Politics As Usual

The civilians in the Boston Naval Shipyard never ceased to amaze me. Virtually all seemed to have an inside track on something. If there were any exceptions I didn’t meet them when I served as an assistant planning and estimating superintendent in the mid fifties. Political pull and the spoils system seemed to apply to everything.

My first inkling of such goings on was when I heard that a planner who looked much younger than his years, was a doughboy in France in 1918. In a brief encounter as I passed his desk I said, “I didn’t know you were in World War I.”

He replied quickly, “Yeah, shrapnel and gas.”

I later learned that his knee-jerk odd reply was typical. The Shipyard’s veterans, regarding war, seemed to discuss only the reasons for their disabilities and how politicians assisted in getting them pensions.

Nothing was too small to be overlooked. For example, when coveted ballpoint pens were introduced as government issue, Apples, the legendary chief planner and my verbal sparring partner, kept the Planning and Estimating Division’s supply in one of his desk drawers. Only those of his minions whom he favored would dare to ask for one.

The same character was always alert for opportunities to enlarge the impression that he had powerful political connections. When it was announced that Massachusetts Governor Foster Furcolo was going to address an assembly at an Officers’ Club luncheon, Apples set in motion a plan that involved the Yard’s photographer. The latter had to cooperate; the Chief Planner controlled the photography shop’s funding.

The plan required that the photographer be in position and ready to shoot when, just before lunch was scheduled to be served, Apples would walk behind the head table and bend over to say hello from just behind the Governor’s left shoulder.

The next morning the Chief Planner waved me into his office. “Look at this,” he boasted. The eight-by ten-inch print was perfect. The Governor had a serious look on his face and his head was half turned as if he was entirely engrossed in advice that Apples seemed to be conveying. While tapping his own image, Apples asked, “How about that?”


To the most Irish of Boston Irishmen I replied, “How does it feel to kiss a paesan’s butt?

A few choice words were leveled in my direction, but to my knowledge, Apples never showed the photo to anyone else.


Copyright © 2005 (text only) by Louis D. Chirillo