Letters from Isthmian Canal construction workers

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Material Information

Title:
Letters from Isthmian Canal construction workers Contest solicitation, overview and entry requirements
Series Title:
Isthmian Historical Society competition for the best true stories of life and work on the Isthmus of Panama during the construction of the Panama Canal
Physical Description:
Mixed Material
Language:
English
Spanish
Donor:
Afro-Antillean Museum ( donor )
Publisher:
Isthmian Historical Society
Place of Publication:
Panama

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Panama Canal

Notes

Scope and Content:
The Contest: In 1963, as the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal drew near, the Isthmian Historical Society decided to make a collection of stories of personal experiences of non-U.S. citizens during Construction Days by means of a contest. This contest was publicized in local newspapers, by notices in the food packages given to Disability Relief recipients, and in newspapers in the Caribbean area. The following letter was sent to a total of 15 newspapers in Jamaica, Barbados, British Honduras, Trinidad, Antigua, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, and Grenada: "The Isthmian Historical Society is trying to collect the personal experiences and viewpoints of those West Indians who served in the labor force that dug the Panama Canal. Very little has been written by them or about them. Soon it will be too late to obtain personal accounts. In the hope of making a permanent record of their experiences during the construction of the Canal, our Society is sponsoring a competition for the best true stories of life and work on the Isthmus of Panama during the construction years. It would be much appreciated if you would assist us in publicizing our competition. I am enclosing a separate sheet with the information for this." The information sheet: "The Isthmian Historical Society announces a competition for the-best true stories of life and work on the Isthmus of Panama during the construction of the Panama Canal. The competition is open to West Indians and other non-U.S. citizens who were on the Isthmus prior to 1915. Entries may be handwritten but must be legible. Anyone who is infirm may have his story written for him by someone else, but in this case it must be stated on the entry that it has been written for him in his own words by someone else. Give name, address, year arrived in Panama, where employed there, and type of work done. All entries must be in the mail by November 1, 1963. The winners will be announced in December. All entries become the property of the Isthmian Historical Society. First prize will be: $50 (U.S.); second prize: $30 (U.S.); third prize: $20 (U.S.)…” Brief notices of the contest were placed in several thousand food packages ("Food for Peace" packages have been distributed monthly by the Panama Canal Company-Canal Zone Government). These notices read: "Competition -- For West Indians & other non-U.S. citizens who worked on the Isthmus before 1915. For the best true stories of life & work on the Isthmus during the Canal construction there will be awarded prizes: 1st PRIZE: $50; … Give year arrived in Panama, kind of work & where, name & address. Write of interesting experiences & people, living & working conditions, etc… The Entries: The majority of the contest entries were handwritten. In some cases the handwriting was difficult to read. In making copies of the entries, it occasionally was necessary to omit an undecipherable word, leaving a blank space to indicate the omission. Although an effort was made to reproduce the letters exactly as they were written, it is probable that there are errors. However, they will detract little from what these Old Timers wanted to say. It should be remembered that these letters were written by individuals who labored on the Isthmus prior to 1915. They are no longer young. Some are handicapped by the infirmities of age: failing eyesight, unsteadv and arthritic hands that find it laborious to form words and sentences, and minds that know what they want to say but communicate it imperfectly. Generally, unfamiliar spellings need only to be sounded and their meaning becomes clear. In cases where the entrants wrote as they speak, there may be dropped "H"8s so that "has" is written "as". Other features of West Indian speech will be noted. As spoken language, there is no English more colorful. Mr. Albert Banister's interesting letter is a good example. The Society is most grateful for all the entries and we regret that there could not be a prize for everyone. Ruth C. Stuhl Competition Editor

Record Information

Source Institution:
Afro-Antillean Museum
Holding Location:
Afro-Antillean Museum
Rights Management:
All rights reserved by the source institution.
System ID:
AA00016037:00003


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Martin, George II.; c/o Fitz H. Barton, D3ox 466, Balboa
liHeihts, C.Z. or c/o American Red Cross, Box 322,
Balboa Heights, C.Z.


On arriving on the Isthmus, had been like a new world,
leaving my native land on August 27th 1909.

After reaching the Icth-us, I were taken off the boat on
the evening of September 2)O 1909. IWe wcre on the train that
night, I say we reffering to those who I did not know, but
were all together; next morning we were at a place called
Tabernilla, and were given corn-beef, bread, coffee which we
enjoyed, and were happy.

Moving forward, the train brought us to a place called
Frijoles where we got off, and were placed in homes. The
homes we occupied were box-cars but at that time they were
like palaces, so we enjoyed it.

I turned to-work on the day of Sept. 3rd, 1909, with
shovels and picks later on, a next piece of tool were in-
cluded called the Spike-Mall. We worked joyfully, during
these days, (as I am running over ground) we had an incident,
the Chagress River came down, and over flow her banks, and
this time we had a reflection of our home land when women and
children moved in with us, we had to give place to the women
and children for the whole place in what was called the town
had been flooded, every house were under water, the thing
about it, where the engine used to run, boats werB handy.
Going back to the beginning where our feeding started with
the Comminssary book after destroying so much corn-beef, bread,
coffee, etc. for that was all we had.

A man by the name of Lang, or Lung, cant recall clearly
the correct one, but his name started with an "L' -This
gentleman said to us "Boys," I am going to put you on your
own, I understood that this m;!an carried the title as time-
keeper, he said I am going to give you a ^2.50 book, where
you will take to the Commissary and purchase what you want,
very man in the gC.ng were- given a book for V2.50 so from
there we started on our own, so gentlemen I will not hesitate
to let you know, we felt happy'. ,)2.50 book had been plenty
in those days, they were in 5 cents bretts, to 2.50, it was
called the tango the amount spent would be torn out, our
lunch mostly in those days i:ere bread, sardine, and ice
cream, and at times for a change, we would have bread, corn-
beef-hash, and never forget our ice-cream, I am saying biere
it was refreshing. We worked hard, but cheerful, I can










Martin, G. H. p.2


assure you, our boss never had any worries, he onlpy7says what
he wanted, and it was done
Continuing, with the book
]f we order a 4"5.00 book, and in a day or two and that
book does not show up, you are told to order again Sometimes
both orders would mnoot, and we would have two 5.00 book,
$10.00 what to do with .10.O0 in those days? Here is a
story, it caught me once. I bought some of everything, shoes
also, to do away with it, C10.00 would not finish. I bought a
ham, at that time it look a.s big as I were, I paid 4.2.21,
talking about ham, real lean, I took ham to'work every day in
order to have it finish, my associate and I ate ham for days.
I don't think about ham these days its too high in price, now
it is for the other fellow.

(Next thing I should talk about) is the flour, in I.C.C.
days bought flour by the gallon, not the pound, I can't re-
member really if there had been any 2 lb. or 4 lb. but what I
do )mknow, that I paid i$1.27 for a 5 gallon pan of flour each
time we buy. Gne day my associate went to the Comsy.. and so
many tins were sold, the cashier seen to forget the 1.27, but
he made sure to collect at least 27 cent, instead of 1.27
which was a real bargain, so I still call construction days
wonderful days. We were paid lOc per hour, and work 9 hours
a day, giving us the amount of 90 cent daily,,over time pay
was doubled can't talk about it, for e.t times it was plenti-
ful, I had been in a gang, I can remember I turned to work
at 7 o'clock this morning and drew off seven o'clock next
morning, the boss, Johnoon, comes up, "Now boys, I mknow you all
are tired, but .go home, and get a little sleep, and- come back
in to work at one o'clock, he did not order or compelled,
he only plead, so we obeyed, and this went on for days, for
we were cutting through a hill for the tract line; but again,
I make use of the words, "the work of construction days had
been a hard and rough struggle, but it was done cheerfully,
and faithfully; thus giving the American people their hearts
desire.

On our way from Frijoles to Montclirio, placing the new
re-location getting. a.way from the place called the Black
Swamp, we hlid to contack much rotten trees and stumps, our
white boss would pass and warn "flch Boys don't put your
hands under those rotten wood, you may find something under
there, that if bitten by same, you would live only about 24
hours, they are called Antelopes or Bleck-spider. So we were
very careful, and we did met with them plentiful.








Martin, G. H. p.3


"Man while bleeding mortals ever groan,
List to the wails and anguish of their tones;
Men who did yield to doubtfulness retire
And failure marked them in its searing fire."
Ambition -

About the fever -
The fever lashed good and plenty. Sometimes walking on
the Monte-Lirio Stretch, you meet men coming and going in each
direction, in a sudden you look, a gang together, something
happen, what? One or two of the gang on the ground flatten
out, before help reaches, one dead long time, no more of him,
thank God. Martin still battling along.; in those days, you
watch men shake, gentlemen, you think they would shake to
pieces, these days are healthful days. The authorities did
work on the malaria, they sent men around day after day with a
colored looking liquid, the men would shout, come on boys,
drink it up. Sweet at first, but bitter in the end, many
men was afraid to drink, but I drank it with good heart, for
the authorities did not mean to kill, their aims were to
revive; this liquid was quinine, so they put a pretty color
to it as a catch, so it catch me, for it did me good.

Rain fall -
When you are going to talk about rain, please refer back
from 1909 & 10 when we worked in rain, just as if it were sun;
here is something to note, when we reached the Stretch on the
way to Gatun, after leaving Monte-Lirio, it rained for days
right through, day and night. We had a white boss whose name
were Atkins, a young looking fellow at the time, the rain
beat him, it turned us colored people almost white, but our
boss, it brought him like white Calico, I mean white, for it
was no use stop working, all of us were in the rain, we turned
to work in rain, go to lunch in rain back to work in rain,
we used to go to the bathroom in the morning, and put on the
same clothes every day, can't mention everything, since it is
so much along this line. Going all the way, being a carpen-
ter prentice boy when I left my home Barbados, I then were
given a saw, hammer, and rule, I worked then in cullverts, I
really can't call my foreman name, now, but he was a tall
man, ver4 tall.

I came back from the culberts, when the steel rail were
laying, all "this is still on the re-location," the pulling
were dropped, then the steel rail on top of them, we have to
spke them up together, the boss's name, we used to call him
Old Joe, the colored foreman being a french man, his name was









Martin, G. H. p.4


Morris, his second were named Victor all french. But we took
the spiking of the rail, to the pulling, like a merry-go-round,
this were a sight to watch us work along this line; as I said
before, "the work was hard, but we did It cheerful; here is
the play, when the rail had been spiked to the pulling, now it
has got to be put in place. Every man with an iron-bar about
five feet long, one would sing, and while he sings, you watch
track line move, "the trang goes, you ball." The white bosses
stands off and laugh, the Songster had a song, goes this way,
he would sing part one, or first part, and we comes in with the
second part, it.goess

Nattle oh, Nattie 0 first
2nd. Gone to Colon
Nattie 0 Nattle 0
2nd. Gone to Colon.
let. Nattle buy sweet powder
2nd. powder her you know
1st. Nattie buy sweet powder
2nd, Powder her -- same

And so he would sing this song oyer and over, gentlemen watch
track line move, the wort appeared sweet, th6 white foreman
enjoyed the singing they laugh and did laughed.

When time to go home, the boas shouts Go home, every
man leaves his tool same place, until next morning, we would
find it same place, of course, later, we had tool boxes, and
all tools would go in the box.

1912 I moved over to the out a Mayflowers, where concrete
had been going sky high, I got work on the wall, later, I was
moved from the wall, and were placed on a platform, two of us,
to receive the concrete that were brought by small engines on
calbs to the cranes, to be taken up on the wall, two great big
buckets to an engine, when reaching the crane we would hook
them up. This is my first damage I received from 1909 landing
here to 1913. had been on the crane, it happened on No. 1
crane.

My partner failed to unhook his part of chain on one side,
the crane carried three chain, one on either side, and one in
the middle, so I unhooked the middle, and one side, my partner
did not unhooked his on time, so the operator lift, and the
great big bucket came over, catching me up against the coal
boxe:that carried the coal for the engine, it burst the belt
that was around my waist in four pieces, I were sent to the









Martin, G. H. p.5


hospital, and remained there for six days, and were given six
small white pills, after that, I were sent back on the job.
My time keeper was a dark fellow by the name of Holder. A
gentleman by the name of Mr. Walker was the general man. Oh
I see much in life in this here country.
Life -
From cares, from strifes, from toll some ways
I come to thee for freedom;
O lighten me with cords of truth,
Endow me with great wisdom.
Let knowledgee from thy living throne
Prevade my inner being
Give me the portion of the free -
The blessedness of living.

Gentlemen, I should not hide this, but every year when
the time comes around, I feels the effect. Travelling on;
later, I were placed in a .gang, twelve of us, and we hand-mixed
concrete daily, and built four of those light stands on the
wall, a man by the name of Lennan was the general foreman, we
received credit, that was all, but I see the men that just
came in is given service this and service that. Anyhow, glad
we were able to do it, and I am still alive.

Let me say,
Light of our faith, before thy shrine we kneel,
Print on our minds the stamp of Viot'rys seal;
Lands we have served, forever turn their backs,
Conquest seems far, but we will scale the tracks.

"Talking about the water
coming into the Cut"
While working, some of our sood bosses would find some
encouraging talk for us, they would say to us, boys, are
you saving your money, it won't be long from now, we will see
water into the Cut, but we just take it for a joke.

I personally would say to my fellow men, that could never
happen, my children would come and have children, and their
children would come and do the same, before-you would see
water in the Cut, and most all of us agree on the same.

But it did happen according to schedule, and I must tell
you I had been a father, for my first child, Janruary 24th
1914, running four months later. Here is an experience that
I must mention, after reflecting back to the past, I am









Martin, G H. p.6


tickled with thouShts of fright, we left the cut the Saturday
evening, thus returning back the Tuesday, the monday being a
holiday, we were at home, Sunday and Monday, when the labor-
train reached Mayflowers, we could not believe. our own eyes,
the train stopped away off, we could not get near to the place,
we had left the Saturday; gentlemen, this had been a real
surprising sight, as far as you could see around the locks
were people like bundles of sticks set up like guard posts,
standing amazed for hours, the bosses would walk around se-
lecting his men, some of us were placed in death-traps, that.
is, we were to seize two stumps or body of trees that had
float on the water and nail them together like rafts, and
whether you could swim or not, two of us would have to get on
this and go all in the water on the surface and clean it of all
the debris that had float on the water, for the water brought
up everything to top, except stones; you can figure out the
job we had to bring all those things to shore and that was how
the looks were cleared of its debris; the thing that had me
so scared was that I could swim but like lead.

Since the Panama Canal, the growth of prosperity and
comfortable living, which means bright days, my thoughts ran
back to the dark days of the I.C.C. I were only 18 years a
school boy, with a thinking ability, a voice from a great
people saying "Hearken ye, people of a different tribe, Let
not your heart be troubled, and so we were invited; at this
age with the others I accepted, for this people, no other than
the American people promised strong protection, and so I
leave father and mother, brothers, and relatives, away in the
land of the Indies, in the west, and came to -this strange land
now 5A years ago, still with a great heart' for the same people
I served before. I never mention about snakes, short jacket,
this fellow when he lights on you, don't feel him until he is
getting ready to quit and when he do fly off nothing but blood
oosing out. The next fellow was the goosyana jfly, when he
stings, he leaves worms in the flesh.

One day about mid-day we met a snake about six inches
round, and about 15 feet long at a distance, all we had was
shovels to make the attack, but he looked more than us, so we
bid him good buy in the bush. Another time, I were sent to
fetch water for the men to drink, and the same place I go were
five sankes the same place in the water, if they had made an
attack on me, they would certainly harm me for I just couldn't
move, I was so frighten, so see me; they went their way, and
so I dip up my water, the same place; the water we drank in
those days in the bush had been the same that every reptile










Martin, G. H. p.7

drank, sometimes we had to boil it for it to taste good. Then
here aggin, I remember the soap was only 4 cents a bar, but it
would take a woman hand like Goliah to hold it, it was so big,
not like today. The broad 3 to 4 % each. Cod fish 4 to 8g
per pound, the beat; sugar by the 25 lbs bag, I try to remem-
ber the price, it had been 95, to 51.00 only.

I don't want to go very fa:s with prices, but I tiink I will
quote a few more. I bought Quaker oats at 13/ the tin, now it
is over 29%; corn meal, 30 the pound, corn beef, 10 to 11 the
tin, matches 5% pack this was called the Parrott matches, the
biscuits, this is termed now hard bread, we paid 6 to 8% the
pound; St. Charles evaporated milk, large size, 9, the tin,
the Nestles condense 10 tin, camphor balls, box 5%. Something
to wear, in those days we bought pants as low an $1.00, silk
shirts, the popular wear, we took advantage of this item, in
those days we paid as high as 2.75, we could buy a two-piece
suit for as high as $3.00 & change so I make use of these
words again, construction days were better'days, never to be
seen again, the money was paid small, but we live big. So many
more things could be mentioned, which would call for more paper.

Praise heaven, to the Americans, for the Panama Canal, and
yet there are a set of people so dissatisfied today, I see them
but can't call them, this cause me to remember, A set of
molatto people at my-home town used to cook late in the night,
and at times the pot is left open, and the may-bugs flying
around would deposit into the not with the soup, so when finish,
everybody enjoys a hearty meal, the bugs were eaten, for more
peas in the soup, next morning the left-over showed up the
bugs, so the songsters around made a song of it. It goes this
way, -
"Cricket gill and dry peas,
Good enough for poor Backro,
For who? Fou.'Dem,
Fou dem, who?
See them but can't call them"
So this reference is used "I see them, but can't call them."

Gentlemen, I closgo.
Your humble servant.


retire with 46 years and seven months.




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Martin, George II.; c/o Fitz H. Barton, D3ox 466, Balboa
liHeihts, C.Z. or c/o American Red Cross, Box 322,
Balboa Heights, C.Z.
On arriving on the Isthmus, had been like a new world,
leaving my native land on August 27th 1909.
After reaching the Icth-us, I were taken off the boat on
the evening of September 2)O 1909. IWe wcre on the train that
night, I say we reffering to those who I did not know, but
were all together; next morning we were at a place called
Tabernilla, and were given corn-beef, bread, coffee which we
enjoyed, and were happy.
Moving forward, the train brought us to a place called
Frijoles where we got off, and were placed in homes. The
homes we occupied were box-cars but at that time they were
like palaces, so we enjoyed it.
I turned to-work on the day of Sept. 3rd, 1909, with
shovels and picks later on, a next piece of tool were in-
cluded called the Spike-Mall. We worked joyfully, during
these days, (as I am running over ground) we had an incident,
the Chagress River came down, and over flow her banks, and
this time we had a reflection of our home land when women and
children moved in with us, we had to give place to the women
and children for the whole place in what was called the town
had been flooded, every house were under water, the thing
about it, where the engine used to run, boats werB handy.
Going back to the beginning where our feeding started with
the Comminssary book after destroying so much corn-beef, bread,
coffee, etc. for that was all we had.
A man by the name of Lang, or Lung, cant recall clearly
the correct one, but his name started with an "L' -This
gentleman said to us "Boys," I am going to put you on your
own, I understood that this m;!an carried the title as time-
keeper, he said I am going to give you a ^2.50 book, where
you will take to the Commissary and purchase what you want,
very man in the gC.ng were- given a book for V2.50 so from
there we started on our own, so gentlemen I will not hesitate
to let you know, we felt happy'. ,)2.50 book had been plenty
in those days, they were in 5 cents bretts, to 2.50, it was
called the tango the amount spent would be torn out, our
lunch mostly in those days i:ere bread, sardine, and ice
cream, and at times for a change, we would have bread, corn-
beef-hash, and never forget our ice-cream, I am saying biere
it was refreshing. We worked hard, but cheerful, I can
2 image0016.jpg
Martin, G. H. p.2
assure you, our boss never had any worries, he onlpy7says what
he wanted, and it was done
Continuing, with the book
]f we order a 4"5.00 book, and in a day or two and that
book does not show up, you are told to order again Sometimes
both orders would mnoot, and we would have two 5.00 book,
$10.00 what to do with .10.O0 in those days? Here is a
story, it caught me once. I bought some of everything, shoes
also, to do away with it, C10.00 would not finish. I bought a
ham, at that time it look a.s big as I were, I paid 4.2.21,
talking about ham, real lean, I took ham to'work every day in
order to have it finish, my associate and I ate ham for days.
I don't think about ham these days its too high in price, now
it is for the other fellow.
(Next thing I should talk about) is the flour, in I.C.C.
days bought flour by the gallon, not the pound, I can't re-
member really if there had been any 2 lb. or 4 lb. but what I
do )mknow, that I paid i$1.27 for a 5 gallon pan of flour each
time we buy. Gne day my associate went to the Comsy.. and so
many tins were sold, the cashier seen to forget the 1.27, but
he made sure to collect at least 27 cent, instead of 1.27
which was a real bargain, so I still call construction days
wonderful days. We were paid lOc per hour, and work 9 hours
a day, giving us the amount of 90 cent daily,,over time pay
was doubled can't talk about it, for e.t times it was plenti-
ful, I had been in a gang, I can remember I turned to work
at 7 o'clock this morning and drew off seven o'clock next
morning, the boss, Johnoon, comes up, "Now boys, I mknow you all
are tired, but .go home, and get a little sleep, and- come back
in to work at one o'clock, he did not order or compelled,
he only plead, so we obeyed, and this went on for days, for
we were cutting through a hill for the tract line; but again,
I make use of the words, "the work of construction days had
been a hard and rough struggle, but it was done cheerfully,
and faithfully; thus giving the American people their hearts
desire.
On our way from Frijoles to Montclirio, placing the new
re-location getting. a.way from the place called the Black
Swamp, we hlid to contack much rotten trees and stumps, our
white boss would pass and warn "flch Boys don't put your
hands under those rotten wood, you may find something under
there, that if bitten by same, you would live only about 24
hours, they are called Antelopes or Bleck-spider. So we were
very careful, and we did met with them plentiful.
3 image0017.jpg
Martin, G. H. p.3
"Man while bleeding mortals ever groan,
List to the wails and anguish of their tones;
Men who did yield to doubtfulness retire
And failure marked them in its searing fire."
Ambition -
About the fever -
The fever lashed good and plenty. Sometimes walking on
the Monte-Lirio Stretch, you meet men coming and going in each
direction, in a sudden you look, a gang together, something
happen, what? One or two of the gang on the ground flatten
out, before help reaches, one dead long time, no more of him,
thank God. Martin still battling along.; in those days, you
watch men shake, gentlemen, you think they would shake to
pieces, these days are healthful days. The authorities did
work on the malaria, they sent men around day after day with a
colored looking liquid, the men would shout, come on boys,
drink it up. Sweet at first, but bitter in the end, many
men was afraid to drink, but I drank it with good heart, for
the authorities did not mean to kill, their aims were to
revive; this liquid was quinine, so they put a pretty color
to it as a catch, so it catch me, for it did me good.
Rain fall -
When you are going to talk about rain, please refer back
from 1909 & 10 when we worked in rain, just as if it were sun;
here is something to note, when we reached the Stretch on the
way to Gatun, after leaving Monte-Lirio, it rained for days
right through, day and night. We had a white boss whose name
were Atkins, a young looking fellow at the time, the rain
beat him, it turned us colored people almost white, but our
boss, it brought him like white Calico, I mean white, for it
was no use stop working, all of us were in the rain, we turned
to work in rain, go to lunch in rain back to work in rain,
we used to go to the bathroom in the morning, and put on the
same clothes every day, can't mention everything, since it is
so much along this line. Going all the way, being a carpen-
ter prentice boy when I left my home Barbados, I then were
given a saw, hammer, and rule, I worked then in cullverts, I
really can't call my foreman name, now, but he was a tall
man, ver4 tall.
I came back from the culberts, when the steel rail were
laying, all "this is still on the re-location," the pulling
were dropped, then the steel rail on top of them, we have to
spke them up together, the boss's name, we used to call him
Old Joe, the colored foreman being a french man, his name was
4 image0018.jpg
Martin, G. H. p.4
Morris, his second were named Victor all french. But we took
the spiking of the rail, to the pulling, like a merry-go-round,
this were a sight to watch us work along this line; as I said
before, "the work was hard, but we did It cheerful; here is
the play, when the rail had been spiked to the pulling, now it
has got to be put in place. Every man with an iron-bar about
five feet long, one would sing, and while he sings, you watch
track line move, "the trang goes, you ball." The white bosses
stands off and laugh, the Songster had a song, goes this way,
he would sing part one, or first part, and we comes in with the
second part, it.goess
Nattle oh, Nattie 0 first
2nd. Gone to Colon
Nattie 0 Nattle 0
2nd. Gone to Colon.
let. Nattle buy sweet powder
2nd. powder her you know
1st. Nattie buy sweet powder
2nd, Powder her -- same
And so he would sing this song oyer and over, gentlemen watch
track line move, the wort appeared sweet, th6 white foreman
enjoyed the singing they laugh and did laughed.
When time to go home, the boas shouts Go home, every
man leaves his tool same place, until next morning, we would
find it same place, of course, later, we had tool boxes, and
all tools would go in the box.
1912 I moved over to the out a Mayflowers, where concrete
had been going sky high, I got work on the wall, later, I was
moved from the wall, and were placed on a platform, two of us,
to receive the concrete that were brought by small engines on
calbs to the cranes, to be taken up on the wall, two great big
buckets to an engine, when reaching the crane we would hook
them up. This is my first damage I received from 1909 landing
here to 1913. had been on the crane, it happened on No. 1
crane.
My partner failed to unhook his part of chain on one side,
the crane carried three chain, one on either side, and one in
the middle, so I unhooked the middle, and one side, my partner
did not unhooked his on time, so the operator lift, and the
great big bucket came over, catching me up against the coal
boxe:that carried the coal for the engine, it burst the belt
that was around my waist in four pieces, I were sent to the
5 image0019.jpg
Martin, G. H. p.5
hospital, and remained there for six days, and were given six
small white pills, after that, I were sent back on the job.
My time keeper was a dark fellow by the name of Holder. A
gentleman by the name of Mr. Walker was the general man. Oh
I see much in life in this here country.
Life -
From cares, from strifes, from toll some ways
I come to thee for freedom;
O lighten me with cords of truth,
Endow me with great wisdom.
Let knowledgee from thy living throne
Prevade my inner being
Give me the portion of the free -
The blessedness of living.
Gentlemen, I should not hide this, but every year when
the time comes around, I feels the effect. Travelling on;
later, I were placed in a .gang, twelve of us, and we hand-mixed
concrete daily, and built four of those light stands on the
wall, a man by the name of Lennan was the general foreman, we
received credit, that was all, but I see the men that just
came in is given service this and service that. Anyhow, glad
we were able to do it, and I am still alive.
Let me say,
Light of our faith, before thy shrine we kneel,
Print on our minds the stamp of Viot'rys seal;
Lands we have served, forever turn their backs,
Conquest seems far, but we will scale the tracks.
"Talking about the water
coming into the Cut"
While working, some of our sood bosses would find some
encouraging talk for us, they would say to us, boys, are
you saving your money, it won't be long from now, we will see
water into the Cut, but we just take it for a joke.
I personally would say to my fellow men, that could never
happen, my children would come and have children, and their
children would come and do the same, before-you would see
water in the Cut, and most all of us agree on the same.
But it did happen according to schedule, and I must tell
you I had been a father, for my first child, Janruary 24th
1914, running four months later. Here is an experience that
I must mention, after reflecting back to the past, I am
6 image0020.jpg
Martin, G H. p.6
tickled with thouShts of fright, we left the cut the Saturday
evening, thus returning back the Tuesday, the monday being a
holiday, we were at home, Sunday and Monday, when the labor-
train reached Mayflowers, we could not believe. our own eyes,
the train stopped away off, we could not get near to the place,
we had left the Saturday; gentlemen, this had been a real
surprising sight, as far as you could see around the locks
were people like bundles of sticks set up like guard posts,
standing amazed for hours, the bosses would walk around se-
lecting his men, some of us were placed in death-traps, that.
is, we were to seize two stumps or body of trees that had
float on the water and nail them together like rafts, and
whether you could swim or not, two of us would have to get on
this and go all in the water on the surface and clean it of all
the debris that had float on the water, for the water brought
up everything to top, except stones; you can figure out the
job we had to bring all those things to shore and that was how
the looks were cleared of its debris; the thing that had me
so scared was that I could swim but like lead.
Since the Panama Canal, the growth of prosperity and
comfortable living, which means bright days, my thoughts ran
back to the dark days of the I.C.C. I were only 18 years a
school boy, with a thinking ability, a voice from a great
people saying "Hearken ye, people of a different tribe, Let
not your heart be troubled, and so we were invited; at this
age with the others I accepted, for this people, no other than
the American people promised strong protection, and so I
leave father and mother, brothers, and relatives, away in the
land of the Indies, in the west, and came to -this strange land
now 5A years ago, still with a great heart' for the same people
I served before. I never mention about snakes, short jacket,
this fellow when he lights on you, don't feel him until he is
getting ready to quit and when he do fly off nothing but blood
oosing out. The next fellow was the goosyana jfly, when he
stings, he leaves worms in the flesh.
One day about mid-day we met a snake about six inches
round, and about 15 feet long at a distance, all we had was
shovels to make the attack, but he looked more than us, so we
bid him good buy in the bush. Another time, I were sent to
fetch water for the men to drink, and the same place I go were
five sankes the same place in the water, if they had made an
attack on me, they would certainly harm me for I just couldn't
move, I was so frighten, so see me; they went their way, and
so I dip up my water, the same place; the water we drank in
those days in the bush had been the same that every reptile
7 image0021.jpg
Martin, G. H. p.7
drank, sometimes we had to boil it for it to taste good. Then
here aggin, I remember the soap was only 4 cents a bar, but it
would take a woman hand like Goliah to hold it, it was so big,
not like today. The broad 3 to 4 % each. Cod fish 4 to 8g
per pound, the beat; sugar by the 25 lbs bag, I try to remem-
ber the price, it had been 95, to 51.00 only.
I don't want to go very fa:s with prices, but I tiink I will
quote a few more. I bought Quaker oats at 13/ the tin, now it
is over 29%; corn meal, 30 the pound, corn beef, 10 to 11 the
tin, matches 5% pack this was called the Parrott matches, the
biscuits, this is termed now hard bread, we paid 6 to 8% the
pound; St. Charles evaporated milk, large size, 9, the tin,
the Nestles condense 10 tin, camphor balls, box 5%. Something
to wear, in those days we bought pants as low an $1.00, silk
shirts, the popular wear, we took advantage of this item, in
those days we paid as high as 2.75, we could buy a two-piece
suit for as high as $3.00 & change so I make use of these
words again, construction days were better'days, never to be
seen again, the money was paid small, but we live big. So many
more things could be mentioned, which would call for more paper.
Praise heaven, to the Americans, for the Panama Canal, and
yet there are a set of people so dissatisfied today, I see them
but can't call them, this cause me to remember, A set of
molatto people at my-home town used to cook late in the night,
and at times the pot is left open, and the may-bugs flying
around would deposit into the not with the soup, so when finish,
everybody enjoys a hearty meal, the bugs were eaten, for more
peas in the soup, next morning the left-over showed up the
bugs, so the songsters around made a song of it. It goes this
way, -
"Cricket gill and dry peas,
Good enough for poor Backro,
For who? Fou.'Dem,
Fou dem, who?
See them but can't call them"
So this reference is used "I see them, but can't call them."
Gentlemen, I closgo.
Your humble servant.
retire with 46 years and seven months.


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