Why We Are Broke

A Jewish Proverb states that “a man who does not teach his son to work, teaches him to steal”. Generally speaking, if a father was a carpenter, his son or at least one of his sons would be taught the skills of carpentry. A wise father may expose his skills to all of his sons and or daughters, but the father will know which child has the DNA makeup to take the spark set a fire in his heart and eventually set the entire world a blaze. After time and space allowed our paths to meet, I couldn’t help but ask myself the question, “Is this why we are broke?’ Carlos T.Vinson, the owner and proprietor of Seven Signs Masonry answers the above question with a resounding “yes.”

Carlos T. Vinson

One could not help but notice the yellow scaffolds at the two story brick business and apartment complex located on one of the city’s main thoroughfares. Like Moses and the burning bush, I drove bye on a regular basis to observed the activity occurring at this site. The scorching heat and humidity of June summer days limited my observations as this tall slender frame of a man would be busy tuck pointing during the coolness of the morning and be gone shortly after noon. You could tell he was working grid by grid as the scaffolds would move gradually until the section of the gridded area had been tuck pointed and eventually the wall was completed. Time takes its toll on everything and a beautiful brick home may end up falling down one brick at a time if the structure is not properly maintained, hence the need for tuck pointing. Tuck pointing is a way of using two contrasting colors of mortar in the mortar joints of brickwork, one color matching he bricks themselves to give an artificial impression that very fine joints have been made. I had already experienced being “ripped off” financially by a previous contractor so this time I was doing my due diligence research before I spent one red cent. After several weeks of observations had passed, I stopped by and made inquiries on the possibility of having my home tuck pointed, or at least the front of the house as this skilled labor intensive work can be very expensive. After being greeted with a firm hand shake Mr. Vinson identified himself as a professional, a master in his craft of masonry work.. He explained how his father, the late Bishop Edward L. Vinson, Sr, had a trowel in his hand before the age of ten and he was now fifty years of age. “I have been doing this for more than 40 years.” Vinson explained. He quickly gave me his business card and let it be known that he had an “A+ Rating with the Better Business Bureau” which was proudly noted on his business card that also highlighted him being a 3rd Generation Brick Mason. “This is how I make a living.” replied Vinson.

Less than three weeks after our hand shake, Mr. Vinson placed me in rotation for his demanding craft and started giving the house a  “facial makeover” as he meticulously used his grinder to remove old mortar and made preparations to leave his signature mark upon this one hundred year-old residence.. “I only get dirty once,” stated Vinson, as somehow, like “superman” he changes his work attire and covers himself almost entirely projecting a” Lawrence of Arabia” effect.  I would later learned that part of his work attire and dress down included “long sleeves” shirts that like his business card ,tout that he has “The Best Hands in the Business” on the back of the shirt as well as “ELV Sr. 1929-2016.” The “ELV” initials represent Mr. Vinson’s father, his mentor and teacher of his craft. The senior Vinson, left a legacy behind for his surviving two sons, eight daughters, and host of grand and great grandchildren that included but not limited to his entrepreneurial abilities.  Bishop Vinson at one time owned and operated six dry cleaners, a part owner of a thriving downtown business, own and operated a laundromat as well as a corner store called E and D Market. To summarized that he was a contractor, businessman and community leader would only be scratching the surface of his life endeavors. The old adage, “like father like son,” appears to be a good exit here. The junior Vinson proudly displays his father’s initials and impact upon his life each and every day as he lives and works. “They call me Coach V,” proclaim the man with the “Best Hand in the Business.” He tells how he coaches basketball to the younger generation in the St. Louis Metro Area and proudly shows the championship trophies, rings and past players who he has invested time and energy in.

Vinson is hoping that he can take his grandson within the next four or five years, when he turns ten and begin to teach him the craft that was taught to him by his father. But like other master craftsmen in such professions as carpentry, plumbing, photography, electrical work ( and others), seldom does one fine a young mentee who is willing to “work” and “learn” from the master. As my mentor, James A. Finley  ( read prior post, dated 12/11/16,  From Shake and Bake to the Super Bowl) was told by his mentor, “the hardest problem is finding another one of YOU.”  This is one more reason  Why We Are Broke?