April 25, 2012

WORK WHITE PEOPLE WON'T DO:

Immigrant finds joy of life in historic masonry work (Art Carey, 4/23/12, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Zoltan Kovacs is a big, strapping man -- 6-foot-4, 230 pounds -- with a body fit for his work. He is a stonemason. The other day, I watched him and a couple of helpers wrestle a 400-pound slab of rock into position atop a 16-foot chimney he rebuilt on a 19th-century house in Haverford.

Kovacs, 38, came to the United States from Hungary when he was 21. As a teenager, he was a slip of a lad. He was a distance runner who competed in marathons and triathlons. With his lanky body and long limbs, he was also an excellent swimmer. He attended an Olympic training school, and in 1990 when he was 16, he placed second in the freestyle in the Hungarian nationals.

He came to America because he was fascinated by the New World. He also had relatives here -- a great-uncle and a great-grandmother who lived in Philadelphia. Because of his interest in stonework, he was impressed by the beautifully built stone houses in Germantown, Mount Airy, and Chestnut Hill.

He had learned the craft in the old country, in the village of Gyor on the border between Austria and Hungary, in the traditional way -- by apprenticing himself to a master, in this case, his grandfather, Charles.

He began shadowing him when he was only 5, watching him closely, handing him tools. He was amazed by his grandfather's skill with a chisel, the way he could transform an inchoate chunk of stone into an ornate cornerstone or sculpt the features of a face.

This is the kind of craft more American boys should learn instead of going to college.  
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Posted by at April 25, 2012 5:06 AM
  

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