‘Are You Getting Ready for College?’

Jim Colonis: Started as a Pipefitter; Later Became a Draftsman

I got out of Chapman Tech in 1951. I was going to go to college right after that. It was between UConn and Mitchell. So I went over to Electric Boat with my friends to get a job for the summer. They were paying, I forget, 90 cents an hour. At the other jobs around town I would have made 50 cents.

One of the fellas told me, “The only way you can get a job there is if you say you’re going to go into the apprentice program.” I said, “But I’m going to college.” He said not to say anything. So I worked all summer as an apprentice pipefitter.

All of a sudden comes Labor Day. My mother said, “Are you getting ready for college?” I said, “No Ma, I’m going to work til Christmas because of the money. I’ll go to New London Business School and take a course or two, keep busy.”

Came Christmas, she says, “Well, are you going?” I said, “No I’m going to start next year.” And the money was coming in. The next thing you know I had a nice automobile. I didn’t want to give it up. And then I got married at age 19.

Later, I went to the drawing room up on the Hill to look for a job. J.F. Dallinger, he ran piping design. He says, “Do you go to school?” I said, “I take courses at Mitchell.” At the time I didn’t take any courses.

So I left, and he calls me back to offer me a job. But he remembered. “I want to see your marks at Mitchell College. Anything C and better we pay for.”

So I go over to Mitchell College. “I got to sign up for these two courses.” They say, “The courses started three weeks ago. You can’t possibly pass.” I said, “Here’s the money. I have to pass.” I went home and I studied every night like you can’t believe. I ended up luckily with B’s.

I took my grades to Dallinger. He said, “I’ll pay for it. But you know something? I didn’t think you’d be back with these.”