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< Echoes of Memory

The Night Watchman

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By Alfred Traum 

As Chief Radio Officer on the SS Zion, I had the 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. watch, which provided me with the whole evening free to enjoy dinner with guests in the dining room plus partake in activities of a social nature. However, my watch was also in the wee hours of the morning from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. Generally, activities in the radio room were slack during those hours, and I had plenty of free time to chat with the night watchman who used to stop by. He held one of those clocks that registered at different stations aboard the ship and time stamped at each location. However, it still provided ample time for me to hear his story. 

He began by telling me of the time during the war when he worked as a sailor aboard British cargo vessels. On one of his voyages, the ship was docked in an Indian port. He didn’t recall which port. But he and several members of the crew went out scouting in the neighborhood, when he came across a fortune teller/astrologist. This lady read the stars and needed to know the date, time, and place where he was born. He was told that the more exacting his information, the more exacting his fortune.

He thought it to be a good joke and played along with her. She went on to tell him that he would spend some time in prison, but later would  go on to become a writer. Well that sounded a little better than the prison bit. He paid her and went on his way, completely forgetting the encounter until many years later when he became involved with The National Military Organization in the Land of Israel (IRGUN) and was captured by British forces in Palestine. They shipped him off to a prison camp in east Africa. He remained there for some time and started to write to pass the time. Eventually, he was released from jail and returned to Palestine, soon to be declared the State of Israel. Having spent some time at sea during the war years, he was drawn to Israel’s new merchant fleet and secured a position as night watchman aboard the SS Jerusalem, a fine and new passenger ship. 

In passing during our conversation, he told me that the second mate Oded would not be continuing on the cruises. And true enough, when we arrived in New York, Oded received news that his mother was seriously ill and he was to return home as soon as possible. I asked the watchman how he knew that? He had read Oded’s astrological chart and that’s how he knew. 

I was intrigued by that and spent much time trying to understand this phenomenon. He gave me the name of a woman in London who he considered an expert in this field. Further, he told me that if I was interested in getting a reading, I should send her a letter providing the exact time, date and place of birth of my children and enclose a certain amount of money and mail it to her. My wife, Josie, and I discussed it and then decided to go ahead. We mailed a letter to this lady and in due course received a reply with a detailed analysis of our two children. You can say what you like. This woman did not know us, yet gave such accurate prognoses of our two children that it brought goose bumps to our skin. My son, the older of the two, has multiple neurological issues. He suffers from “fragile x syndrome,” not even diagnosed at that time. This lady described him accurately in many ways. While at the same time, she gave a glowing report of our daughter, who is bright in every respect. Even now, after more than 50 years I am still amazed at the reading we received.

Tags:   alfred traumechoes of memory, volume 13

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