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Paul and Maureen Dow
September 25, 1996
This was meant to be a thank you note, but as I thought of what it was I experienced last Sunday no note would do. But first I need to tell you about where I come from and who I am.
I have worked for 27 years at "the G.E." in Lynn, Massachusetts, a city on the north shore of Boston. Up until two years ago, I also lived in Lynn. So I have lived the company town life, much the same as your program told of in Portsmouth. I am a second generation GE worker as well. When you grow up in this type of place, where "the GE" is one word as "theyard" is one word in Portsmouth, your life takes on the same color as the buildings that provide the means for the food you eat and the traffic at shift change. So much so that what you do for work really has little to no value, except that you have a job and earn a living.
My first job at the GE was a servicer, basically I swept floors. My third job at GE was as a "rigger" working under an overhead crane. My responsibility was to secure large steel parts from the crane and direct the crane operator. My fifth job at GE was assembler, building the steam turbines and gear sets for the SSN attack submarines, and the Trident submarines.
The last thing I would like to tell you about myself is that my Aunt Peg worked at "the shipyard" in Kittery until she retired around 1972. She was a telephone operator.
Sunday my wife, Maureen, and I were playing Tourist in Portsmouth. We had never seen Strawberry Banks, and we had not been to the city, except to the State Liquor store on the traffic circle, since my Aunt Peg treated us to dinner there. That was when she was alive and still working, around 1970.
We had no idea there would be a program going on that day or that such a project existed. So we decided to stay in the park and find out what all the people were there for. The walk to the bridge was about to start. We really didn't want to walk that bridge again. In fact we didn't want to get up and find the different dancers in the park after the walk.
We did get up and stepped over to the garden to find "dancers" telling us about their "first job at the shipyard". I found myself staring at these people. I truly didn't know what to make of them. People in dance and word celebrating what their jobs were. Real people who worked real jobs like me. Even as I remember that moment I can feel myself fill up with emotion. As we looked from place to place, finding the different sights and sounds, I couldn't help but to feel a little more alive. It's almost like I shared the same story they told. I knew these people and they knew me.
All my life the big joke was that we didn't work, we went to the GE every day, punched our time cards, and for this received a paycheck.
Here in a city just like the one I knew, were people who used the same riggers signals I have used. Here people showed off the white (sperm) suits we wore and protective gear. Yet they were doing so in dance, with humor, with seriousness, but most of all with pride. Showing the rest of us who the shipyard people are and just how they earn that paycheck.
Then the program showed me why all that work in the shipyard means so much, as we were told of heroism in war. It's hard to tell you how this defense worker felt. I was truly connected to the people of the shipyard.
Real people, dance and music. I have never truly appreciated the arts before. Yes I've seen great works on stage, the most memorable is "The Phantom of the Opera", but never have I been lifted up and made to feel as I did that day in the park. My wife, Maureen, and I talked about how wonderful you and the "project" made us feel, we were both filled with emotion. For this we want to say thank you, to all the People who shared their talent and their story please tell them thank you.
Very truly yours,
Paul A. Dow