When Jim Fischer returned to Kokomo in 1947 after serving in Japan during World War II, he had two options: start working in a factory or help out his uncle as a mason laying brick, granite and stone.
He could have made a lot more money hiring on at Delco after the war, but he decided to begin an apprenticeship to become a mason. His starting wage was 98 cents an hour.
“I had a chance to go to the factory, but I didn’t want to sit at a desk or work inside,” Fischer said. “I’d rather have the fresh air and be outside.”
Over 60 years later, Fischer said he doesn’t regret that decision. In fact, the 86-year-old mason is still working and his craftsmanship is still sought by foremen and construction companies all over the state.
On Monday, Fischer was putting his six decades of experience to use at the Howard County Historical Society repairing the stone steps leading up to the Seiberling Mansion on Walnut Street.
Wearing a loose sweater and jeans, he meticulously replaced the historic pieces of stone along the stairs originally laid down in 1891.
“It’s like a jigsaw puzzle,” he said. “We’re just trying to put it all back together. When we’re all done, it will be back to its original form.”
Take a drive around Kokomo, and it would be tough not to see a building or house that Fischer built or helped build over the last 60 years. After he founded Fischer Masonry in 1962, his company built a slew of commercial properties on the south side of the city, like the one that houses Key Bank on Southway Boulevard.
But, he said, a lot of the buildings he constructed don’t exist anymore, like King’s Crown Motel that stood along U.S. 31 or the old Leath Furniture building.