Let’s Talk Clovis: Ernest Harwell (1885-1971) musician, inventor and Clovis mentor

Ernest Harwell (Contributed by Clovis Museum)

We shared information in our last article on the talented Harwell family. In addition to being a talented musician and inventor, Ernest Harwell authored many articles and letters to the editors of the Fresno Republican, Clovis Tribune, Clovis Independent and The Fresno Bee.

We know he was frugal since his personal album was pasted on an old business journal that dated back to 1892. We share a few of his published articles that reflect his life in Clovis and his moral standards:

“Strange but true, the writer first delivered Republicans (Fresno newspaper founded in 1876 by A.L. Hobbs and C.H. Rowell) in 1906, serving the Jefferson Colony District, also Clovis, and later, while attending high school, the Wolters Colony route. It was a distance of 30 miles each morning through thick and thin, in all kinds of weather, over various roads and whether you felt like getting up at 4 o’clock or not.

My pay was based on mileage, usually $1 a mile, the prevailing wage scale. Other Clovis carriers at the time were Bill and Jess Hutchinson, Woolsey Naden, Cecil Dunham and my brothers, Gene, Bert and Clarence.”

An article he wrote, April 2, 1925: “A few years ago while riding a bike to the coast via Pacheco Pass, a bad piece of road caused a rear wheel to collapse. My only way out was to carry the wreck some 20 miles to Hollister.

As I was proceeding to do so on this particular warm summer day, a number of machines passed me, only a certain one driven by Mr. Prescott being the exception. Although I was a total stranger, he helped me fasten the bike on his car and soon after I reached Hollister a very grateful young man.

I hope to see him elected mayor of Fresno. As it is written: ‘cast thy bread upon the waters and it will return unto thee after many days.” (Note: A.E. Sunderland was elected Fresno Mayor, 1925-1929.)

On Feb. 11, 1926, The Clovis Independent published the following: “Ernest Harwell says advertising pays. He took the contract to paint the front of the Quick (now Clovis Floral) next to the post office and is now signing up the owners eastward. He says he can paint around the block to his starting point in a month, advertising as he goes.”

That same year wrote to the Clovis Tribune: “As one of the great throng in attendance at the closing exercises of the high school Friday night, I ask your indulgence relative to the matter of properly seating a gathering of this nature. It might be asked ‘Who was in charge of this meeting where ladies of various age, some semi-invalids, women with small children were allowed to remain standing the entire evening, while little boys and older students occupied choice seats?

Thoughtless youth needed a gentle reminder it appears. They have seemingly forgotten that recently the result of a questionnaire sent to 1,000 girls by Colliers asking what quality they most admired in boys. “Good manners topped the list, after which followed in order, good morals, clean habits and honesty.

The writer regrets that he could give up but one chair to a lady. However, he did purchase two others from some boys in the gallery.”

Ernest’s undated letter to the editor of the Bee entitled “Clovis Writer Recalls Lumber Flume Ride:”

“It always was a thrilling sight to watch those boards race along, bound for the yards and factory in Clovis. The writer knows by experience, having walked the planks between the Clovis and Collins sections as one of the flume boys. Riding home aboard this strange conveyance was the usual practice. Near Tollhouse, this flume lumber attained a speed of one mile a minute, and only the most venturesome rode that division.”

In 1942 he offered advice to school graduates that was published by The Fresno Bee: “Desire most of all an intimate acquaintance with yourself. Never regard your present education as finished or complete. Learn to distinguish the value of righteous conduct as compared in negative thoughts and wrong doing. Do not underestimate the supreme importance of spiritual verities (truth).

A neglect born of ignorance often hastens physical decay, so be vigilant in caring for this wonderful machine called the body.

Cultivate the art of making friends and being friendly. Reading of most good books may shape a destiny and change the order of your life. Experience poise and attain an even temperament. Be kindly, consider in all dealings with those who serve you. A frequent practice of the common virtues will truly reflect a worthwhile character.

Honor and respect the parents who have sacrificed willingly for you: in no other way could you ever repay them. Finally on behalf of all Public Thinks contributors, we dedicate these thoughts and admonitions to graduates of 1942.”

Ernest also published a column called “Sunshine Society” that we believe was published in the Clovis Independent. In an undated column to youth: “Always look on the bright side of life. When the loafers croke, it is time to joke. To believe that the world is growing worse is only to make it so, join the army of doers who believe in the ultimate triumph of right.

Always endeavor to associate with good people, the time will come when you will consider their aid, and advice invaluable and the time spent in their company a precious treasure of memory.”

Ernest Harwell is a part of our rich heritage.

Peg Bos is the president of the Clovis Museum on 4th and Pollasky avenues in Old Town Clovis. She not only manages the museum but she also writes her Let's Talk Clovis column in our publication which features and highlight the amazing history of our city and culture. One fun fact about Peg Bos, she was the first female mayor of Clovis from 1984-86.