By Dick Mauer
Following the last FORBPO convention in Tucson, my wife and I drove
over to Calexico enroute to San Francisco to see family. Calexico is
where I entered on duty in 1964 and this was the first time to look
over our first Border Patrol residence since. We had lived in the
Andrade Apartments which are still standing, as is the station that
replaced the condemned fire house/BP station behind the old Port of
Entry in 1967. What was the new station on Andrade is now occupied
by the Calexico school district.
The south end of Andrade Street is right at the border fence and the
Agents are still "laying in" at Dooley Street, Andrade, and under
the tower. I could also see another vehicle out east of Andrade. It
seemed like overkill but they have the numbers now to do that. A
young Agent told me that the alambristas now come over the fence day
and night with ropes tied around their waist with which an
accomplice in Mexico then lowers him to the ground. Some things never change.
The tower is one of them.
The 105 foot tower is an imposing sight in Calexico and I had the
impression from the Agent I talked to that they no longer use it. I
took a few pictures of it and a recent email from Bill Glenn got me
to thinking about it. A tour of duty in the tower was 4 hours, and
it was manned from daybreak until sundown. When you and a partner
were assigned to the tower it was yours for the shift and the ground
man parked in the Goat Pens (ll-4) to take care of any tower-observed activity.
Duty in the tower tended to be kind of boring and guys
took to covering the walls and ceilings with words of wisdom, poems,
jokes, and complaints. Some guys hallucinated and told stories of
seeing scantily clad senoritas in the windows of Mexicali. I checked
everyone and never saw a thing. The tower provided an eagle eye view
of the east fence and the New River bottom,
where the majority of entries occurred.
The shack that you sat in was suspended under the water tank and I
often wondered how well it was attached. This is relevant
because the Border Patrol in those days never hired out that work.
They just assigned some agents to do it.
The steel rung ladder had a steel cage around it to provide a degree
of safety (?) and we also had a rope and pulley to haul up your
trique bag. I remember the story of one PI who would tie the pulley
rope around his waist and made his partner promise to keep it taut
while he climbed up and down. (Now the wets are using the ropes!).
You were assigned to the tower at least once or twice a week. Your
hope was that there would not be an earthquake while you were up