I was lucky and did not work
many nights on the Watch Towers at Ashland and none else where. The
towers, there were 4 of them situated so every inch of the double
chain link fence, which was topped with Razor or barbed wire, was
visible from one or more of the Towers. Tower 1 at Ashland was at
the front of the Institution and controlled traffic in and out as
well as kept tabs on against inmates activity inside the fence, it
was also the institution Armory, from where weapons would be issued
in escape hunts etc. The Tower was entered from the bottom, the
officer in the Tower would lower the key after making certain the
individual wanting entry was an employee and supposed to come in at
THAT Time. After entering one would lock the door and ascend a steep
stair case going up about 60 feet. Hopefully the man already in the
tower would have lifted a trapdoor in the floor to afford entry. He
would then shortly leave the Tower, lock the door when he left and
hang the Key on a rope for you to pull up.. A few times the key was
not pulled up, a bad deed with possible tragic consequences! With me
The space you have just entered is six sided about 12 feet across,
counters with cabinets under and covered with battleship linoleum!
There is a steel pole in the center supporting the searchlight
controls, the search light is about 20 inches in diameter and is
BRIGHT! Hanging below the searchlight is a .38 Caliber Colt Police
Positive in a leather holster. Right under the revolver is a
Commode, no lid, but with a seat. On the other side of the center
pole is a bubbler water fountain, (unrefrigerated). On the counter
on each side is a M1 Carbine with magazine inserted and another
magazine beside it. Hanging over it a Model 70 Winchester rifle with
scope. Under the cabinet is a .45 caliber Thompson Sub-Machine gun
with no ammo that I ever noted!!
The area is not air conditioned, however the 6 windows do open. They
drop down to open and are a bitch to get back up. The officer is
far enough up in the air that in the summer you can be stark-assed
naked to try to get cool and no one can see in. There is a three
foot steel stool with a steel seat one can sit on for a little
while, most decided that standing was easier. In the summer one can
open all the windows but when the outside temperature is 90 or
above, it ain't cool! In the winter when one is cool the heating
is done by a 1500 watt electric heater on the floor as I recall.
However the Armory below is heated by a radiator and heat comes up
thru a grate and helps some.
The 4 towers and the Control Center were linked by a intercom system
always on, however after a few weeks one has heard all the lies and
is sick of the fellow officers whining. One can only clean the
weapons so many times, waxing the floor and counter and spit shining
your shoes get old after awhile!
Now imagine it's 3:30 in the AM on a sultry summer night or a frigid
winter night when there is absolutely nothing happening and you've
been doing this shift for several weeks maybe longer and you are
tempted to empty a Carbine just to hear the noise>>>>>Perhaps, you
think, "I could lie out of it!"
One older fellow at Petersburg reportedly emptied the full clip of a
carbine, 15 rounds, down between the fences one night and reported
that a line of elephants, tail and trunks entwined were marching
away from him. Someone asked why he was shooting elephants going
away, that they could see shooting if they were coming toward him!
He took his retirement and returned to Alderson.