PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - When Larry Putman got hired at Ingalls shipyard, Richard Nixon was President and "Happy Days" was the new hit on TV. That was back in 1974.
Thursday night, Ingalls recognized Putman and 138 others as master shipbuilders for their 40 years of service.
Putman began his shipyard career as a first class sheet metal man 40 plus years ago. Back then, he worked on submarines. These days, he's a foreman on the Coast Guard cutter program working most recently on the Hamilton.
"The most part I enjoy is just working with the production workers here. It's a great shipyard. We build great ships here for the Coast Guard and Navy, and I love it," said Putman, smiling from the bow of the Coast Guard cutter he helped build.
Watching steel plates become a world class ship is the thing Putman enjoys most.
"Oh, I enjoy taking a piece of steel that's rusty and seeing it come together like this. Just molding it into what it is. That's what I enjoy," Putman said.
He credits his upbringing for instilling a sense of discipline that has carried over to his work. Putman was raised in an orphanage in Mobile.
"Actually, the discipline of it made me what I am today. Then, after that, I went into the Marine Corps. More discipline, and that actually helps me on my job," Putman said.
Putman's boss is certainly impressed with his job performance and leadership.
"I'd take a hundred of him," Derek Murphy said. "Larry is dedicated, not only to the program but to his people. He's a heck of a leader and you can see that with the productivity of his folks. They love working for him, and I love having him."
Putman has missed just one day in his 40 plus years at the shipyard, and his leadership style is simple: respect and take care of your employees.
"My employees do not care a thing about how much I know. They want to know how much I care about them by providing the right leadership," Putman explained.
Though he admits he has thought about retirement, Putman says for now, he's content just enjoying the moment. That's something he and his fellow master shipbuilders have certainly earned.
With this year's honorees, Ingalls shipyard now employs 298 master shipbuilders with a combined 12,368 years of service.