Pop Laval Fresno Mayor's Fundraiser

July 15, 2009 11:54:21 PM PDT
One picture shows Fresno's first mayor L.O Stephens, behind a plow. Another is of the city's second Mayor, Parker Lyon, is riding a toy pony, waving his cowboy hat in the air. The exhibit featuring pictures of Fresno's Mayors is just a small part of the Pop Laval collection. A treasure of photographs Fresno's current and past Mayors think is important to save.

Mayor Ashley Swearengin said, "If ever we've struggled with our identity in Fresno in really knowing who we are as a community all you have to do is look at the Pop Laval collection, you're instantly connected to our roots. Who we are as a people."

Former Mayor Jim Patterson agreed, "This is good for those of us who've been around for awhile but it's also terrific for people who are new to the area." He said.

The oldest former Mayor Present, Dale Doig, who served in the 1980's but lived in Fresno for 50 years said, "It brings back a lot of information about what Fresno used to be like and you can see, it's changed a lot."

For more than 50 years, from 1910 to the 1960's Pop Laval worked as a photographer in Fresno. He took more than one hundred thousand pictures. The oldest are on glass plates. But the most fragile were taken during the 20's, and the negatives are disintegrating.

His great granddaughter Elizabeth is behind the preservation effort. "The '20's in Fresno was the most lively time. It's the most lively decade we've ever had. And what a shame to lose that history because we just don't have the money to restore it." She said.

The process is time consuming and expensive. This fundraiser is one way to try and keep the non-profit foundation going .

Current Mayor Ashley Swearengin says the old pictures of a lively, bustling downtown can give us hope. "It would be terrific to have an inspiring downtown like you see in the early landscapes of Fresno." She said.

Laval said about 15,000 of the negatives are deteriorating so fast they could be gone in two or three years.

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