Gamboa News

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Mr. Lyons and the Green Paint

chronicled 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.


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