LIFE-SIZED twin figures mounted above the entrance to an Upland lumber yard had greeted customers and motorists on Euclid Avenue since the 1980s.

Sculpted out of cedar logs by an artist who used chainsaws, the figures depict carpenters, one from the 1930s and the other the 1980s.

Hoyt Lumber, alas, closed in June and its building was demolished in December. What happened to those figures?

They now belong to Bob Koranda, a general contractor in north Upland. He has them in his yard. After a query in this space last week, Koranda phoned to invite me up for a look.

Needless to say, I carved out some time.

Koranda lives off 20th Street west of Euclid. The first alley leads up to his back gate.

The figures stand inside the gate on raised planters, one on each side of his driveway.

"When I leave in the morning, it's nice to see them standing here," Koranda said.

Close to ground level, their size is impressive. They're more than 7 feet tall. Koranda said they weigh more than 500 pounds apiece.

"I'm a big boy," Koranda said, "and I feel like a little guy next to them."

He'd seen them hundreds of times over the years as a regular customer of Hoyt and its predecessor, Rugg Lumber. But having the figures near eye level rather than overhead allows for close inspection.

The 1930s carpenter wears overalls, pants dragging the ground, and a cap. He carries a handsaw in his right hand.


Advertisement

His left is in his pocket.

Koranda and I marveled together at the details. The slender man has a rag in his back pocket and a fold-out tape measure in a front pocket. Based on his sunken features, the figure may be intended to be toothless. He's also hunched forward with age.

"He's all bent over from sawing so much," Koranda theorized.

The 1980s carpenter stands straight and appears to have spent a lot of time at the gym. Broad-shouldered, with bulging biceps and thick thighs, he's wearing a tank top and shorts, which are rolled slightly. He has a mustache and long hair, a surly look and, in one hand, a motorized Skilsaw, all carved from cedar.

"He's got some beefy legs. I've been a contractor all my life. I don't have legs like that," Koranda observed.

Despite his hale and hearty appearance, the modern figure has a crack running from his groin to the top of his head - that's gotta hurt - where the log has split due to weathering.

Fine details include bootstraps on the back of his boots and pockets that have been dug out. The carpenter's chainsaw "even has a guard," Koranda said.

It's no surprise that sculptor Miles Tucker could re-create an accurate chainsaw. Chainsaws are his medium.

Bill Rugg, the former owner of Rugg Lumber, told me last year that he and his wife encountered Tucker at work in California's Gold Country in the 1980s. He was carving a figure with a variety of chainsaws.

The 1930s carpenter was on display. Impressed, Rugg arranged to buy that one for his lumber yard and commissioned a modern-day carpenter as a counterpoint. Tucker drove down to Upland with the completed figures soon afterward.

The figures were mounted there ever since, even after the store's closure due to slowing sales.

Koranda and his wife, Pat, drove past the shuttered store one day when she said she hoped the figures would be saved.

In late November, Koranda was at the remaining Hoyt store, in Rancho Cucamonga, and asked about the figures. The next day, he was told by phone that they were available. A price was agreed upon.

(He was asked by Hoyt not to reveal what he paid but said it was more than fair and less than he'd expected.)

"When can you get here?" he was asked. "I'm leaving already," Koranda replied.

The figures were already down from the building, which was four days away from demolition. An employee in a forklift put them into the bed of Koranda's pickup truck. Koranda tied them down with chains and drove them home.

"I got so many thumbs-up coming up Euclid with them in my pickup bed, standing straight up," Koranda said. 

Once home, Koranda used his own forklift to lift them into place.

"He was home with them in an hour," Pat Koranda said. "I didn't even know he'd left."

She said her husband's heart was set on having them. She had worried they would be out of his price range and that he'd be disappointed.

"When he drove up the driveway with the statues," Pat said, "I don't think I've seen him as happy since our son was born."

What does she think of the figures?

"I think they're gorgeous," Pat said, beaming. "I now have two more contractors in my family. Now I have three."

Bob Koranda, who expects to retire in two years when he turns 70, likes having the figures in his yard. They're in the shade of towering palm trees.

"It's a good place for them. Quiet," Koranda said. "They'll retire here with me."

Others retire to north Upland, so why not the carpenters?

Koranda said he's happy to share the figures.

"I don't mind people coming up the alley and taking pictures of them," Koranda said. "I'm not the owner. I'm just the caretaker. I'd want to see them.

"They're part of the city, an icon. Somebody will take care of them when I'm gone. I'm very grateful to have them."

That said, the figures have taken some getting used to.

One day in the yard, Koranda confided, he was clearing his planter and saw an unfamiliar shadow.

"I thought somebody was standing behind me," Koranda said. "I've gotta be careful."

So that's the story of the figures carved from logs. If you wondered what happened to them, you're no longer stumped.

David Allen writes Friday, Sunday and Wednesday, three bumps on a log. Reach him at david.allen@inlandnewspapers.com or 909-483-9339, read his blog at dailybulletin.com/davidallenblog, check out facebook.com/davidallencolumnist and follow @davidallen909 on Twitter.