Retirement for some people means a cessation from all their years of hard work to a more laid-back lifestyle with not much to do but just to relax and take things easy. But for Vernon Wilson, a retired Texaco oil refinery worker and now a blacksmith, retirement simply means changing tyres.
Vernon Wilson, popularly known as “Stove man,” was born in Trinidad. He was the son of a blacksmith. Although he was exposed to the trade from a very young age, it was only after he retired from his job at the oil refinery that his passion for working with iron was aroused.
In an interview with Newsday Tobago, Wilson, who now resides in Tobago, said: “I was born in south Trinidad. My father was a blacksmith. His job was making cartwheels for the sugar factories back in the day. These were the wheels that were used on the carts which transported the sugarcane from the estate to the factory.
"All my life I observed him as he worked tirelessly making and designing these big cartwheels to be sent to the various factories. But, strangely, even though I would look with awe as he would heat the big pieces of iron and steel until they became soft, after which he would then use his hand tools (hammer, anvil and chisel) to shape his masterpieces, yet the thought of me becoming a blacksmith was never in my head. But instead I got a job at the Texaco oil refinery where I worked for many years before retiring.”
It was only after Wilson retired from his job that the passion for becoming a blacksmith really stirred within him. And, with his children all grown up and gone their separate ways, he decided that he would do something different in order to keep himself busy, since his intention after retiring was never to sit back idly and pine away. So, he began working on his creative ideas, which is making and designing stuffs from cast iron. This was the beginning of Wilson’s new journey.
“Even though my father was a blacksmith, he never really taught me how to make or design anything from iron and steel. Everything that I made was from self-taught. I believe that the ability to make these products came naturally for me. Probably the skill was in my genes. One day after I retired from my job, just so I was sitting, and this thought came to me: 'Boy why don’t you start making your own thing and sell.'
"My father never made anything but cartwheels, he was a specialist in this field. I basically had a fair idea of how the work was done. So, I got my raw material, prepared my mold and I started to do my thing. As I started creating my stuffs, the ideas would just flow through my mind. And here I am today, making my own iron utensils,” Wilson said.
Wilson makes stove burners, cooking pots and hubcaps for cars using cast iron. In addition, he repairs stoves, refrigerators and washing machines. He also does interior decorating.
He claims while he enjoys what he does, his real wish is to teach youths in the country how they can create valuable stuffs from cast iron. He said being a blacksmith is a very lucrative trade.
“I will like to get the opportunity to teach the young people how to create valuable stuffs from cast iron. I will also like to teach them how to fix and repair appliances. Being able to create and do things for yourself as an individual, gives you a certain level of confidence and satisfaction.
"I really do not want these trades to die but to continue. The only way that this can happen is by passing the legacy to the next generation so that they can continue with them. And, not only should they learn it themselves but also pass it on to the next generation coming after them,” said Wilson.
He believes that besides having an academic education it is also important for someone to have a skill. He said he strongly believes that everybody was born with a talent, but many people do not know that, so that talent just remains dormant.
“The creator expects us to use our talents not just for our own benefit but also to help somebody out there.”
Wilson still enjoys what he does and has no intention of retiring from this trade anytime soon.
“How can I retire when there is so much to be accomplished in this life. When one is busy doing something that he enjoys there is absolutely no room for retiring. I strongly believe that so long as you have life in your body you can get up and do something. Don’t just stay there and wither! Remember, somebody out there is also waiting on you to create something that they can use.”