Of course it shows some signs of wear, but I can still rely upon it to carry out its duties every day, without spilling even one drop of water – my watering can. And what makes the trusty watering can that I am going to tell you about here all the more special is that I made it myself over 50 years ago! This is how it happened:
In 1963, I decided to complete an apprenticeship to become a sheet metal worker and sent applications to several companies in Ludwigsburg. I ended up with three offers and had to decide where I wanted to complete my training. I could tell you that I went through a complicated thought process, weighing up the pros and cons of each of the companies. In actual fact, my decision process was much more pragmatic: MANN+HUMMEL, unlike the other two companies, was located right around the corner from my flat. Choosing them would mean an extra half an hour of sleep in the mornings – an almost unbeatable argument. Plus, I had a neighbour who worked at MANN+HUMMEL and who spoke very highly of the company, even entrusting it with his two daughters for their commercial apprenticeships. My decision was clear: I signed the apprenticeship agreement at Hindenburgstraße.
Back then, the actual training workshop with our supervisor was still in the district of Oßweil. Every day, I made the 15-minute journey to the large hall, trekking across fields and meadows and passing a number of plant nurseries on the way. Once there, my eight companions and I learned everything we needed to know to be a sheet metal worker and so much more. For example, each week one apprentice in their first year was responsible for fetching our lunch every day from the canteen at Hindenburgstraße. They would use a small electric car designed for two people for this and then have to serve the food with one of the kitchen assistants. This job was extremely popular because it involved riding around in the electric car for about an hour and a half – and of course you didn’t have to work during that time.
In 1964, during the second year of our apprenticeship, there was an intermediate examination in which the watering can played a major role. By making a watering can for flowers, we first had to show that we had mastered all of the tasks an apprenticeship to become a sheet metal worker entails. So we started off with the design drawing, which was followed by cutting the individual pieces, bending, creating and coating wire beading, and finally soldering. The body and spout were especially difficult because they had to be bent manually and were supposed to end up in a nice oval shape. To do this, we filled liquid rosin into the pipes that had been made beforehand, avoiding bubbles as far as possible, and waited until it was almost cool. We then slowly bent the pipes over our knees to give them the desired shape. The rosin prevented kinks appearing in the metal which would have led to us losing points later on. In the end, I passed this examination with a score of 85 points out of 100 and I was really happy with this result – after all, the watering can is still watertight to this day. That’s what I call ‘real MANN+HUMMEL quality’!
Looking back, this time was really special for me not only because I had a lot of fun, but also because it first brought my true interest in sheet metal to light. This was my foundation for more than 50 years at MANN+HUMMEL, during which time I was able to continue my development thanks to A level evening classes and a technical apprenticeship in sheet metal forming. And now I can look back with satisfaction, be it on the 22 years I was responsible for stamping in Marklkofen or my time in charge of sheet metal air filter production at Plant 2 in Ludwigsburg until I left in October 2013. My personal highlights were the introduction of laser technology and my role as author of the book ‘Der Prozessbegleiter in Gruppenarbeit (‘The process guide for group work’) which gave me the chance to travel around Germany giving a series of lectures. And of course I can’t forget my watering can, which still reminds me every single day of my fulfilled professional life.