Porterville at a Glimpse ~ 1960-1969
by Theresa Sheridan, IT Technician
The 1960’s were a turbulent time for the United States. Tensions were rising in Vietnam, the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis were in the news, John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Martin Luther King, Jr. escalated the civil rights movement to new levels, the sexual revolution and “free love” took off in San Francisco and the first man landed on the moon.
At home here in Porterville things were a little more on the quiet side, but we were not without our share of events.
Porterville Celebrates Its Centennial
The Centennial Wooden Nickel
In 1961, Porterville celebrated its 100th anniversary with a year long celebration that united the town like none other. Every week, there were parades, street dances, concerts and shows on Main Street. There were days the schools dressed in period clothing , there was Church Day, Old time car day, and re-enacted shootings with burials.
The show to repeal women's suffrage was the center attraction and was taken all over the area to promote their cause to repeal the 19th Amendment that gave the women the riqht to vote.
The show went to Kernville, Whiskey Flat, the Frog Jumping Contest in Angels Camp, Bishop,
Sacramento and even a parade in San Francisco were among the highlights of the campaign.
Eveyone was dressed in period costumes and a good suit of clothes could be worn all year long. All of the men wore beards and were called "The Supreme Order of Bushfaces" (SOB's for short). The women were called "DOLLS',
State Senator from Porterville Passes Away
California State Senator J. Howard Williams Jr., a Porterville native, died on May 7th, 1962, after being hospitalized for about a week, following major chest surgery several months prior. A state senator for 16 years, he was an expert on California’s water resources and the Legislature had taken to calling him “Mr. Water” because of his expertise on the subject. Mr. Williams had been a game warden in the Hot Springs/Pine Flat area during the depression & he was well liked because he was personable, had a sense of humor and showed sound judgment. Upon his death, the Porterville Evening Recorder wrote “California has lost a statesman and Porterville today mourns one of its most illustrious sons.”
First Hispanic Elected to the Porterville City Council
In 1968, Gilbert Yñigues was the first Hispanic to be elected to the Porterville City Council. Originally from Texas, he lived in Bakersfield for 9 years before moving to Porterville in 1952. While living in Porterville, he joined the army and spent some time stationed in Germany. When he returned, he decided to run for City Council in 1966, against 6 other candidates. He lost that election but was voted in 2 years later when he ran again. Yñigues was instrumental in creating jobs for the Hispanic community and served as chairman of the Tulare County Fair and Commissioner of the Tulare County Housing Authority Porterville public projects for more than 17 years.
Porterville Horseshoeing School
While Porterville was not the only state in the country to offer a horseshoeing school, its reputation for producing top-quality farriers set it apart from the others. Waiting lists to enroll at the Porterville Horseshoeing School Inc. were common and students from all over the world – Canada, Mexico, Belgium, France and even Israel – traveled to our little town to attend. The school was founded in 1964 by Ralph Hoover, who was one of the most prominent farriers in the country. He taught horseshoeing at CalPoly for 19 years before opening up his school in Porterville. Hoover opened the school by converting a set of stables where his father, Owen, had housed his trick-riding paint horses. John Longley, Sr., the father of one-time City Manager John Longley, Jr., purchased the school in 1974 from Hoover’s widow, Peggy Bannister. Longley sold it in 1986 to a gentleman who moved it near Sacramento, where it later went out of business.
Evolving from a train station in 1913 to a bus depot in the 1950’s, and then to the Porterville Museum in 1965, it took 4 years to develop and build, with several local organizations helping out with its grand opening. State, local & federal funds, along with donations from local clubs including the Rotary & Lions Clubs, have contributed to supporting the museum over the years, but everything both inside and outside the museum has been donated by families and individuals in and around the Porterville area. Visitors to the museum can envision themselves in any era since Porterville was founded in 1861, with indoor and outdoor exhibits depicting scenes from an old dentist’s office, a 1940’s kitchen, a blacksmith’s shed, and a Civil War cannon.
Hell’s Angels Come to Porterville
On a Saturday night in 1963, members of the notorious Hell’s Angels decided to come to Porterville to check out a rumor that free beer was available in Porterville to members of motorcycle clubs. The rumor had evidently been started by Ivy Weathers, a local boy who had joined up with the Hell’s Angels, and by 7:30 pm, some 200 motorcycles had driven into town. The rider wore jackets identifying them as members of not only the Hell’s Angels, but of several other clubs including the Stray Satans, Satan’s Slaves, Galloping Geese, Comancheros and the Cavaliers. Traveling with them were carloads of wives, girlfriends & children.
Their reputation preceded them and Porterville residents took to the streets, upon hearing on the local radio station that they were coming into town. After creating a good sized ruckus in town and being asked to leave by then Chief of Police Francis Torigian, they instead laid in the street in protest and refused to leave. Porterville Fire was called into action and they were hosed down. At that point, most got on their bikes and decided to leave, but “about 75 others massed south of town at the old Sports Center, where they were surrounded by sheriff’s officers and highway patrolmen,” the newspaper reported at the time. By the time it was over, five men faced misdemeanor riot charges. They were released on bail: $52.50 each.
The Famous “Rock House” Closes
In its hay day, Porterville was known for prostitution, and one of the most prominent establishments was the Rock House, run by Nettie Smith, on the northwest corner of Olive Ave. & 2nd Street. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and the Rock House was closed for good in the mid 1960’s. Nettie & her manager Rose moved across the tracks to the east and re-established the business just south of the City Baseball Park.
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