Vallejo is losing much more than a post office. It’s losing a hidden piece of art that’s part 1980s time capsule, part therapy, and part tribute to the people who deliver our mail.
Inside the employee break room of the former main post office building, which will be demolished in the coming days to make way for a parking lot, is an 11-by-20-foot mural created in 1988 by a postal carrier who’d just been through a traumatic life event.
It contains a massive eagle, Cindy Crawford, a dog who liked biting postmen, Bill Cosby and most important, hard-working Vallejo post office employees.
The artist, Vic Lorico Bicomong who came to America from the Philippines in 1978, then served in the Air Force supplying fighter planes. Ten years later, as postal carrier in Vallejo, he stopped to help a driver on the side of the freeway in San Francisco. A drunk driver hit Bicomong and put him in a coma. He woke from it a day later, badly bruised and needing crutches to walk.
His postmaster at the time, knowing about his interest in art, suggested he spend his recovery painting a mural in the break room. Bicomong, who hadn’t painted much but was a dancer and musician in the Philippines, said yes.
“The mural was like my first big artwork,” he said. “That pushed me into being an artist, and that’s what I’m doing when I retire.”
For a couple of hours a day in between his mail route Bicomong and his ailing leg hauled themselves up a scaffold in the break room. Three months later, on his birthday, his work was done.
The mural’s main message is one of admiration for Bicomong’s fellow postal workers, with the words “We are what we do” emblazoned at the bottom. The giant bald eagle is unmistakable, as are Bay Area landmarks such as the Golden Gate and Bay bridges. Each postal worker depicted is someone he knew personally.
But you have to take a closer look to appreciate its full 1980s glory.
The woman in the cutoff jeans getting her mail at the bottom left of the mural is America’s top supermodel at the time, Cindy Crawford. She has no documented mail-delivery experience, so why was she included? “She was the only model popular to me, and she was beautiful,” Bicomong said. “I just had to put her in there.”
The dog next to Crawford resembles Spuds MacKenzie, the bull terrier who starred in several Bud Light ads in the 80s. But Bicomong says it’s actually a real-life dog who bit the real-life postman depicted in the mural … twice. The postal workers called him “Dog Bite” because of it. “I didn’t even know his real name,” Bicomong said.
Bicomong regrets the inclusion of Cosby now, considering he’s disgraced and in prison. But at the time, Cosby had the No. 1 sitcom in America and was considered the ultimate dad. He was Peak 1988.
Bicomong left Vallejo and his mural behind in 1995, when he took a supervisory post-office job in Boston. When he transferred to Sacramento in 2005, he was surprised to find it was still there.
The mural was accidentally rediscovered this year by a Vallejo local, Gary Cullen. He was shooting pictures of the shuttered post office for the Architectural Heritage and Landmarks Commission before it could be razed. It was only after he got inside that he noticed the mural in the break room, which was closed off because of asbestos removal. Cullen later returned and shared pictures of it with a Vallejo Facebook group.
“I’m saddened to see it demolished in the teardown since it does reflect a bit of Vallejo’s local history for that time period,” Cullen said.
Bicomong said he was sad to hear the news as well. But he’s long since expanded his art portfolio.
When he’s not working as a post-office supervisor in Sacramento, he’s painting and selling his works on his website.
Once all utilities are removed from the post office building on Santa Clara Avenue, it will be demolished sometime in April, the Office of the City Manager said.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/1980s-mural-vallejo-post-office-13689413.php.