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Clay Tiles, Giant Beets and Adobe Bricks: Reminiscences of an SBTHP Volunteer

This is the first in a new series of blog posts we think you will enjoy called “Then and Now,”  where we check in with long-time current volunteers and former interns and volunteers about their work with SBTHP.

by Josh Figueroa

Anacapa School students Wishiah Roper, Josh Figueroa and Aubrey Cazabat, and Westmont College student Amanda Lyons, making roof tiles. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

I started working at the Presidio in the fall of my ninth grade year at the Anacapa School. I worked as an intern with three of my fellow students under the direction of Michael Imwalle of the Archeology Department at SBTHP. My peers and I mostly dealt with sifting, throwing, and molding clay to produce floor tiles and roof tiles. I continued the internship throughout the rest of the year and started it up again in my eleventh grade year. By the second semester, I was the only intern in the program from Anacapa, which delegated new roles to my job. I worked with clay only a few more times from that moment on, as my chief responsibility turned into developing and caring for the heritage garden in the northeast corner of the Presidio. At the time, the garden was mostly just a bed of weeds, making the cleanup long and arduous, but ultimately rewarding. I had the pleasure of developing new plantings for the garden right from the seedling stage, including beans, tomatoes, gourds, wheat, and chilies.

Josh and the Giant Beet: at the Presidio's northeast corner garden. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

In the summer of my eleventh grade year, I continued to volunteer my time at the Presidio. I took an active role in assisting the 2010 Archaeological Field School in their endeavors to excavate and document findings in the second defense wall area.

I also volunteered for the CASA (Cultural Activities and Summer Adventures) day camp, which provided a fun and educational two-week experience for children from the local housing authority residences. I continued to volunteer for SBTHP periodically throughout my twelfth-grade year, and was awarded a certificate of appreciation by the SBTHP at their  48th Annual Meeting and Community Awards Presentation for my volunteer work.

Josh with participants in the 2010 Archaeological Field School. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

This past semester, I have been in Portland, Oregon attending Lewis & Clark College. I am currently undeclared, but am interested in pursuing sociology or psychology as a possible major. Upon returning to Santa Barbara for my winter break, I found plenty of work and volunteer opportunities at the Presidio. For the annual Las Posadas celebration, I assisted in readying the food and refreshments for the reception. I also had the fun opportunity to be the Piñata operator for the kids that evening.

Josh (center) with fellow award winners Joyce and Walter Douglas, Greg Hind, Sandi Pierce (from Cate School) and David Bolton at the 2011 SBTHP Annual Meeting. Photo by Clint Weisman.

The most labor-intensive opportunity I had this break was working on the reconstruction of the Presidio’s west defense wall. An ongoing project at the Presidio, the defense wall is made almost entirely out of genuine adobe brick. With thousands of bricks already in place, it is still underway, partly due to the labor-intensive process of making adobe bricks. Alongside other workers, my role in the construction work was sifting several metric tons of dirt, as well as placing mixtures of dirt, straw, and oil in brick molds throughout the parade ground and back of the Presidio. After seven days of work we had successfully molded almost two thousand adobe bricks.

Loading mud for bricks, December 2011. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

I have been with the Presidio since I was 14, and I could not have found a better place to volunteer through high school. I have gotten to know and grow up with the wonderful staff and friends at the Presidio, as well as obtain valuable work experience in both physical work and in an office environment, and I feel quite lucky for it. I’m back in Oregon, but I look forward to returning to Santa Barbara in May and continuing my work with SBTHP.

Josh Figueroa has been volunteering at SBTHP for five years.  We all enjoyed seeing him over his winter break.  Thank you Josh, we sincerely appreciate your hard work and dedication.  Come back soon. 

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