Remember When ...

Compiled by Debby Carter from the archives of Fresno Flats Research Library and the Sierra Star.

50 Years Ago

*  The clang of a train bell and the mournful cry of a steam engine whistle will echo through the mountains above Oakhurst for the first time in a third of a century. The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad will be operating by fall, according to Rudy Stauffer, operator of the Swiss Melody Inn near Fish Camp. The last trains to be heard through these hills were back in 1931 when the Great Depression forced the Madera-Sugar Pine Lumber Company out of business. At the time there were 140 or more miles of right of way extending throughout the area to the borders of Yosemite National Park. The new railroad will use four miles of the old right of way for the tracks. An authentic Shay steam engine such as hauled logs from the woods to the Sugar Pine mill has been purchased, and it will haul loads of tourists on excursions.

*  Oakhurst attorney Denver Peckinpah, a grandson of the North Fork pioneer C.M. Peckinpah, has been appointed Fresno County Superior Court judge by Governor Edmund G. Brown. Judge Peckinpah has served in private practice and also as a deputy district attorney.

*  Midway Market features choice, well-aged beef: boneless stew meat for 69 cents per pound, rib steaks for 89 cents per pound, and rib roasts for 85 cents per pound. Ten cans of baby food for 99 cents, avocados two for 29 cents, and cabbage 5 cents a pound.

40 Years Ago

*  The long and persistent effort to secure additional medical facilities for the Mountain Area has been realized. The California Department of Health has approved the application of the Sierra Hospital Foundation of Fresno for a 48 bed convalescent facility in Oakhurst, and issued a certificate of need which clears the way for financing the project. Representatives of the foundation were in Oakhurst looking over proposed sites and a selection will be made soon. An architect has been authorized to proceed with plans. Included in the facility will be an emergency care unit to provide evaluation, stabilization and first aid treatment to the ill and injured before transfer to an acute care hospital in the Valley. The site selected will be large enough to provide for expansion, including an acute care facility as population expands.

*  The quality and quantity of water provided to the Sierra Lakes, Raymond and Royal Oaks areas could be headed for improvement. In a routine California Public Utilities Commission hearing, Linton E. Forrester sought approval of his purchase of the three private water companies. Forrester testified he plans to build a 500,000-gallon storage reservoir on the west side of Highway 41 to serve Royal Oaks and Sunnydale subdivisions. He also plans to provide water to the community of Oakhurst if that is the wish of the people. Currently, Oakhurst residents depend on wells for water.

*  Unexploded dynamite in Oakhurst? Well, maybe. Sierra Telephone Company workers discovered some unexplained wires while trenching in a local roadway. Wondering if they were leads to unexploded dynamite left over from a road construction project some five years earlier, the company called sheriff’s deputies. Local law enforcement had no equipment to check the wires or defuse anything to which they might be connected, so an army demolition team came from Fort Ord to check things out. After a few hours of work, including a few small, controlled explosions, the army decided that, in fact, there had been no dynamite. There was no other explanation for the wires, and the conclusion was, "Better safe than sorry."

30 Years Ago

*  After operating for some three-fourths of a century, the Wishon Post Office has been closed. The post office was opened in 1912. When it closed, it was serving only 30 box customers. From 1923 to 1953, the Minarets and Western Railroad ran from Bass Lake Dam to Pinedale hauling logs from Central Camp, and its workers lived in the town of Wishon. During WWII, the Army Signal Corps practiced war games at Wishon Point, and the post office handled their mail. The post office has always been in the store, whose most recent name is Miller’s Landing.

*  Sierra Lanes bowling alley will be opened next month. The 20-lane facility is owned by John Waterman and Buddy Miller, and cost $1.5 million. The bowling alley will have a pro shop, a snack bar that serves full meals, a lounge area, and a meeting room. The lounge and meeting room can be combined to provide a dance floor. A special feature of the new business will be a nursery with a closed circuit television so that mothers may watch their children while they bowl.

*  The Madera County Film Commission and the California Film Office hosted a tour for representatives of six film companies showing them potential movie-making sites, from the county courthouse to high Sierra meadows, from Raymond Store to Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. The movie-makers expressed interested in wilderness areas, and asked many questions of Brian Curtis, who represented the U.S. Forest Service on the tour.

20 Years Ago

*  Ducey’s on the Lake at Bass Lake is celebrating its fifth anniversary this month. The resort opened on the shore of Bass Lake April 20, 1991. The new Ducey’s on the Lake was built to replace the 50-year-old Ducey’s Lodge, which was destroyed by fire in 1988. The original, rustic lodge was used by Universal Pictures for the filming of The Great Outdoors, starring Dan Aykroyd and the late John Candy.

*  Comet Hyakutake, the brightest comet to pass this close to Earth in 400 years, was visible in much of Central California last week, including Oakhurst. It was about 40 times the distance to the moon, or 9.5 million miles. Its core is approximately 10 miles across, ranking it as a “large” comet, and is made up of ice, dust, and rock. Hyakutake will be back in 10,000 to 20,000 years.

*  Sam Fancher and Betty Bagan have been selected as grand marshals of the 10th annual Raymond Parade. Bagan, a resident of Raymond for the past 67 years, originally settled in Raymond in 1929. She remembers when the town had dirt roads and few cars. Her husband worked as a stone cutter in the quarry. Sam Fancher moved to Raymond in 1961 after 30 years on the rodeo circuit. At that time, he worked as a cow boss for the Buchenau Ranch and did roping and riding in rodeos on the weekends. Today at 88 years, he still rides and looks after cattle, and, up until recently, did “day work” for ranches in the Raymond area.