By the end of summer I was home in the United States. I was 21 years old, way beyond broke with college loans that would take the next ten years of my life to pay off, and desperately looking for a job. The dream of becoming a yacht designer had to be deferred as starvation loomed. I took a drafting job at a textile winding machinery company in Rhode Island and lived in an apartment in Providence. I loved drawing for a living. I continued to draw boats in my spare time and as my savings increased so did my yearning to get moving toward what I believed was my destiny.
A year and a half into that job I learned that the placement departments at Brown and MIT had reciprocal agreements. As a Brown alum, I had access to MIT, and they taught Naval Architecture, so they must know companies that needed nautical draftsmen. On a whim one day I drove up there just for a look-see. I walked in and introduced myself to a tall, beautiful young woman a little too tall and a lot too beautiful to be a romantic prospect for the likes of me. But I'll always remember her name for the simple reason that it was unforgettable— Amy Blue.
Amy Blue took me on as a project. After an hour on the phone she had gotten me two jobs which, combined, would enable me to move to Boston. When she asked me, "Do you think you can get a security clearance?" I realized that one of my employers would be none other than our esteemed CIA, despite the bogus moniker that appeared on my paychecks. The other was a famous professor of Naval Architecture who needed an extra body coding data for one of his research papers. Encouraged, I took a shot. "I know you've got a towing tank here. Any chance of a job with them?" She got me that one too.
A few months later I was hunched over my desk in Dr. Kerwin's office when a fellow named Jerry Cashman came in to see my boss as he'd done numerous times before. Jerry worked for a famous consulting company in downtown Boston that designed nuclear power plants for naval ships' propulsion. He'd obviously spoken with Dr. Kerwin before he sidled over to my desk and said, "Mr. Paine?" "You mean me?" I answered. "How'd you like a REAL job?" he said.
J.E. Bowker Associates was indeed a real job. They paid me $7,200 a year to start—more money in 1968 than most men earned at the end of their working lives. I wore a jacket and tie to work every day. And the work was fascinating. Mostly I wrote computer programs in FORTRAN and designed pressure vessels using a computer program called "Seal-Shell 2." But in helping to design ships I was getting closer to designing yachts and that was all I cared about. They had a huge drafting pool with 20 or 30 men drawing in ink on linen to the exacting standards that the U.S. Navy insisted upon. Every line weight, every line type had to be perfect, and there was no erasing when you drew on linen.