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Community Field Trip - Galco's Soda Pop Stop & the "History of Highland Park" Mural

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Richard, Raul and Brenda wait with Ms. Tam in front of Galco's
Richard, Raul and Brenda wait with Ms. Tam in front of Galco's .

Youth Voices student producers had an opportunity to take a walk around their neighborhood to visit two unique and historic locations in Highland Park. Students had their cameras ready to collect media and those students who had identified either location as one of their hot spots were prepared to interview individuals at each location.

The first was Galco's Soda Pop Stop, an internationally known supplier of unique and whimsical beverages. The store, founded in 1897, was one of the first Italian grocery stores in Los Angeles. It was originally located in downtown but moved to Highland Park in 1955. The same family has owned Galco's since 1940 and is currently managed by John Nese.

John Nese, Owner of Galco's Soda Pop Stop
John Nese, Owner of Galco's Soda Pop Stop.

John was kind enough to share with us the shops history, it's transition from a grocery store to a specialty store and the fabulous drinks and sandwiches available year round. Asked why he kept the store in Highland Park he conveyed a story where he had considered moving the store but was assured by a business colleague that what he was offering was very unique and ultimately, people would travel for it. That was fifteen years ago, Highland Park remains Galco's home.

Taking A View of History

The muralist, beginning at the top, Joe Bravo, Sonya Fe, Raul Gonzalez & community volunteer Joseph

A second group of students traveled up Ave. 56 to view the restoration process of the "History of Highland Park" mural. We met with one of the artist who was working on the restoration, Raul Gonzales. He along with some of the original artist, Sonya Fe, Joe Bravo, Judy Baca and Arnold Ramirez, have been restoring the mural to its original beauty since January 2011. The restoration is a collaborative effort between SPARC (Social and Public Art Resource Center), AT&T (building owner) and Council Member Jose Huizar. The 125 ft. mural, originally painted from 1977-78, portrays key moments and people throughout the history of Highland Park. At the time of our visit the restoration process was close to being completed. The building was still surrounded by a wire fence but the images from Highland Park's history were newly vibrant and ready for a new generation of residents to feel pride in.

Ezequiel and Luis prepare to interview Raul Gonzalez
Ezequiel and Luis prepare to interview Raul Gonzalez.

Students enthusiastically took pictures and videotaped an interview with Raul. He discussed different aspects of his work as an artist and how he came to be involved in this project. Raul not only shared the story of the mural and the restoration process, but provided a brief history of muralism in Los Angeles and the current threat it is under. Currently new murals are prohibited on private property in the City of Los Angeles and established murals are being painted over due to neglect, tagging or replaced with corporate advertising, with little or no revue process.

Students were given new insight on the importance and value of the murals throughout their community and the need to preserve and take pride in the unique place Highland Park holds in the history of L.A. muralism.

Students stand next to the "The History of Highland Park" mural
Students stand next to the "The History of Highland Park" mural.

View Community Field Trip - Galco's Soda Pop Stop & "History of Highland Park" Mural in a larger map

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