Sunday, May 16, 2010









Indianapolis Zoo Carousel

“Hey, Bruce! How’s everything?”

“Oh, Hi, Brent! Just wrapping things up here at home before I go to “student-driver, on-the-road portion of Truck Driving School. The highway is beckoning, you know!”

“Yeah…..uhmmmmmmm… Well……. I know that the plan was for me to also go to Truck Driving School so that we can team drive a big rig….but, you see, I have this carousel opportunity….”

“Hold your horses right now! I’m getting off that merry-go-round, and you know it! I am absolutely, irrevocably, and adamantly done with carousels! I’m burned out on it after over twenty years of carving carousel figures, and I AM DONE WITH IT!!!

“Just hear me out, OK?”

“OK, what you got spinning??

“A guy from TC Enterprises just got in touch with me, and he asked me to create twenty zoo-themed carousel figures for a new carousel at the Indianapolis Zoo. He sounds sincere…desperate even. It seems that the Indy Zoo insists that the ONLY ones they want for this project are the White twins. They will allow us the artistic liberty to design the figures as we want. Twenty of them and two chariots. We are in a position to get a fair price for them. The catch is that the Indy Zoo wants to have the carousel operational in time for Spring Break – only six months away.”

“Oh, OK…I know about this. Last month I was contacted by the Operations Director of the Indianapolis Zoo, Tim Savona, in regards to creating a new carousel for them. God sure has a sense of humor, because this was only two days before I was to start training with Schneider Transport to begin a new career as a truck driver. Something about a profit share agreement.”

“Yeah! That’s it. You must have asked the guy to get in touch with me… It seems that Tim must have formed a profit-share agreement with Ted Shaw, who grew up running a carousel for a traveling carnival, or something like that, and has since become wealthy in the concessions business for tourist attractions. Anyway, it seems that Tim has insisted to Ted that only Bruce and Brent can create the zoo-themed carousel rides that he wants for the Indianapolis Zoo….in time for Spring Break…..”

“Are you crazy! That’s only six months from now! In six months we are supposed to design, carve, make molds, cast, prep, paint and install twenty carousel figures and two chariots! THAT’S INSANE!!! That is the amount of time that most people take to simply carve one carousel figure!”

“I may be crazy, but I have a crazy twin brother, too. Together we can do this. Come on…let’s get carousel crazy one more time!”

Perhaps I should back up a bit and mention about the phone call from Ted Shaw.

“Good morning, Brent White, Comptroller, Naval Northwest Dental Region speaking. This is a non-secure line. May I help you?”

“Uh, I think I have a wrong number. I’m trying to reach Brent White the Carousel Carver.”

“Hold on a minute. Let me change hats and I’ll call you back on my cell phone.”

You see, three month earlier I had resigned my job as Director for the Theler Community Center and Wetlands Preserve, as well as my teaching gig at the Northwest College of Art to resume the Chief Financial Officer (Comptroller) job I had held while on active duty with the U.S. Navy. The Iraqi War was necessitating the reshuffling of Navy Medicine resources. Because U.S. Navy Healthcare Finance is a fairly narrow specialty, and I had actually held this specific job, and I was still in the area, I had received the following phone call:

“Brent! How are you! This is Marilyn. Hey, the Commanding Officer asked me to give you a call and request for you to apply for the Comptroller job here at the Naval Northwest Dental Region. I told him that you were a wizard at the job (an obvious exaggeration) and I know that you have a patriotic bone in your head that will compel you to answer the call to duty. So what do you think? The command, and your country, really needs you right now…”

Marilyn was right, I do have this patriotic bone in my head, so I resigned my jobs at the Theler Center and at the Northwest College of Art, and took the Comptroller gig. Little had I known that my primary job as Comptroller for the Naval Northwest Dental Region was to transfer all financial and supply operations to the Naval Northwest Medical Region. This bombshell had been dropped on me only a month after taking the job, so, three months later I was faced with imminent unemployment. The Theler Center had already hired a new Director, and the Northwest College of Art had already hired three different people to teach the three classes I had taught there. This is why Bruce and I had cooked up the scheme to go to truck driving school and team drive together. Although Bruce was truly excited about dropping out of the carousel business and taking to the highways, I had serious reservations about driving a truck for a living…and I still had the carousel crazies.

But how had I gotten into the crazy world of carousel carving in the first place? For the answer to this, I have to take you back to a phone call I had received from Bruce, nearly twenty years previously.

“Good morning, Ensign White, Fiscal Officer, Naval Hospital, Charleston, this is a non-secure line, how can I help you?”

“Hey Brent! This is Bruce! I need your help! I have a commission to carve the plug for the new Wonder Toys spring rocking horse, but I’m swamped. The only way I can catch the deadline is if I clone myself. I can’t do that, but I do have an identical twin brother….”

“Bruce! Are you crazy! I haven’t been near a horse in years. The last time I did any woodcarving was when I cut that sword out of plywood to play ‘Hagar the Horrible’ when we were kids. So what is your scheme this time?”

“OK, Brent, I’ll fax the design – here’s what you do…”

And with this call I had been inducted into the crazy world of carousel carving.

To make a long story short, I did convince Bruce to delay is career as a truck driver (he eventually became a tour bus driver for Village Tours, operating out of Wichita, Kansas) and to help me with Indianapolis Zoo Carousel project. In order to do the job in six months, we had to enlist a lot of help. Bruce’s son, Zachary, made the molds for the carousel figures that Bruce had done previously for other carousel projects. Our nephew, Brandon Ramsey, to made molds of the carousel figures I would created specifically for this carousel. Our daughters (twin cousins), Charity Sadler and Brianna Mello, painted the carousel figures, original and replicas, with some help from Raven ___________ and Kim _____________. Along the way, several of our friends helped out in various capacities - we could not have completed the job on time without their help. Notable among these are Jim__________, Colleen ___________, Nick______________, Ami __________, and several other of Bruce’s friends. A special thank you is owed to the Director of the Patee House Museum, Jim Chicolte, who allowed Bruce to use zoo-themed carousel figures from the carousel Bruce had donated to make molds to cast figures for the Indianapolis Zoo Carousel. Most importantly, the help of our wives, Cindy and Karen, who kept us on even keels during the crests and troughs of our creative tsunami.

This project involved more than merely making twenty carousel animals and two carousel benches. Nine of the carousel animals would be specific to this carousel, so had to be dreamed up, carved, and then molded and cast.

Brent was responsible for dreaming up, carving, making the molds and then painting both the originals (which would be auctioned off by the Indianapolis Zoo as a fundraiser) and the replicas (which would actually go on the carousel) of the Seahorse, Seal, Penguin, Butterfly, Kodiak Bear, and Bird of Paradise Bench (x2).

Bruce was responsible for dreaming up, carving, making the molds and then painting the originals and replicas of the Tiger, Polar Bear, Ostrich. Bruce had previously created an Eagle for the San Jose Arena Carousel, but chose to create a new Eagle for the Indy Zoo Carousel. Bruce had previously carved a Dolphin carousel figure for his son, Zachary, so Zachary made a mold of his carousel figure for this carousel project.


Bruce had previously created several zoo-themed carousel figures for Chance Rides, and still owns the copyright for them. These include a Hummingbird, Shark, and Wolf for the San Jose Arena Carousel, and a Rhinoceros and Elephant for their Endangered Species line of carousel figures,

Brent had previously created a Gorilla, under Bruce’s expert guidance, as part of the Endangered Species line. Replicas of these carousel figures previously created for Chance Rides are on the Patee House Museum Carousel, which allowed Zachary to use them to make molds and cast replicas for this project. Because the Indianapolis Zoo wanted two Dolphins, two Gorillas, and two Elephants for their carousel, Zachary cast two replicas, each, of these two carousel figures.

Bruce had previously created a Lion for Lion Country Safari under contract to Carousels USA, a replica of which was on the Patee House museum. Zachary used this replica to make the mold and cast the Lion, but because a major donor wanted an original of the Lion, Brent recreated a woodcarving of the Lion for the donor (who also bought several other of the originals in the Indianapolis Zoo fundraiser).

1 comment:

amy said...

I played a very minor roll in the help of this carousel. I was a student at Northwest College of Art where Bent taught my class for a year. We went to watch him working on the carousels one day as a field trip for our sculpture class, and i was so intrigued by the process, that i asked to help! I didn't do much, very minor touch ups, but it was an experience of a life time!!
amy doty