Station: [8] The Apprentice Josef Maier

The people who ran the workshop in Altheim were special. So it stands to reason that any apprentice trained here would go far one day! Josef Maier's work is commemorated here, in the annexe to the Tinkerers’ Workshop.

Josef hailed from the town of Bruckfelden and was seventeen when he was apprenticed to the Widmers by his father in 1938.

He was born in 1921 – the sixth of twelve children. According to family tradition, he was intensely interested in wheels, old bits of iron and engineering even as a child.

In the Widmers' universal workshop, Josef Maier was in his element. He found himself having to deal with the widest possible range of questions, jobs and solutions. He experienced first hand how machines worked and what made them break down. He understood and gained a thorough insight into their workings and modes of operation. In addition to his work in the workshop and his apprenticeship, Josef Maier spent all his free time making things and generally tinkering.

Once, when Karl Widmer the younger was asked how satisfied he was with his apprentice, he came up with a telling description:

"He’s a good worker, but first of all, he always thinks about how to do things better and more easily!

Josef Maier’s journeyman's piece attracted a lot of attention: it was a ball bearing housing for a six-cylinder engine, plus a crankshaft without pistons. He made the pieces with great precision on the Altheim workshop’s lathe and planer. At first, the examiners thought that was impossible, until they learnt otherwise.

But Josef Maier’s real passion was flying. By the age of 16, he was already building his own glider and launching himself off a grassy slope in Bruckfelden. Later, he experimented with a motorcycle engine, which he installed in an aircraft made of wood and sheet metal – but it sadly didn’t work. The engine was underpowered, so the craft was unable to take off.

All depictions: © Gemeinde Fricklingen