My Goal? To be the Best Welder EB Ever Had
George Strutt: Started as a Welder on November 16, 1964
I think my junior year in high school I knew I was going to Electric Boat. My parents couldn’t afford any college. I went over and I took the tests to see which trade would be best. I was offered pipefitting, shipfitting and welding. I asked which one paid more money. Welding did. So I took welding. My whole family worked there – my father, my two brothers and my sister. My father worked in the Welding Department – he was a supervisor so I knew everybody.
On my first day in the yard, I got assigned to the North Yard blocks. It was something like 5 below zero. It was cold and I was welding. I kept welding because it kept me warm. They gave me a job called tacking. As long as the piece held together it was good. You didn’t have to worry about any X-ray inspections or any defects in your weld. So they start you out slow.
I hear this sound, a whistle blow. I didn’t know what it was. Somebody tapped me on the shoulder. He goes, “Aren’t you going to go for lunch?” I said, “Yeah, I’m going to go for lunch!”
I had a real good boss, Eddie Morenzoni. Eddie was a tremendous person. He treated me good. I remember Eddie coming up to me and saying, “You’re going to learn how to weld now. I’m shipping you to the boats.” I was like, “Oh, OK,” because on the boats everything is tight. You’re in all sorts of odd positions and you really learn how to weld. And your work is very closely inspected.
We had some of the best welders at that time. We put the hull sections together. Put all the frames in, welded all the frames. They put me of course on what they call the overhead position. Nobody wants to do the overhead welding. You have everything falling on you. That’s how I got broken in. They give you a section say eight feet long, and that’s your section, inside and out. I had one little defect. I was so proud, and they busted me.
The older guys weren’t afraid to give you their knowledge. There are a lot of different tricks to doing things. We used to do a lot of welding with mirrors. It’s like looking in a mirror and shaving but this time you’re welding and everything’s the opposite way. It takes a lot of talent. Later I used to tell the welders when I taught them, you learn to weld at EB and you can weld anywhere because of the type of work that we did – especially if you’re a mirror welder.
We used to do what we called back gouging. You’d heat up the metal and blow it away. Of course there would be a lot of sparks, a lot of molten metal. We used to wrap ourselves in asbestos blankets. I’d be laying there with a blanket on me. It was good stuff. The heat wouldn’t penetrate it. The asbestos was all over the place. I’ve been tested quite a few times. Fortunately there’s nothing there.
My first impression of the shipyard? It was scary. As a young kid out of high school, I was really in awe of everything. You couldn’t have thin skin. I really didn’t know if I was going to stay. Then it got into a habit, a work habit, and I accepted it. It was tough because of the elements. And everything was wide open. How do I put this? The bathrooms were wide open. There were no stalls. That was unbelievable to me.
When that whistle blew at 4 o’clock, people would run, I mean run, up that main yard hill. That’s where the time clocks were to punch out. You wanted to be close to the front of the line so you could get to your car before the traffic jam. It didn’t take long. The first day was kind of a shock. But the second day, I was running.
The people were good and that made a difference. My goal was to be the best welder they ever had at Electric Boat. I wanted every qualification there was. A lot of jobs I had were a challenge. I loved that. I loved the challenge.
The guys I started with took me under their wing. They were a good crew. Most of that crew actually left and went to Millstone. Millstone started, I think Unit 1 was around ’65. A lot of them left to go there because of the big money. They offered me to go and I said I want to finish my apprenticeship here.
So I finished the apprenticeship and then I got drafted in ’67. That’s when I found out how nice a guy Eddie Morenzoni was. When I was overseas he used to write me letters. He was really good. We stayed in contact. That’s the way EB was back then.