In the April 25, 1976 Volusia County publication of the Orlando Sentinel Star the following ad was placed along with an article about the founders: “A woodcarver’s club is being organized, The first meeting to be held at 725 Herbert St., Monday night at 7 p. m. Anyone with an interest in the ancient art of whittling is invited.”
The article that accompanied this ad introduced Wilber Haller and John Thompson. Wilbur and John, who were friends since boyhood, decided to round up other woodcarvers and form a club.
Wilbur claimed that organizing a club would allow them to buy wood cheaper as most suppliers required a minimum order. The minimum order was always too expensive for a single carver. Wilbur always cautioned carvers to start out simple, as carving is one of those crafts that can be done with one knife or hundreds of dollars worth of tools.
Wilbur had been carving since 1936 when he earned his Boy Scout carving merit badge. John always liked to work with wood, but never carved seriously until he noticed a bumper sticker for the National Woodcarvers’ Association on Wilbur’s truck.
It was from this friendship, and John’s suggestion, that they worked together to start Friends Carving Club.
Wilbur and John started the club with a mission of teaching people who were interested in learning the art of woodcarving.
Seven potential carvers attended the first meeting. Early meetings were held at Wilbur’s house and would eventually move to the Port Orange Civic Center and then to its present location at the Port Orange Adult Center Annex. The club has grown from those seven members to more than seventy at its peak.
When the club started there costs were very low so there was a one-time fee of $3 to register. Of course things have changed and over the years dues have climbed to a whopping $20 per year. That’s pretty good considering the cost of joining other organizations today.
Since its inception in 1976 the club has had eight presidents. Over a period of 37 years most clubs would have had four times as many, but Wilbur Haller stuck out the presidents job for 26 years. He attended meetings until his death in 2012 at 90 years of age. His dream of teaching new carvers came true. He and many others have taught countless carvers the art.
Today as in the past Friends Carving Club is a group of carvers, both men and women, of varying skill levels. More important than ones skill is a chance to make friends with other carvers. Each meeting night finds carvers setting around the table carving and sharing their past weeks events and occasionally their life experiences. A few of the wives of members have a table for their skills such as knitting, and other crafts.
Friends Carving Club has become a permanent part of the activities available in the City of Port Orange.
Each year those members who choose to do so display their carvings at our annual carving show sponsored by the City of Port Orange and held at the Port Orange Adult Center. It is a chance for them to show the community their carvings and to introduce others to carving and the club.
From a small beginning with two dedicated men, Friends Carving Club has become the club they dreamed of. A club that welcomes new comers to their group and will always make them feel like they have found a friend in Port Orange, Florida.
Past Presidents of the Friends Carving Club
Wilbur Haller – 1976 – 1999 Art Newbauar - 1999 Conley Branam – 2000 - 2002 John Selvey – 2003 & 2004 Mimi Wallace – 2005 Don Stuhr – 2006 Edward Lutman – 2007 & 2008 Greg Mais – 2009 to 2014 Jim Oehmke - 2014 Walt Petrucci 2015-3/2018 Connie Teeters 4/2018