1896 – 1989

“He was always in the company, day and night. He did everything: bought wood, sold the products, took the money, designed the machines and of course the skis, too.” This is how Maria Fischer described her husband, Josef Fischer. Tirelessly dynamic, enterprising and adventurous: these were the qualities which set the founder of the Fischer ski factory apart from the rest.

Josef Fischer is born on 31 January 1896 at Obereitzing 6 not far from Ried. Both parents come from a humble background. His grandfather on his father’s side owns a small farm holding, his grandfather on his mother’s side is a cobbler. Josef Fischer attends primary school for four years, after which the local wagon maker takes him on as an apprentice. Life as an apprentice at the beginning of the 20th century is hard. “He was constantly hungry. If ever there was a smear of butter on the bread it came from the handle of the butter churn. This butter was considered unfit for consumption because it was too dirty,” says daughter Selma, talking about the hardship her father faced as he grew up. The parents buy a small house with some farmland. Josef Fischer has already completed his apprenticeship at this time. His state of health, however, is worryingly poor and he is unfit for any form of work. “He won’t last long anyway,” is the less than sympathetic consensus. Young Josef spends all his time just hanging around in front of the house. When a stranger passes by one day and asks what is wrong with the young boy, he receives the laconic answer: “He’s beyond help.” The stranger takes him with him to Vienna and puts him in a sanatorium for treatment. Josef Fischer returns to Ried a healthy young man. The stranger disappears and Josef Fischer makes his own way in life from now on.

The qualified wagon maker does piece work at the Steyr-Werken. He earns a good wage and is able to put some money aside. Back in Ried he spends a couple of years working as a journeyman at Schmied-Wagner in the part of Ried known as “Kaltes Eck”. His wish is to earn more, which is why he wants to change to the toy-making section of the Wilflingseder company in Ried. However, the company has no vacancy for him and this prompts Josef Fischer to make the decision in 1924 to start up his own business. It is roughly at the same time that he marries Maria Stiftner. “We had to get married,” explains “Mama” Fischer (as she was lovingly referred to), some time later. The couple have three children: daughters Erna and Selma and son Josef. Maria Fischer dies on 20 February 1989 at the age of 93. Ernest Simharl, one of Fischer’s most influential employees, pays tribute to “Mama” in his speech at the funeral: “I am not in a position to describe this remarkable lady as she deserves. Because it is so difficult to put into words such a humble yet strong and fulfilling life. She has departed this life as the widow of the founder of the Fischer ski factory, the widow of an industrialist. But not a single one of us ever saw her act as if she was something special or better. Her character was more about contributing to the significant rise of the company with unobtrusive self-confidence while remaining modest.”

Josef Fischer works relentlessly and gives his all for the company. This increasingly takes its toll on the health of the heavy smoker. It is not long before he is able to stand only with the aid of a supporting corset. The founder of the Fischer ski factory dies of a heart attack in Lech am Arlberg on 19 February 1959 aged 63.

Further stories 1924-1958