Question: In 1945 my mother had our pictures painted by an artist named Geneva Reed Alarid, and she bought many other watercolors by her. Can you tell me more about her? Our paintings are beautiful.
— Mary Thompson, Madera Ranchos
Answer: Although she traveled in local art circles with such notable Fresno artists as Darwin Musselman and Robin Gay McCline, research turned up little about the woman who painted your portraits.
Geneva Melva Reed was born in Colorado in 1903. In 1944, when she was 39, Reed married Eugene Ralph Alarid, 47, and they lived in Fresno. Eugene Alarid died in 1949.
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In the 1950s she was active in the Fresno Artists League, serving at one time as the group’s vice president. By 1963 she had remarried and her last name changed to Metzler.
Metzler painted in watercolors and oils, held shows around Fresno and taught art classes. She also was active in the Society of Western Artists.
Metzler died in Bakersfield in 1993 at the age of 89. Her obituary described her as “a professional artist for over 60 years.” She is buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Fresno.
Q: I would like to know the history of Clarkson Street. How did it originate and was it named after a Valley family? My husband’s great-grandfather was Luther Benefield Clarkson.
— Dianne Clarkson, Selma
A: Clarkson Street in the Kingsburg area apparently wasn’t named for any Valley resident, but rather to avoid confusion among more than one Clark streets in Fresno County.
Clark Street may have been named for one of two local pioneer ranchers, although the spelling of one doesn’t match. Crawford W. Clarke owned land from the railroad bridge south of Kingsburg on both sides of the Kings River. Clarke’s Bridge bears his name. He also owned thousands of acres north of Goshen. Amaziah Clark also owned land east of Clarke’s ranch.
In 1950, the Fresno Board of Supervisors voted to rename several county roads to avoid confusion with streets bearing the same names. For instance, there were streets named Clark near Kingsburg and in downtown Fresno.
So Clark Street near Kingsburg became Clarkson, Grant Street became Grantland and Lewis Street became Lewiston. But some street names were changed altogether: a portion of Cherry became Bedford. However, the supervisors declined to change the name of Blackstone Avenue to Yosemite Avenue.
According to Luther B. Clarkson’s obituary in The Fresno Bee, he moved to Kingsburg in about 1938 and was living in Fresno when he died in 1943. While it’s possible that the supervisors had Clarkson in mind when they renamed Clark Street, the minutes of their vote do not indicate that.
Q: While browsing antique stores in Capitola one summer, I came across an old postcard for Safari World near Coarsegold. I recall hearing about Safari World years ago, but never visited it. Can you tell me what happened to it?
— Carlos E. Guzman, Fresno
A: Lutz Ruhe and his brother Heiner Ruhe opened Safari World on Highway 41 about three miles south of Coarsegold on May 29, 1971.
According to a June 1971 advertisement in the Bakersfield Californian, Safari World was open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Visitors paid $2 for adults and $1 for children to drive through nearly 40 acres of animal habitat. Safari World had hundreds of animals from dozens of species, including lions, buffalo, elk, zebras, baboons, antelope, deer, sheep, llamas, camels, wallaroo, pygmy goats, hippopotamus, tiger, bears, storks, giant tortoise, elephants, tapirs, horses, donkeys and several varieties of antelope and deer.
There was also a petting zoo and snack bars. In November 1971, a zebra-striped tram was added to Safari World.
The Ruhe brothers came from a long line of exotic animal dealers. Their great-grandfather started what would become a worldwide animal import and export business in Germany in 1840. The brothers came to New York to run the family’s branch office in 1953.
In the early 1960s they opened a traveling zoo of baby animals in Boston. In 1962, they helped operate Jungle Land in Thousand Oaks and supplied animals for television shows including “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Mr. Ed.” In 1965, the brothers contracted with Oakland to open Baby Zoo at Knowland State Park.
In 1970, the brothers bought 320 acres of land near Coarsegold. When baby animals got too old for the Oakland facility, they were shipped to Safari World. In 1973, the Ruhe brothers also rebuilt San Jose’s Children’s Zoo in Happy Hollow Park.
The care and preservation of animals was his passion in life.
Lutz Ruhe’s obituary
Safari World closed in June 1975 due to lack of customers and rising operating costs. Although it was closed to the public, Safari World continued as a breeding and boarding facility.
Today, Safari World Drive in Coarsegold is a reminder of the one-time animal park.
According to his obituary in the Island Sun publication on the Gulf coast of Florida, Lutz Ruhe was born in Hanover, Germany in 1935. “The care and preservation of animals was (his) passion in life,” the obituary said. He died on Dec. 17, 2009, at his home in Sanibel, Florida. He was 74.
Ask Me publishes on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. Paula Lloyd is a freelance writer. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Paula Lloyd, c/o The Fresno Bee Newsroom, 1626 E St., Fresno CA 93786. Please include your name, city of residence and a phone number.