With a Drafting Pencil, You Could Have Style

Don Degidio: Started in April 1966 as a Bottom-Step Learner in Design

donThey started me in pipe-hangers. I went into nuclear, in Building 197. You designed piping and pipe-hangers, strictly for reactors and engine room. There were 15 people in my department. I was the youngest kid on the block, 25 and married with three kids.

We had long drawing boards – 21 feet, three guys to a board. The supervisors were tough. It was, “Kid, this is what your job is.” The older people, I respected them. I had my associate’s and all, but I didn’t know anything about submarines. These guys were 20, 30 years older than me. They took you under your wing. It was good.

My first boss was Donald Heller. He used to smoke a cigar. One of those Muniemakers on one side of his mouth, his hand in his belt. When an engineer came down to question you on something, he’d jump up. He was always backing you up. Always, always. They used to have Christmas parties right in the plant. There’d be booze and everything. He used to make his Manhattan with Canadian Club. He was German and he’d bring in cheese displays.

I’ll tell you the truth. I like drawing. I was on the drawing board 29 years. That’s where you had your style with the pencil. Then they changed over to computers. Computers – you’re keypunch operators. Anybody can type it in. You can design but it’s not the same. Drawing was personal.

My last day I went in all dressed up. The company gave me a blazer at 40 years. I called John Casey’s office, the president. I says, “I’m retiring after 41 years here and I’d like to talk with him before I leave.” I wanted to meet him.

At 20 past 2, his secretary calls. “Come on up. John Casey wants to see you.” We sat down at the conference table. I says, “We all bitch about this place, but I’ve made a good living here and I was treated well. I can’t complain.” He was a gentleman. I just wanted to say good-bye.