W.L. Rubottom and Father Serra

Our founder, W.L. Rubottom, was a master woodcarver before he was a cabinet manufacturer.  Throughout 1950s and 1960s he put his carving on hold to focus on growing the business, but in the 1970s he picked it up again.  In part, I think, it was due to spending less time at work as he neared retirement and handed more of the work over to his sons and son-in-law.  But I like to think it was also pressure from the family to dedicate himself to put to use his amazing skill.  There was nothing we loved more than to see his creations come to life from an unlikely lump of wood.

True to the way he conducted his cabinet business, he took over the carving scene in Ventura County.  He loved to teach aspiring woodcarvers, including me, and spent much of his carving time thinking of ways to educate people about tools, techniques and materials.  He was the authority on woodcarving in the area and enjoyed passing on his skills.

Around this time one of Ventura's most important landmarks, the concrete statue of Father Junipero Serra in front of City Hall, was disintegrating.  The statue had been commissioned in 1935 during the Great Depression by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).  The WPA was an organization with the mandate to provide work to the unemployed, and between 1935 and 1943 it provided jobs to almost 8 million people.

The sculptor, John Palo Kangas, was commissioned by the WPA and Ventura County to create a statue of the Fransiscan missionary, Father Junipero Serra.  The Finnish-born sculptor used concrete (which in itself is a feat worthy of consideration) to create the statue.  However, over the decades the combination of the materials used for the statue, the salty ocean air of Ventura, and some minor vandalism had set the statue on a course of inevitable decline and disintegration. 

In the 1980s the city of Ventura, led by Councilman Russell Burns, set on a course to recreate the statue.  Because of the frailty of the original, there was no way to remove it or create a cast of it and so, in the creativity characteristic of their generation, it was decided that an exact wooden copy would be carved and then used to create a bronze casting.  Keep in mind, the status is over 9' tall!  As you might guess, Wilbur Rubottom was tasked with leading the team of volunteer woodcarvers to complete the project.

Carving on the Father Serra statue began in February of 1987 and was completed on July 21, 1988.  Wilbur recorded 9,361 hours of work by all carvers involved.  I like to imagine my 5 or 6 hours made it into the tally, but it more likely created more work for everyone else fixing my mistakes.

We're very proud of W.L. Rubottom's involvement in the project and our legacy as residents, volunteers, and employers here in Ventura.  Our custom and production cabinet making business has been in Ventura since the 1950s.  Most of our cabinet work in the area is put to use everyday in thousands of kitchens around Ventura, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Santa Maria, and San Luis Obispo counties, but when we drive by the Father Serra statue overlooking downtown Ventura we look with some pride on a visible symbol of our handiwork.



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