‘I Worked on this Ship. I Want to See it Float.’

Mike Toner: Started June 28, 1965 as a Nuclear Engineer; Became President of EB in 2000

My favorite job was vice president of operations. It was my yard. They were my guys. When you’re president everything is yours. But when you’re ops, everything in the yard is yours. You get a real ownership of it. If I miss anything since retiring, I miss walking the boats and talking with the people. When EB had to get small in the ’90s, it tore my heart out.

About that time, we floated off the Seawolf. It was typical. We’re on the boat. We put in a cup of water and we have this big graving dock we’re filling. There’s a tripod all set up and it’s got a plumb bob. When the hull touches the plumb bob and the plumb bob moves, you know it’s floating. This is like watching grass grow. But it’s a big deal.

I look up and there’s a guy leaning over this railing. It’s toward the end of the first shift. So I go up there. “Hey, how you doing?” He says, “I got laid off today.” I says, “That’s too bad. It’s the nature of the beast.” “Nah,” he says, “I’ve only been here four or five years,” whatever the number was. “I worked on the seawater valves on this ship. I want to see it float.”

I says, “We’re going to be here a while.” “That’s alright. I want to see it float,” he says. So you forget, right? You go off. 9, 9:30 that night we’re standing down there looking at the plumb bob and it goes dink! We’re floating. I look up and there’s the guy. He’s still there. I give him a thumbs-up. He waves. And out he goes. Five-year guy, and he stood there for six hours.

The people are special people. The guys that get the work done and get the ship in – the foremen, the supervisors, the general foremen, the superintendents, the guys that are every day on the deck plates, working that ship, the engineers too – nobody works as hard.

The transition from generation to generation is the work ethic and the culture. People complain that it’s different now. I say, it’s their turn. We did our thing. We’re done. We passed on what we know to them. They don’t do things the way we used to. There’s an easier way to do it now.