A Family Photograph tells a Family Story on Valley Boulevard
By The South El Monte Arts Posse – Standing in stark contrast to Martin’s Mariscos, the neighboring seafood restaurant painted in rich deep sea blues, Joe’s welding garage colors this part of Valley Blvd just east of the 605 freeway, in the black and white shades of memory. Yet despite its limited color palette, it is the emotional vibrancy of that mural that brings it to life. The mural is clearly a personal one. A young man in a large straw hat, carries in his arms a young woman, both posing with smiles in front of a shiny 1950 Ford Mercury.
It doesn’t take much guessing to figure out that the young man painted on the east -facing wall of Joe’s Welding Shop, located at 13420 East Valley, is none other than Joe himself. Just ask him. Joe is right inside and he’ll come out of his office, if you call for him. At 82 years old, Joe will tell you all about the mural and all of the details with the clarity of a memory that has not dulled or faded with time. Joe will tell you that he is the young man and the woman was his newly wed wife. They lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at the time, before moving out to the San Gabriel Valley to start a family and this specialized welding business that still operates today.
Because it continues to be a family-run business, Joe’s son Anthony will tell you with much pride how his father built his business, learning first his trade as a welder and another business before venturing to start his own successful one. He’ll point out their properties, their yards and houses where his father once lived, and where he and his brothers live now.
He will also tell you that this mural was replicated from a family photograph, painted by a customer in exchange for Joe’s labor. I weld, you paint. You paint, I weld. A fair swap of two noble trades that continues to live as a fond and sweet personal memory, immortalized on a wall as public art. Sometimes a place, as drab and seemingly lifeless as parts of eastern stretch of Valley Blvd, is colored by memory, in the simple shades of black and white.