Clayton Grover, of Newcastle, started his career at Bath Iron Works on Aug. 21, 1952. With the exception of a stint in the Army from 1953 to 1955 and a brief layoff in 1963, Grover has remained on the job at BIW and, at 83, has no plans to retire.
He is the shipyard’s oldest employee, according to BIW spokesman Matt Wickenheiser.
Grover started out in the pipe coverers department and is still there today. During an interview, Grover said a lot has changed over the past 63 years, including his pay scale. When he was hired his hourly rate was $1.25; today it is more than $25.
In 1963, after being laid off, Grover dug worms to help support his family.
Today, he drives to work every day and two co-workers ride along.
“My plan is to work day by day. I don’t know what God’s plan is, but that is my plan,” Grover said. “I believe that is what keeps me going, getting up every morning and going to work every day.”
He talked about how much BIW has grown. “When I went to work there, you could throw a rock across it. Now it is a half-mile long.”
At work, he sits at a sewing machine and makes “flushing bags” used to flush and clean pipes, a job he said he is very thankful for.
Grover said BIW has provided him and his family a good living, and for that he is also very grateful.
Grover was born in Wiscasset, the son of Ernest and Dorothy Grover. He was one of eight children. He graduated from Wiscasset Academy in 1950, and according to classmate Robert Fairfield, he was a great basketball and baseball player during his high school years.
In 1956 he married Shirley Dunbar. The couple had eight children, three girls and five boys: Rose, Clayton Jr., Joyce, Mary, William, James, Andrew, and Matthew.
The Grovers were given two devastating blows in the loss of two sons. Matthew died in a four-wheeler accident, and Andrew in a snowstorm in Oklahoma on Christmas day 2009.
Family is very important to the Grovers. Clayton Grover has two sisters and one brother. Each week the Grover family meets on Sunday morning for breakfast, a tradition of the family since 2000.
The morning of Sunday, Jan. 9, three family members met Clayton Grover for breakfast at Hunter’s Breakfast, where they have been meeting for the past four years: sister Ann Merry, brother Herbert Grover, and grandson James Grover.
According to Clayton Grover, sometimes they meet in Augusta to make it easier for sister Shirley Bailey to come. As many as 30 family members attend the weekly breakfast.
Clayton is thankful BIW continues to employ him, and the shipyard seems glad to do so. “We absolutely value the skills and expertise of our older employees,” said Wickenheiser, the BIW spokesman.
“I have no hobbies; that is why I keep working,” Grover said with a chuckle.