A Remembrance of the Past; Building for the Future." ~ Eve Eckert Koehler
Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors
On becoming a
By Adam Martini (Trenton
Donauschwaben Nachrichten, April-June 2003) Translation by son, Hans Martini
I was 15 years old and had just completed the
mandatory part of my schooling. I was a
young teenager and had to decide on a profession or
if I wanted to pursue further academic studies.
After some thought, I decided on a career as a
craftsman. This dovetailed quite nicely with our
family's background: my father and grandfather were
both craftsmen and once had their own
woodworking business back in Bukin, Yugoslavia
In Austria, the way one went about learning to become a woodworker - or
any other profession - was to find an apprentice
position at a master craftsman's workshop.
Happily, I easily found such a place at the firm of
"Eduard Schrott" in the town of Ostermiething.
The course of training would last for three years. In that time span, I
would work for 48 hours a week with a seven week
technical training course each year in the
town of Mattighofen, Upper Austria. For other
students in other areas, one would attend the
technical school once a week. This was often
the case in larger towns.
The first few months are by far the most difficult time for a "Lehrling",
a student craftsman candidate. To me it seemed like
some kind of military boot camp. In the
workshop where I was placed there were nine
journeymen (fully trained craftsmen), two
apprentices, and the master craftsman/boss.
There was also a painter and his assistant on
staff. The journeymen behaved like sergeants
and the master craftsman like a general! You can
imagine what that must have been like for the lowly
That first year found me often holding a broom in hand and being the butt
of practical jokes, which caused great amusement in
the shop. On the other hand, woe to the
apprentice who did not find the right tool quickly
enough, the journeymen could be most heartless. It
behooved one to find all one could about every facet
of the work, as quickly as possible! That first
year was for most apprentices the most difficult
time and, for a few, a psychologically overwhelming
time. Consequently, some would drop out and find
another line of work.
Following that terrible first year - a student's
baptism of fire, so to speak - things did get
better. One was thankful that the journeymen then
had a new apprentice to pick on!
The life of a student craftsman changed dramatically
in the second year. For instance, I received a
workbench and my own set of tools. I would work
under a senior craftsman (called an "Obhut") and was
located right near his work area. I would glue
boards together, sand them, and do various other
jobs for the senior journeyman. It was far more
interesting work though there was constant pressure
from the other journeymen who would find every
opportunity to make the student "feel the pain". I cannot imagine anything remotely similar occurring
in today's day and age.
During the third year, things would again change
dramatically. I received my own small projects to
complete and was allowed to use all of the machines
in the workshop. Although I was often just as
productive as a journeyman, there was no doubt I was
still low man on the totem pole. I still had to
greet them personally and, no matter where we were,
I had to play "go-fer" whenever they asked. This
meant not only for things like getting wood for
their projects but also to run and buy them
Slowly the journeymen had to make room for the third
year apprentice, however, as the relationship would
dramatically change after the year-end examination
was successfully completed. The former greenhorn
and go-fer, would then become a work colleague.
This would be especially difficult for the more
senior of the journeymen to accept.
As already mentioned, the apprentice had to attend
seven weeks' worth of technical training. There
many students gathered from a variety of
professions: mechanics, masons, carpenters, etc.
The technical school was also a boarding school that
would be just like a home away from home for all of
us. Of course, we were young guys "feeling our
oats", as it were, so strict rules were in place to
maintain control and order. From the time one got
up in the morning until "lights out", everything was
strictly regulated. Our dorm rooms slept six, with
three bunk beds per unit. Meals were taken en masse
in a large cafeteria. However, each profession had
its own lecture room and workshop where proper
techniques would be demonstrated and practiced.
[Published at DVHH.org 7 Jan
2005 by Jody McKim Pharr]