Joseph Dondanville, the second of eight children of Emile Dondanville and Marie Schumacher, was born in Pasadena, California, July 29, 1889, shortly after his parents arrival from Illinois. The family was staying briefly with Emile's brother Wallace while preparing to move to the homestead they had been granted north of Newhall, California near Saugus.
About 1894 the family moved from the homestead to San Gabriel where they lived for a number of years at the Rudel Winery. Joe attended Washington School in north San Gabriel and served as an alter boy at the San Gabriel Mission. He left school at the age of fourteen to work for the Southern Pacific Railroad. He lied about his age to obtain employment in the car shops in Los Angeles. There he did upholstery and assembly work, and developed a mechanical proficiency.
Sometime after 1910 Joe and his brother Ed started an auto repair shop next to the family home. They called their business "The Dondanville Brothers". The brothers were able to have a new building built for their business in 1915. The building was across Mission Drive to the east of the family home, on a triangular parcel at the intersection with Pearl Street. Shortly after their move to the new location, they changed the name of the business to San Gabriel Garage. The garage was an auto repair and machine shop with one gas pump out front. The brothers worked on everything from bicycles to trucks.
Near the end of 1917 Joe joined the army as an instructor. Pictures taken during that time, and notations on those pictures, indicate that Joe was an aviation mechanic in the Army Air Service and was possibly qualified to flight test the famous Curtiss Jenny Aircraft. He attained the rank of staff sergeant before he was discharged in early 1919.
On September 12, 1919 he married Anna Leahy in Los Angeles. Anna was born December 7, 1899 in Lynn, Massachusetts. Her family had moved to San Gabriel when she was seven. Joe and Anna lived briefly with Emile while they had their home built across the road at 315 Pearl Street. Their first son, Raymond Joseph, was born September 1, 1921. A second son, Charles Emile, was born October 2, 1922.
In the early 1920s, Henry Ford personally approached Joe and Ed about becoming a Ford dealer. They declined the offer and Jessie Ellico became the Ford Dealer in the area. San Gabriel Garage prospered as the area developed. Louie and Ted worked at the garage when they were young. During prohibition Joe's home was popular with city officials, police, and local merchants. In his cellar he brewed beer, wine, and brandy. He also brewed root beer for the children. Chuck and Ray became proficient at capping and corking bottles at early ages.
Following Ed's death in 1936, Joe bought Ed's half of the business. Joe continued to operate the garage and rented space to others to do auto bodywork. Anna died on May 25, 1947 from a coronary occlusion. Joe carried on with the business until 1950 when he retired and rented his building. During the late 1950s and early 60s Joe did light maintenance work at his son Charles' muffler business. He continued to live in his home on Pearl Street the last few months of his life. He died in San Gabriel from a stroke on May 20, 1969.
262.1 Raymond Joseph Dondanville, 1921 - 1986
born in San Gabriel, California on September 1, 1921, medical discharge from U.S. Army, World War II, died in Simi Valley, Ventura County, California on October 7, 1986.
262.2 Charles Emile Dondanville, 1922 -
born at home in San Gabriel, California, October 2, 1922, married Florene Wann in Los Angeles on September 12, 1943, twin sons, Ronald Charles and Donald Charles, born on June 23, 1944, Charles and Florene lived in Leucadia, California in 2004