A week later, at 140 South K Street, a mural was unveiled on the north wall of the Grabowski Building, now occupied by Golden Valley Stamps & Awards. It depicts a man painting a sign for E. J. Ryan, Druggist, the first owner of the building. The mural was painted by Mike Kohler of Tulare.
Further south on K Street an old advertisement was uncovered on the wall of a building owned by Harvey Willis when an adjoining building was demolished. The swastikas in the painting have been the source of much controversy. It is not known who painted it – or when, but it is at least 79 years old.
On the rear wall of Michael’s Bridal Shop at 124 South K Street, Bonnie Pay of Tulare has depicted a wedding party on the grounds of historic old Merritt Manor during the 1920’s. The house was built during the first decade of the 20th century by P.J.S. Montgomery, manager of the huge Paige and Morton Ranch west of Tulare. He called the mansion “The Oaks”. Hulett Merritt, owner of the 7000 acre Tagus Ranch, purchased the house in the early 1920’s and promptly renamed it “Merritt Manor”. The house was razed in 1959 and replaced by a number of Tulare’s finest homes. The mural faces the alley near the Wells Fargo parking lot and was unveiled January 22, 1998.
“Olympic Gold”, also by Colleen Mitchell-Venya, graces the wall of the Tulare Youth Services Building at the intersection of J and K Streets. It honors Tulare’s two Olympic heroes: Bob Mathias, who won the decathlon in London in 1948 at the age of 17, and successfully defended his title 4 years later in Helsinki; and Sim Innes who earned the gold medal in discus at the Helsinki Olympics.
The mural painted by Colleen Mitchell-Venya on the east wall of the old Sweet’s Drug Store Building, depicts some of the over 10,000 Army Air Corps Cadets trained at Rankin Field, and highlights (on the right) John Gilbert “Tex” Rankin, famous stunt pilot of the 1930’s, who was founder and general manager of Rankin Aeronautical Academy. On the left of the same mural, which was dedicated December 5, 1998, is highlighted Major Richard Bong (known as “Bing Bong”), WWII’s top flying ace and graduate of Rankin Field class 42-A. In the Pacific Theater he shot down 40 Japanese planes. Major Bong’s plane featured a photograph of his wife, Marge. He was killed August 6, 1945 while testing an experimental jet fighter.
This mural painted by Nadi Spencer of Three Rivers was dedicated January 12, 2000 as part of the festivities marking Leona Korenwinder’s retirement as manager of the Tulare Branch of the Bank of the West at 220 East Tulare Avenue. Bears are part of the bank’s logo; these are depicted in a mountain setting in the Sierras.
Although not officially approved by the Cultural Arts Foundation, a mural made its appearance in Zumwalt Park in August of 2000. It was painted by participants in the Tulare “Got A Job” program and honors another of Tulare’s heroes. Admiral Elmo Zumwalt Jr. was raised in Tulare, graduated from Tulare Union High School as class valedictorian in 1938, and at age 50 became this country’s youngest 4-star admiral as well as the youngest Chief of Naval Operations. In 1998 he was awarded the Medal of Freedom. He died of cancer in January, 2000, and on July 4 President Clinton announced a new class of ships to be named in Admiral Zumwalt’s honor.
This mural was completed by Mike Kohler in August 2000 at the Tulare County Fairgrounds. It might be called a triptych as it consists of 3 panels. The panel on the north wall is a copy of the 1985-fair poster; the Sierra Nevadas and scenes from the 1995 poster make up the two panels on the west wall. Although there were sporadic attempts to hold a fair in Tulare as early as 1894, the County Fair as we know it today dates from 1919 when the fair board acquired the four acres in the north west corner of the present-day grounds.
Two murals were completed in October 2000 by Colleen Mitchell-Venya, and can be found inside the newly renovated Tulare City Hall. The first shows the view of Tulare City Park as seen through a north window of the newly constructed city hall in 1937. The second portrays the famous bond burning ceremony in the City Park in 1903. $500,000 in bonds had been issued by the newly formed Tulare Irrigation District in 1890 for the purpose of bringing water to the area’s farmlands. Partly because of the financial panic of the 1890’s, the bonds soon became a crushing burden on the community. When the bond-holders finally agreed to accept 50 cents on the dollar, the town organized a huge celebration, culminating in the burning of the accursed bonds.
This huge mural features a view of Yosemite Park and was painted by Mike Kohler in the spring of 2001. It can be found on the east wall of Gainsborough Studios at 227 East Kern Avenue. At 24 ft. by 120 ft. it is by far the largest of Tulare’s murals. Easily identifiable in the painting are half-dome and Bridal Veil Falls. The photographer could be Ansel Adams, busily photographing his favorite subject. The building is part of Tulare’s unique history. Originally the city’s post office, it was remodeled into the State Theater when the post office moved to its present location on Tulare Avenue in 1937. The theater closed for good in about 1960, and Gene and Gerry Smith moved their photography studio into the remodeled building in 1973.
Another Mike Kohler mural can be found on the north wall of Howell’s Service Center, 251 South L Street. Completed in the summer of 2001 the painting represents a composite of several early-day Tulare garages.
In a tribute to the Azorean heritage of many Tulareans, Portuguese Dancers are painted on the west wall of Susan’s Studio of Dance, 63 North Tower Square. The mural was completed by Deborah York in the spring of 2001.