History Items of the Canal Zone

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Linnea Angermuller's Memories of the Panama Canal Zone
cronicled by
Dale C. Clarke from Iguana

Chagres Street, Canal Zone

2003/12/05

I've finally been able to query Ron (BHS 1947) about his childhood because he falls into place a little after George Chevalier's time, but I well remembered he talked about Chagres Street and that Pop (Ernest Angermuller) moved there because he could obtain better quarters with only 11 years' service because Balboans didn't put in for Chagres St. Why? Because it wasn't fashionable to live amongst international families, is the way I would put it today. Evidently, not all Zonians felt that way because there were some bigwigs and other all-North American families who lived in the area. There was probably no specific pressure that Americans who married Panamanians live near each other, but perhaps they just felt more comfortable doing that.

Ron's grandparents came down in Construction Days but Michael Kenny contracted TB and went back to NYC where he died, leaving a widow, Molly Kenny and 4 daughters, all of whom grew up and married and brought their husbands down during the Depression. Molly returned, as well. She later married Jimmy Johnson, but was soon a widow again. When Mr. Johnson died, he was a 33rd degree Mason and had lain in state in the Blue Room of the Masonic Temple. His grandson, Fred Rose, was a classmate of Ron's.

Ron's mother Norma was pregnant with him when they arrived and he was born in August 1929 in Ancon Hospital. He remembers that they lived on the second (top) floor of a 4-family on Ancon Blvd. which had floor to ceiling window screens, not too safe for a toddler. As soon as he could, Ernest moved his family to a duplex on Chagres Street, 537, perhaps 1935-1939. He was able to rent a cottage on Chagres St. so they lived there from 1940 to perhaps 1946---Ron remembers that they had a "black-out room" at the beginning of WW II, with a fan and a radio, and parents and son read books. His little brother Michael was born in July 1940.

Ron was a messenger boy during the war. When the sirens went off, he'd ride his bike down to the Civil Defense Hq. at the Ancon Elementary School, where he'd stand by to take messages; he wore an arm band and a tin hat. Most of the sirens were for practice and the all-clear would usually sound before he'd arrive at the Hq. (The premier group was the coast artillery, 33rd Infantry at Ft. Clayton and Ft. Kobbe burgeoned when war began. Brazos Brooks Golf Course was created for civilians because the Army took over the golf course at Gatun Locks.)

They only left Chagres St. because a nice cottage came up on the board (Housing had a notice board which posted available quarters each week, and I can remember how central that was to MY life, to see what great places we could move to, if we had enough years of service). The cottage had a large apartment built "under the house" where Molly (Nana) could live. It was a cottage on stilts in Balboa on a dead end adjacent to All America Cables on Pendleton St.

While the Angermullers lived there, a church, now the Church of Christ, was built nearby, Bldg. 0851. The cottage has probably been torn down. The ground level had been totally enclosed, so Nana had a bedroom, sitting room, living room, kitchen, bathroom. She was active in Eastern Star and a bridge player.

Later, she moved out to Arraijan where she and a mozo built three little concrete houses; she lived in one and rented the other two to military families. She died in 1961 in Gorgas Hospital.

The Angermullers then moved back to Chagres St in the late 1940's. In 1950 the Panama Railroad Company had become the Panama Canal Company/Canal Zone Government, and the Mechanical Division was then called the Industrial Division and was moved to Mt. Hope, so Ernest, Norma and Michael moved to 6th St. in Margarita, and moved again to Orchid Place to one of the new concrete duplexes. Michael graduated from CHS 1958 and joined the Navy. The folks stayed until 1961 when Ernest retired to Springdale Arkansas, where Norma died in 1963. Ernest lived with us for a while in Margarita and then lived in Miami, where he died in November, 1969. Mike died in 1984.

Ron had stayed behind in bachelor quarters in Balboa to go to Jr. College and then work for the Commissary Division when the folks moved to Margarita. There were two bachelors' buildings along Balboa Road at the time. One of the bachelor quarters is still standing (at least when we left in 1982)--- there was only a bedroom and communal bathrooms for each bachelor. Ron joined the USMC reserve and left for boot camp in 1953; we met and married in 1955 and when he was discharged, we lived in Margarita where he had gotten another job with the Commissary Division at Mt. Hope, until he moved to Customs.

Ron remembers some of the families on Chagres St. One side of the road was all cottages (he counts 15) and the other was duplexes and cottages. Most or all of these structures have been torn down and replaced, of course. He remembers the Barrs, the Brugges (he was the Quartermaster), the police Sgt. Garlow, the MacArthurs, Hansons, DePreters, Giavellis, Woodmans, a Mr. Whitman who was an attorney in the Building; the John Fureys, Sally and Albert McKeown---good friends of Ron's parents; the Gibsons (Noel Gibsons' Dad, who was a shop teacher, Ron thinks and who also did some coaching); Wally Bains, Leo Clements, Sgt. Chubby Wohlfarth (CZ Police). Sgts. Wohlfarth, Garlow, and Krueger ran the Ancon Police Station.

Sgt. Wohlfarth somehow obtained 2 cases of New Zealand butter twice a month and Ron helped him deliver it at 40 cts. a lb. during the war, when butter wasn't readily available. Ron earned 5 cts. a lb. for each delivery.

The cottage 535 faced wasteland which later became the Motor Transportation Division. At one of the quarters, the duplex or the cottage, Ron's cousin Bud Journey lived next door in a duplex. Bud had a pony and it was kept between the house and the RR tracks and also stabled at the original corral. Ron remembers that he and Bud would ride bareback to Chiquita Pool, and that he would also go there with groups of friends---a long walk. Bud was BHS '41 and served on the USS CALIFORNIA during the war. Some of you may remember Bud's sister, Cele Davis, married to Ralph, and they were the parents of Bonnie Dolan and Kay Schofield.

That's Ron's story of Chagres St., leaving out all the fun, the games, the ring-a-levio, Christmas tree gangs, and all the topics discussed on Zonelink and Iguana mail for years. I would trade my childhood for his! He had the best of all worlds, born in the CZ and living his adult life there. I just wanted to clarify that yes, international families did tend to congregate in certain areas in the Zone in those years, but I think it was a matter of choice. I am sure there were hurts and slurs and indignities, which I hope that 70 years have greatly modified. I know that in Ron's house no child dared speak ill of others nor their nationality.

Linnea Angermuller

2003/12/06

In addition to Krueger,Wohlfarth and Garlow we had Carl Wanke also living in a cottage there. My Dad had served with them all and we would visit the Wankes on Sunday afternoons and it was like old home week for the CZP.
GC

2003/12/06

Where is/was Chagres Street? I don't recall ever hearing of it before. Was it still in existence in the 50's and 60's?

Tula

2003/12/06

Dontcha love the names of the streets in the old CZ? Mango St., Chagres St.

I see in my 1979 Panama Canal Telephone Directory (bright pink cover, can be sold for $1,000,000) that it's on an Ancon map, and runs along almost parallel to Roosevelt Ave. across from Civil Affairs Bldg., MTD, and PRR Freight Terminal (left to right). It runs between Bayano St. below and Guayacan Place above, and Ancon Blvd. even farther above. I wish that Ron and I had had a walking tour along there before we left the Isthmus. Or even a driving tour. I am completely unfamiliar with most of Balboa, Ancon, etc. even tho we lived in B. Hts. for 3 l/2 years, but they were busy years. We had 3 cars, one of which was always in the shop, Ron was always over in Cristobal at the other Admeasurement office if he wasn't in Balboa, Larry was running around in the VW & at CZJC, and both our kids had summer jobs, so Mother and I were kind of stuck. (We had bought the VW so we could sell the old Blazer but since one or another car was over at the Amador Rd. mango tree mechanic---what was his name?---we had to keep 3 cars.

At least Betty Dunning and I drove and drove around on Sat. mornings, looking for spots to paint in watercolor and had a wonderful time, but I still didn't have much time to just "cruise." Of course, I'd see neighborhoods when we visited people or went to parties, but I now realize how little I know of the Pacific side.

Looking back, I remember knowing my own neighborhood in Portland intimately because we ran thru back yards, went trick or treating, walked to school and the stores and up to the pool and park, and when you're a grownup you just don't get to know the territory that well. Ron and I walked around Balboa Hts. a little and he pointed out things that I had never known about----the little concrete steps had led once to houses that aren't there anymore but the royal palms are still there, at the end of Ridge Rd. This was up on right as we walked out towards the Admin Bldg., below Quarry Hts., and his & his first love's initials are carved on one of the palms, perhaps 40 ft. up now.

Ron of course had roamed all over what became Albrook, Ancon Hill, everywhere within a boy's walking distance, rode the chivas downtown to see movies, was taken duck hunting by friends of his father's (as Pop worked long hours and 6 days a week during the war), flew up to the Volcan twice to stay with his godparents, Glen and Mae Lewis, was up at Gorgona on weekends with family at his Aunt Marione Campbell's home (Bud and Cele's mother) on the Point, which I think Frank Robinson bought later. He worked at the Kool Spot all day Saturday and also helped his grandmother when she managed a boarding house for Third Locks construction and engineer types on 4th of July. Of course, when WW II began, the Third Locks project was postponed.

I'll have to edit my write-up on Ron's childhood for our family history and post it someday.

~~ Linnea

2003/12/06

Linnea: You brought back a lot of memories. Yes, the MacArthurs, the Rathgabers, the Paines (George Paine was decorated as one of the heroes of the Korean War (I believe). My brother, Rafael Reyes, lived up on Chagres Street. I lived off 4th of July Avenue, Calle Domingo Diaz in Panama, as did Sonia Bright, the Clark's, Fred Raybourne lived around the corner, etc., etc. Those were fun times. I remember a bunch of us gathering at the bench down from Ancon Clubhouse. Talked over basketball games, boys, girls, etc. I wish our kids lived in that era were everything seemed so simple and carefree. We were well protected by the CZ Police and everyone watched out for each other's kids. Like you said, it was great living at that time even though we lived on the Panamanian side of the street and many of our friends were on both sides of the street we still had a good life. Yes, one of my friends brought up the fact that most of the families living in Ancon were mixed (that is, Panamanians with Americans) and I really never thought of it that way as there were the Rathgabers, the Paines and many others that the couples were both American. Well, enough remembering, it just was great hearing you talking about Ancon. I think your hubby's Dad graduated with me in '49 or did he graduate in '48?. Am I right? Also, I remember Norma DePrater. I wonder where she is now?

Bea "Reyes" Gunn.

2003/12/06

Heh. O852, AKA "Termite Manor." I spent many hours in my friend Obie's room there, just sitting around and BS'ing. I think he said he paid $19/mo for the place.

Obie's also on ZL, so he'll probably remember this too.

2003/12/06

i sure do remember a few hours that we spent in "The Manor" fish fries etc in the foyer - hehehee - to say the least

Russ Oberholtzer


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