New life for Preston’s wooden men: Valley couple restores long-neglected logger sign | Photo gallery

Lee, a seven-year Preston resident, points out some of the decay in the sign that he and his wife Dawn recently restored. He could poke right through some parts of the wooden loggers atop the sign.  - Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo
Lee, a seven-year Preston resident, points out some of the decay in the sign that he and his wife Dawn recently restored. He could poke right through some parts of the wooden loggers atop the sign.
— image credit: Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo

When a pumpkin disappeared from a Preston couple’s back deck earlier this month, they noticed its absence right away.

Dawn, who prefers to keep her last name to herself, asked husband Lee, “Where’s my pumpkin?” They found it, when they reviewed their security camera footage and saw a bear cub stroll up to their house, help himself to the pumpkin, and roll it around on the ground for a while before disappearing with it behind a building. He was back a few minutes later, looking for more.

The missing pumpkin probably didn’t fare as well as another absence that both Lee and Dawn noted in their community.

“It’s been there forever,” Lee said, of the wooden Preston sign posted at the intersection of State Route 202 and the Upper Preston Road. The sign features two loggers holding a real crosscut saw above the name of the community and a few tiles listing some of its businesses, all long since gone. What was missing from the sign, at first, was maintenance.

“Just driving by, you couldn’t really see how deteriorated the men were getting. Then one day, their blade fell,” Lee said.

“That’s when we jumped into action, of course too late!” he laughed.

Dawn said they’d seen other people clearing out the weeds around the sign, but never working on the sign itself, until the day Lee had a day off.

“When I came home, he told me, ‘I took the men down,’” Dawn said, and explained his plans to restore them. She wasn’t at all surprised, knowing Lee.

“I’ve always been interested in history,” he said. “I’m a third generation homebuilder, and I don’t build homes any more, but … preserving things and making sure they last has always been important to me… I just hated to see it falling apart.”

Lee is also hoping to learn about the sign, including who created it and when it was installed, because in the entire process of removing and restoring the sign, the couple were never challenged about it.

“Nobody stopped us, either time,” said Dawn. “When we were putting it up again, one lady stopped and asked ‘Do you need a saw? Because I have one at home’.”

They didn’t need a saw, because Lee had cleaned up the existing one, and painted it with rust protection to help it last. He also made sure the new loggers — the couple called them “the men” or “the Preston men” — were built to last.

“These were made of plywood, which doesn’t do very well in this weather” Lee said, gesturing to the retired loggers, currently mounted on a board in his home. “So I made them out of cedar.”

Using the old men as models, Lee measured, traced and cut new outlines of the loggers, which Dawn then painted after meticulous color-matching efforts. They had to use some creative license on one of the men, whose foot had broken off, and Lee added supports for the loggers’ arms, which had held the full weight of the saw. Then they sealed the pieces against the elements with many, many applications of clear-coat.

The couple disagree on how long the project took them, start to finish, guessing between eight months to over a year. The work itself took about a week, both said, but fitting it in with their work and other obligations was challenging at times.

“Our friend thought we were crazy,” Dawn recalled. “He said, ‘Aren’t you guys busy enough?’”

By then, though, they were almost done with the men, and that friend helped put them back up.

“They went right up, into their outlines on the sign,” said Lee. “The dilemma now is what to do with the rest of the sign.”

He’d like to see other businesses “hang their shingles” on the sign, but isn’t sure what the appropriate action for the old tiles is — “do you take the old ones down, although they’re historical?” he wondered.

Lee also wants to repaint the stumps, carved in relief on either side of the sign. They are also the platforms for the loggers, and would be an easy, logical project to tackle next. Dawn, meanwhile, would like to clean up the landscaping around the sign. Neither one feels any real ownership of the sign, no more than any other community member, at least.

“We just saw a sign that needed a little TLC,” said Dawn, “and we had the same thought.”


Above, the restored sign’s colors greet travelers at the intersection of State Route 202 and the Upper Preston Road.

In a closer look, wear and tear on the Preston men is easy to see.

One of the feet fell off of Preston's historic sign, and the fixers had to get creative about drawing a new one.

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