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Porterville at a Glimpse ~ 1920-1929

The Prohibition Era

by Tonya Childree, Parks & Leisure

Prohibition restricted the production, sale, transportation, importation, and exportation of alcoholic beverages and began when the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution went into effect on January 16, 1920. The Volstead Act, a popular name for the National Prohibition Enforcement Act, had been passed on October 28, 1919.

During a time in US History when organized crime saw a dramatic increase and new slang terms and fashion swept the nation, Porterville saw an increase in churches, civic service clubs, patriotism and schools. 

Entertainment and shopping was not hard to find.  Car races in the downtown streets were popular during the 1920’s, as were Armistice Day (known today as Veteran's Day) Parades and celebrations.  Porterville’s Downtown flourished with businesses such as Leggett’s and Bullard’s Department Stores that sold fancy novelty goods and fine fashions for the body and home.  Porterville Electric Company and other shops occupied Main Street, and the Monache Theatre was a popular attraction, offering a different show each week.  Porterville had its own baseball team who played at the Municipal Ball Park and its own golf course.  The Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Company boasted that their modern, battery operated switchboard “is considered one of the finest in the state”.

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Armistice Day Parades & Car Races, 1920-1922

The 1920’s will always be known for its fashion and women’s hair styles.  Porterville had a handful of hair salons, and when the short hair style of the 20’s became popular, there was a 25-50 cent extra charge for curling the ends. 

Porterville High School

The new Porterville High School was constructed in 1922 and on Friday, March 23rd, 1923 the new Porterville Union High School was dedicated.  The gray, E shaped building with eight massive pillars located on the corner of Olive and Jaye Street was most enthusiastically welcomed by its students.  During this decade, PHS offered sports you don’t see at high schools today; a boxing team and girls’ baseball team. 

In 1920, there were 367 students, 52 graduates and 17 faculty.  In 1929, the school increased to 729 students, 107 graduates and 40 faculty.

Porterville College

Porterville College began at the PHS campus in 1927.   Two rooms were built in 1928 to facilitate the college.  In its first year, PC had 97 students enrolled.  And in 1929/1930, PC recorded 113 students enrolled and 19 graduates.

St. Anne’s Catholic School

A convent and school were built at the same time in response to local Catholics feeling the need for their own school and teachers.  Under Father Patrick Daly, the school and convent were completed in 1925.

Churches and Clubs

Porterville was home to many different churches during this decade; The Seventh-Day Adventist, Presbyterian, Congregational, Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal, Pentecostal , Nazarene, Evangelical,  Christian Science, and even the Colored Baptist Church.

Details of all these churches can be found in the book Early Porterville History and Family Histories, First Edition-2011, by Ina Stiner.

Porterville also had its share of fraternal orders and civic clubs.  The De Malays Order, who were sponsored by the Royal Arch Masons, Free & Accepted Masons, Order of Eastern Star Palm Leaf, Fraternal Order of Eagles, Benevolent Protective Order of Elks and Royal Neighbors of America.  Clubs included the Inter Se Club, Rotary Club (est. 1921), Lions Club (est. 1922), Porterville Improvement Club, Porterville Women’s Club, The Quillers’ Club (est. 1927), The Women’s Christian Temperance Union, Y.M.C.A. and the Y.W.C.A.

The Zaluds

JohnZaludAndDaughtersThe Zalud Family felt as if their dignity had taken a major blow after the murderer of Annie’s husband, William Brooks, was found not guilty following a lengthy and scandalous trial, where almost all of the business men of Porterville were called to testify in one way or another.  And even though the trial was held in Visalia, there were newspapers in attendance all the way from the Bay Area.  Because of this, the Zalud’s tried to stay out of the public eye as much as they could.   

John closed the saloon because of prohibition, Pearl gave piano lessons from her home and Annie retired to the home she had lived in with her late husband in Los Angeles.  As for Ed Zalud, he was let go from the National Cash Register Company following the death of William Brooks.   Employment he had unmentionably gained through his relationship with Brooks. 

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Pearl Zalud

Because of prohibition, the saloon was closed and sold.  This is when Ed, who was never overly good at any one occupation, started a business for himself.  According to the book, “Zaluds of Porterville” written by Jeff Edwards, this is the time “Ed Zalud pulled off his best caper”.  The story was that Ed had taken all of the liquor from the saloon, along with more liquor he had purchased, and stored it in the Ghost Town of White River, ten miles east of Delano.  It is unclear whether the Zalud’s owned White River, or if they had leased it.  In any event, the liquor was stored in two different places.  One place was in the old gold miners’ dance hall, and the other was behind the old Mitchell store.  Ed was in the bootleg business!

However, Porterville, which was once known for being a wild saloon town, was not very harsh on the bootleggers.  In fact, Jeff Edwards says that the current street in Porterville named Cleo, was known as Whiskey Row during the prohibition era.  This was because of all the whiskey that was bootlegged there.  And although it was illegal for saloons to sell alcohol, many service clubs in Porterville were popular drinking spots.

Ed_ZaludIn 1921, Ed went with a hunting party to the mountains where he had an awful time with his horse on the way up.  When it was time to return, Ed asked a man named Lovell McIntyre to trade horses with him for the ride back down.  McIntyre agreed and had no trouble at all with the horse.  Upon arriving home, Ed told McIntyre to keep the horse and he would come get it whenever he wanted it back.  Almost an entire year past before Ed returned to get his horse.  Within a week, October 20, 1922 to be exact, Ed Zalud was riding the horse, accompanied by another hired man, when the bank collapsed and horse and rider tumbled down the side of the hill.  Ed Zalud was struck in the head by the horse while it was struggling to get to its feet.  Ed Zalud never regained consciousness, and would die just a few hours later.  There are some rumors that perhaps Ed had gotten himself into some trouble due to his bootlegging, selling liquor to the Indians or from cattle wrestling, and that maybe, just maybe the “horse accident” was not an accident after all. 

After the death of Ed Zalud, Pearl was devastated.  She felt a special bond between her and her brother.  A bond she hadn’t felt with her sister, Annie, who was 12 years older than her, and whom she insisted on referring to as her half-sister.   Never the less, after Ed passed, Pearl devoted her time and effort into caring for her father.  As in the past, when tragedy struck the Zalud Family, they would take an extended vacation to get away.  And with Ed’s passing, Pearl and her father began planning a vacation.  However, this time, their plans to get away would be put on hold.

When the death of Edward Zalud was printed in a Bohemian newspaper, it was seen by Joseph Zalud, the oldest brother of John Zalud, who had remained in Bohemia due to his commitment to the army, when the rest of the Zalud family came to America in 1866.  As a result, a reunion was planned and took place in Porterville in 1923.  All four living Zalud children who had immigrated to America attended; Brothers John Zalud, Joseph Zalud, Anton Zalud and one sister, Anne (Zalud) Rohlick.  Anna and Anton along with their families and spouses lived in Porterville as well.  The reunion was held at the home of Anton and his wife, Emma.  Their home was located on the west side of Porterville, in the Burton School District.  Time was also spent at Anna’s home and John’s home.  The reunion lasted a week, and when it was over, Joseph Zalud returned to his home in Burwell, Nebraska.


It wasn’t until 1924 that John and Pearl would take their trip.  This time they went on an around the world cruise.  They visited such countries such as Cuba, Spain, Egypt, Italy, India, Singapore, the Philippines, China, Japan, Korea and Honolulu.   After returning home, Pearl broke out in a red rash all about her face.  The unsightly rash kept her from going anywhere, and prohibited her from teaching piano as well.  It would take 4 years for the rash to eventually go away. 
John had nothing professional that required him to remain in Porterville.  He did not have to commit himself to a job; he had sold off his dealings that required personal attention, and invested in stocks and bonds. He could live off of the interest and rent. His wife and only son were gone, and Pearl kept herself out of sight due to the unpleasant rash on her face.   All of these factors lead to Pearl and her father going to live with Annie in Los Angeles.  The three would live together for the next 20 years.  The Zalud home in Porterville was closed up, and John and Pearl would return to Porterville once to twice a year, either in the spring or fall, to check on the house and garden. 

Porterville Timeline:

  • 1920 - 18th Amendment (Prohibition) goes into effect. Porterville Golf Course opened.  Ross Gardner begins his 48 year career as Fire Chief.  John R. Bell buys The Recorder.
  • 1921 - City Marshal Edward B. Isham and his wife, Lillie, built their first home. (The home is now the Friends of the Library Book Store on Hockett St. behind the Gas Co.)
  • 1922 - Ed Zalud dies.
  • 1923 - Porterville High School opens doors to new school at new location.  Will H. Hornibrook is new owner of The Recorder.
  • 1924 - By act of US Congress, Indian people were naturalized citizens of the United States. The Recorder changes hands over to C.L. Day.
  • 1925 - St. Anne’s Convent and school was completed.
  • 1926 - Board of Trustees evolved into a City Council.  A third story was added to the   Porterville Hotel.
  • 1927 - Porterville College added to PHS campus.  Porterville receives a charter.  Homer L. Wood takes over ownership of the Recorder, a title he will keep until 1960.
  • 1928 - William “Bill” Rogers Graduated from PHS.
  • 1929 - Black Thursday, stock market crashed, panic breaks outs, banks close, The Great Depression begins.

US Facts for the 1920’s:

  • 106,521,537 people in the United States
  • 2,132,000 unemployed, Unemployment 5.2% 
  • Life expectancy:  Male 53.6,   Female 54.6 
  • 343.000 in military (down from 1,172,601 in 1919) 
  • Average annual earnings $1236; Teacher’s salary was $970 
  • Dow Jones High 100, Low 67  
  • Illiteracy rate reached a new low of 6% of the population.  
  • Gangland crime included murder, swindles and racketeering 
  • It took 13 days to reach California from New York.  There were 387,000 miles of paved road. 


  • 100th Anniversary Porterville High School, 1896-1996, A Century of Pride and Tradition
  • Zaluds of Porterville, by Jeff Edwards
  • Porterville Recorder
  • Early Porterville History and Family Histories, First Edition-2011, by Ina Stiner

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