Sophie Says: Postal mural

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A Winters Express opinion column

By Gerald Taylor
Special to the Express

Gramps Says
The eighth Winters Historical Mural Project is now underway on the north wall of the Post Office. It is only fitting that the first person to greet me at the mural site was postman and muralist Celestino Galabasa Jr., who is taking time off his postal duties to participate in the project. While I recognized him I didn’t know his name, but he greeted me with, “Hello Mr. Taylor.” I wondered how many faces in town he recognizes by name after delivering mail in Winters for 32 years.

I noticed that the wall was divided into one foot square grids, and each of the 470 grids was numbered. At this stage of the project features in the mural were outlined in charcoal and student artists were just beginning to apply colored paint. Professional muralist and on site director Jaime Montiel showed me the one inch to one foot scaled drawings from which the mural is transposed to the wall.

Both Celestino and Jaime explained the historical significance of some of the features in the mural. For instance, there is an image of what looks like a 10 pointed sheriff badge with a circle of alphabetized letters within. That represents the old postal box combination locks. Today they use key locks.

You might recognize the downtown buildings in one scene. The store on the far left,  which today is Adry’s Fiesta Boutique, was once the post office. There are several depictions representing the Pony Express, which never passed through our town but operated nearby on a trail between San Francisco and Sacramento. At one time mail into Winters arrived by train, which accounts for the picture of a train station located where the Community Center stands today.

You might wonder why an alligator is protruding from a postal service delivery bag. According to Celestino, years ago someone attempted to mail an alligator and postmaster Bill Gray intercepted the delivery and rumor had it that he adopted the alligator and kept it in the basement of the post office. Interestingly, there is no basement in the post office.

Then the story got around that the gator was kept in lockers that were located behind the post office and when kids came over to investigate, postal workers would bang on the back of the lockers to scare them. Celestino never mentioned what eventually became of the alligator.

Creating murals in Winters was the dream of Valerie Whitworth and Kate Humphrey. They had been talking about it for 10 years and one day said, “We’re going to do it.” The idea was to create an inviting pathway to the commerce of downtown and a rich art curriculum in the summer.

Valerie formerly taught school in neighboring Davis. Kate Humphrey taught art at Winter High School and now teaches at the middle school. The artists are students from both schools, ages 12-18 and they create the mural design as well as paint it.

Valerie mentions, “With this project the students also learn the business side of art. We have to raise about $15,000 per year to cover insurances, materials and other essential costs.”

Sophie Says
I love youngsters of all ages and would like to meet the artists, but Gramps doesn’t bother my slumber at 6 a.m. when the first shift arrives at the project site. The early risers include Jack Dennis, Jack Jordling, Holly Selleck, Raquel Galabasa, Christina Ramirez, and Lola Garibay. Those on the second shift were Hawk Selleck, Yarethzy Sanchez, Sabrina Rivas and Eden Miller.

I think it’s rude to bark at a mail carrier. I would see to it that Celestino would never need to use the Back Off dog repellent shown in the mural as long as I’m around.

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