Letter: Observations of a long-time shipyard employee
Being a veteran of 41 years at the shipyard, I’ve seen a lot of change—evolution, revolution and much innovation. Employed at the yard since 1971, you might say I have a lot of personal history … indeed I do. I have seen it all—the good, the bad and the ugly, and I have been all the above.
There was a time when Washington Avenue bustled with activity … this was where employees entered and exited the shipyard. Because of the traditional one-hour lunch break, businesses flourished from one end of the Avenue to the other. Having a shipyard badge often meant instant credit at a variety of stores … and no credit check.
Change was not only on the horizon in the shipyard—it had become reality for female workers, who in the past were victimized by gender stereotyping. With more women being head of households, trade that had been traditionally dominated by males was now being challenged by women. These new opportunities in which some female counterparts excelled, women were making their presence known in a workforce where their numbers had once been hardly noticeable.
As were many of my fellow workers, I am a bona fide product of deficit spending as a result of the Reagan era. Though it was never realized, upon taking office at the height of a continuing arms race, the newly elected Ronald Reagan embarked on an ambitious naval build-up with a goal of a 600-vessel fleet.
During this memorable era, the shipyard’s economic pulse rate was performing at a steady pace. Operating as a subsidiary of Tenneco and boasting a reputation as a world-class shipbuilding and repair facility of military and commercial vessels and a flourishing submarine program, the shipyard was by far one of the more stable and better paying industries with a host of lucrative career opportunities. But there were times of uncertainty that loomed over the yard. This decline can be attributed to the ending of hostilities in Southeast Asia.
During the boom years, under construction for the first time in the history of U.S. naval shipbuilding, three aircraft carriers—the USS Theodore Roosevelt, USS Abraham Lincoln and the USS George Washington—were being constructed simultaneously in the shipyard … financed by deficit spending or pay whenever.
Currently in composition, I am working on a mini-documentary highlighting the Obama Presidency … from a personal perspective, titled "Echoes of Change." Availability to the public is now pending via internet at http://www.theloveofliterature.com.
Theoretically speaking, when the energy of fire was harnessed and the resulting civilization, the future of mankind would change forever. But in all of its destructive potential, fire is often misinterpreted as being a bad thing. Someday when the smoke has cleared from the flames of adversity and the smoldering embers have subsided, like the legacy of fire, memories of President Barack Obama will flourish in the hearts and minds of humanity forever.
God bless America.
William P. Clayborne Jr.