The first job you have to learn as a FA or FN in the Engine room is the “messenger of the watch.” It may be the same job in the fire rooms, but I don’t know that. (If you do, please let me know by email.) The messenger of the watch in the engine room is charged with some important responsibilities, not the least of which is making the coffee for the watch.

     Allowing the coffee pot to run dry could create complete havoc and chaos in the engine room, and result in the messenger of the watch being scorned, ridiculed, belittled, and possibly even forced to “walk the plank.” Other, lesser responsibilities of the messenger include the recording of all critical pressures and temperatures of the operating equipment, so the engine room doesn’t blow up. Additionally, it is the messenger’s job to wake up everyone assigned to the following watch, and to perform other duties as required by the “top watch.”

     Sometime in 1955, while on watch in the forward engine room, I was advised that someone had made a watch scheduling mistake that had allowed the other messengers that were supposed to have duty, go on liberty for the weekend. At first, I wasn’t at all concerned about the problem until I was advised that I would have to be the messenger of the watch for the entire weekend. All 72 hours of it. My complaints to the duty chief fell on deaf ears, so I was stuck.

     After about the first 40 hours or so, some of the “top watch” guys began feeling sorry for me, and allowed me to take quick 15-20 minute catnaps behind the electrical board between rounds when I could not stay awake any longer. Finally, when my watch ended Monday morning and I had been properly relieved, I was allowed to “hit the rack.”

    I had not been asleep very long, when I was roughly shaken awake by a Lt. J.G. and asked “what the hell I thought I was doing sleeping during the day?” I explained my unfortunate 72 hour watch situation to him, and he left. I had just gotten back to sleep again, when again I was shaken awake again by the now pissed-off Lt. J.G.

    This time he had the Engine room chief with him. (It may have been Chief Dudley, but I don’t remember.) The Lt. J.G. then instructed me to tell the chief exactly what I had told him, which I did. At that point, someone else was drug into the discussion, probably the person who made the watch schedule, but that’s just my guess. This resulted in a much heated discussion next to my rack, with accusations of fault flying all around, and much gnashing of teeth. Obviously I couldn’t sleep through it, so I got up, grabbed my pillow, went down to the engine room and crapped out behind the electrical board.

     I never knew who actually got hung for the scheduling fiasco, but I’m sure somebody was hung from the yardarms. Fortunately, it wasn’t me. At least, not this time. Fun times.




I am a 77 year old retired Northrop-Grumman Corp. Facilities Engineer. I worked at Northrop's Pico Rivera and Palmdale facilities for a total of 13 years, and retired 1n 1995. I have been married to my high school sweetheart for over 54 fantastic years, and we have 3 excellent children (all boys) 7 wonderful grandchildren, and 1 great grandchild. My hobbies are playing the piano (actually, more like learning HOW to play the piano) and restoring a 1937 Plymouth, although sadly, I have made very little progress on it in recent years. I drove road race go-karts until the age of 71. I never grew up, I just got old.
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