You’re Lucky to Work with a Guy Like Jimmy

Ralph Martin: Started in 1959 as a Rigger

I was employed at New London Buick as an assistant service manager. I went to Electric Boat because they were paying the astronomical sum of $1 an hour, which I could not seem to convince New London Buick to pay me. I went in on the midnight shift. I was 25, newly married, needing the dollar an hour. I never turned down overtime.

My wife’s dad worked there as a rigger for a number of years.

He made several suggestions to me that I stop playing around and get some real money. He was my guidance to go over there. He probably had influence as well – he ultimately was a supervisor in the department that I was in.

A rigger is responsible for moving anything that’s too heavy to carry or load aboard a submarine by hand. We were situated in a rigging shack. The shacks were the central position for the rigging equipment – cables and shackles, chains, all heavy stuff. If a machinist needed a rigger, he would either call or he would come through the door.

We were partnered up with other guys and worked as a team.

The components of a submarine are enormous. The valves, for example, have to be moved by a crane. If EB is building the valves, they have to be machined. When they need to be turned over, then the riggers come in. They put the appropriate rigging around it, rig it to the overhead crane and do a fancy little turn over. Sometimes you hold your breath when you see it happening. But if you do it right, then everything works out well.

Winters were hard. We’d take turns going somewhere to warm up a little bit. You found a way around it – you had to. I had an assortment of heavy clothes and gloves. They called me “Rag Bag.” Most of us wore gray striped EB coveralls. They were a godsend.

My partner for many years, he was a gentleman. Jimmy Jutila. You’re lucky to get teamed up with a guy like that, you know? Jimmy and I got pretty for close all those years. He died of asbestosis.