Reedley History: Cheap-O-Renovation

Aug 9, 2014 | 2014 Articles, Hometown History, Jim Bulls, Reedley News

by Jim Bulls

Early in the 1900s, C.L. Drath, who lived in Los Angeles at the time, traveled north in search of a suitable place to raise his family. On his return trip to L.A., he stopped in Reedley to visit friends and was so taken with the river, the mountains, the community, and the Methodist Episcopal Church, that he picked Reedley as his new home. There were four new homes being built on D Street, and Drath chose the one on the three lot parcel (75′). This house was larger than the others, although they all had the same floor plan.

Next on the agenda, was an occupation. Manual Enos had just finished building a brick blacksmith shop at the alley on 10th Street, across from G and F streets. There were two small rentals along 10th and a large storefront with full basement facing G Street. It was perfect for selling furniture. The year was 1910 when the Drath Family moved to Reedley and opened Drath Furniture.


The C.L. Drath family and guests at a birthday dinner, c. 1912.

The oldest daughter, Gertrude, taught home economics at Reedley High School, where she met her future husband, Mr. Hirschler, who taught woodshop. After their marriage, the Drath’s added on a large room upstairs for the newlyweds. Sadly, after a year of marriage, Hirschler died from appendicitis. Gertrude never remarried, but continued to teach, was very active in the Methodist Church, and lived in the D Street house until her death in the 1970s.

Howard and Carla Kliever bought the house from Gertrude’s estate, and had lived there just a short while when there was a chimney fire causing extensive damage upstairs and water damage throughout the house. Howard did a complete renovation after the fire that included a beautiful (1980s style) custom kitchen with oak cabinets, tile counters and a greenhouse window.

In 1988, we needed a house big enough for two adults, Grandpa, two teenagers (one in college), a dog and four cats. This big, old house seemed to fit the bill. The Kliever Family departed for Bakersfield, we bought the house, added a few personal touches to make the space our own, and gave it a good ole Methodist house blessing. The house was featured in the Sierra View Home Tour in the 1990s and is also depicted in a Doug Bartsch drawing in one of the Reedley Historical Society’s calendars.

You Can’t Accuse Me of Having Too Much Fun

Retirement for me came sometime before Diana. I made new friends and rekindled old friendships at the “Spit & Whittle Club” at McDonald’s. I also made great progress in putting my 1940 Ford Pickup back together–she’s 90% ready to drive–while (admittedly) neglecting my “honey do” list while Diana was at work. ‘What’s worth doing is worth taking your time about’ and ‘most things can usually be put off until tomorrow’ became my mottos. Oh how things changed on that last day I went to pick Diana up from work. Now, only doctor’s visits, for both of us, have kept me from fulfilling my house renovation duties. The current project is remodeling the kitchen.

That 1980s dream kitchen turned into more of a nightmare for Diana. There was a huge peninsula, about five feet wide and seven feet long, which had seating on one side. Sounds like a great work space, right? The end of the peninsula was only about two-and-a-half feet from the refrigerator and since guests and family liked to gather in the kitchen, whoever was cooking ended up being “trapped”. One of the base cabinets in the peninsula made an “L”.


Gathering at the peninsula

The door opened on the stove side, went toward the wall and then made a left turn and opened on the opposite side of the peninsula. Things used to get lost in “no pan’s land” and could only be recovered by taking everything out of the cupboard, lying down and practically crawling inside. Another thing that drove Diana wild, was that the oven door had to be open in order to open any of the drawers or cabinet doors on either side of the stove! God forbid you forgot to take out potholders or necessary kitchen utensils before the oven and stove got going. (TIP: measure carefully when adding appliances.)

So, out came the peninsula.

The demolition necessitated removing several rows of tile and cutting the whole structure down so it could become counter width. We kept the original large three drawers, small drawer and cupboard. Sounds complicated, huh? We now have a nice U-shaped kitchen that looks twice as big as it used to.

The once beautiful honey oak cabinets were showing their age. The veneer looked worse than Grandma’s old Singer sewing machine. We didn’t want to buy new cabinets because we liked the door style and the configuration. So what to do? Paint. Paint, my friend, is that wonderful substance that has graced many a kitchen cabinet from before the turn-of-the-century up to the 1960s. Today’s modern trend, touted by the Property Brothers on HGTV, is contrasting upper and lower cabinets. Diana’s favorite color is red. Need I say more?

The upper cabinets are now white and the base cabinets are red. I painted the front of the dishwasher red to match the cabinets, but the stove and refrigerator are white. A search online, located reproduction white milk-glass knobs and pulls for the cabinets, and a tambour door (think roll top desk cover) to turn the once microwave alcove into an appliance garage. A circa 1910 kitchen table with its original breadboards and silverware drawers (sadly the flour bins were long gone) makes an ideal kitchen island with seating for two on one side. I am also adding glass to four of the cabinet doors.


The new counter cut down from the old peninsula and the new paint scheme. It's still a work in progress.

This is a work in progress. Next, the fluorescent lighting will be replaced with recessed LED lighting and the ceiling will get “tin” ceiling tiles. Eventually we will replace the tile with granite counters and a tin backsplash. Everything we have done so far has brought back the vintage charm that goes with a nearly 105-year-old house. Stay tuned for more updates on Jimbo’s cheapo renovations.

As far as the 10% left on my 1940 Ford, if I’m a good boy, maybe–just maybe–I will have it running for next year’s Nomad’s Vintage Vehicle Day in May.

For more local and California history articles, including more Reedley history articles by Jim, be sure and check out our Hometown History section.

Jim Bulls is a contributor to our Hometown History section, being a charter member of the Reedley Historical Society; he also restores vintage cars.


  1. Nice article, Jim. Nice work as well. Hope you are both well.

  2. Jim – nice article. Kent


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