History Items of the Canal Zone

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Musings from the Bedford,stories fiction based on experience 9 year old girl living in the Panama Canal Zone in year l933; stories entitled, Ancon - Balboa News.
cronicled by
Frances Coffey

Recieved April 28th, 2007

Mrs. Melendes encouraged me to write something every day for the column that appeared in the Star and Herald called the Ancon - Balboa News. I mostly wrote about what happened at school and at the stable and sometimes, to my father's dismay, what happened at home. My mother forbid me to use her name and Iita begged me to use her name. All my friends wanted to be in the newspaper too. When I was invited to parties, I carefully wrote down the guests' names and checked the spelling of the names. I told about the games played, the refreshments, the presents, and who won the prizes. One day, I had a really hot story to write. My friend's dad was helping with the party and was running the games. He continually went to the kitchen and then returned. Finally, a drink became glued to his right hand and he became merrier and merrier. He jumped up on the table and did a hula hula dance after which he dropped his pants and mooned us. My friend's mother ran from the room crying. Their maid got hold of the performer and raced him to his bedroom. The girls' aunt hastily served the birthday cake after which the presents were opened. After that, it was time to go home. When I got home, I sat down at my desk and wrote down all the fun. I folded it and put it in the envelope for my father to drop off at the newspaper in Panama City. The next morning, Iita came running in with the paper laughing so hard she could barely run. My dad said, let me see that paper. When he read the column, his face turned red and he told me he wanted to see me downstairs. I knew that meant trouble. But, what had I done that was wrong? I soon found out. My dad said I never should have written about what happened and I had disgraced my friend's father. I asked, did he not disgrace me? My dad said that hereafter I would not be writing any more columns.Period. I went to my room crushed by the way my father had treated me.After tending to my crying, I came to realize that, perhaps, I should have been more careful about what I wrote. I turned on the radio to a talk show. This guy who was in the Army stationed at Ft. Clayton was mediating a talk about, guess what, what he called the birthday party from hell. Yipes, I became really frightened then and wondered if I would be arrested? Different people phoned in and some declared that the culprit should get on the air and apopogize to the girl and her family and to the public. Others said the girl should be removed and placed in a foster home. Others wanted the mediator to have the girl phone in and answer questions or have the father answer questions or have the mother answer questions? The maid's union, CIO, wanted the father to publicly appologize to the maid and all maids in general. I had heard enough. I put on my jodpurs and summer riding shirt, hard hat, and riding boots. I rode my bike to the stable and saddled Chu and rode him hard to the corral we had built behind Ft. Clayton. I laid down on Chu's saddle blanket and waited to see what would happen next. It was dark and scary and lonely out there, but I knew Chu would protect me. After about two hours what was going to happen next, happened! A group of ladies appeared; since they had wings, I assumed they must be angels. The angels asked if I were Jean Rabiteau who wrote for the Ancon - Balboa News? I admitted with remorse, yes, I was. The ladies all talked at once and I could not understand what they were saying? I said that if they wanted me to understand them, they would have to speak one at a time. The fat one with black hair said that was not the news style of the day. The others then all at once said that was not the news style of the day. I asked, then, how can people understand what you say? In chorus, they said, that is not important. Each one then all at the same time stated why she thought this was not important. I was getting really tired of these angels fast. I pleaded, why are you interviewing me? They said that one of their group was exceedingly mistakenly being asked to resign after reducing her time on air. Black hair screeched (yes, she screeched) I was not asked to resign; I am merely cutting down my daily contribution, however, I will be returning now and then, especially, when I have something to say, like Mrs. Jack Kerry, which will be often. In chorus, then, they all yelled that an actor named Alex Baldwin would be on today so they had to hurry up and tell me what I had to do. My ears pricked up like my horses' ears, because I do not like to be told what to do by crazy people. In unison,following blah, blah, blah which I could not understand, they got down to the point. We will need you in the year 2007. I thought, good grief, 2007 is a million years away. Yes, yes, yes, they said. A movie star, Alec Baldwin, will be straightening out his ll year old daughter and we need you to applaud him. I asked, why me? One began, then the next chimed in and then the next like the song, Brother John, because you wrote that column in the Ancon - Balboa News taking the side of the father who really could not help it as he was drunk as he lost his golf game that day and his car ran out of gas and Mr. Walston arrested him and now he has to go to AA meetings which are stupid and a waste of time when he could be playing golf. Then instead of going to the Elks Club for bourbons and water, he has to lead dopey games at his daughter's party. If she had not been born, he would not have been stuck there and, therfore, would not have dropped his pants and mooned all the kids and their parents which, in truth, he did not drop his pants, they fell off because he was on the coca cola and banana diet where you could lose 69 pounds like Nicole Smith, although, Nicole Smith was an idiot. Instead of taking all those pills, she should have drunk a bottle of Ron Carta Vieja or Agewood Bourbon, or, at the very least, Panama Beer Boilermaker favored by the Canal Zone Apprentices. Since they were all, "straightening me out at once", I did not really catch it all. Did you? I was speechless. I asked, what is your point? Black hair, who seemed to be able to outshout the rest, looked at me in disgust. Of course, we want you to fill in when I won't be there, get it? I got it, but I did not want it. I pointed out that I was 9 years old and this was our year of our Lord, l933, and I wished to hell they would all leave.Period. The nicest one, the blonde, if any of them could be called "nice", came up with, let's get that other Canal Zone girl, Bonnie; she has a lot of spirit. With that, they flapped their wings and flew away and I flew awake as Mr. Walston was shining his damn 2000 volt flash light into my eyes as only Mr.Walston could. My father was behind him and the entire Cavalary from Ft. Davis on the Atlantic side was lined up behind my father who was riding Humboldt, Jr., Carlos' father riding Juanita and nearly sliding off, and the stable master riding poor, little Pancho who was the only horse the stable master was not scared of. My dad did not know whether to scold me or kiss me so he did neither. The first aid truck came around the corner and the hospital attendants (no paramedics yet) loaded me on the truck over my protests and I and my crowd all headed for Gorgas Hospital. Pancho took hold of Chubasco's bridal and led him along with the rest of the gang. Mr. Walston was on his motorcycle with the sidecar carrying the Riding Master who definitely looked uneasy not being riding on a horse.


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