1928 - Alderson High School - 1968


To Control Or Not To Control

John McCurdy - April 18, 2011

All the Furor in the news about Air Traffic Controllers sleeping on the job brought back very unpleasant memories of when I worked the 12-8 shift in Tower 1 at Ashland. I did it twice, for several weeks at a time and each was the most miserable duty I have experienced.

Advice on how to stay awake was plentiful, since I was a new hire and on probation, I made sure I was awake and at least 1/2 way alert and able to spot Lt. Hamm when he'd slip out the end door of the Cell-House and then shine his flashlight at the tower. I always tried to illuminate him with the Tower spotlight first. It was a big help when the Control Center Officer would say something like, "going out among them, are you, Lt."? Not all the CR Officers were that decent!

I recall  one method used was to take the tin drinking cup and hold it on a pencil in ones hand horizontally. When, not if, one would nod off the cup would fall to the tower floor, Each time that happened one of the other tower officers would say over the Intercom," Uh huh, getting a little sleepy is someone!"  Another method that I never used but was sorely tempted to, and it was suggested by several of my fellows, was to take a 'Wings" filter tip king sized cigarette and light it and then use a rubber band to secure it between two of your fingers. They supposedly took 20 minutes to burn down to the point one could feel the burning in the fingers, rouse up and make the call-in to the Control Room on time!

I remember one time that Lt. Hamm stepped out from behind the cell house without flashing his light. I dropped the tower window and chambered a round in the M1 carbine. He did not do that again!

There are many persons working, (terribly boring at times,) jobs, that require them staying awake. Everyone has trouble doing it I imagine, but they manage. I have a little sympathy for the Air Traffic Controllers but not a whole lot, they make a heck of a lot more Money than we did.  I can understand them occasionally falling asleep but I can also understand the consequences.

The only time I remember being chewed out, (and that was with a real effort for the Captain to keep a smile off his face) was when I shone the Tower Light on a lady who was in the outhouse with the door open on the hill behind the Institution!

With no air conditioning, the heat in the summer was terrible, it took me several days of misery until I realized I could take off everything except my shirt and front my location 60 feet up in the air, no one could see in! That aided my comfort considerably!

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