Sunday, October 02, 2005

Prehistoric Nuke Training Stories

Bubblehead, over at his blog, The Stupid Shall Be Punished, posted an article for us "Old School" nukes revealing the modern day facilities at Charleston. Looks like it even has some real floating nuclear submarine power plants to train on. I remain impressed with this enlightenment and wonder if they would consider providing a geezernuke tour.

Now for the "gotchya".
Bubblehead also lovingly provided; "For you really, really "old school" nukes, the site also has some pictures of the Nuke Power buildings in Bainbridge and Mare Island". What Bubblehead was apparently not "old" enough to detect was that the first picture was of Cromwell Hall at Subbase New London not just Bainbridge & Mare. Cromwell Hall completed construction abt 1958 - 59 soon enough to allow NP School Class 10 to finish our classroom training there.

If you look closely at this picture you can see that the entrance of the building is through doors which are now bracketed with glass walls. Those glass walls use to go all the way across the foyer and wrap around the corner, you can see where they were later filled in with opaque material.

(And now the stage is set for one of the stories I promised.)

We moved into the new building about a month before they installed the glass walls and doors in the entrance foyer and it was common practice to take a short cut through the empty frames at the corner of the foyer when entering or leaving.
One of our instructors was a college professor, reserve officer, who had been called to temporary active duty and was obviously not enthralled with being there. His uniforms didn't fit, his hair unmilitary, grumbled a lot, and had a pipe in his mouth that he only took out when he wanted to point it at something he wrote on the blackboard. When he was finished teaching what he had prepared he usually just picked up his stuff and rapidly left the classroom. On the day they installed the glass in the foyer he left the classroom at high speed, took the shortcut and ran smack into the newly installed glass. The pipe got shoved into his throat severely enough that the base ambulance was called to take him away. I do not remember if he ever recovered and returned to our classroom. If any of you readers, who might have been there too, can recollect better than me please comment.

(I did use the details of this incident later in life as an aid in teaching accident prevention principles.)

Now here's another about hazards regarding instructors physically unqualified for using prehistoric Nuke School visual aids:

The giant 6 ft slide rule hung on hooks above the blackboard and the slide was manipulated by inserting a finger in one of the several 2 inch holes provided and shifting it horizontally to the desired position. One of our instructors was a short Chief who had difficulty reaching the slide. He would stretch up to put his finger in the hole and then had to jump a little to get enough leverage to make it move. We all used to grunt for him when he did this. As luck would have it, one time he didn't get his finger out in time and wedged it into the hole as it passed under the frame. It actually broke his finger. (It should be noted for accuracy sake that this happened before we moved classes into Cromwell Hall.)

Saftey is obviously the primary reason slide rule class is no longer a required subject.

I'll bet that you modern nukes have never even seen a slide rule let alone tried to use one while picking data off a xenon decay graph in order to calculate an ECP. Us prehistoric ROs all had this state of the art, log log duplex decitrig, K&E six inch pocket slide rule in a leather covered pocket clip case.

Another tidbit about Cromwell Hall:

Evidently the building got constructed in the wrong location and was too close to the rock cliff behind and to the north of the building. This was remedied by issuing a contract to move the cliff back about 4ft. So while we were at class in the building we became familiar with rock blasting techniques. That's right, real explosive demolition. It was the first time I had heard the warning "Fire In the Hole" but by the time we graduated we could have easily gotten a job as experienced workers helping to remove rock cliffs without breaking any windows in the adjacent (1o ft away) building. There were a couple of times that rocks got past the railroad tie mats they used to cover the"Hole" but no calamities happened. There was, of course , a lot of disscussion about this phase of our training not qualifying for hazardous duty pay.

Thank you, Bubblehead, for the brain stimulation that got me remembering this stuff. Although thinking of myself as old enough to be a talking history book is not easy.


Blogger Bubblehead said...

I remember Cromwell Hall very well; I did SOBC and SOAC in it (and was very sad when they tore it down). I did not know, though, that they ever did Nuke School in it... now I've learned something!

12:50 AM  
Blogger Brainy435 said...

I had a chief instructor in Nuke school in Orlando who was nacoleptic. When we had him for class he was wearing a cast on his arm. Apparently, he was instructing a previous class and fell asleep at the chalkboard. He teetered and then fell off of the foot-high platform he was instructing from , breaking his arm on a desk. I guess Nuke school was hazardous duty.

11:31 AM  
Blogger PigBoatSailor said...

I didn't know Cromwell was a prior Nuke school either. No wonder it was so creepy in there...

12:29 PM  
Blogger Askinstoo said...

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12:44 AM  

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