Night Shift Guard 1940 Aug 5

Aug 5, 1940

Mon 5 A.M. to 9 A.M.

I have awakened several times before at the least disturbance and now again over some inconsequential noise. I know it's about time for my shift and before I drop off to sleep two short buzzers are given by my telephone and a light is flashed thru the (?) holes of what was formerly a window. I dress, look at my watch (4:02 A.M.) and hurry down. Getting a cup of boiling milk and a roll, I gulp it, scald the roof of my mouth, and hurry out. Otto prefers to stay below so I go to the main central tower. From this tower you can communicate with the other three towers, the gate and all the rooms either by telephone or buzzers. The lights and alarm are controlled from here. Most of the guns are stored here in the daytime. The tower controls the gate electrically. A trap door connects it with the library underneath. Emergency lights and flares are kept in reserve here and in the guard room in the patio. Until the new steel doors are all installed, one man will continue to stay in the courtyard. Later he'll be stationed in tower A.

The night here is never silent, though of course there is less noise than in the daytime. The streetcars and busses pass within 4 or 5 squares on three sides of us. The roosters this morning seem to be celebrating the fact that none of those crowing were killed yesterday (Sunday). The dogs are tired by this time and are getting a few moments sleep to be ready to herald the dawn. Of course this doesn't include the total dog population, many are still barking, but these sound afar off. The alarm clock on the gun cabinet sounds almost as loud as a motortruck.

These are observations you note the first minute you are on duty, before you have finished checking the register of the previous day. Everyone entering or leaving the place has his name listed and the time of arrival and departure. It serves as a checkup for the house and in case of "frameup" establishes where you were.

The night sky is black, artificially black almost. The stars are scattered in heaps and streaks in lavish abundance and brighter than diamonds. No mts., no horizon is visible, only the lights of the town and off to the north the brighter glow of the city. The huge eucalyptus trees along the river and in our yard cut off most of the view to North and West. Southward lies the road to Cuernavaca and I can see the lights of autos peeping and blinking thru the mountains high above the town and horizon. The mountains are not yet visible except by a dim line. The lights of a village far up the mt. side twinkle as brightly as the tiny stars visible between the peaks, almost on the same level.

I'm unaware of the passage of time until the gate buzzer sounds. Otto is unlocking the inner gate but can't open it to let Martinez (the Mex. comrade who was on duty last night) out until I release a switch. When I record his departure I notice it's 5:30 A.M. A church bell is ringing and looking eastward behind the long white house in the next block, beyond the line of slim

spire shaped, pencil pointed evergreens, with a lobster colored cloud floating between them, lie Popo and the Sleeping Woman. Both are in perfect silhouette, no snow is visible on either because the sky is beginning to light up on the far side. This side is still in darkness, but all the details of the Woman's profile are clearly revealed.

This is the coldest time of the day - dawn is actually less then 30 min. removed. The roof of the little building next (to) ours is wet with dew. Dew gleams on the corn patch surrounding his house and hangs thick on the grass. The path left by the policeman walking past is clearly visible and his shoes and trousers are wet halfway to his knees.

The cloud lifts between Popo and his wife. It's red hues changing to yellow orange. Delicate cirro-cumulus mare's tail clouds glow from yellow gold at

the horizon to cream overhead where a big bright star is shining thru. All the other peaks to eastward are lighting up and the colors first visible around Popo now glow along the whole southern range. The slight breeze washes and streaks the clouds in cobweb fashion across the view.

The pigeons are leaving their perches. A factory whistle moans. In an adjoining field a laborer is already busy with his spade. My buzzer goes again and Otto signals turn off the lights. All the lights of the town are off by now too. It's 6:00 A.M.

The base of Popo is deep purple; halfway up a slight golden haze mingles with it, but the crest, as of The Woman, is pure white snow kissed with gold because in a few more moments the sun will rise above the low Mt. peak to the north of them.

Across the valley to the west the mountains are already brightly lighted and now streaming thru the trees, dispelling the fog, glowing like a

resurrection, the sun bursts thru the leaves and the dew of the trees on the river bank changing it to a glowing red fog thru which long grotesque shadows of men going to work weave like shrouded specters.

The haze quickly spreads. The beautiful shades of blue of the sky bleach white the clouds turn ashen. The whole eastern range of mts. disappears. For a few minutes The Woman, darker than an hour ago, looms up then slips into the fog. The peak of Popo now a cloud like wraith remains dimly visible until a shifting cloud obscures it too. The sun streams in thru the eastern portholes - lights up the instrument panel on the west wall. Two native women, their breath rising in clouds, search thru the corn patch adjoining, picking boquets of pumpkin blossoms. The church bells set up a general clanging chorus. It's 6:30. Morning is here. Day has arrived.