My Grandfather Austin led a varied life-more interesting than most I suppose. That's him in the white cap, peering from behind the turtle. Though he spent most of his life working for the architect Alden Dow, he'd also been a carnival worker, carpenter, and oilfield roustabout.
He also loved a good story. So much the better if it was a tall tale. I wish I'd had the wit to write them down while he was still alive. This one, at least, I remember.
It was the height of the depression, and he was living on the Gulf Coast of Texas; Galveston I believe. He'd planned to go to lunch with a friend who worked as foreman at a shipyard. When he got there, he found about fifty men sitting around the yard office on their toolboxes. My grandfather went in and asked his friend what that was about.
The yard had openings for a couple of ship's carpenters-someone to do interior cabinetry. All of these people had come to apply for the jobs. It was the foeman's job to sort out the ship's carpenters from the rest. Remember, this was the depression and folks were desperate enough for work that they might claim experience they didn't have. My grandfather figured lunch was out of the question, as the foreman could never interview that many people in time.
Not so, he said. And with that, they went out into the yard. The foreman told the carpenters to stand and open their tool boxes. Within a few minutes he'd dismissed all but a few of the carpenters. The remaining few were quickly interviewed. My grandfather was curious to know what it was about the tool boxes that made the difference. The answer was simple it seemed. Any man with a framing square and no bevel gage was "a barn carpenter". A man with several bevel gages was more likely to have boat building experience.