The foreman appeared to be near tears. He whined, “If I let you do this and if you fail, then I’m still in trouble and behind schedule. But if for some strange and unexplained reason you can actually make this thing work, then I’m ahead of the game. I guess half a hope is better than no hope.” He handed me the set of plans. He said, “Here use this set of plans while I go write my suicide note.”
I couldn’t tell if he was serious or not, but I quickly gathered the work brigade around me. I drew out on a piece of paper how we should do it. Because We didn’t have concrete to pour and make a foundation, because the concrete would take a couple of days to set up, and we didn’t have time for that, I showed them how we could dig a foundation and fill it with bricks that would make as firm a foundation as anything. Then, we started laying brick. Once Erwin saw how the interior buttress should be bricked, he was incredible. He had two buttresses completed while we other four had the other two only half completed. Then he took over and completed the other two, while we four cleaned the work site. I think if Erwin could have known Grandfather Kaiter, Erwin would have agreed with Grandfather that a person should always be the best he could be.
When the foreman returned, the time was a couple of hours after lunch. He walked all around the buttresses. He ran his hands over them. He said, “Such beautiful work. But it’s no good! It will have to come down. Now I’m in as much of a hole as before.”
I was stunned. I quickly asked, “But why does it have to come down?”
He exclaimed, “If you had been here three day ago, and if you had poured a firm foundation of concrete, then you might have had a chance.”
I almost shouted, “Whoa! Let me show you something.” I ran to my equipment bag. I took out the “BRICKING ENGINEER”S CALCULATIONS. I quickly turned to the page that addressed the use of bricks as foundation fill, and I quickly read the pertinent information to him. Then, I named off four German Castles still standing that had used bricks as foundation material.
He commanded, “Let me see that book!”
I gave it to him, and he went to his plans table. For several minutes he wrote with a pencil. Then, he multiplied and penciled in different stress factors. Finally, he looked at us with wonderment in his eyes. He said simply, “You were right! It works. But, in the future, please be here before the concrete is poured. Concrete is more certain!”
Grinning, I said expectantly, “So?”
He looked at me with a confused look and asked, “So what?”
The grin slipped from my face. I thought my question was obvious. Ruefully, I said him, “We have shaken hands so that if we were successful in solving your dilemma, you would hire us to continue bricking at this construction site!”
“Ah,” he said! “The next round of brick work will begin in two weeks, approximately, and I will hire you for that!”
Dejectedly we all said, “Oh, man!”
I continued to complain, “But we need work today. We need to be able to pay our rent and buy food!”
He replied, “I understand your problem, and I will pay you for your work today. I will also introduce you to another foreman who is facing the same problem that I faced before you came, only he is even farther behind!”
The total construction site was enormous. It was a part of Joseph Stalin’s effort to rebuild Berlin from the Brandenburg Gate on out into what is the new East Germany, and it was part of his effort to embarrass the Western powers. The West could fly in as much food as they wanted, some of which wound up in East Berlin, but when news commentators showed pictures of Berlin, the Communist side would show a beautiful and peaceful East Berlin.
The foreman walked us across the huge construction site to the pay master. We registered, and he signed off on our hours. He took us to a foreman who was redheaded, wore a red beard, and reminded of the redheaded American soldier who wanted to fight my father for my mother. The redheaded foreman was haranguing a work brigade of stone masons. I couldn’t help myself. I was immediately leery of the man.
Our foreman interrupted the redhead’s harang...