Jens Erik Malthesen is the first mason in MT Højgaard Danmark to achieve the Royal Medal of Reward after nearly 45 years with the company. Here, Jens talks about the first paycheck, beers in the site hut, and the colleague whose temper cost three broken fingers.
- I’ve never really cared about the money or the commission. I’ve always focused on having a nice day with lots of personal contact with costumers and residents.
A lot of things have to come together for someone to stay in the same company for as many years as me. Of course, the company must be happy with you, but you need to be happy with the company as well. I also believe that it’s important to bring a good mood to work every day. That part gets easier when you have good colleagues, and I’ve had that since 1976.
I finished my apprenticeship as a mason in 1976 and got my first job with Jørgen & Thanild which was later bought by Højgaard Schultz. Recently, I found my first paychecks where I could see that I started with an hourly rate of 30,5 kroner. That corresponded to around 8.000 kroner a month.
The body said no to epoxy
For the first 20 years, I worked with epoxy floors. It was an interesting material to work with. I did all kinds of floors from factory and housing floors to slippery road tracks all over the country. But in the end, my body had enough, and I started getting allergic reactions to epoxy. So, I switched to MT Højgaard’s service department where I stayed until my retirement last spring.
We did the small jobs in the service department, and those are the jobs I like the best. We often worked for housing associations where we had close contact with the residents. Or we could get sent to the large sites when the commission masons had finished to take care of the last missing pieces.
I’ve never really cared about the money or the commission. I’ve always focused on having a nice day with lots of personal contact with costumers and residents. That’s what I think is most enjoyable.
- Retirement is a new thing for me, but I’m never bored. My wife and I have a big house with a garden that needs attention.
A temper cost three broken fingers
Luckily, a lot has happened in terms of working environment. One of the clearest memories from my past is from the 80’s when I was refurbishing an old poorhouse. We had a guy named Laurits in the work gang. He was waiting for a crane to come down so he could clasp the mortar bucket to the hook. But he had the sun in his eyes, and the hook hit him and split his eyebrow. Laurits got so angry that he hit the hook which resulted in three broken fingers. It was intense when it happened, but after a while we all smiled about it including Laurits.
The incident with Laurits would never happen today. Construction has become a lot safer even though we work a lot faster. For the last couple of years, I sometimes thought things went too fast. It’s a good thing that we can finish the projects quickly, but I missed the time in the site hut where we used to talk things through before we started. We don’t do that a lot anymore, and we certainly don’t do it like in the old times where we used to have a beer when we planned the jobs. But things change, and within masonry most of it is for the better.
No to most projects
Retirement is a new thing for me, but I’m never bored. My wife and I have a big house with a garden that needs attention. We also enjoy our summer cabin where I have a lot of projects going on, and there’s also the children and grandchildren. I’ve also told my old father that he can call me if he needs help. I don’t want to sit and wait for the world to come to me. That makes you waste away.
I need action in my life. But not too much. A lot of my friends and family have discovered that I’m retired, and they ask me to help with all kinds of projects at their houses. But I often tell them no. I want to be able to enjoy my life.