A Beautiful Paint Job?

Jack Pillar: Started as an Inspector in 1962; Later Joined the Design Workforce

jack3I sat on their doorstep for two weeks straight. I went every day to the Employment Office. The manager came out and said, “I’m tired of you sitting out here. Come in here.” So that’s how I got my job in 1962.

I started off as a magnaflux inspector, looking for cracks in welds. You put the yoke over the weld and sprinkle a metal powder on. If there’s a crack, it’ll find it.

Then I graduated into being a structural inspector – the framing, the foundations, the bulkheads, the deck. When you get enough experience, they give you the whole boat.

They had the 613, 14 and 15 boats on the ways in the South Yard, the sister ships to the Thresher. By the time I got to the 614, the Gato, they let me have the whole boat.

The gentleman that taught me the magnafluxing and all the inspections was Doug MacDougall. He was a hell of a nice guy. Smart. The work was interesting. It was a learning process, and I learned an awful lot from all the trades. Nice people.

In 1970, I went into design as a technical aide in contract changes. The government would want to make a change to the ship from what’s on the blueprint. We’d have to tell them how much it’s going to cost.

I consider myself a very good inspector. In the top of the ship, there are valves that go through the hull. I had to make sure that area was painted, because once the grillwork goes in, you can’t see what’s behind it. So one day I go up and there’s a beautiful paint job. I take my hand, I go like this, and all the paint comes right off. It was all dusty and they didn’t clean it. If I had only looked and they put the grillwork over, the valve would have been clogged.

There was always a backup at EB. You inspected the boat while it was being built. When it was finished and it went down to the wet dock for final outfitting, you had a final inspection before the boat went out for sea trials. You always had a crew of people, all the trades and the inspectors, waiting for it to come back.