The Foundation for The Gator Nation An Equal Opportunity Institution Samuel Proctor Oral History Program College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Program Director : Dr. Paul Ortiz Office Manager : Tamarra Jenkins Technology Coordinator : Deborah Hendrix 241 Pugh Hall PO Box 115215 Gainesville, FL 32611 352 392 7168 Phone 352 846 1983 Fax The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP) was founded by Dr. Samuel Proctor at the University of Florida in 1967. Its original projects were collections centered around Florida history with the purpose of preserving eyewitness accounts of economic, social, political, religious and intellectual life in Florida and the South In the 45 years since its inception, SPOHP has collected over 5,000 interviews in its archives. Transcribed interviews are available through SPOHP for use by research scholars, students, journalists, and other interested groups. Material is frequently used for theses, dissertations, articles, books, documentaries, museum displays, and a variety of other public uses. As standard oral history practice dictates, SPOHP recommends that researchers refer to both the transcript and audio of an interview when c onducting their work. A selection of interviews are available online here through the UF Digital Collections and the UF Smathers Library system. Oral history interview transcripts available on the UF Digital Collections may be in draft or final format. SP OHP transcribers create interview transcripts by listen ing to the original oral history interview recording and typing a verbatim document of it. The transcript is written with careful attention to reflect original grammar and word choice of each interview ee; subjective or editorial changes are not made to their speech. The draft trans cript can also later undergo a later final edit to ensure accuracy in spelling and format I nterviewees can also provide their own spelling corrections SPOHP transcribers ref er to the Merriam program specific transcribing style guide, accessible For more information about SPOHP, visit http://oral.history.ufl.edu or call the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program office at 352 392 7168. October 2013
PCM 005 Interviewee: Charles DeTore Interviewer: Candice Ellis Date of Interview: July 1, 2010 E: This is Candice Ellis on July 1, 2010 with D: Charles DeTore E: And we are going to be talking about life in the Panama Canal Zone. To begin beginning. D: Well the beginning is, first of all my mother was born there in 1913. And my father was stationed down there right after WWI. And I believe it was in Albrook or Fort Clayton that he was stationed at. And at that time they had the double winge r planes. He was also in the 30s a member of the Red, White, and Blue Troupe which is a swimming club from the United States. The Red, White, and Blue Troupe was coached by Coach Grieser Balboa High School and Cristobal H igh School us ed to give out t he Grieser A ward back in the 50 s and the 60s for the best outstanding swimmer. When my dad swam there for the Red, White, and Blue Troupe, his swimming partners were Ed Wood and Johnny Johnny Weissmuller ended up to be Tarzan in the motion pictures. Well, my dad swam with Johnny Weissmuller, he was that good. We can go on to say, my grandfather he lped construct the Panama Canal back in 1910, 11, and 12, somewhere around there. We ll, the majority of his children were born down there which would be my uncles and my aunts, including my mother. They all worked for the Panama Canal as they grew up. Some of them were pipefitters,
PCM 005; DeTore ; Page 3 electricians; my Uncle Dan was the port engineer at the t ime for both the Atlantic and the Pacific sides. My mom and dad met down there in the Canal Zone but first part of our family were born in Philadelphia. My mother a lways said she had two families, one in Philadelphia, which wa s four boys in Philadelphia. Then when we left the United States in 1946 w e went down to the Canal Zone and w e lived down there. My mother had another family, which was two girls and another boy. So there wer e seven of us in the family. We all went to school in the Canal Zone. It was on the Atlantic side in a town called Coco Solito, which no longer exists. Coco Solito was a town sit e that every two years would change hands two years th e army would run it; the following two years the navy would run it. A lot of the Puerto Rican people that were stationed in the army at the time lived in Coco Solito. Coco Solito only had six streets on it. But they had eight family dwellings. The dwelling s were all on columns because of the rain. If you had a car, which nobody had at the time back in the 40s, early 50s, you would park the car underneath the building. Living there you knew everybody. You knew everybody. When we lived there from 46 to 19 50 we would have little parties underneath the house. We would go into the woods or the jungle as we called it, and cut down palm leaves and drape the palm leaves around the columns underneath the house to make it look like a wall of palm leav a little party and a dance. In 1950 we moved to Coco Solo and we only lived t here for
PCM 005; DeTore ; Page 3 one year. Coco Solo at that time belon ged to the n avy. My dad worked for the nav y; he was a n avy fuel gauger. A navy fuel gauger is an individual who fuels and defuels the vessels as they come through, particularly the navy vessels. He also worked at the navy tank farm. F or instance a vessel coming from the Pacific side would offload its fuel into these huge underground tanks and then pump it across the isthmus to the Atlantic side and fill the navy ships. In 1951 we moved back to Coco Solito. There I met most of my classmates because when I graduated from high school back in 1958, we were still living in Coco Solito E: How far apart were they? D: They were about one mile apart. I was more or less considered an outsider in high school because I came from Coco Solo and Coco Solito where ever y body else worked for the Panama Canal Comp My dad worked for the navy. E: How were you greeted? Was it a hostile environment for you the n ? D: They did not want to includ e me in any of their they had their own gangs and their own parties and everything. We had ours. Now a lot of my girlfriends came from the Republic of Panama. They all went to chool in Coln. And I dated a lot of the girls there in Coco Solo and Coco Solito. But when it came to sports I sort of excelled. And so they almost accepted me afte r I beat the pants off them in track and football and swimming. [Laughter] E: But still despite that even it was difficul t for you to befriend these people.
PCM 005; DeTore ; Page 4 D: ey would all be in Margarita or Gat n out of the way going towards the coast. E: And would they be indigenous Panamanian people or were they just American? D: No. A lot of those were Panamanian people too. Their mother could have been Panamanian and their father could have been an American and wo rking for the Panama Canal, see? E: It was just the fact that you wer ou were with the army. D: I was with the navy. E: rry. D : Correct. Let me see. Living conditions in Coco Solito were very rustic. When we in the house. I remember some wooden crates that we used to sit on. You picked up y our furniture from navy quartermasters B ecause my brothers were very young at the time we had bunk beds. There were no windows on the building at all. There were screens and very large wooden blinds that they called Inside the house the mosquitoes would kill you. Well, not the screens and get into the house. The roaches were something else; you just Coco Solito the navy or the army would run around almost every night with a truck that would dispense
PCM 005; DeTore ; Page 5 D D T to help kill the bugs. While living in the house my mother would never clean the screens; the more dust you could get on the screens the better bec ause it would keep the sand fleas out In those times nobody had air conditi on. What was air condition? Air condition was a fan on the wall, twenty five about 1950 tha t they changed over from twenty five cycle to sixty cycle so t hat all of your electronics pieces your blend ers, your toasters, and everything all My experiences in grade school ? I was a very poor student in grade school When I left Philadelphia I was in the first grade and we had just finished sch ool and were coming down to Panama. When I go t to Panama, I was supposed to go in to the second grade. But the school systems in the Canal Zone were a year ahead of those in Philadelphia. So back I was almost the oldest person two years in the first grade. E: So what would you say about the quality of the education the teachers ? D: The education was great because you knew everybody. You knew everybody. During the sports or the festivities or whatnot you knew everybody. There were no strangers whatsoever. As a matter of fact in my gra duating class I think there was only a total of thirty ay let me see what else I can talk about. What kinda sports was I involved in? I was involv ed in track. I was one of their best. I was the best from Cristobal High School. I ran the high hurdles, the hundred meters, the hundred yards, the low hurdles, the broad jump and the high jump. As a matter of fact I still hold some of
PCM 005; DeTore ; Page 6 the records down there in the Canal Zone I was on the swimming teams, a nd I played football for the Cristobal Tigers A lot of my friends, my classmates that I meet here at the reunio n sportsmanship and excelling in those particular sports. After high school I did not go to Canal Zone College although my wife did. she went to college. But when she graduated from Ca nal Zone College and came to the United States I guess this was in 1966 she only was up here for one semester at Old Dominion University in Virginia. Well she wrote and told me to be with me. We got married in 67 and been married ever since; we just celebrated our forty third wedding anniversary. E: And how did you both meet, in high school? D: No. She was a young girl, very young, riding on a bicycle in Coco Solo and I wa s alread y working for the Panama Canal. I had already finished my apprenticeship, finished my tour of duty in Vietnam and came back. I had a girlfriend. I drove around in a little MG. And I could see this little girl here on her bicycle. She used to have a dog in the basket of the bicycle. I stopped the car and I said if you were out Well by golly, I ended up taking her out [Laughter] What kind of hobbies did I have to occupy my time? I guess my hobbies was the wife and I were coach to an all softball team that we had were working women and these women played like men. As a matter of fact I can remember going at least four years without losing
PCM 005; DeTore ; Page 7 a game. We would play a team fr om Fort Gulick, Fort Davis, Republic of Panama, and other softball team s from around the Canal Z one area like Margarita and Gat n and whatnot. Many a time we would be invited to play a ma ere that good. These girls played so long together that when that ball was hit you knew exactly w here that ball was going to go. W hether it was from third base, your glove up a nd pow, there it was. I would help catch, just to warm up the girls would throw it that fast. They were that good. Anyway the wife and I ran that team for quite a while. Let m e see, holidays celebrated? Naturally Christmas without the snow. Of course nobody that grew up in the Canal Zone knew anything about snow. But I came from Philadelphia and it snowed t here some. Christmas time in the Canal Zone we always f ought to get th e best Christmas we would have to buy two, strap them to together to make it look like a good full tree. Christmas trees were sold at a specific time of the day and there would be a mob of people there waiting at that specific time to go in and get a Christmas tree. When those doors opened at that specific time it was a mad rush to run in, grab a tree because they only had a certain amount. As long as you had your hand on the tree that was yours. E: Did you participate in the tree burning after Christmas?
PCM 005; DeTore ; Page 8 D: We all. W hen I was a young kid growing up there after Christmas we would go around and collect the Christmas trees that the peopl e would throw out on the street sides and we would make Christmas tree forts. Huge, I mean hundreds of trees You would make piles of them and you would have tolls going through and wars between this mound of trees and this mound of trees. Here we are just elementary kids having a good time. The Christmas tree burns we would donate our trees. This was later on when we were in high school The whole community would participat e: Coco Solo a nd Coco Solito would be together I f you were over on the other side, Margarita would have their own Christmas tree burn. But it would be an all day affair. You would have parties and races, water balloon tosses, egg tosses, a lot of food, and it was all donated by the community. It was free b ut everyone had a good time. On the fourth of July now other holidays there would be swim meets. We would participate in those. The swimming pools in the area, like Coco Solo pool, Fort Davis, and Fort Gulick pools were Olympic size pools. They were huge, to us. They ha d a small diving board, a middle diving board, and a t ower. The first time you climb that tower and look down at that pool you thought, jeepers if I jumpe d off this would I hit the pool? It was great fun living in the Canal Zone. A s a matter of fact it was paradi se. There was no crime, there was no drugs, just a wonderful time down there. E: D: Racial? N o
PCM 005; DeTore ; Page 9 E: Not at all? D: Not at all. E: D: 60s to the 80s. It was a lot of tension there. E: Right, it got a little rough. I know there were riots. D: Oh yes, I can recall the riots. Let me see, the riots were in what, 64? E: 64, Yes. D: And another one a little bit later? E: D: Al l right I can remember 64. I had just gotten out of the army in 64 so, and working with the industrial division I had a job on the Pacific side. See, we lived in the Atlantic side; when we went over to the Pacific side to work they would put you up in hote ls. Well the hotel that they put me up to was the Tivoli Guest House, which was the official hotel of the Canal Zone. As a m atter of fact President Teddy Roosevelt stayed there. It was a wooden structure but the restaurants were fabulous. The rooms were all wood, wooden floor, very high ceilings. Yo ur bathrooms were down the hall. T he rooms never had a private bath or toilet area or anything of that nature. But when we worked there and I was staying at the Tivoli Guest House they had a riot. They came an d they took the American flag down and there were some shots fired. One of my workers
PCM 005; DeTore ; Page 10 from the Atlantic side who was a machinist I forget his name he was shot in the buttocks. All he could claim at the time was, he ought to get a medal for that. [Laughter] We all laughed. That was at the Tivoli Guest House. I really hated to see them tear the thing down. It was a piece of history. E: When did they tear it down, d o you know? D: Let me see, my son was born in 69, 70. It was p robably around 71 or 72, Tivoli while it was closed because they were going to tear it down. E: Why did they end up closing it and tearing it down? D: Oh, it was old. Termite d, everything was wood. It was from the construction back in 1915 E: not there anymore D: E: Just because o d say? D: A bout eighty percent of Coco Solo is gone. These were concrete, bomb proof buildings where the navy officers lived. lived also. The majority of those buildings are torn down and the area is used to put containers off the ships because the free zone whe re the containers come into Col n I mean, thousands and thousands of containers. These containers hold the dry goods for
PCM 005; DeTore ; Page 11 almost all of C entral and South America. Al l right, how about during World War II ? I can give you stories about World War II, but that was in Philadelphia. That was all in Philadelphia. I can talk about the turnover of the canal to Panama at the time. Let me see. What the heck date was that? That was around 1979. It was a very sad feeling and most people would go to the se ceremonies where the last time when t hey would lower the American flag. So all of these big flagpoles that held the American flag, they would have ceremonies there to take down the American flag for the last time. And it was the Canal Zone police that did the honors of taking the flags down. They would hav e a band playing. I believe it was in Coco Solo that they took the flag down. And the police were all lined up in their fanciest uniforms with all their medals and everything. They had a band playing and people cried, including me. It was ju st heartbreaking to see that for the last time. E : Did you leave after that? D : E : Okay. And where did you relocate to? D : I relocated in Chesapeake Virginia where I worked for another shipyard, a private shipyard. I was in charge of their fabrication shops in Virginia. And I retired from them just about three years ago. I had twenty one service with them. And I had twenty seven years with the Panama Canal working. E : What was the transition like? D :
PCM 005; DeTore ; Page 12 E : The transition going from Panama to Chesapeake? D : It was scary. It was scary because in the Canal Zone you knew everybody. Even They knew me because of my position, for what I did in the Ca nal Zone. But coming up to the S ou go into the st know a soul, w here if you went into the commissaries in the Canal Zone you knew everybody. Here you kne w no one. Frightening. Frightening. E: When you moved to Chesapeake, do you know other people from the Panama Canal Zone who had lived there? D: The only other people I knew here who lived here at the time was my father in law. He lived in Chesapeake al so. He is a retired master diver of the Panama Canal. I also was a diver for the Panama Canal. My job in Panama, after serving a four y ear apprentice program as a ship fitter I was drafted due to the Bay of Pigs in Cuba and the Cuban Missile Crisis. I had to get into the service. As a matter of fact I still have that letter from President Kennedy. It says greetings, your country and I need you. You will be in active service by such and such a date. I entered the army down at Fort Clayton. And I was stati oned there for about a month before I came to the United States for basic training at Fort Gordon, Georgia. I was in the 202 nd S ignal and the 18 th Airborne, which i s out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. They wanted me to join the O C S Officer Candidate Sc hool, but if I did that I would have to reenlist for one more year because being drafted I was only eligible for two years. If I had joined the military I would have
PCM 005; DeTore ; Page 13 had to go in for three or four. So I was called a U S ., where everyone else that served three and four years was called an R A regular army. If I had gone to O C S and enlisted for one more year I would have lost my job in Panama. The for me because I was drafted. It wasn t my doing going into the s ervice I t was the government. So they were compelled to hold my job for me. If I had gone to O C S and enlisted for another year my job would have been vacant. So after I got out of the army after serving only twenty five months I went back. M y job was waiting for me. Well by then I had already served my a pprenticeship four years there. I was a journeyman and I was still a ship fitter. I would say I was a very good ship fitter. E: They saved your job for you for two years. You had to be. D: As a matter of fact I became the ship fitter lead man. W henever the head man would go on vacation I would take his place. So I was in charge of the boiler shop, the sheet metal shop, the welders, the burners, the ship fitters. I was in charge of the whole thing. E: It was very loud there? D: Was it loud? It was loud. Yes, i t was very loud. After working my way up again I became general foreman of the launch repair facility. I took care of the launches from the Pacific side and the Atlantic side. And we had wo rk stat ions at Gamb a, Cristoba l, Balba. T here was one short pier that was used right in the middle of the canal. We took care of the pilot launches, which was about fifty three of them. We overhauled them, we painted them, we kept them running I would have a
PCM 005; DeTore ; Page 14 c hauffeur that would drive me over to the Pacific side to inspect, to find out what they needed tool wise. I would set up t he schedules for overhauling, set up shift work. Everybody wanted to get on to the shift work because they would work ten straight day s and get four off and then work ten more straight days. To a Panamani an about seventy perc ent of my crew were Panamanian t o them four days off is a big vacation for them. So they really wanted to get on that shift. E: Very competitive I bet. D: Yes, yes Okay. How did life change for the better or the worse? I think it was time to leave the Canal Zone when I did. My kids were on e of them I believe was in the tenth grade and the other one was in the fifth grade. And when I was living in Coco Solo the last year it was very hectic because of the riots, because of things closing, given away. W e lost our post office, we lost the railroad, we lost there. We had our own postage stamps. We had our own judicial system. Judicial a killing, a murder, a drowning, a death, I would have to witness: investigate the body, inspect the body to say yes, this is that per son, or t his is what I be lieve happened. The Canal Zone p olice and the detectives, which my wife wo rked for, hey had to have a civilian alongside them be one side of the story. I t would be two sides of the story. I can remember one suicide in the A tlantic side. I knew this man. W e knew him as Frenchie and he ran the hobby shop in Coco Solo. Well prior to his death he wrote little tags that
PCM 005; DeTore ; Page 15 you put on bulletin boards and he would write, for sale one shotgun used o nly once, or for sale, one Volkswagen needs repair on the roof and put thes e on the bulletin boards. Nobody took any initiative to find out what was really going on. A few days later, of all places, he parked his Volkswagen in the circle in front of the elementary school and he blew the top of the head off, plus the top of the Volkswagen. Well, with the shotgun up in here and the whole head gone you holes w h ere the eyes used to be. I had to go and witness his body I had to look at his hands to see whether right handed or left handed, and actually investigate it. And they all wanted to know, is this really Frenchie? Very hard to tell. Very hard to tell. E: Why did he do it? D: Nobody knows why. Nobody knows why. Anyway there was a lot of them like that. The drownings were terrible. Do you recall the massacre in one of the Caribbean islands wh ere they all drank the Kool Aid ? E. Yes. D: Granada? E: I want to say yeah. D: All those bodies c ame to Coco Solo. All of them. W hat were there, two hundred of them? E: It was a huge congregation I know that did it, yeah. D: Anyway, they could not find enough coffins or ca skets to put all these bodies be c ause when they arrived, they all arrived in bags. The Canal Zone was
PCM 005; DeTore ; Page 16 responsible for putting them into a coffin before they went back to the United Sta tes. I was also on my computer, which was very new to the market at the time. I had access in my computer to look in the warehouses. I had to figu re out how many coffins we have. Small, larg e, whatever: all of them, every one of them we took them all out. And they even shipped some from the United States whatnot. But it had to look presentable going back to the Unite d States in a coffin rather than in a bag. I can remember that where they were off loading the bodies on pier one in Coco Solo. I lived, I would say, about two blocks from pier one. Out my window of my building I could see pier one, where the hobby shops w ere and the navy boats used to be until the navy pulled out. I had a boat. I had a boat on the Atlantic side, it was a twen ty foot Mark Twain and I had a six cylinder Chevy engine in it. And we would go out the break wall. Do you know what a break wall is? A break wall is a manmade mound of rock or stones or something to keep the waves from the ocean from running in to the houses. entrance to the Panama Canal. You go through th e break wall and up towards Gat n. We would take the boats A s a matter of fact a majority of the people down there had a boat. And t he majority of them went to Gat n Lake to go fishing where the bass fish are; it was stocked with bass fish. Sometimes and pull it out and you got a Le t me tell you a story about Gatn Lake. Gat n Lake is quite de ep. I t can go down, I would say two hundred
PCM 005; DeTore ; Page 17 e lake. In fact it used to be the This is a freshwat er lake that feeds the canal, that actually operates the chambers b n Lake has a weed, or grass that grows in it called hyacinth. Hyacinth is a long tube that can grow a hundred so thick that when the ships cam e through the canal the intake on the ships for their cooli ng of the engines and so forth wou l d suck the water from the lake but it wo uld get so clogged with this hyacinth grass and whatnot. A couple of years they tried copper sulfate in the lake to kill it. In turn it killed the fish I t killed the marine mammals and wha tnot. What they did, was they br ought from the United States sea c ows. A sea cow resembles a manatee. Well, when the natives found out they would catch them too and eat them. So what the Canal Zone did, what the divers did, we blanked off a very large lagoon of Gat n Lake and killed everything in there, especially the b ass. We netted it off and killed everything in there and then waited for the following year. And we stocked it with exactly one million amu r Amur is a fish from South r. It will look like a minnow, but we had one million of them and they we re approximately a half inch long. Well, we put these fish in this enclosed area of Gatn Lake; they grow to about three and four feet long, look like a very giant minnow. They do not eat meat. They do n ot eat other fish. But we had to blank it off because if we put the small amu r in the lake the bass would eat them. These white amu r only ate the ve getation. When the vegetation i s gone, they will climb, crawl on the ground
PCM 005; DeTore ; Page 18 and eat t he grass. When the gra ss is gone, they will climb and lean themselves up against the tree and eat the bark. Not many people know about this. These are some of the secrets of the Panama Canal. E: So what happened? Did they clear up the problem? D: That almo st solved the problem. When they got big enough where we knew that we opened the gates and they went through Gat n Lake so they are in Ga tn Lake now. Called a white amu r. E: And are they edible? D: They are not edible. T hey almost resemble a tarpon. Nobody eats a tarpon; goo you go out there with a rod and reel and expect to catch one, forget it. They will not bite a hook. They will not bite a worm. They will not bite a fish. So this is them. You would get a fifty and you would have the drum float in the water say about one foot above the water line. Y d put sticks across the barrel and put grass on it and have a string from the barrel to the shore and just watch. These fish would get up to the top of the barrel, start to eat the gr ass, and fall in. Then you can pull it to the shore, take the fish out, examine the fish and look at it well, this is what he looks like and whatnot and em go back in the water. What a sport that was. E: Did they ever create any environmental problems with their appetite? D: I have never heard, never heard. E:
PCM 005; DeTore ; Page 19 D: have to go underwater at the spillways and inspect the seatings where the gates lock in to hold the water. And they have things called culverts, which are about eight foot in diameter with big metal screens to catch logs and what not from going through. in fact to operate this canal. A spillway controls the level of G atn Lake. There was one in Gat n and there was one in Miraf lores. They had built secretly a set of gates that would come up out of the water to protect the gates that are controlling the water. These gates would shoot up from the bottom and protect the major gates holding the water back in case th ey were torpedoed during the war. If a gunship or something came by and dropped a torpedo and hit the spillway entire Gat n Lake would flow and wash away, complete ly wash away the Atlantic side. Coco So lo, Coco Solito, Margarita, Col n would be washed int o the sea. To prevent that they had these gates that would shoot up out of the water in case something would come by and say hey have an attack. B oom here they come. T hey would shoot up and they would hit this before they hit the gates to th e spillway. These were some of the secret stuff. E: I like the secret stuff. D: On the other side, on the Fort Sherman side which was all a rmy, Fort Sherman had batteries that were underground where we had a specific type of missile that d to know about, but word gets around through the big wheels down there, so I knew quite a lot of it. These missiles were never used but they
PCM 005; DeTore ; Page 20 were installed at Fort Sherman. t sure about the Pacific side but d uring the war Fort Sherman, Fort Randolp h had very large gun turrets built on hillsides. The one at Fort Randolph overlooks Galeta Point, the entrance to the canal. They had huge gun turrets there, massive. E: Anti aircraft type stuff? D: No. anti air craft. This is for ship s coming through The cannons on them were probably from t hat wall to this wall. Big, big, big th ings for shooting ships maybe fifteen miles out. When we were teenagers we would go up and play into these things. All the mechanisms, a ll the guns were gone but the gun turrets and cement foundations for all of these things were still there. We would play on them things like crazy. We as teenagers would spend most of our time in the jungles building forts. I can recall a building burnt d own in Coco Solito and they were throwing everything out. I would take wood by the truck loads. We would have my wagon and I actually built a house out in the jungles. Everybody used for a clubhouse of some kind, a fun house. We used to go up, collect mangoes, bananas. I mean you tree. Y each out and grab it there was that many. One of the most pleasurable vegetables or fruits that you could find down there is called a rose a when you took a bite of it, it was like a cotton ball but so juicy and had a very rose type fla vor to it. Everybody loved r o se apples and ginips. A nybody from the Canal Zone know what a rose appl e and a ginip is. A ginip is a small fruit that
PCM 005; DeTore ; Page 21 looks like a, I would say about the size of your thumb, light green. You crack it your mouth and you suck all that gooey stuff off the seed. A little on the sour side but very popular. E: I heard of the term bread and butter for edible vegetation D: You might be referring to a bread plant. E: Yes. D: a was a staple food for the Mayan, the Aztec, and so forth. One of the explorers about 1500s, came down and brought back hundreds of these fruits c a lled breadfruit back there. S aid this will take care of the whole country if we can grow these. Well they never grew. They never grew. Who was the explorer that went down to the Galapagos Islands and E: Darwin? D: Was that Darwin? Maybe it was he some of his collection that he was bringing back to wherever. Anyway it never panned out. You have another fruit down there called ice cream bean. An ice cream bean is really a bean. An ice cream ly a very hard brown, shaped like this. Yo u crack it open just like a pea pod. You open that thing up and i nside would be these nice cotton like candy over a big black seed, like peas in a pod. Only these little ice cream beans inside this huge thing.
PCM 005; DeTore ; Page 22 E: It was stiff, right? D: Very stiff, very stiff and hard. And you just sucked this cotton stuff off of the black seeds to get the seed out, ice cream beans. They had cannonball tre es. They can nest, hang from the tree in a long stem and then come out with a little ball on the end. T he birds would go inside, but there was a fruit like that. Anyway, you can always find a coco a tree. Do you know what a cacao k now cacao. You pronounce it cocoa. You could find a cacao than any other tree because the fruit itself grows out of the trunk of the tree, not the top where the branches are, it Anyway, you take those seeds and you have to dry t hem out in the sun and whatnot and grind them all up and you can get your cocoa. E: Cocoa, yes. D: As a matter of fact the majority of the people that left the Canal Zone and come to the United States, this is what they crave. They crave the difference, the flavor, prepared. Corvina fish: n o matter what restaurant you went to in Panama City, corvina was the catch of the day. Red snapper, corvine they used to make a dish called ceviche. Ceviche takes the place of the United States Ceviche is a corvine type fish cut into chu nks of about a half by half inch and raw. And they are soaked in lime juice and peppers. The type of peppers they use is called Aji Chombo. And just hot sauce and the lime juice. As soon as
PCM 005; DeTore ; Page 23 you drop the raw fish in there the fish turn white. I e I They serve this with a dish with crushed ice on the bottom, maybe a lettuce leaf and a whole scoop of this r people here in the United States substitute and try and make it with the fish they can get at the market or whatnot and say, oh yeah, I made ceviche the other night. Well, ok ay, it Aji Chombo peppers T hey use the jalapenos, no E: Scotch bonnet, maybe? D: No, no, no, the little yellow ones, real hot about that big around. Jalapenos? No, the jalapenos are green ones. E: Habaneros? D: theirs with. Al l ri ght. Wh at else are we gonna talk about? Oh, right before we left the Canal Zone it was getting a little on the hostile side. There would be bomb threats. There would be a lot of yelling and screaming Yankee go home. Well, being that they took away the C anal Zone police, the Panamanian National Guard had to come in and protect these little cities that the Americans were still living in. They would escort my kids to school. We lived just about across the street from the elementary school. But they would ha ve to walk my kids to school with M 16 rifles. They were all armed, they were all armed. This is t he Guardia Nacional, their so called army A ctually
PCM 005; DeTore ; Page 24 E: How did your children transition when you guys moved to the Chesapeake are a? D: o much until they cause down there th ey knew everybody. They were in to the sports and the activities and the school programs and whatnot. E: And it was similar to how it was when you were there when you were young just that sense of community and kinship? D: Oh yeah, yeah, until the last couple of years. E: And you left in 1984 and by then it was? D: It was time to go. E: Dangerous. Do you return ever? D: I have not been back but both my boys have. Everyone tells me you go back town sites that we grew up in are gone. E: Do you have any desire to go back just to see ? D: Yes, yes we will go back. Maybe when the wife retire s we might make it down all over the place. Being so close, living in Panama, it was easy to go to places like E cuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina miles away from Costa Rica, three hundred miles to Guatemala. Y everything down there. We went and saw all the sights of South America, like Macchu Picchu. Loved that. E: Did you learn how to speak Spanish?
PCM 005; DeTore ; Page 25 D: I can speak Spanish very little. But the majority of my people that worked for me were all Panamanian around. One of the best places that we visited in South America was E cuador. It was beautiful, so clean. Ecuador is the only country in the world that can claim to have four seasons every day of the year. [Laughter] We landed there it was in the morning: nice weather, seventy degrees. C ome afternoon 105. Hey man we gotta go back to the room and start changing some clothes here or whatever. We get back to the room and get ready to go to dinner and you look out the window and snowing. Here it is summer the sun comes up melts all the sn ow and every field is covered with little yellow flowers. the women are on their hands and knees scrubbing the sidewalks and the sides of their building which are all white washed. Ninety percent of the homes and the houses in this village in Ecuador, the homes that are painted white and with blue shudders are all over four hundre Quito is the the highest capital city in the world. We drove to Cotopaxi, which is one of the highest active volca noes in the world. We rented a Vo lkswage reach the summit that you have to park your cars oxygen to even run the engine in the car. You would get out and start walking d take seven steps and have to stop to breathe again. I would take a cigar out of my pocket and light it one time, take one puff and instantly put it back
PCM 005; DeTore ; Page 26 in your mouth to take the second puff and it would be out was. Y E: D: ou were up there. No vegetation; you can come down a little bit around where the clouds are and you start seeing nothing but purple which is nothing but the volcanic ash. And about a mile down further you can the vegetation where the trees are, the green. Wha t a beautiful country to visit, Ecuador. Al l right any other specific qu E: D: I just wish my dad was here. My dad was a swimming instructor for Balboa High School also. That was in the 30s. E: Where is he now? D: rives, still does his own shopping. So a ft go down and spend a week with him. E: Sounds good. Well thank you so much for your time. [ E nd of interview] Transcribed by: Matt Simmons, December 1 3 2013 Audit edited by: Jessica Taylor, January 14, 2013
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