To attend the dinner, call the church, 561-3385, to make a reservation. Childcare will be provided.
   Three Rivers All-Town Dinner Dance—
Hosted by the Three Rivers Lions Club, this second annual event is fast becoming an autumnal celebration of the changing of the seasons.
   Scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 16, from 3 to 11 p.m., at the Lions Roping Arena, the dinner portion of the event includes barbecued steak and chicken, a vegetarian lasagna, salads, and desserts. The dance will feature the live music of the 3Riversmen4 and Still Water of Three Rivers and Papa Bear & Co.
   A silent auction will take place at the event with all proceeds benefiting the Three Rivers Historical Museum. There will be activities for children from 3 to 6 p.m.; dinner will be served from 4 to 8 p.m.; and there will be a no-host bar.
Advance tickets are now on sale for $15 ($7.50 for children under 12), available from any Lions Club member; tickets will be sold at the gate for $20.
   Fall Classic Car Show— On Saturday, Oct. 23, at the Village Shopping Center, 100 automobiles, all 30 years or older, will be on display throughout the day in the parking lot, organized by Greg Dixon and friends. In addition, there will be live music, raffle prizes, and dozens of awards that will be presented to entrants, including people’s choice honors.

Board meeting:

Skaters’ fair teaches kids

safety and some new moves



   Last Saturday, Sept. 18, several hundred fans, skateboarders of all ages, and some curious parents looked on as Onshore Surf of Visalia staged the first-ever Skateboard Safety Fair and Skate Demo in Woodlake. The event was held in the First Choice Foods parking lot where several vertical ramps were set up to accommodate the fast-growing sport’s specialized moves and tricks.
   The event included lots of product giveaways, alternative rock music by local band Triple Zero, skating free-for-all sessions, and performances by a sponsored team of pros led by Jesse Paez.

  “These [skateboarding] demos are ideal in shopping centers like this one in Woodlake,” Paez said. “It shows the community how much interest there really is and underscores the need for a local skate park.”
   Paez, who arrived about mid-way through the afternoon’s program, was swarmed by adoring fans seeking autographs and a chance to meet one of the Valley’s most successful pro skaters. But it was his electrifying skateboarding, served up in 15-minute segments, that really wowed the crowd and had all the amateurs dreaming visions of airborne 360s and perfectly-landed kick flips.
   A self-admitted “shredder,” Paez learned to skateboard on the streets of Visalia. Skaters like Paez do tricks on asphalt parking lots, railings, curbs, and other concrete surfaces that literally become shredded after repeated use.
   With only a few skaters, the damage to parking lots, steps, and curbs is minimal. But with the growing popularity of the sport, throngs of skaters can do some serious damage.
   As with any sport, especially when dangerous tricks are involved, there will be injuries and, of course, liability issues. That’s why skating advocates, like Toni Ruiz-Lenz of Woodlake, who the youths affectionately refer to as “Skate Granny,” were passing out helmets for amateurs to use during the times when those who brought a skateboard were allowed to try out the eight-foot high ramps.
   Ruiz-Lenz, through her association with the Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce, helped to co-sponsor and lent credibility to the event’s organizers.

  “There really wasn’t much for us [the chamber] to do,” Ruiz-Lenz, said. “The kids did everything, policed themselves, and made sure that all the equipment and trash was put away and cleaned up. I think they showed what’s possible if we had a local skating facility.”
   Bill Lewis, Woodlake’s city manager, said that a local place to skate is in the works.

  “The organizers did a good job at the demo and there were a lot of kids there,” said Lewis. “We’re in ongoing talks with the YMCA to get these kids a place to skate.”
   Lewis said that the original plan to house the skaters in some local buildings just wasn’t feasible.

  “Now we are looking at setting up the skating ramps and rails on the basketball court at Miller-Brown Park,” said Lewis. “The YMCA would provide the recreational services under a financial arrangement with the City.”
   Lewis admitted the equipment might be modest in the beginning..

  “Getting this skate park going is like buying your first car,” Lewis said. “You don’t start out driving a Mercedes, but then later you get something better. We just want the skaters to be able to do their thing.”

Vikings plunder Tigers, 44-19


  Last Friday, at the newly dedicated Robinson Field, the Woodlake Tigers made a valiant stand against the Kingsburg Vikings. The youthful Tigers contained their opponents for the first half then succumbed to the superior depth of the visitors.
   Both the varsity and junior varisty Kingsburg squads dressed more than 50 players. Woodlake with less than half of Kingsburg’s enrollment has 30 on the varsity roster with even less than that number on the JV squad.

  “I’m not one to complain about our schedule or the bigger schools we play in the East Sequoia League this season,” said Coach Brian Costa. “I’m just here to get a win.”
   For the first half against Kingsburg, it looked like the Tigers might get that all-important first win. After the Vikings scored first early in the second period, Tony Mendez, Tiger cornerback, picked off an errant pass and put the Woodlake offense in business at the Viking 47-yardline.
   Sophomore quarterback Ryan Baker drove his mates deep into the Red Zone. Senior running back Jose Duran then scored on a one-yard plunge. The kick failed, leaving the Tigers trailing 7-6.
   On the next offensive series, the Vikings stalled in Tiger territory. A long desperation pass on fourth down got the Vikings in the end zone. The extra point gave the visitors a 14-6 lead.
   The Tiger offense then executed one of its best drives of the young season. Key plays were a gutsy quarterback sneak on fourth down and a two pinpoint passes to Steven Lopez, Tiger wide receiver.
   The drive culminated on an eight-yard touchdown pass to Lopez with time running out in the first half. A two-point conversion failed and at halftime Woodlake only trailed 14-12.
   The second half was nearly all Kingsburg, as an outmanned Woodlake just couldn’t muster the defensive stops. The scoring ended after a nifty 38-yard run by Jose Duran for a Tiger TD.
   Coach Costa says he is really not surprised by his young team’s slow start and believes that with each game the Tigers will get better.

  “Remember, last season we also started 0-2, but ended up advancing to the second round of the playoffs,” Costa said. “When we beat Taft, it was the first time Woodlake had beaten a Sequoia League team in the playoffs in more than two decades.”
   Coach Costa, who doesn’t believe it’s fair to his seniors to go into a rebuilding mode, expects his Tigers to rebound and beat somebody maybe as soon as their next opponent — Strathmore.

  “To their credit, the offensive line has played very well,” Costa said. “It’s the defense where we have some major work to do. We just are not getting the job done.”
   Costa, who has coached the Woodlake defense for nine seasons, said that this year he just doesn’t have the ferocious hitters of the past.

  “When you don’t have the physical players on defense then your offense must step it up and score more points,” Costa said.
   For this week’s game at Strathmore (1-2), who won versus Lindsay, Costa said he would use an “assignment defense.”

  “Rather than having guys flying around trying to hit somebody, we’ll put our linebackers in a position where they can be successful,” Costa said. “We have a group of young resilient players who will only get better.”
   In the other game versus Kingsburg, the JVs were also walloped.

  “In the second half, they [the Vikings] just came at us with entire units of fresh players,” said Isaac Martinez, Tiger JV assistant coach.

THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
OFFICE: 41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, California
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
PHONE: (559) 561-3627 FAX: (559) 561-0118 E-MAIL:
Entire contents of this website © Copyright 2003-2004 by The Kaweah Commonwealth