A Proud Day by Vern Nordstrand

  • Posted 12/13/2006
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 8027

This is the story of a proud day in the life of Boeing mechanic (later Superintendent of Tooling) Vern Nordstrand (1918-2009). Nordstrand lived in the Green Lake neighborhood of Seattle with his wife, Dorothea Nordstrand (1916-2011).

A Proud Day

I hired on to work at Boeing's Plant 1, in February, 1937. I had been graduated from Ballard High School the month before. I was lucky that my high school shop teacher, R. C. Goodman, recommended me for the job.

I started in Primary Shop No. 21. At that time, there were B-17s in Final Assembly Shop at Plant 1. I remember when Boeing got a contract for 13 more. That was really SOMETHING.

Shortly thereafter, Boeing started its first-ever apprentice program, and my Supervisor suggested that I sign up for it. It would be for 8,000 hours and take four years to complete. I became part of the group training to become sheet metal mechanics.

We moved from shop to shop, getting training in the various aspects of working with sheet metal; from burring sheet metal parts, making parts, making jigs and fixtures, bucking rivets, riveting, sub-assembly of parts, and, finally, making templates (patterns) from Engineering’s drawings. These patterns were eventually used by sheet metal production shops for making parts for the airplanes.

In May 1941, at a special graduation ceremony, the other apprentices of that first group and I were presented with Certificates of Completion of Apprenticeship by Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of then President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt. That was a proud day.

Except for two years of my working life, I remained with the Boeing Company. In 1967, I moved to the new Everett plant as Superintendent of Tooling in charge of setting up jigs for the production of the 747.

My retirement in 1979 came after 40 years at Boeing.

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