I Was Directing Traffic in the Sail

Bruce Caron: Started in 1958 as a Machinist; Retired as a Supervisor

bruceI had an advantage because I was able to read blueprints. I learned that in trade school. When I walked in at night, they would give me a blueprint. However you read that blueprint, it was also our shop order.

If it called for me to make shims, the guy would write me out a requisition. I would go to the storehouse, get the material and start making shims. But if it called for us to put an assembly in, that assembly was supposedly available so you could go get it and start working. We were basically on our own.

There were no computers. Everything was by hand. The day shift would leave me notes on the job. Then we started lapping over so we could communicate. If you wanted to find something, you went and you tracked it down. That was a knack that a lot of people had. They knew how to find stuff. Life was different. You built the submarine the way you knew how.

Once the Thresher went down, that eventually changed the whole way of doing business. Before, if something didn’t fit we’d make it fit and then we’d go get engineering. They’d come down and say, “Yeah, that looks good.” After Thresher, they said, “What’s on this paper you do. If you don’t do it, you go through this procedure.” How did we feel about it? We did what we were told, that’s all. You had to wean off of the way you did work.

In 1965 I became a planner. My boss put me on salary, never even asked me. I expedited, laid out work, chased material. We had five, six submarines going at the same time. We had quite a bit happening. I was in the sail. Periscopes, fairwater planes. It becomes a congested area with everybody trying to work in there.

So I laid it all out for them. Electricians would go in there. Machinists there, shipfitters here. I was directing traffic – I liked the work.

I got along good with the people. That’s what I missed the most when I left. If you treated them halfway decent, they were good. If you didn’t, then you’d pay.