Let’s Talk Clovis: The first 50 years of Clovis

By Peg Bos, Clovis Museum

The Clovis Chamber of Commerce, Clovis City and a citizen committee published “The History of Clovis, 50 years of progress” ($1 per copy) to celebrate the city’s first 50 years (1912-1962). William T. Akin was the author and Mal Johnson was the Editor and Publisher. We will be sharing and quoting portions of this book.

Joseph Edwin Bretz (1887-1957) was honored as an early Clovis pioneer. His father established the first mill (1875) in the Shaver area. Ed was one of the founders of the Pine Ridge School. He served on their board of trustees and on the Sierra Elementary School Board. He dedicated 19 years on the Clovis Union High School Board. His sons Lou and Bob were operating the Clovis Bretz Lumber Company in 1962.

A coin (Mint Saloon, Clovis, CAL, back side: good for a 10 cent drink or cigar) was pictured. It was stated there were 10 saloons in Clovis. All saloons were closed at the 1912 incorporation since the “Dry Slate” won the election.

Members of the Chamber of Commerce and Merchants Association were pictured at their new location (1897 SP depot). Vernon “Mugs” Smith was President, Wayne Rohde, Vice President, H.R. “Slim” Beaver Treasurer and Brenda Boswell Secretary. The depot was dismantled in 1970 and the Clovis Cole Hotel is now at that location.

A picture of the Clovis Veterans Memorial building identified: President Carl Merriman, Superintendant of Recreation, Rex Phebus, Directors: Edward Mesple, Hifumi Ikeda, Robert C. Burgess and Earl Smittcamp.

Some of the “Facts about Modern Clovis” published: The area of Clovis Judicial District is over 206 square miles. Bus service by Moyer Stage Lines served Clovis from downtown Fresno, nine trips daily. There were 57 civic, service, fraternal, veterans and social organizations. Population: special US census 1961, 7,704; from regular 1960 census, 5,500. Clovis Unified School District: 10 elementary schools, one high school with a total of 5,950 students.

We quote a paragraph titled “Solving our water problems”: “Procuring an adequate supply of water for culinary and other purposes is and has been a very important problem in Clovis as indeed it is in most of California. Our pioneers solved the problem by digging shallow wells, which was about all that was needed in the 1890s. The Enterprise and Gould ditches transferred river water to parched sands and changed a dry area where fruit trees and vines would grow abundantly. Increasing population and farming acreage through the years still makes water procurement an acute problem. Modern science, engineering and the State and Federal government have gone far to relieve this situation.”

A picture submitted by Arthur H. Bier identified his father Henry B. Bier (member of the contracting firm) using early mechanical trenchers to install the water ($25,000 bond issued) and sewer ($24,000 bond issued) system. We quote: “According to some source the water table was sometimes only four feet below ground level and caused great difficulty. Sometimes men were buried in the trenches but fortunately no lives were lost. Much of the original water line is in use in Clovis today, fifty years after it was laid.”

The 1913 Clovis Water tower (south of Fifth and Hughes) constructed at that time continues to be functional.

One page displayed pictures of snow and stated it was a birthday present for Clovis. On Jan. 21 and 22 of 1962, Clovis received two and a half inches of snow. “In 1930 it snowed 2 ½ inches but this was on a Sunday and it was all gone by Monday.”

Pictures of Clovis High’s new gymnasium ($250,000) and the Mercedes Edward modern auditorium addressed the continued progress of the school that had a 1,400 pupil enrollment.

A photo of the 1955 Clovis billboard that was placed by Clovis Chamber of Commerce on state highway 99 just south of Clovis Avenue provided the following message to over 50,000 automobiles daily: “Clovis gateway to the Sierras. Shortest route to Fresno County Playland: Shaver Lake, Huntington Lake, Dinkey Creek, Millerton Lake.”

A copy of the book is available for review at the Clovis Museum. It reminds us of our rich heritage.