The magazine of the photo-essay
November 2016 issue
Joe’s Junk Yard
by Lisa Kereszi
A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine.  Fabulous! Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
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As I was growing up, my father ran the family junkyard, and my mother, for a time, had an antique shop. I was surrounded by junk! My mom dragged us out of bed to go to the flea markets and yard sales, in the hope of finding a treasure – a painting by a famous artist, a valuable piece of pottery, or an important document or large amount of money stowed in the backing of a frame. And my dad built one of his Harleys from the ground up, using parts he acquired in the business. I am truly a product of the idea of one man’s trash being another man’s treasure. Our junkyard was not the kind that crushes cars and recycles outright. We had a garage where we sold used parts and did repairs. Then when the cars were useless, we had a crusher come in to buy the scrap metal from us. Joe’s Junkyard, named first for my grandfather, Joe, then carried on to my dad, Joe, Jr., was in business for just over 50 years. Joe, Sr. was the
son of Hungarian immigrants, who settled in the coal belt of Pennsylvania, where they worked in the coal, oil and steel industries. Joe moved to the lively city of Chester, Pennsylvania, halfway between Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware, and opened the gates to the junkyard. Business was booming in the Fifties and Sixties, and even early Seventies. The city became extremely depressed around that time, and is now a ghetto. I began taking pictures there as a teenager, and I began to realize that having such a place to roam in was sort of special. The “Yard” (as we always referred to it) was my dad’s life. He started working there after dropping out of high school at the age of 16. (Consequently, this was the age when I first began taking pictures there myself, around 1989.) It was his hang-out, and when the closing bell rang, his biker friends showed up to party. For a series of reasons – the economy, shrewd competitors who happened to be relatives, bad business decisions, illegal drugs, incarceration, thieves and vengeful enemies, not to mention the Department of Environmental Protection,  The Tax Man and Town Hall – the business was a failure, and we barely kept our heads afloat. I didn’t identify with the “junkyard dogs” and the frosted-haired biker babes that were always hanging around. Embarrassed, I longed for a “normal” family, but later I realized that I was lucky, in a way. The whole junkyard story is a long and complicated one, and it includes all the trappings of a dramatic novel or movie – money, near bankruptcy, family feuds, violence, drugs, death, suicide. Two of my relatives died there – my grandfather and my uncle – and rather than that happening prematurely to my father and my grandmother, the two finally sold what was left of the business to my second cousin, their longtime competitor, in the summer of 2003. So, the project was over, save for following my dad to swap meets and flea markets in Florida, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The bulk of the pictures were made between 1994 and 2003. The photographs survive (including vintage ones by family members, collaged and drawn on), as do some of the characters and their oral stories, and I hope this series is a fitting testament to the people who spent their lives there. This book is a proud memorial to this particular failure of a once-achieved American Dream.
Pop Pop’s boom truck coming over the hill, Joe’s Junk Yard, Trainer, PA 2001.
Joe Jr. sitting by Mark’s airbrushed tow truck hood, Joe’s Junk Yard, Trainer, PA 2001.
Joe Jr.’s belly, Joe’s Junk Yard, Trainer, PA 1998.
Easter flowers, Eloyse and Joe, Joe’s Junk Yard, Trainer, PA 1998.
Office, Joe’s Junk Yard, Trainer, PA 2001.
Family collage, from Joe Sr.’s scrapbooks, circa 1971.
Engine on ground, Joe’s Junk Yard, Trainer, PA 2003.
American flag in garage, Joe’s Junk Yard, Trainer, PA 2003.
Eloyse and Joe smoking, Joe’s Junk Yard, Trainer, PA 1999.
Party ribbon on old Continental, Joe’s Junk Yard, Trainer, PA 2003.
Patty working on car in flame outfit, Joe’s Junk Yard, Trainer, PA 2003.
Gotham City airbrushing on Pink Caddy, Media, PA 2001.
Bicentennial rug in Joe Jr.’s bedroom, Media, PA 2008.
Eloyse sitting in garage bay, Joe’s Junk Yard, Trainer, PA 2002.
Joe and Patty in emptied-out office, last week open, Joe’s Junk Yard, Trainer, PA 2003.
Joe sitting in his Pink Caddy, Media, PA 2001.
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