History Items of the Canal Zone

[an error occurred while processing this directive] visitors since 03/29/2003.

Jean Coffey's Memories of Panama as posted on Iguana Mail
compiled by
Linnea Angermuller


From: JeanCoffey@webtv.net (Frances Coffey)
Date: Thu, 15 Aug 2002 21:22:54 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Hotel Washington,
There were a lot of good products produced in Mt. Hope. The star was Mentacol. The men wisely used only a small amount for after shave, but some unfortunates splashed it all over themselves and nearly froze to death. There was palm coconut shampoo, alcohol rub (the janitors in the men's bachelor quarters often drank it), Borax mouth wash, pink mouth wash, I forget the name, borax powder in a can, baking soda in a can, Odorono - a deodorant that burned like heck, especially, after shaving, Flit which did not kill any bugs unless you could say they drowned in it, Bay Rum aftershave which was just like the real Bay Rum currently for sale in the J. Peterman catalog (Remember Elaine's job in Seinfeld?), hand soap for workmen that took the skin off, Florida Water - a cologne, and many more I cannot remember. Now, don't forget the milk plant, the bakery, and the coffee roasting plants. That is when we had our own dairy farm in Mindi. The coffee roasting could be smelled for miles, not to mention the bakery. Some of the iguanians have the recopied for the raisin cookies. Cannot leave out the slaughterhouse. My parents who were retired in the U.S. always asked me to bring P.C. products to them in the U.S. On one trip, an entire bottle of the feared Mentacol, pink in color, broke and spread all over the contents of my suitcase. I just remembered roach paste which you put around the kitchen in bottle caps and hoped that only the roaches ate it. I lived in the CZ from birth, 1924, until retirement in 1980.

I have never been offered a drug in my entire life, although, my children say that drugs were in use during their CZ days. We were not allowed to associate with soldiers who often took seats next to us in the theatre in he clubhouse. They wore civilian clothes, but we were told to look at their socks; they did not change their socks which were Army. I was told, and do not document this, but soldiers were men who could not get a regular job so joined the Army. Anyway, we knew everybody who lived on both sides of the Isthmus and knew who was or was not a CZ kid. After the Crisis of 1964, the flag raising, the boy who raised the flag and his entire family were deported. Also, Jerry Doyle, an accomplished CZ architect who designed the new "houses on the ground" in the early 1950's, was deported along with his family for sympathizing with the CZ people who battled in the flag raising, and wrote articles published in the Star and Herald and the Panama American. He was a great friend of mine. We kids were overprotected and were not educated in how to deal with the regular world when we found ourselves living in the U.S. A new kid in school was a real phenomenon and very popular. The first arrival of a large number of kids was the CIP kids who lived in the new l2 family houses in Williamson Place in Balboa. From then on, the CZ was more diversified. Upon the integration of black and white schools, the CZ became more in line with the U.S. CIP stands for Canal Improvement Project working on the 3rd locks. Sorry this is so long; got carried away, but like to hear from the "old" CZ kids like George

Teachers found the Canal Zone Classrooms ideal. Until tuition students were admitted, all children came from at least a civil service level background. There were not any "poor" children. No one lived in a "poor" neighborhood, no one was hungry or suffered from abuse from parents. Children tested higher than when in school in other parts of the U.S. or the world. Teacher qualifications were very high - a college degree plus l5 education credits, and experience with good recommendations. One new teacher told me this was the first class she ever had where every child had seen both the empire state building and the grand canyon, products of our parents' long vacations in the U.S.

While replying to an e-mail from Roger Kelly, I noted an error in subject Olden Times mentioned elsewhere. The fact is that SIP stood for Special Improvement Project; not CIP.

Am I the only one who remembers when the 12 family houses were built and what for?

I already wrote how CZ girls were not allowed to date "Wrappies." Now, here is the other side of that strange environment: We were allowed and even encouraged to date Officers. I attended many dances at the Officers' Clubs on both sides of the Isthmus. There were live bands and free refreshments. I don't recall many Navy guys, but occasionally, a ship would dock with Cadets and there would be a huge dance for them. Before World War II, married ladies were not permitted to teach; some, however, were substitutes. With the onset of World War II, all ladies were permitted to teach. The female teachers of yore all lived near the schools in a huge wooden building with tiny warren-like rooms - 2 to a room. After being freed by World War II, the teachers instantly married generals, commanders, colonels, even an admiral; they got the cream of the crops. In my mind, one of the most influential acts in the history of the CZ was when all frequency sensitive equipment was changed from 25 to 60 cycles in 1957 affecting every household in the CZ plus every business. The most difficult were locks, hospital, elevators, and the food service complex providing coffee, ice cream and milk, and bakery. I have mentioned this subject before, but did not stir up any interest. My question is why? After all, that is when we got air-conditioning

In reply to Keith Olson,
You could drink after the lottery played at 11:00 AM. When the time changed to 12:00 Noon, people still kept drinking at 11:00 AM. The shops in Panama and Colon used to close at 12:00 and open at 2:00 PM. A typical day would be to go to the Washington Hotel saltwater pool, have lunch served by the side of the pool, and then go home for a siesta and report to work at 2:00PM. I recall how nice it was that if we were on the ship on a Sunday, there would be a religious service. Not connected to above, but the animals who were passengers were to the rear of the ship in cages. It was fun to go and visit them. At one time, somebody was transporting a horse. My father had a greyhound jump overboard because the attendant disobeyed my father's orders and let the dog off the leash. The Captain even turned the ship around, but greyhounds cannot swim, so sank immediately. Another nice thing was there was always a doctor on the ship. Need I say, that if anyone died on the ship, he was put in cold storage. In reference to those l2 family houses, there were 2 doors to the bathroom; one from the kitchen and one from the bedroom, do not know why? We were so excited when they built the l2 family houses on the Atlantic side in Old Cristobal near the Cristobal Yacht Club. T hey were the first houses to have bathtubs without feet and cabinets in the kitchen. That was our first apartment and when they tore the building where I lived down, the quartermaster (excuse me, the housing officer) gave me the sign that was on the building because we were the first couples to live there. I have it hanging in my guest room - 1717- . The families had to take turns using the clothes lines under the house; this caused many fights amongst the maids. One night we came home and there was a bomb shelter built in our parking space under the house. We had a new convertible coupe so complained and it was moved. I didn't go in the shelter when the siren blew because they would not let me take my cat in with me.

There were two enormous boarding houses built on Balboa Road for single men. They were 3 times as big as the l2 family houses. There were community bathrooms. There was a large porch where bachelors could view the beautiful girls passing by through the screens that covered the whole front of the building, while rocking in their quartermaster built rocking chairs. Ladies were not allowed in the building. When my parents went down to Panama in 19l6, they lived in a town called Paraiso. Rent, utilities, and furniture were free; however, the privileges were abused by people wasting electricity and water and not caring for the furniture. That is when rent and utilities were charged in the monthly bill. About 195l, the same time we began paying Income Tax, we began paying for "rental furniture." This plant account item applied to divisions also. Mr. Donald Brayton was head of the Transportation Division and when attending a meeting in the old meeting room at the top of the Margarita Clubhouse, he made a memorable speech. Mr. Brayton was a brilliant man and was well respected. It started when some experts came down from the U.S. around 1950, and recommended we change from being Canal Zone Government and Panama Canal, we become a company called the Panama Canal Company. Thus, Schools, Police, Civil Affairs, Fire, Hospitals, were under the Canal Zone Government because funds for their operation were appropriated by the U.S. Government. The Divisions which supported themselves were commissary, theatre, clubhouses, Industrial Div., Maintenance Division, Building Division, Transportation Division, Electrical Division, Plumbing Division, and anything to do with the maintenance and operation of the Panama Canal. Back to Mr. Brayton's Speech - After long being employed as the head of the Transportation Division, he had during that time been appropriated funds which he used to purchase furniture and office equipment and machines, typewriters, ditto machines, etc. Now that he was working for the Panama Canal Co., they were charging him to rent all his plant account from the Storehouse Division; all items he had bought himself. He received a standing ovation.

I remember that the golfers used to play using "Winter Rules" at the appropriate time the U.S. played them. For those who do not know, we used to use commissary books only in shopping in the commissary and the clubhouse (mostly for movies at the clubhouse.) The books came in amounts of $l5.00, $l0.00, and $5.00. The back and front of the commissary book was very important. The inside of the book was to be torn out in amounts of $.0l each section. On the left side of the book showed how much you had spent and the right side showed how much you had left. After the amount of your purchase, the torn out part was placed in a locked box. At the end of each day, all the torn out sections were sent to the Commissary section in the Administration Building. When all the sections were used, the covers were sent to the Commissary section also. Then the ladies in the Commissary section would paste all the sections together and paste them back in the appropriate covers. This system was supposed to prevent non Panama Canal employees from purchasing in the commissaries. When the coupons got down to about $l.00 or $2.00, my mother would give them to me to use for the movies at the clubhouse. Any false play with those books would win you and your family a deportation to the U.S. When I was first married, in 1941, I can remember going a whole month on a $5.00 book. The local raters who were the employees in the commissary became so expert in tearing that they could loop off what seemed like yards and yards of coupons to arrive on the exact amount in nothing flat. These books could be ordered against your next month's paycheck; we were paid once per month. So, the fact is, sometimes you ended up without any paycheck at all. The goal of every household was to survive by paying cash for the book instead of having it deducted from your paycheck; however, it seemed as though that accomplishment was impossible.

I might also add that the Commissary section was a favorite place for the Canal Zone to give work to ladies who became widows in the Canal Zone. If your husband died, you were given a job pasting up commissary books. Also, if your husband died, your 16 year old son was given a job, usually in some place like the Printing Plant where he could learn the business from the ground up and one day be a regular and accomplished employee.

In the 1930's it was possible for the "Wrappies" to buy their way out of the Army. This appealed to many single ladies who wanted to be married. The cost was $30.00. Sometimes, as soon as they were out of the Army, the grooms took off for the U.S. and never returned. I remember that the children of Pilots were not allowed to play with the rest of us kids.~~ I recently wrote a statement saying Pilot's children were not allowed to play with the rest of us kids. I should have qualified that to state that policy was in effect during the 1930's in Balboa and should not be construed otherwise. We had Balboa, Ancon, LaBoca, Pedro Miguel, Gamboa on the Pacific side. Sorry if I led you astray.

In 1964, while attending the Jr. College in La Boca, I often took the pilot's train to Cristobal from Balboa. The car had oil lamps swinging from the ceiling. That, in turn, reminds me of the "bus" that took the pilots who worked portal to portal. It was seat covered with white fabric and had tassels hanging from the roof.

This subject I am writing about is a very sticky subject. It is about schools and the way they moved around. I attended Jr. High School from 1935 to 1937. It was a two story wooden building over towards Roosevelt Ave. I then attended high shcool from I attended grades 7 and 8 in an old 2 story wooden building on stilts from 1935 to 1937 which was formerly the CZ College; later became apprentice school. From 194l they began constructing a new high school; the pile drivers drove us mad. They were so loud, you could not hear anything. In the end, the new high school became the new Jr. College. Then the new Jr. College became the new Balboa High School and the Jr. College moved to an old wooden 2 story building in La Boca. It was a real fire trap since the janitors used the ceramic firing oven (kiln) to heat their tv dinners; I could just see that building going up in flames. Next, the old Balboa High School became the new Balboa Elementary School. The college could award two years to an associate degree. The base of the new bridge in La Boca was on the CZ College campus to the rear of the building. The college had only one building. I would estimate about 40 classrooms as there were also night classes. Some of the college teachers (most of the teachers) transferred to the college from the high schools. There was a theatre and an excellent library which had to be improved before the college could get accredited.. The first students in the new Jr. College in Balboa all came from my class of 1941 plus tuition. There was also a summer program. I do not remember when the Jr. College moved from its new building in Balboa to the wooden shack in La Boca.

Linnea is correct. The last time I saw that buggy was the time when Queen Elizabeth visited the CZ and paraded around in an open car for all to see. I remember she had a peaches and cream complexion under a large hat. A wild guess is in the 1950's.

From: Don Boland
Subject: Re: Olden times
You missed a number of the old bachelor quarters in Diablo Hgts. There were three very prominent ones on the hill behind the old Diablo Mess Hall (open 24 hrs./day), down the steps, and across Walker Avenue from the Clubhouse. They had a good view over Diablo Rd. and Albrook field. There were two other ones , maybe three, below them on what had been an extension of Endicott St., and there were three on Haines St. which was the first entrance, coming from Balboa, into Diablo. Just beyond them, in the late 40s, the Diablo Camera Club brought in a building for their clubhouse. I believe most of this was standing until the early to late mid 50s when they were all torn down, and the ground leveled somewhat, and new housing was built in those areas. Also around that time they were using some old twelve family quarters for bachelor quarters. I hate to think back when our family of four lived in one of those 12 family quarters for about nine years. Ugh! :-(

Frances, by the way, did you see the photo, and Lesley added a great history, of the old Commissary books. I'm sure it was in new stuff several weeks ago, but can't find it now.
DonB

Frances Coffey wrote:
Attn: panamabob
The logistics for handling the laundry were simple. We were supplied with printed laundry lists. You would leave your bag of laundry outside your door in a pillow case or tied in a sheet with the laundry list completed pinned to the outside of the bundle. A huge truck would call at your house on a designated day of the week and pick up the bundle. One week from that day, the truck would return the laundry repaired if necessary. One time, we had a new mattress delivered from the commissary and they used the laundry truck to deliver it. That night we were attacked by bedbugs that had infested the laundry truck from the laundry. The bachelors (as you say) had it good. The men lived in a huge wooden building with a big, screened porch; there were two men to a room. There were mahogany rocking chairs on the porch where you could entertain your visitors. Visitors, except for men, were confined to the porch area. There were communion bathrooms on each floor of, maybe, three floors. The clubhouses, one in Ancon and one in Balboa, had rocking chairs at the screened windows for the bachelors. Each table in the restaurant had quinine and salt tablets on the tables.

Women's bachelor quarters were constructed of concrete and were separate, small apartments. There was one building behind St. Mary's Academy, one in Ancon near the commissary, and on the Atlantic side, one at Ft. Delesseps and one in front of the Cristobal Clubhouse. The female teachers had a building of their own near the East Balboa Elementary School on a hill to the side of the school off Balboa Road. The rooms were tiny - two teachers to a room. All of my teachers were women in elementary school and in the 1930's they were not allowed to be married. On the Atlantic side, there was a big, old wooden building off Colon beach for their women teachers. Their rooms were even smaller and two to a room. The teachers lobbied for years to have their own rooms. When the Old Cristobal Elementary School moved to Margarita around 1958, the teachers finally got their own l bedroom, 4 family quarters in Margarita.

In answer to your question if the utilities were free, they were free in around 1916 in Paraiso, but when I was growing up in the 1930's, charges were made for utilities. Mahogany furniture was free until about 1949 when we were supposed to pay rent on the furniture. Most people got their own furniture at that time. Some persons bought the old mahogany furniture and redesigned it. The only woods that were friendly to Panama were mahogany and maple; veneer and other woods warped. Panamabob, ask some more questions; this is fun.

Subject: Boys, butterflies, land crabs, skirts, and Boys
Harkening back to the 1963/1964 school year at CZ College: the girls wore wrap around skirts that tied at the side with a bow. Boys delighted in yanking the bow, hoping the skirt would fall off. But, it never did and why it did not is a secret amongst us girls with lips sealed forever. At one time during the year, thousands of black and yellow butterflies would swarm in a desert storm attack on the communities. Bad boys swatted them with tennis rackets, but they still kept on c oming. At one time during the year, land crabs appeared on the Ft. Randolph Speedway. They were so noisey that you could hear them coming. It was said they were searching for water. On the Atlantic side, zillions of crabs fell into the empty drydock at Mt. Hope. They were piled 3 or 4 deep on the roads; impossible to keep from running over. The odor was terrible, but could not compete with the odor from the ship around 1956 whose refrigerating system failed and they were loaded down with tons of mutton from New Zealand. The laborers had to be paid "dirty" pay and "overtime" pay. You could smell the ship from Cristobal dry dock to Gatun, New Cristobal, Ft. Gulick, Ft. Davis, and Margarita. As it happened, we were sailing on the Cristobal for vacation in the U.S. and could smell that mutton way out to sea.

Subject: St. Croix Some time ago,
I put out a request for information on St. Croix as my daughter and her husband were thinking of moving there. Here is what happened next. I got a very good response from you all. The Carwithens (my daughter and husband) flew to St. Croix last month to look around. He was offered a job as a pharmacist on St. Croix and also one on St. Thomas. He chose St. Thomas because it was a managerial (is that a word?) position. They found the climate to be like Panama except a little cooler. The people were pleasant and laid back; a lot of our familiar bajan accent we are accustomed to. The shopping was very good and they had a grocery store that had more items available than Albertsons in the NW. Lots of outdoor markets. Houses had either beautiful views or were built on beaches. Seaplanes were common. They drive on the left side of the street. From the information given me over the net, I ordered the Daily News, the newspaper printed in St. Thomas, and that was very helpful and sometimes funny. He is leaving for St. Thomas on March 22 and she will follow with the 2 college girls after high school graduation in June. Hope he does not find any beautiful girls down there before she gets there. Ha! Note: St. Thomas is right next to St. Croix and is a larger island than St. Croix. Many thanks to Panama Bob.

Subject: Re: CHS Memories
Jeff moved to St. Thomas (changed from St. Croix) on March 22. Barbara and girls will follow after youngest daughter graduates from high school in Medford in June. The girls will return to the U.S. when college starts.

Barbara has the wonderful job of selling 2 houses, 2 horses, giving away 2 dogs and l cat. 2 dogs and 3 cats are going with Barbara. Jeff has an apartment in St. Thomas. That much work would overwhelm me. I hope Barbara gets a maid in St. Thomas.

Subject: Empire
My parents lived at Paraiso. My mother told me that at first, rent, electric, water, and furniture were free. However, the priviliges were abused and so they had to soon pay utilities. (People left lights on in the hallways, ect.)

Subject: Gatun Lake
I have a collection of bottles my daughter and her husband, Barbara and Jeff Carwithen, brought up from diving in Gatun Lake. I am told the bottles were pounded upside down into the ground to make sidewalks before the town was flooded to make the Canal. My daughter found one of the most treasured - has a poodle on the side. Of course, they were Jeff Carwithen and Barbara Coffey when they were growing up. They now live in St. Thomas and go diving there.

Subject: Cine Rojo
Sender: owner-iguana@mail.serve.com
Your mention of Cine Rojo reminded me of a similar cine in Colon. Years ago, two girls in high school dressed up like men and went to see the movies. I think they ended up more scared than anything.

Subject: Jax and the Jardin Ancon
I had said that the Jardin Ancon had a previous name - something blue. I called my old friend, Grace Schack Wilson, in Florida and she said it used to be called the Groto Azul. Do I get extra points for this? Or do I still have to figure out one of Leslie's impossible (except for some people) photos?

Subject: Small Pox
What is all the fuss about Small Pox vaccinations? Did we not have to get a vaccination before or after we got on the ship for the states? It was best to have it done before getting on the ship because if you had it on the ship and it "took", they would not let you in the pool. I still have the scar from when mine "took." I don't remember anyone ever dying from it, do you? I'll take one anytime they want to give it to me; better than contacting Small Pox. Subject: The old ships and the older
I made a round trip on the Cristobal in 1935. In 1939, 3 new ships were added - the Panama, Ancon, and Cristobal. There was a huge open house and ceremony at the dock in Cristobal. My friend and I rode over on the train from Balboa and the train went right down on the tracks to where the new ship was docked. When I saw the darling dressing table style drawers and mirrors, the AIR CONDITIONED lounge and writing rooms, and the pool, I was overwhelmed. I knew I would be the happiest girl in the world if I could travel on one of these new ships. I was l3 at the time. The first trip I made on the new ships was 1950. The last trip was on the Cristobal in 1980 shortly before the ship retired. The staterooms by the pool were air-conditioned; there were l2 passengers. the food was adequate, but definitely Cajun. We made the mistake of going below to look at the staterooms - some with their own verandas. Every- thing was in a state of complete deterioration; windows broken, furniture broken. debris and garbage everywhere. The cargo was on deck so that meant no deck chairs. I bid a sad goodbye to the happiest times of my life on the ships. I made a total of 27 round trips. I liked the port of call New York best. It was a cooler trip and who did not want to see New York; first stop Coney Island. Port of call New Orleans in 196l was a hot trip and murky ride up the Mississippi where the toilets held brown water and children were blamed for not flushing the toilet. I looked for ante bellum plantations, but only saw a few cows. First stop in New Orleans was the Zoo. The city was crowded with women wearing mosqueta jewelry and carrying Maison Blanche shopping bags.

There is not any thrill quite like seeing the New York skyline slowly come into view a nd passing past the statue of liberty even though we had to stay up all night so as not to miss them. My father walked down the gangplank with a peanut style basket of large butter alligator pears from Haiti and we had ginups much to my mother's dismay. We all wore hats and gloves and my father wore a new Panama hat which blew into the ocean. My mother, wanting to make an impression in New York, did not approve of us bearing pears and ginups down the gangplank. In an nostalgic mood

Subject: Life on the new ships
The new ships carried tourist passengers, paying passengers). The paying passengers were invited to a cocktail party hosted by the Captain. This upset the P.C. employees so eventually a party was hosted for them also. My husband, David Coffey, recognized the smoke stack of one of the Panama ships while stationed in the Philippine Islands in World War II. In the beginning, we paid for our passage on the new ships. I believe it was $365.00, but I am not sure. We paid to have our vehicles on board, also. I don't remember when we began having "free" trips.

Subject: Re: [Zonelink] Bug spray in your breakfast toast
Many years ago I worked at the Electrical Div. in Cristobal. Periodically, all the appliances from the clubhouses such as toasters, coffee makers, etc., would be delivered to us and the workers would spray them with flit (which is all we had at that time before World War II) and zillions and zillions and zillions of cockroaches would come flying out whereby the brave workers would jump around stepping on them.

Subject: Re: [Zonelink] History of Margarita
The original Marg. Hospital was torn down and moved to Coco Solo Hospital around 195l. It was a wooden building built during the second world war for military personnel. Later used by C.Z. The foundation was still there when I left in 1980 located near the Women's Club and CZ Credit Union. The cinder block houses were the first houses on the Atlantic Side to be built on the ground. All previous housing built around 194l was wooden on stilts. New houses were built in 1953; I lived in one of the first assignments. I also lived in the wooden building in 1946 when the screens were covered in oil to keep sand fleas out, but never did. Also lived in one in 1949 until new house in 1953. Were the first houses to be painted inside in Governor's green. Previously choice of colors was cream or gray. I would be happy to answer any questions.

My dates may be slightly off; it was a long time ago. I forgot to mention that what I remember was previously located where Margarita was built was the Margarita Florist Gardens.

I am positive that the "new on the ground houses" were not assigned until 1953 when I was the first to be assigned a new house There was not any relief from sand fleas until air conditioning. In 1946, we ate dinner with newspapers wrapped around our legs so we could sit at the table for dinner. I lived in Margarita from 1946 to 1947 and 1949 to 1980. In that time, I only remember one fire which was in the up and down duplexes on sixth street. I also remember only l murder which took place over by the K of C.

There was a serious fire in a l2 family house in Gatun where several children died. The fires were prevented by monthly inspections of the houses by the fire department. They also inspected schools and other buildings

Subject: St. Thomas
Just so you know, two persons from the Canal Zone have surfaced in St. Thomas. They are Jane Edwards who was a teacher in elementary school and Arthur Egger of the Margarita Eggers. Could St. Thomas be as near as we can get to the old Canal Zone?

Subject: Hats on the train
I remember when ladies were supposed to wear hats when riding on the train. A friend of mine, a new bride from the U.S., almost ended up with a divorce because her new mother-in-law insisted that my friend wear a hat while riding on the train.

I have a photo of myself on the 11:00 PM train on the night Colon burned around 1940; complete with hat. We watched the fire from Mt. Hope Cemetery hill. The Army provided tents for those who became homeless with toilets and food. After more than a year, when the Army wanted to remove the tents, the people refused to leave. The Army was forced to tear down the tents. How they got the people to leave, I do not remember.

Subject: Section I
When I worked for the Schools Division, parents complained that the books in the storehouse were in better shape than the books in the school. When I began work there, I pulled 3,000 obsolete books.(All students have to be on the same page.) We called what you call Section I, the Obsolete Storehouse.

I once read in the Review that a society lady (someone who lived on the hill) had renovated a mop cart used to clean in the hospital into a portable bar. Not sanitary enough for me. Cart came from the Obsolete Storehouse, of course.

My mother was mortified when my father brought home an entire set of blue and white china with the Tivoli Hotel emblazed on them. When the Tivoli disappeared, people were paying scads of money for the Tivoli dishes. China from Section I, of course.

Subject: Hotel Washington
When we were kids swimming under the Red, White, and Blue banner in Balboa, we often made trips over to swim in competition at the Hotel Washington salt water pool. When I was ll years old, I broke my front teeth diving off a board which was in too shallow water. The pool was refreshed directly from the ocean. Daredevils dove off the seawall separating the pool from the ocean and also off the bath house. That was say 1935. After I married and lived on the Atlantic side, I spent most of my day at the pool. Previously to World War II, businesses in Colon closed at l2:00 Noon and opened again at 2:00 PM. It was the custom for people to come to the pool at noon and have lunch and drinks served by the side of the pool by waiters. After World War II began, P.C. people had only l/2 hr. for lunch and the above custom was discontinued. Instead of having our main meal at l2:00 noon, P.C. people began serving the main meal in the evening. Sometime before I left Panama, the pool location was changed from the side of the hotel to the back of the hotel. Yes, it was a goofy pink, but it was decorated by our dear friend Andy Linn and we loved it.

We had many dances at the hotel. In 1942,we belonged to the Cotillion Club which had weekly dances. We had our baby showers and bridal showers there and the ever popular silver teas. It, the hotel, was operated by the P.C. and had a P.C. employee stationed on the elevator and the desk. His name was Bob Byrd. There was a bridal room at the hotel and many C.Z. couples spent their honeymoon there and returned on anniversaries.

The dining was very formal. It was there I was told by one of the waiters that hibiscus flowers do not need to be put in water. He also told us that if we pick hibiscus flowers in the bud in the morning before they open and place them in a paper bag, we can take them out of the bag at night and the light above the dining room table will open them. I remember that promotion and the employees in costumes, but the cold cuts and meat I bought were spoiled and we could not eat it.

The logistics for handling the laundry were simple. We were supplied with printed laundry lists. You would leave your bag of laundry outside your door in a pillow case or tied in a sheet with the laundry list completed pinned to the outside of the bundle. A huge truck would call at your house on a designated day of the week and pick up the bundle. One week from that day, the truck would return the laundry repaired if necessary. One time, we had a new mattress delivered from the commissary and they used the laundry truck to deliver it. That night we were attacked by bedbugs that had infested the laundry truck from the laundry. The bachelors (as you say) had it good. The men lived in a huge wooden building with a big, screened porch; there were two men to a room. There were mahogany rocking chairs on the porch where you could entertain your visitors. Visitors, except for men, were confined to the porch area. There were communion bathrooms on each floor of, maybe, three floors. The clubhouses, one in Ancon and one in Balboa, had rocking chairs at the screened windows for the bachelors. Each table in the restaurant had quinine and salt tablets on the tables.

Women's bachelor quarters were constructed of concrete and were separate, small apartments. There was one building behind St. Mary's Academy, one in Ancon near the commissary, and on the Atlantic side, one at Ft. Delesseps and one in front of the Cristobal Clubhouse.

The female teachers had a building of their own near the East Balboa Elementary School on a hill to the side of the school off Balboa Road. The rooms were tiny - two teachers to a room. All of my teachers were women in elementary school and in the 1930's they were not allowed to be married. On the Atlantic side, there was a big, old wooden building off Colon beach for their women teachers. Their rooms were even smaller and two to a room. The teachers lobbied for years to have their own rooms. When the Old Cristobal Elementary School moved to Margarita around 1958, the teachers finally got their own l bedroom, 4 family quarters in Margarita.

In answer to your question if the utilities were free, they were free in around 1916 in Paraiso, but when I was growing up in the 1930's, charges were made for utilities. Mahogany furniture was free until about 1949 when we were supposed to pay rent on the furniture. Most people got their own furniture at that time. Some persons bought the old mahogany furniture and redesigned it. The only woods that were friendly to Panama were mahogany and maple; veneer and other woods warped.

Panamabob, ask some more questions; this is fun. The furniture was free from 1916 that I know of until rented about 1949. The Quartermaster (later, the Housing Manager) issued the furniture built in P.C. woodshops. You could have single or double beds with iron rail type head- boards an footboards with skinny mattresses. Dressers had mirrors on matching frames. A lot of people put the beds on sawhorses to make them look more modern. Also, some people took the mirrors off the dressers. When the P.C. became the P.C.-C.Z. Gov't., the offices had to rent furniture they had bought previously. The furniture was all the same design. All the furniture was heavy mahogany and weighed a ton. There was a dining room table with leaves, as many chairs as you wanted, rocking chairs, kitchen table and chairs, buffet (very handsome piece).

The people who were unlucky enough to wear suits such as pilots, teachers, and workers on the hill, wore white suits. My father was picked to chauffeur Pres. Roosevelt and the Governor about 1930 and he wore a white suit and white cap. If going on vacation to the U.S., you could have excellent tailors in the republic of Panama make dark suits. They were of expensive fabric, but skimpy on the fitting. P.C. had dressmaker shops in the towns. We paid for our own clothes. The sales people were issued uniforms. We did not pay income tax to the U.S. until 1952, so could not take work clothes off our returns. There were zillions of seamstresses in the republic who copied clothes from a picture not needing a pattern. Fabric in the commy and republic was cheap. The commy also had a catalog you could order jewelry from and also sold Minton china, Chinese rugs, fur coats, Royal Dalton, Wedgwood, Dresden china and hugely popular Toby Jugs including the English Prime Minister sitting on the pot. Irish Linen was sold by the yard and convent nuns stitched the tablecloths and napkins; I still have a couple of sets from my mother.

When I was 6 and living in the Balboa Flats on Owen St., we had a gas stove. Ever after we had electric stoves.

We had Dispensaries in the towns; white and black waiting rooms segregated. The whites had l doctor and the blacks had l doctor. The doctors were big on "painting" your throat when you had a sore throat. You waited your turn; no appointments. Old black Joe patched up our cuts and "tropical sores" which all the kids had with purple medicine. Joe stitched up my forehead when I was hit by a brick in the play shed playhouse. The Dispensary doctors could refer us to the hospital or we could just show up there. All the kids had their tonsils and adenoids removed and the boys got Mastoids behind their ears. Kids and parents died of burst appendixes. Births were in the Colon Hospital or Gorgas Hospital. At the time I was born, ladies preferred to go to the Panama Hospital in Panama City; Dr. was Dr. Herrick. Hospitalization was like 50 cents per day; births about $30.00 for an 8 day stay, and $65.00 for any problem birth with a l0 day stay. I remembered the name of the P.C. pink mouthwash product - aptly named Bocas.

pananabob, any more questions? You have brought to my mind information I have not thought about for many years. Thanks. A suggestion was made that if I printed the questions, the answers would be easier to understand; so here goes:

How did you get around?
Most families had cars driven by the men. There were not many women drivers. My mother was one of the few women drivers, but she avoided the "four o'clock traffic" from the Administration Building. My mother was very popular with the ladies because she could drive them to teas and card games. When the men came home at night, it was customary to take a drive to "cool off." The driving loop was from Balboa Road, past the Balboa clubhouse, up Roosevelt Ave., up the Administration hill past the church, past the corral in Ancon, past the Ancon Commissary, up 4th of July Ave., past the red light district, back to Balboa Road. On special occasions, we would drive to the causeway in Ft. Amador. My father would instruct us to breathe deeply of the sea air. Another popular drive was to Madden Dam which at that time was called Alhajuela. On the way back, a stop to the rear of the Pedro Miguel commissary for ice cream to be eaten immediately. (Before freezers) The streetcar made up in Laboca along Balboa Road, by the red light district (my favorite was a door made of a lion's mouth), to downtown Panama City Central Ave., out to Bella Vista past the dog racing track (Kennelworth) and ended on the beach in Bella Vista. Kennelworth was where the El Panama Hilton is today. All that ride for a nickel. Ladies shopped at Central Ave. at Felix Maduros, the French Bazaar, and Mottas. Many Indian shops were also on Central Ave.

There was a bus on the Pacific side that made up at Balboa Clubhouse and ended at Ancon Clubhouse. Most C.Z. people did not ride chivas except for one brave lady, Mrs. Olsen, mother of Betty Olsen Boyer, who took her granddaughter to dance lessons. On the Atlantic side there was a bus that made up in Cristobal, through Margarita, through the civilian houses of Ft. Gulick, and then back to Cristobal. You could call a cab parked at the Tivoli Hotel or the docks. Atlantic side - Hotel Washington or the docks.

Were there labor trains?
During World War II, labor trains carried the workers to construction sites. There was a labor train on the Atlantic side that went from Colon to Coco Solo. The engineer was a lady who always had her jaguar by her side; nobody messed with her! Buses were used. One bus went from Cristobal to France Field to Coco Solo. One day there was an alert and all the ladies walked home to Cristobal to care for their children.

Did folks go for a stroll?
Except for when you had to walk to the commy, people did not walk in the daytime - too hot or too wet in the rainy season. Not many strolled at night except for the pregnant women who sneaked out at night when nobody would see them. The only maternity garment was a Hoover apron, a sort of crosstie dress with room for expansion. The Hoover apron was the first sign of pregnancy.

How did you get packages home?
Wives only shopped for l or 2 days as the ice boxes would not keep food fresh. Slim, at the Balboa Commy, ruled over the canned goods. We did not have frozen vegetables until 1942. You would ask Slim for l can of peas and l can of soup and he would take the cans off the shelves and hand them to you to carry to the next line, possibly the meat line. (No rolling baskets.)

In the front of the commy, there were 2 order desks where you could order food to be delivered to your house while your children strung paper clips together to make a chain. Young ladies walked around the neighborhoods looking for a sign which said, "Solicitors please call" in the window. They would come in your house and take your order to be delivered. (My mother-in-law said that in the 1900's when she lived at Montelirio in a box car, the train would take her order every day to be delivered that evening.) On the Atlantic side ladies would hire a carameta pulled by a horse to take her and the packages and as many kids that would fit in the carameta. Left over kids ran beside the carameta.

Did fruit vendors come around to the door?
I do not remember fruit vendors, but when I lived in the flats on Owen St., a Chinese man would come around with a long pole on his shoulders with a basket of vegetables on each end of the pole. We kids would reward him with a stupid song chant. Vegetables and fruit were bought at the Chinese Gardens and sellers along the roads sold the ever popular sugarcane, pineapples, ginups, and coconuts.

How did the milk get processed and how was it delivered?
The milk was processed at Mt. Hope Dairy plant. It was delivered by truck every day. I once suggested that they deliver fresh bread with the milk, but I was told that it would be unsanitary.

What was the room in the back of the Tivoli that resembled a railroad car?
I do not know what that was. Maybe some other Iguanians would know. We did have scissors sharpeners come by the house and the bottle man who screamed "Botellas" - the first word babies learned to say. Other vendors were the paper boys crying Pan-a-mer-i-can and Star n Herald. On the Atlantic side, the drive loop was down Colon beach, down 9th St., over to the commy and then on to Gatun.

Subject: My school history
These facts I can verify: I attended East Balboa Elementary School on Balboa Road, a wooden building across the street (almost) from the Masonic Temple, 30/3l to 33/34 Grades l - 4. School had grades l - 5.

Skipped the 5th grade and attended the Monkey School so called because it was next to the Balboa Clubhouse which had a huge cage of monkeys, 34/35, Grade 6, a wooden building with two classes of G. 6, Miss Creasey and Miss Grogan.

Attended Jr. High School in wooden building next to where the new Jr. College was to be built in the future, 35/36 to 36/37 Grades 7 and 8.

Attended Balboa High School which later became Balboa Elementary School 37/38 to 40/4l, Grades 9 - l2.

We had 2 years of Kindergarten in the Playshed behind the Prado. The new Jr. College became Balboa High School. The Jr. College moved to La Boca. Now everybody can be confused.

A long, long time ago - in the early 1940's, a CZ motor cycle cop named Morty LeVee rode from Gorgas Hospital to Coco Solo Hospital on the Trans-Isthmian Highway to deliver an urgent medication. He made the trip in 40 minutes. At that time, the Army would not permit civilians to travel on their highway except for a few exceptions, i.e. my sister-in-law and new husband had a pass to drive the highway to continue on to their honeymoon. By 1944, civilians could also use the highway.

Subject: Fun at the beach
I lived on Akee St. in the Gavilan area. If you followed the street in front of my house, you came to the Balboa Gun Club. The gun club guys used to shoot clay pigeons, but rarely, a few fell to the ground unbroken. These were prize trophies for our collections. At the gun club, there were tall trees with huge roots big enough to camp in. Just past the gun club was the beach. There were numerous tide pools and sea life of every kind. There were many rocks and we soon were able to identify the valuable rocks which we collected in large quantities and hammered open under my house which was built on stilts. When the rocks split open, there appeared beautiful colored marble and crystals like diamonds. Not far along the beach, the sewer emptied into the ocean and foul smelling garbage and waste sailed along. Not far from the sewer was the bat cave which the big boys ventured inside, but I never was brave enough. This beach is now part of the bridge.

We used to melt the broken clay pigeons and fill bottle caps to make shooters. Before TV and even radio, many CZ people played a lot of cards. We kids used to go door to door and ask for the jokers. As the cards were sold in pairs, we would have cards of different colors with beautiful pictures and designs. We traded extra cards and I filled a scrapbook with luscious cards; unfortunately, when my parents retired, they threw my book away which has always made me sad. Sigh.

Subject: Movie stars
We girls were star crazy. When I was growing up, there were many magazines devoted to movie stars. At that time, fans chose movies to see because their favorite stars were in them instead of interest in the story line. The stars were often in pairs, i.e. Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler, Myrna Loy and William Powell, Roy Rogers and Dale (forget her name), plus nobody would miss a picture with Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, or Barbara Stanwyck. We filled scrapbook after scrapbook with pictures cut from magazines. You could also write to the stars and they would send an autographed photo.

It was my star struck desire to meet in my lifetime, Frank Sinatra, Ginger Rogers, and Bob Mackie, the famous designer. I did meet all 3 and now have set my heart on meeting Robert Downey, Jr. Don't hate me. Feel sorry for me, but don't hate me; I am still star struck. I remember that Panama Golf Club had a lot of those rocks with the crystals inside. One of the most popular plants in Coco Solo was the lottery plant (Dyphendorchia) (okay, you try to spell it). It was the custom that when a new leaf appeared on the plant, you could look at the leaf and see a series of numbers which you could then buy a lottery ticket with those numbers and win the lottery.

It also turned out to be a very dangerous plant. A dentist at Coco Solo left his baby son with the maid to attend a party. The maid called him at the party and told him that his son had eaten a leaf of the lottery plant and his mouth was burned and blistered. The dentist rushed home, but did not believe the maid. He educed that she had burned the baby's mouth; therefore, he chewed up a leaf and his mouth became burned and blistered. The outcome of this was, the Navy scoured around Coco Solo and removed all the lottery plants from the base.

Luckily, before the removal, in 1961, I had already won the lottery. I had 2 pieces of first prize and 5 pieces of chance giving me $2,055. My husband and I then had the biggest fight of our lives on how to spend the money. I hope I never win the lottery again, but, maybe, you can if you can find a lottery plant. When I was growing up, we did not go to Santa Clara or Gorgona, we went to LaVenta. LaVenta was past Gorgona. My church took us on a trip to LaVenta once a year. The big bus bumped over terrible roads. We sang songs all the way. We wore our bathing suits under our clothes as there were not any shelters. We hit waves that were higher than I have ever seen anywhere. Maybe that is why nobody goes there anymore. A long day in the sun and gazing at crashing, huge waves, and we were on our way home having sun dried in our bathing suits until the chaperone decided we were dry. More songs on the way home and the story retold how one girl rode home in a wet bathing suit and died of pneumonia. The trip was very, very long - hours and hours and hours - until we went exhausted to bed hoping to hear rain on the tin roofs and mangos socking the tin roofs in their escape from the trees. What I recall the most is when we closed our eyes for days after, we saw waves crashing.

Okay, I know I am behind the times, but in Tom Clancy's book, "Shadow Warriors", Clancy mentions a tunnel under Quarry Heights. How come I never heard of this tunnel? Someone please tell me about the tunnel. My nephew's wife, Mary Moreland Coffey, was secretary to the General, Southern Command. I roamed Quarry Heights as a child and as a teenager played kiss the bottle with the big shot kids who lived up there and thought I knew every inch of Quarry Heights. When my mother-in-law, Marie Coffey, lived in a railroad car while the canal was being built, she saw a snake go after her baby in the car. She got a big knife and cut off the snake's head. Whoopee. When I was 11, we rode on the train from Balboa to all the way down to the docks where the ship was docked. We were going to the states. I went into the bathroom and locked the inside door. The conductors used to lock the doors to the bathrooms when the train was in a station to avoid people hiding in the bathroom and riding free. I got locked in by the conductor. The early engines were very noisy so nobody heard my cries. It was only when my family was boarding the ship that they missed me; they all came to look for me and found me hysterical in the bathroom.

When I was riding the 11:00 train from Balboa while taking some courses at the CZ College, the train suddenly stopped. We waited and waited. Finally, the conductor walked through and told me that a big rock had been placed accross the track. I said what did you do and he replied, I hit it. This was during the crisis of 1964.

When riding the ll:00 train from Balboa, also during the crisis, 3 cars fell over on the track. We all had to walk around all the cars on the side of the track which slanted down and was composed of sand. We finally got to the engine; we all climbed on the engine (I got to blow the whistle) and the train took us to Gatun Train Station where a bus met us and took us home. The heels on my shoes were peeled off leaving only the metals; the P.C. Gov't. reimbursed me for the shoes. When I got home at l:30 in the morning, my husband was asleep. I woke him up and scolded him for not worrying about me when I did not come at 11:00AM.

Still during the crisis, I took the pilot's car home one night. The old car had kerosene lamps hanging from the ceiling and had a lot of white duck seat coverings. Due to something being wrong with the brakes on one car which locked, we were repeatedly knocked on the floor. I got off in Gamboa and called my husband and he drove the car over the highway to get me. Next morning, we saw 2 bullet holes on the driver's side of the car.

Riding on the train from Colon to Balboa, we stopped about half way over. We stopped about a hour. Pretty soon they boarded the train with a soldier in all his gear, dripping wet; he had drowned during an exercise. The train then backed up all the way to Gatun where they unloaded the unfortunate soldier.

From the Oregonian l0/27/02: Panama is building a $40 million biodiversity museum designed by architect Frank Gehr on the site of Fort Amador, along the Panama Canal near its Pacific Ocean mouth. Construction is slated to begin in 2004 and the museum is to open in 2006. Planners hope the economic revival like the one that the Spanish industrial city of Bilbao enjoyed when it built the Guggenheim Museum--also designed by Gehry--in 1997. The museum will include exhibits on the geologic formation of the isthmus that links North and South America and its influence on the biodiversity of the Americas and the global climate. I recall when around 1963 a bus fell off the bridge behind the Canal Zone College and killed all on board.

I cannot remember the name of the fort next to the Washington Hotel saltwater swimming pool, but can remember going there to see movies. It was a really old building. When I was six and Betty Olson Boyer was 4, I spent the night with her on Owen St. A sloth had been seen in the neighborhood that day. Betty and I could not sleep all night for fear the sloth would get us. Her mother had to cover up the mirror where we kept seeing the sloth. My father had 28 racing dogs which he raced at Kennelworth located where the El Panama is now. He had a contract with the Tivoli Hotel. Every night we would drive to the rear of the Tivoli and my father would load huge garbage type cans of scraps into his truck. He would take them home and then he and my mother would pick through the scraps by hand to remove the bones. Amazing how people discarded entire steaks and chickens; looked good enough to eat. My father would then mix the scraps with canned dog food and one different fruit each day. The food was then weighed according to the my father's desired weight of the dog. He also put garlic in their water to prevent worms.

I have owned my second greyhound pet for 3 years adopted from the Greyhounds of America. A week ago today, Tuesday, the handy man left my gate open and my greyhound, Rocky, got out. I was overwhelmed by the help extended to me by the greyhound society. Beginning at 5:00 PM the evening he was missing, teams of members searched the streets in the neighborhood. The next day, the first shift reported with their greyhounds (if a greyhound sees another greyhound, he will go to join the other greyhound) and worked from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM when the second shift came on. There were 27 in each shift. They posted 800 flyers, we put adds in the newspapers, notified the police and the security guards, postmen, trash drivers, UPS men. On Saturday 250 members of the greyhound organization turned out to look for him. He was found on Saturday, five days after he was lost. He ran many miles away from my area and crossed the worst street in Vancouver, l64th St. A lady called and said she had sighted him and she and her husband would keep him in sight until we came to get him. Two of the greyhound members went to get him. He was in a large field playing with a Golden Retriever. The greyhound members could not catch him so they opened their truck door and he jumped in. He was brought home in good shape (amazing because it had been cold) with not a mark on him. He acted as if he had been on a vacation. When brought in the door, he bypassed me and stole my other dog, Tucker's chewy bone. Many friends prayed for his return and our prayers were answered. Thanks to the wonderful response from all the people who searched for him. His missing notice was posted on the net under Missing Dogs so his loss had a good deal of publicity. We credit the flyers with being the most effective since the finder had seen his photo in the flyer. Hope none of you ever lose a beloved pet - in this case - my Rocky. He was gone for 4 nights and 5 days.

In recalling the old play shed, I remember when the Canal Zone was plastered with flyers advertising the tennis match between Perry and Davis at the playshed. The number of flyers equaled only the number of posters advertising King Kong at the Balboa Clubhouse. I ran out of the movie when King Kong had the girl on the top of the wall. For some reason I was remembering how we kids used to talk pig Latin to confuse our parents who did not understand it. The only word I remember now is ixnay.

Date: Wed, 20 Mar 2002 22:19:43 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Midnight in the Gardens of Eden
My, oh my, I am enjoying the photos David Furlong put on the net. Starting with the Atlas Garden - I won an amateur contest there in 1939 playing the string bass. They made a record of it and I can still play it on my old 8 track turntable. I won $5.00.

Balboa Garden next - closest to 4th of July Avenue. Good food and the food and drinks were brought to the cars parked around the garden.

The El Rancho was a popular place. Many wedding parties held rehearsal and many retirements were celebrated there. Their specialty was squab under glass; I could not eat them as I felt sorry for them - their whole bodies sitting pitifully under glass.

Now, to the Atlantic side - the one and only Bilgrays Garden. As were the rest of the gardens, they were open to the air. In 1939, Jade Rhodora had an act in a closed cabaret on Bolivar St. It was X-rated - beauty and the beast. Half of her was an ape and half of her was a woman wearing (barely) a bikini. It was a very clever act. She began the act coming out as if the ape was carrying her in his arms. As the dance progressed, the ape, in the grand finale, had his way with her.(As we say on the web.) Jade transferred her act to Bilgrays Garden. Since the garden was open to the air, every kid in Colon was packed around the outside of the garden to view the show. A Catholic Priest went to talk to her and there was a squeamish. Anyway, the outdoor act continued. There was a dance floor and you had to wear a jacket to dance.(The men) Since all the kids only had one jacket between them, it was passed around.

Harking back to the Atlas, Lucho played there and we all yelled Pescao and Anda Marina at the proper times. As Charlie Garcia wrote, Bilgrays did change to Monaco although I have never seen the store. It was near the prison where at 5:00PM the relatives and friends met at the prison to bring food to the prisoners. It was like a big picnic; food plentiful and shared by all as the prison did not feed the prisoners.

I know Laura Russon very well. She is divorced from first husband. My son,Dave Coffey, saw her at the last reunion and says she looks great.

There was also a Bilgrays Bar and Grill one street off from Front St. across the street from Chicago ( best fried rice) and near The Dog House bar.

As you were naming various streets, I was thinking of my sister-in-law, Mary Melendez Coffey, whose father Melendez Ave. was named after. She had an aunt, Arminta, who was a heroine in the revolution carrying the winning news to Panama on the train. Mary's father was governor of Colon . They used to serenade him at 5:00 AM in the morning.

Yes, life was good in those days and I am happy that the good times are remembered and that we can have some good laughs.

How could we all dwell on the watering holes and the gardens of Eden and not include Kelly's Ritz. Mame Lee Kelly was the owner and proprietor. A lot of the apprentices went there. (Those were the guys who actually had money.) Mame Lee ended up in New Orleans with her own club. Up until the 1980's, if you went to her club, they would go upstairs and let her know one of the old CZ customers were asking for her. She would then come down and chat with us. Of course, was older and not well , but had a lot of spunk. A friend of mine was hired in Portland, Or. to go down and play the harp while doves flew around. My friend did not know it was a cabaret where performers mingled with the customers. She refused to mingle, but was kept on anyway. There were quite nice apartments about Kelly's Ritz for the girls to stay. Fortunately, she fell in love with a mechanic and they married and she moved to the CZ. Why the agent thought a harp act with birds would be a show for a cabaret, I don't know.

A retired cabaret performer, Madge Locke, taught dance classes on the CZ. She lived in a town just past the ferry docking on the west side of the Canal. She made all the costumes for the dancers by hand by the light of a kerosene lamp. She hitchhiked to the Atlantic side for classes at the YMCA and hitchhiked back across the Transisthmian Highway. We graduates of really good teachers, LLona Sears, and Margie Quinn, LOL at her recitals because all the little kids skipped around in the stripper skip in accompaniment to her loud bangs on a big Chinese gong.

I have a photo of Beverly and Carol Ruoff, Betty Olson, Jean Strauss, and myself, Jean Rabiteau in our blackbird costumes; our teacher was LLona Sears at that time. Beverly and Carol worked in films in Hollywood and did a routine where they each came out with a suitcase; the suitcases opened and they turned into stairs. The girls then tapped up and down the stairs.

Subject: Cracker balls and roach paste
I regret that cracker balls and roach paste passed by me unnoticed. However, I am captivated by what you guys had to say about those odd little animals who got down on their knees in a praying position. I would very much like to hear more about them and wonder why they were not wiped out by the natives for food as was the fate of the manatees that were brought down from Florida to chew up the strangulating water lilies in the lakes. (I should get some kind of prize for that sentence.) Tell me again what they were called? We lived in an old French constructed cottage on the beach in Colon which in the 1940's was a most desirable place to live. The painters in their zest for perfection painted right over the cockroaches on the wall. There was one of those with wings painted on the wall in my bedroom. I sat down on one on the toilet.

My father was always the last one to come home from his business of racing greyhounds in Panama City. When he came home, he turned on the kitchen light and a million roaches fled. The last sound I heard every night was the sh sh sh sh of the flit can; the flit did not really kill the roaches unless they drowned in it.


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