Nobody Knew How Fast Nuclear Would Grow
George Lucas: Started in Ships Management in the Fall of 1953
A submarine is so complex and so tight. If some trade, say the pipefitters, wants to get in and get their work done and to hell with everybody else, you get out of sequence. You just ended up ripping stuff out.
They had weekly production meetings for the various ships under construction. I was known to be a problem to the trades. I’d say, “The pipe shop and the electricians are out of sequence. The pipe bank is getting in and blocking out where the cable bank has to go.” The head of the pipe shop, he’d say, “Goddamn college kid!” I was not very well-liked many times.
They didn’t have computers or even a planning department in the early days. And the head of the trades in the shipyard were all strong-willed. Their job was to get the job done. It was a constant flap. Everybody wanted to blame somebody else.
Nobody recognized how fast nuclear would grow into the program that it did. They experimented with the reactor plant and the shape of the hull. You’d build something and you no sooner got it built and they had an improvement. So the next boat had to be modified. They gradually implemented a scheduling process and standardized processes.
They then started building classes of ships – looking at mass production. You could save money doing the same thing instead of each boat being custom.
It was not unusual to be working long hours. I remember my timecard. My boss, Hillman Marshall, called me in when I was new. “I see you put down 40 hours. You didn’t work 40 hours. You worked about 60.” I said, “That was on my own, sir. I’m trying to learn.” I was my own worst enemy. It was hard on my family.
Electric Boat was good to me. I worked hard but they reciprocated. I cherished the friendships and I loved the work.