Gamboa News

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The Second World War
Life on the Zone

chronicled by
Louise Womack, Doris Ehrman Monaco, Don Connor,
Lyla "Lou" Womack, Jim Shobe, Carolyn Pollak Tyssen,
Jessee Crawford, Don Connor, Andy Van Siclen,
Dick Shobe, Jake Baker,
Jay Green (Jeannette Collins), Bill Campbell

The War Years

Louise Womack
Told to her daughter...September 2001

At the same time that we heard that Pearl Harbor was bombed we were all on the alert in the Canal Zone because it was strategically located. The fleet was in Hawaii and that wasnıt was on the Atlantic Coast. The ships would have had to go around the tip of South America which is why they built the canal in the first place so therefore we were on alert thinking that the canal would be the next thing the Japanese would bomb.

There was an unidentified airplane sighted so the main switch on the Canal Zone was pulled and we had a complete blackout so we had no electricity. The only thing going was the ham radio operators communication. There was nothing we could do but sit in the dark and use flashlights to walk around. We called our friends the Halls and Engelkes and said, ³Letıs get together and play music.² We had three ukeleles and one guitar. Daddy played the guitar and we played the ukes. It was a string quartet. That was the only sound going out. We heard from the people the next day that it was just wonderful hearing the music while wondering if we were going to be bombed. Of course we only had radios, no television.

The day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor the instructions came out that we were to cover all of our windows so that we could have light inside while having them appear dark on the outside. They didnıt even want us to go outside with a cigarette because even the tip of one would carry for miles in the darkness. The headlights on the cars were painted black and shone on the ground only. We were asked to limit our night driving.

That was all we could do as far as protection but then it started in on the things we couldnıt get in the commissary. You could imagine, ships were being used to carry troups to destinations and in the states everyone was put on rations. We were in the same condition as the people in the states. We just didnıt get frozen strawberries or whipping cream. We got Avoset, a canned whipping cream. It whipped and we didnıt even know it tasted like canned. From being used to it we thought it was elegant. When a visitor from the states came down and tasted it she said, ³Oh this tastes like canned.² We ate canned stuff so much that we didnıt know the difference. You had to have a prescription to have real milk so we drank powdered milk called Klim...milk spelled backwards.

Gasoline was rationed. We got so little gasoline. It wasnıt rationed in Panama so I would drive into Panama and my brother who was living in Panama would drive down to the gas station and fill it up. Other people didnıt have that advantage. It seems like it was only four gallons a week. There werenıt many people going into Balboa in those days. Panama wasnıt in the war so they werenıt rationed.

We didnıt have anything. My silverware set that we had when we were first married was not complete and I couldnıt buy any silverware to complete it. When I walked in the commissary and saw an eight piece set that was silverplated I bought it. Before the war my friends were buying place settings of silver each month. I probably had about six forks, four knives and a few teaspoons. My set before buying the silverplate was so incomplete that I couldnıt entertain. Without the war you could buy anything you wanted. Sears would be called our ³Dream Book² and we would look at it for hours. We ordered things from Sears that we couldnıt get in the commissary.

They had plenty of material on the counters, and we could always find some to make something....checked gingham...I could do a lot with a few yards. We would get imported French organdy from France. The one I remember that I made for you was a formal made out of navy blue french organdy over pink taffeta. It had ruffles going around the strapless top. It went down to a real full skirt and a navy blue ruffle on the bottom of it.

If you went to an afternoon tea you wore a long dress and a hat. In the evening you would play bridge the women would have on formal dresses and the men white suits. Any event would call for formal attire. But your father started it, when we gave a party, to tell the men to give them their coat and he would hang them up. Things started getting a little less formal after that. If you went to a club, like the golf club though... you would wear formals.

I got out my red taffeta dress and aired it on the clothesline preparing to go to the dance after nine months of pregancy. The phone rang and the voice said, ³Mrs. Womack you can come and get your baby, he weighs five pounds.² I took that dress, put it back in the closet...put everything away. I called Daddy and said, ³Letıs go get our son.² I got you in from playing and said, ³Letıs go get your baby brother.² You came right in. We went in to Gorgas Hospital and went to nursery. They brought him out all dressed. We had a crib at home waiting for him. We let you hold him for a little while because you were acting like he would break. You had only gone in with me once to see him. We brought him home and that was the end of my partying.

On Christmas holidays everyone gave parties so I gave a Christmas party and decided that it would be a dinner party. When they got there we had Italian spaghetti, mechas and salad with some kind of dessert. The people were so tired of turkey and ham that they really enjoyed that meal.

Another one that I gave, your brother was going around serving people crackers with shaving cream on them. Andy Fraser took a bite and swallowed it so that the others would be aware of the joke. All of those people were gagsters, they would do anything to pull a gag on other people.

The Day the Benjamin Franklin
Transitted the Canal

Doris Monaco
I do remember standing by the lighthouse. Miss Starr was the one who told us we would be witnessing history. Since I did not have her as a teacher, but as a Principal, I must have been in 4th or 5th Grade.

Don Connor
Here is some of what I remember of the Benjamin Franklin also known as the Ben Franklin or Fighting Lady. This was an aircraft carrier that was involved in what was called the battle of Midway. (Midway Island) in the Pacific, during the early part of the war. In fact a turning point in the war against Japan. The Franklin transited the canal returning to New York for repairs. The ship was so badly damaged that she listed to one side and the flight deck was a mass of twisted and burned steel. If I remember right they still had not recovered all the bodies from her yet. I remember standing by the lighthouse watching her go by. Sorry no pictures just an old faded memory.

I also remember going aboard the battleship Missouri (The Mighty Mo) when she returned from the Pacific area. She was docked in Balboa.They had a plaque set in the deck on the spot where they signed the end of the war documents with Japan, in the harbor of Japan.

Those Were the Days

Lou Womack
(Excerpt taken from Patriotism)

For many years during the Second World War I observed warships traveling through the Panama Canal, going out to the Pacific all shiny and bright. The sailors uniforms of white added a bit of pride that would well up inside of me as I saw them standing at attention. Iım sure on occasions I would wave to them, at least that is what is in my heart now as I write this at sixty-two years of age.

Later after many months of fighting in the South Pacific, they would return with evidences of ³war² upon each ship. Holes would pelt the ships making them look as if a gigantic shotgun had used them for target practice. Some of these holes were at the expense of another patriotıs life as he volunteered his life to be a Kamikaze pilot, a suicide pilot, by diving into the ship with his plane, causing great damage to the ship and a great loss of human lives.

When we got the news on the Zone that the USS Franklin was transiting the canal we all stood by the canal in our individual towns almost in the same manner that we recently experienced in Princess Diannaıs funeral entourage when it would pass by each town with thousands of people lined up along the roadside, only we were lined up along the sides of the canal. We viewed this great ship with a respectful, silence. There were no waves from my hand this time. . .only a deep, heartfelt reverence. We had been told that some of the mens bodies were still in the bombed parts of the ship. Apparently after the ship was bombed it was taking in water and starting to list. Some of the airtight chambers were sealed to prevent the ship from sinking. I wondered how on earth this ship made it back with such a list to itıs side. The USS Franklin, named after Benjamin Franklin, was affectionately referred to as "Big Ben" or "the ship that would not die". After going through the war in the South Pacific and limping home, but still in tack, it was very appropriately lableled. More Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded to this ship's crew than any other ship during WWII.

Yes, I saw many of the big ships transit through the canal. After the war when the Wasp, an aircraft carrier, went through, I had been given the privilege of boarding it and transiting the canal on it. In a distance ahead of the Wasp I could see another aircraft carrier, the Enterprise. Later on the battleship Missouri transited and docked temporarily for some of us ³Zonians² to board it and see the exact spot where the peace treaty was signed between Japan and the United States.

When we got the news on the Zone that the USS Franklin was transiting the canal we all stood by the canal in our individual towns almost in the same manner that we recently experienced in Princess Diannaıs funeral entourage when it would pass by each town with thousands of people lined up along the roadside, only we were lined up along the sides of the canal. We viewed this great ship with a respectful, silence. There were no waves from my hand this time. . .only a deep, heartfelt reverence. We had been told that some of the mens bodies were still in the bombed parts of the ship. Apparently after the ship was bombed it was taking in water and starting to list. Some of the airtight chambers were sealed to prevent the ship from sinking. I wondered how on earth this ship made it back with such a list to itıs side. The USS Franklin, named after Benjamin Franklin, was affectionately referred to as "Big Ben" or "the ship that would not die". After going through the war in the South Pacific and limping home, but still in tack, it was very appropriately lableled. More Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded to this ship's crew than any other ship during WWII.

Footnote:
After reading Doris and Don's recollection of the Benjamin Franklin it helped me to know where I was standing probably with the whole Gamboa Elementary School...right by the lighthouse. I knew I was there but didn't know from what vantage point I was viewing this most memorable moment in time that was indelibily printed on all of our minds.

I also thought about how we were so closely knit together in those times and when my mom spoke of the gasoline rationing that we went through for many years we had no place to go but Gamboa for our entertainment. It all fits together doesn't it?

The Heroes Returning

Jim Shobe
After the war was over and our heroes were returning I was still in high school. Sometimes some of us would skip school and go to Pedro Miguel Locks and wait for the returning warships at the edge of the lock chambers. As the ships rose in the chamber, when the deck of the ship was level with the top of the lock chamber we would leap aboard and transit to Gatun where we would reverse the process and wait at the train station to return to Gamboa. We would use our school train ticket,. The conducter would punch the ticket and the trip would cost us ten cents.

While aboard the warship we would be treated like younger brothers. The sailors must have been so hungry for home life after such a long time away from home and family. I wish I could remember the names of the ships I boarded but time has erased them. It was an exciting time and the war years in Gamboa will continue to evoke strong memories of those years.

Gas Masks

Carolyn Tyssen
Does anyone remember the gas masks? The adults had the regular looking ones but the kids were issued some kind of cloth type. I remember my mother trying to get it on me but she didn't succeed, as I panicked as soon as she tried to get it over my head. My mother said all the adults had to go down town and walk through some gas filled room in their gas masks.
Does anyone remember this???
Also, do you remember some air raid wardens? My mother was one.
Also, how about fake blimps? The balloons they blew up to fool any air surveillance. There was one down town if I remember right.

World War 2 Songs

Jessee Crawford
How about "Good Night Irene" for a war song - I remember sitting under the school in Gamboa singing that song. Weıd sit next to each other with our arms around the shoulders of the person sitting next to you rocking back and forth singing "Good night Irene, good night Irene, Iıll see you in my dreams" - this may have been right after the war ended though - I think I started school in 1946???

ANNIVERSARY SONG
AS TIME GOES BY
BEAUTIFUL K-KATIE
BOOGIE WOOGIE BUGLE BOY,
THE BREEZE AND I
COME RAIN OR COME SHINE
CRUISING DOWN THE RIVER
DON'T FENCE ME IN
DON'T SIT UNDER THE APPLE TREE
GOOD NIGHT IRENE
HOW HIGH THE MOON
IT'S A GRAND NIGHT FOR SINGING
I DON'T WANT TO SET THE WORLD ON FIRE
I'LL BE SEEING YOU
JUNE BUSTING OUT ALL OVER
LILLI MARLENE
MAIRZY DOATS
MOONLIGHT IN VERMONT
OH WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNING
RED ROSES FOR A BLUE LADY
SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
SPEAK LOW
A STRING OF PEARLS
SWINGING ON A STAR
THIRD MAN THEME
WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR
WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER
WUNDERBAR
YOU CAN'T BE TRUE DEAR
YOU'LL NEVER WALK ALONE

A Plaque on the Wall

Lou Womack
In my den where I feverishly work on the computer...out of my peripheral vision I know that a plaque is hanging on the wall to my left. Once in a while I look up at It and read it as a reminder. At the top of this parchment paper encased by the plaque is the seal of the United States which is the American Eagle. Above itıs head is a scalloped design in deep blue with 13 white stars arranged within. The eagle below it has a ribbon held tightly in itıs beak with the words ³E Pluribus Unum.² The eagleıs wings are spread out on each side and itıs chest is made up of thirteen red and white stripes. Itıs left claw grasps tightly an olive branch while the right claw, contrastingly grasps thirteen arrows.

Beneath the plaque is written:


IN GRATEFUL MEMORY OF
MARTIN ALLEN TUCKER

United State Marine Corps

Who Died In Service to His Country

at Okinawa Island, Ryukyu Islands, 15 May 1945

He stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die

That freedom might live, and grow, and increase its blessings.

Freedom lives, and through it. he lives--

in a way that humbles the undertakings of most men

Harry Truman

President of the United States of America


My uncle Marty was crawling out to rescue an injured buddy when he accidentally hit a land mine.

A Youth Faces the Years of War

Don Connor
1999

when the Canal was turned over to Panama.

"When we were living on The Ridge, the Second World War started on Dec. 7, 1941. I remember we were told to fill all the laundry tubs located under the house, with water, in case a water main got broke in an air raid by the Japanese. The night the war started, my Dad was working and my Mother was alone with my brother and I. There were no lights and we spent a rather long anxious night until my Dad arrived home the next morning."

"Air raid drills consisted mainly of filling the tubs with water and turning off the electricity. Pulling a main switch for each house did this. Shortly after in the following months, air raid shelter were built around the various towns. I remember the air raid shelter built under the Gamboa grade school. The first shelters were built with sand bags but later replaced with fifty-five gallon drums filled with sand."

"Barrage Balloons and smoke pots were placed all around the lock sites and ground level views were blocked off."

As time and the War moved on my parents got their first car and I got my first two wheeler bike. One day I fell and broke my arm while playing on the clothes line in the yard next to the house the McDonald's lived. Bruce McDonald was my friend and his mother was a Cub Scout Den Mother, if I remember right.

"During this time my mother received word that her youngest brother was killed in action in France. I experienced grief for the first time in my memory. I knew my uncle Tom and realized I would never see him again and I cried along with my mother for our loss."

"During this time my brother Bob and I became involved with the Red, White and Blue Troop's activities. This troop entertained the troops with water shows at the local Army & Navy swimming pools. We traveled from Gamboa to military posts on both sides of the Isthmus. Many of the Gamboa kids took part, along with their parents who provided transportation and were chaperones. Many others throughout the Canal Zone were also involved."

"It was a very busy time for our family and we saw many ships and troops as they passed through the Canal to the Pacific."

"I remember one day I finished up my after school activities early and not wanting to wait for the five o'clock train, I walked across the field in front of the train station to the highway and started to hitchhike a ride to Gamboa. While I was I was hitchhiking a PBY plane came in to Albrook Air Base and passed right over my head. One of it engines was smoking and I could see bullet holes in the fuselage. I assumed it had run into an enemy submarine during it patrol."

A Boyıs Recollection of the War

Andy Van Siclen
I must have been about 6 years old when the war began. I seem to have a memory of playing on old biplanes at a dump out about Diablo Heights. These were old Army Air Force war planes that had been scraped as newer war birds were now available.

I remember the black out curtains and the blacked out headlights on cars. As I recall the blacked out headlights were done by putting a band aid on the center of the light and then painting the rest of it black after which you removed the band aid and you had a blackout headlight.

I remember the gas rationing and I remember Uncle had a Hudson and he used to try to extend his ration by mixing kerosene with the gas and how it would smoke something fierce. Jimmy, is this a for real memory or just a figment of my imagination?? I also seem to have a memory of Dick and I trying to be helpful and while playing gas station under the house one Sunday filled Uncle Shobe's Hudson full to the brim with the water hose. I remember that every building had those old soda acid fire extinguishers and along side of these were a bucket of sand just in case they dropped incendiary bombs.

Of great importance to a youngster I remember that you could not get bubble gum any more in the commy because it contained latex rubber and that was a high priority item. Licorice was also something that you could no longer get, I don't know why that was.

I too remember the ships going through the canal. I was very interested in submarines and I remember that my Dad was able to arrange a tour of one of the subs that was tied up at a dock. I remember this tour because for some reason my dad did not have a vehicle at his disposal and how disappointed I was that we were not going to be able to go. All of a sudden somebody said, " Don't disappoint the kid, I'll let you use my motorcycle". I don't think my Dad had ever ridden a motorcycle but this one had a sidecar. I think it was an old Harley. Anyway I got into the sidecar and away we went. The tour of the sub was great, but what really makes this event stand out so clearly in my memory was the trip back home. Somewhere along the way. I think it was about where the turn off was to go to Far Fan Beach, Dad's hat blew off and he grabbed for it and of course let go of the handle bars and Dad, the motorcycle, the sidecar and me went off the road. I was thrown clear but my Dad's leg was pinned under the bike, or so I thought. I was panicked and was able to lift the bike off of him. He of course was not hurt and we got a ride back to our base.

I too remember the Missouri transiting the canal both ways. I seem to remember that it was the widest ship ever to transit the canal that they had to repaint the sides after each transit. I remember General McArthur after the surrender leading a sort of victory parade that ended up at the Admin Building.

I remember after the war how they started scraping out all of these great airplanes at Kobe Air Force Base. Me and a couple of other kids whose names I do not remember used to sneak into this place and play on these old planes. I remember that one day I found an old oxygen cylinder and thinking how maybe I could use this to make my own scuba outfit. While lugging it back home someone spotted me and thought I had a bomb and called the MPıs. They responded and from a very safe distance made us put it down and promise never to come back.

So many memories from so long ago.

Jim Shobe
P.S. in regards to Andy's story of playing gas attendent with my brother with my father`s Hudson yes you did and as usual my father took it right in stride.

Dick Shobe
Andy is right. I did fill my Dad's car with the garden hose, and I got a spanking which was not as bad as being called Gasoline Alley for the next six months

Air Raid Drills

Lou Womack
(Excerpt from Patriotism)
During the war I vividly remember the many ships that came through, the blackouts, and the air raid drills at school. With anxious hearts, when a drill was called, all of the students and teachers from the first story level which was supported underneath by concrete pillars, would run down the outside stairs to the ground level shelter made of sandbags.There we would wait until the ³all clear³ signal was given, needless to say, never soon enough for me! Those were scarey days for me as a child.

An air raid siren blew one time while I was at the swimming pool. The rules were ³stay put wherever you are². My mom was frantic because she knew the ruling and she was at home. As her eyes glanced across a large field by the swimming pool she could see in a distance a little brown-haired girl running as fast as she could, picking them up and laying them down. Iım sure I ran into her arms for safety.

"From Sandbags to a Pool"

Don Connor
I enjoyed your piece on Gold Elementary and got a kick out of the air raid shelter part. I remembered one day we were headed out to the playground and passing by the sandbag shelter and some kid in our group said he was going to blow down the shelter and proceeded to take in a big breath and blow... and at that point the whole side of the shelter fell in. He was one scared kid, I wish I could remember who it was but I can't. I also remember the shelter of sandbags being replaced with 55 gal. drums filled with sand stacked on top of each other when the shelter was rebuilt soon after.

Jim Shobe
Don Conner is RIGHT the boy was Bill and the air raid sand bags were under construction. Believe it or not he was reported to Miss Starr and was punished for it. In regards to the swimming pool at Hidalgos I don`t believe there was one.

Don Connor
Ref. Swimming Pool at Billıs. I also remember a small pool up on the hill at the Billıs. I don't remember swimming in it but I know it was there.

Jake Baker
Bill , did indeed have a swimming pool. Bill and I were close friends in those days and I practically lived at his house, enjoying that pool frequently. Bill always had a bunch of us kids up there and his parents were the greatest, putting up with all the noise we made in that pool and even feeding us. The view from the Gamboa Signal station was fantastic. We could see the Canal, Gamboa bridge, some of Gamboa, the Chagres River, the CZ penitentiary etc.

Mr. Lyons and the Green Paint

by Dick Shobe

Sunday March 7, 1942, a day that will live in infamy for Mr. Lyons.

A day my Dad loved to describe.World War II for Americans was in its third month. The British surrendered Singapore. U.S and Philippine soldiers will surrender Corregidor after fourteen hard months. Gamboa, the Canal Zone town at the end of the road, surrounded by water and rain forest, was separated from the States as German submarines sank U.S.freighters at will along the Atlantic coast from Florida to Maine. The Canal supply ships Ancon, Balboa and Cristobal are under conversion to troop ships.

Our house was at the top of a hill. The backyard quickly and sharply descended into the bush, more accurately described as the rain forest. For several years it was a tradition for every kid that found an auto tire to roll it to and down our back yard. Other kids would tag along. Upwards to a dozen kids would watch the tire bounce down the slope leading to the bush, and listen after is disappeared.

Earlier that day the kids of Gamboa did their share towards winning the war. They spent several hours retrieving tires from the bush and storing them to our garage. The tires over the next three years gradually moved from garage to car as needed.

The work detail was finished. A kid's softball game began in the vacant lot next to our house. Down the terrace from center field Mr. Lyons was painting the clothes line poles. He was hunched over, his back to the softball game, his baldhead getting pink from too much sun. Every ten minutes he would put his brush in the Klim can containing the green paint, stand up, step back and admire his painting. Dad was standing a couple of yards behind the catcher protecting his flowerbed.

You can now guess the impossible is about to happen. The batter got a good pitch, and responded with an accurate swing. At impact a dozen kids and one dad watched the flight of the softball, ascending over center field, down the terrace to the clothes line, ending its flight in the Klim can. Two events happened simultaneously. All the kids disappeared! Mr. Lyon's pink head turned green!

I was one of the invisible kids but I've heard Dad tell the story of angryman and laughing man many times. It's best left to your imagination.

On Sunday evening March 7, 1942, Mr. Lyons day on infamy, the three long months of a losing war were forgotten; everyone in Gamboa was dropping softballs into Klim cans.

WASPS/CARRIBES

Jay Green
Does anyone remember the WASPS/CARRIBES? My mom was one (Eva Collins) They worked at Quarry Heights 90 feet underground plotting shipping and talking to pilots. My mom talked to pilots and had to record everything that was said. They didn't always know it and my mom sometimes got an earfull. One time, after eating her lunch, she had her brown paper bag left and decided to blow it up and pop it. When she did it sounded like gunfire going through the tunnel. The base was put on alert and guards were everywhere. She was terrified they were going to shoot her. I entered her name in the Women's Memorial in D.C. and encluded this story. There were a number of WASPS. I can picture the ladies in my mind but can only remember the name of Mrs. Frederick. (Dorothy's mother).

Wartime Ocean Travel

Bill Campbell
During the war they took all of our three ships and turned them into troop carriers so......when we had opportunities to go stateside we all had to use whatever army troop carriers were available. And they didn't take you to New York, they went to New Orleans....My family and I were unlucky enough to make one of these transits on the Huddleston , a nasty ole troop carrier. All of the women and children were herded into quarters in the bow and all the men and older sons into quarters in the stern. It was as hot as (you know what) and from my view in my top berth all I could see was a sea of posteriors as everyone was trying to keep cool. The seas were enormous and the ship rocked and rolled all the way to New Orleans. There was no escaping ,everyone was very sick. I'm sure that most of the travelers arrived in the U.S. skinnier than when they boarded in Panama. But.....at least we all made it to the U.S. safely. New Orleans was around 110 degrees so we were all ready to head back to Panama...by plane..We were headed for Nova Scotia and so knew there was COOL ahead....relief....was in our future.....

Also , we were in transit from New York to Panama when Pearl Harbor was bombed and WW2 was declared... The ship stopped in Haiti and they painted the whole ship black. This included the portholes too. No one was allowed on deck and no lights of any kind were allowed as there was a sickning threat of being torpedoed by a submarine. Cool eh !!!!! ANYWAY...We made it back to Panama safely and the war went on. In the middle of the night some man jumped overboard and we (the ship) stopped and searched for him for an hour or so. He was seen a couple of times but the rough seas prevented his rescue so....he is still out there somewhere....As those of us that were on the zone during the war know , it was an exciting time in an exciting place.

Sunday Dinners with the G.I.'s
Carolyn Tyssen

Does anyone remember having soldiers for Sunday dinners? My parents befriended two that I remember. One was Herman and the other was Buddy. They enjoyed coming out to the house and having a meal with a family instead of Army mess all the time. They sent us some things from their travels and also letters that had half the words cut out after being checked out by security. Also the dance classes used to entertain the service men with their dance recitals pieces.

Inquiry: "The Plaque"
Jim Shobe

I was rembering "The Plaque" that was outside the parking lot of the railroad station in Gamboa that was dedicated to allthe men who had served in the service of our country. I also wonder what has happened to it since the treaty was implemented? Would be nice to see it in that Pan Canal museum. Does anyone have any info on what has happened to it? Charlie World War 2
Remembrances on the Zone
by Don Connor

"I recorded the following narrative
by my Dad when he was visiting me
in Panama Dec. 1980."

"During this time, while I was at work on a Sunday afternoon, the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor. I would generally get home at 11:15 at night but we had to travel all the way to Gamboa without lights in a rickety old bus. I don't know how we ever got home but we did.(This was an eighteen mile trip on the old narrow two lane road with jungle on each side most of the way. The old Gamboa Road.) I wasn't the only one, there were eight or nine of us people who had to come home in that bus, we all lived in Gamboa."

"The next night they were able to fix up lights on this bus and it was only a small strip of light. They covered the lights with paint and then just left a small strip, one inch wide, so they could see the other vehicles coming toward them. It was up to the driver to stay on the road and out of the ditches. That was quite an experience all during the war until thing's got a little bit better toward the end of the war, when we started licking the Japanese Navy." "We didn't have to many things to worry about during the war, as far as food here, we were much better off than people in the States. We had no problems with sugar, butter or anything like that because this was a very strategic area for the United States."

"We could see how the war was progressing by the amount of shipping that was going through the Canal. All the battleships use to lay out off Colon harbor and they use to bring them through at night and they would keep it secret as possible. Due to some of the plants that I was working on, in the Canal, we were able to see everything that went by. We could see what battleship it was. After all the carriers and battleships went through, sometimes they would only be gone two or three weeks and we would hear they were sunk or were in combat or something like that. We use to follow everything very closely. After a while when all the big ship got through, for months and months and months the landing craft would go through here all night long and supply ships and everything, the ships never stopped going through and all for the war effort in the Pacific. It was one of the most interesting places you could be."

"After the war was started awhile, I became associated with a man by the name of Henry Grieser. He had a swimming troop, and he asked my wife to go along and chaperone the girls to the different places we use to put on shows. In the process of doing this many times, we use to go to all the Naval Bases and the Army Posts. Every time there was a different bunch of troops come in here and we would go and put on a show for them. They use to love that."

Seasickness

Andy Van Siclen
Loved the comments on seasickness and other travels from the CZ to the states in times long past. It brought back a flood of memories of times long gone. I am looking at an old passport issued to my Mom under date of 7-15-42. There is a picture of my Mom, myself and my sister Marilyn embossed with the seal of the American consulate General of the Panama Canal.

I don't remember why we going to the states except that it was to visit with Mom's parents who lived in Birmingham, Alabama. I remember this as if it was just last week. We boarded a Pan American flying clipper. This was a huge four engine seaplane. The windows were all shuttered so we could not see out during the take off (could be spies on board). They took off the shade after we were away from land but all you could see was the ocean. I was glued to the window because I knew that a U boat was going to surface and shoot us down. Pretty soon the stew came back and told me the pilot wanted to know if I would like to see the cockpit. Was I thrilled. She took me up to the cockpit and introduced me to the pilots. One of the pilots said he had to go to the back of the plane and would I like to help fly the plane. I was in hog heaven. I no longer cared about the U boats, I was going to fly an airplane. I sat down and took the control column. The pilot told me that George would help me fly and to just let the stick go where it wanted. What a thrill for a young boy just shy of his seventh birthday.

Another time shortly after the war we went to the states for vacation and my Dad decided to take a military transport to the states up the west coast to San Diego. What an old rust bucket this thing was. It was called (I know I can't properly spell this name) the Château Thierry. I had no idea how old this thing was until years later while watching a late late TV movie about WW 1 Here came General Pershing off this same ship.

Any way we had a cabin on what I guess was the promenade deck. I went in to take a shower and when I turned on the hot water I got a blast of live steam instead of hot water. It was later determined that someone below had accidental turned a wrong valve directing steam instead of hot water into that line. I just had time to wrap a towel around me and get out of the room but could not get back in to turn off the shower. In the meantime paint was beginning to blister on the bulkhead and this thick cloud of steam that looked like smoke was billowing out of the porthole. Somebody saw this and pulled the fire alarm and then all broke loose. Sirens and whistles went off and there I was with nothing but a towel wrapped around my waist. I think I must have been about 15 years old when all this happened and needless to say there was no way I was going to go to the lifeboat station with only a towel on.

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