Ralph Wilson wipes his brow under the warm winter sun and puts down his chain saw after putting in a good morning’s work at Ocean Grove Elementary School.
Wilson is working on a totem pole that will stand 27-feet high once it’s finished and grace the entrance to the school.
On Friday afternoon, Wilson is painstakingly carving out the details with his chain saw while a large groups of students watch, fascinated by Wilson’s work.
“I’m really enjoying it,” Wilson says. “I’ve been doing it now for a couple of weeks off and on.”
Wilson is at the school most Fridays and sometimes Saturdays working on the totem pole. Monday to Thursday is spent at welding school, which keeps him away from his carving.
Wilson, who’s stepdaughter Sam attends Ocean Grove, last year promised the school’s former principal, Vince Hewgill, that he would build the school a totem pole after carving the students a small killer whale.
The totem pole, which is being carved out of red cedar donated by Western Forest Products, will have a thunderbird (Wilson’s family crest) at the top and a killer whale, the school’s logo, at the bottom.
Once the totem pole is carved, it will be painted by Wilson and the knifing will be done by his friends and cousins. Wilson’s friends from welding school will also lend a hand, crafting brackets to hold the totem pole’s wings in place.
After the totem pole is finished, Wilson says a feast and a ceremony will help commemorate the raising of the totem and he hopes to have dignitaries and First Nation chiefs up and down the Island in attendance.
Wilson acknowledged two Ocean Grove neighbourhood men, Brian Glum and Wayne Wilson, who have cleaned up all the debris and wood chips each day.