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:
AA00016037:00023


This item is only available as the following downloads:


Full Text










Bendita, Chilibre, R.P.


I receive your note. I am very glad. Well the first.
No 1. When I did come on the in 1910. I start to work at
Gamboa high way. The first job. In 10 or 11. I was only 19
ears old, working pick an shuvel at the rate at 10 % a hour
rasing tracks and laying up on and down all around.

My forman name was Mr Relleney. I don't know if spell it
right. But is straw boss is name was will cook or lee cock.
Well from that I leave and go to Golgona Machine Shop at Bass
Matachin. In the foundry shop the second (2) time I got a .Job
with Mr. Boyed, a molder helper. Is second is name was Mr.
Smith. Well I go on with that. Carring hot mettle in the
evening. ,I got burn a copple times. Take me to the hospital.
And I got heel. Well I went back to work at the job. Working.
fine and till they put me out side to clean up oasten with a
small gun an my tools. In the even go to casten in side. Well
I work there an till 1914 when time to put water in the Canal.
And they stranfor us to Laboca foundry sam at empire dare.
Because the was not all ready, then when it is finish the rest
of us up there. Well I work there on till word com in. Then
they start to laid off us, and stranfor some to Colon machine
shop, outing down wages. Well. sir I drop in the fire. Well I
started to run and run a round. But could pick up. But at
last I went up the Sagre River where they have a plantation
whare they call the lemon plantion at Gatun secin No. 3. Well
I got a job there. Farm work grubbing and plogin. I a job
kitchen elper, from there they put me and the other side of the
river with plow men an tractor are working. The name of the
boses was Mr. Forgeson and Mr. Secret then comes Mr Spear an
Mr. Durvin. Well I worked with one of the tractor men, itching
on and drop off, an then the boss take me away an put me to run
a electric pump for the veteble the i work an work and till thy
take me again an put me and the stawn gang from Gatun to Gamboa.
With colored man is name was Smith. Carring suply from the far
to Gamboa and buyin up Commissery goods on bages with a lance
called the Dority. And from that they stranfar me again to
captain on the same lance with Manuel Galban, then now I got to
stay at Wamina plantation. Mr. Snage for he was the boss of
the lanches. Why they worry me so much I was a good man belo
the water. Diving. Onoe Mr Spear was loding a tractor to.,go


Bunting, Isaiah;











Bunting, I. p.2


out. AWas a bany season [or seas on"? On some mich-
futun the tractor went over bord in the Sagre. Is a good thing
I was standing by at the same time. He add on a clock and as
he was going over with the tractor I grab on the clock and pull
him bac with me. Now then who as to go and do that job down
under the water Is Bunting sir. That why they don't keep study
at on place at all. Men fight for me in gangs white and black.
Then know when all those jobs close down, lay off :and give out
to Conters contrao No. 4. Then I go to maddam dam and work
there. With Mr. Marbry chief enger. And Mr Mechel. under
falling and grubbing. Making road from camps to camps. They
forman was Joe Ewin a black man he runs the owl gangs. Bouth
matac or axe. asses and dymit. I work along with him for a
few weeks and he put me as a pussher under him as a helper.
Making tral for diman drills an small drills, making trails and
roads to take them throu. And from their up to sanjuan cleaning
up all river bases both water an land up to Oulabra crick, finish
everything an come back to maden dam. And got laid off, finish
all jobs. Then, Contras come in and laying down foundation, dry
the Sagre and start to work, then who as start the jobs leave
out like a out of a river. Joe Edwin stranfor to Pedmegel to
Mr. R. A. Cauthers, he was the general formen over all Jobes.
Then Joe ewin 6nterjuse him to, and he send for me, because I
was a very good man on a jackhammer. That was the 5 job I do
and Panama Canal, now take me to lacoba Soso hill, to drill
start driling, some tines running pans car some time feed the
oruss all around. Now thing getting low again. Laying off
com again
escuse my righten because I only have one eyes. I can
berly see, but prase God I am still living

Mr Cambley Surpendend take me to Gamboa, when they was:
putting down foundation, he put me over the driGing gan. Jack
hammer cutting cutting and making Drawns. Water and toilet
drain then every thing was finish again, laying off. Well I
run and run around, an till I met a friend name of peet working
at Gatun mess all bying stuff for the mess, he say to Bunting
boy the stuward want a good elper in the kitchen let take a
wark I sed off. The of the boss was C. A. Miller. And the
saturday name was Mr. Henry. Then I start in working as a
elper in 3 weeks I first cook. That was 6 Job on the Panama
Canal. Then I work and work my way up on till they stranfor me
at the new mess handling over 3 or 4 thousand of men feeding.
Tha bosses was new, But I got to with them, and they care











Bunting, I. p.3


for me. That was Mr Shaffs and Mr Amlet, and I was along with
them an till them get a sranfar to the ablo eigh at balboa
eigh and they took me along with them. That was the 7 and I
work there an till they love, and I there. Changing stuward,
then come Mr fry, an he goes to then come Mr. Magna. Then I
give up the goat no more all through war I alone in that
clubhouse, an the lord, black out com all night me an the lord,
antill the war finish, working there alone is 5-7 month. Then
I thanks uncle sam what he has:done for me from I .was a boy at
19 up to 45 God be with you all for ever and ever I hope the
lord may keep all weapons from you all armen

I remain yours truly old man
ISAIAH BUNTING
I cant see much, one eye




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Bendita, Chilibre, R.P.
I receive your note. I am very glad. Well the first.
No 1. When I did come on the in 1910. I start to work at
Gamboa high way. The first job. In 10 or 11. I was only 19
ears old, working pick an shuvel at the rate at 10 % a hour
rasing tracks and laying up on and down all around.
My forman name was Mr Relleney. I don't know if spell it
right. But is straw boss is name was will cook or lee cock.
Well from that I leave and go to Golgona Machine Shop at Bass
Matachin. In the foundry shop the second (2) time I got a .Job
with Mr. Boyed, a molder helper. Is second is name was Mr.
Smith. Well I go on with that. Carring hot mettle in the
evening. ,I got burn a copple times. Take me to the hospital.
And I got heel. Well I went back to work at the job. Working.
fine and till they put me out side to clean up oasten with a
small gun an my tools. In the even go to casten in side. Well
I work there an till 1914 when time to put water in the Canal.
And they stranfor us to Laboca foundry sam at empire dare.
Because the was not all ready, then when it is finish the rest
of us up there. Well I work there on till word com in. Then
they start to laid off us, and stranfor some to Colon machine
shop, outing down wages. Well. sir I drop in the fire. Well I
started to run and run a round. But could pick up. But at
last I went up the Sagre River where they have a plantation
whare they call the lemon plantion at Gatun secin No. 3. Well
I got a job there. Farm work grubbing and plogin. I a job
kitchen elper, from there they put me and the other side of the
river with plow men an tractor are working. The name of the
boses was Mr. Forgeson and Mr. Secret then comes Mr Spear an
Mr. Durvin. Well I worked with one of the tractor men, itching
on and drop off, an then the boss take me away an put me to run
a electric pump for the veteble the i work an work and till thy
take me again an put me and the stawn gang from Gatun to Gamboa.
With colored man is name was Smith. Carring suply from the far
to Gamboa and buyin up Commissery goods on bages with a lance
called the Dority. And from that they stranfar me again to
captain on the same lance with Manuel Galban, then now I got to
stay at Wamina plantation. Mr. Snage for he was the boss of
the lanches. Why they worry me so much I was a good man belo
the water. Diving. Onoe Mr Spear was loding a tractor to.,go
Bunting, Isaiah;
2 image0076.jpg
Bunting, I. p.2
out. AWas a bany season [or seas on"? On some mich-
futun the tractor went over bord in the Sagre. Is a good thing
I was standing by at the same time. He add on a clock and as
he was going over with the tractor I grab on the clock and pull
him bac with me. Now then who as to go and do that job down
under the water Is Bunting sir. That why they don't keep study
at on place at all. Men fight for me in gangs white and black.
Then know when all those jobs close down, lay off :and give out
to Conters contrao No. 4. Then I go to maddam dam and work
there. With Mr. Marbry chief enger. And Mr Mechel. under
falling and grubbing. Making road from camps to camps. They
forman was Joe Ewin a black man he runs the owl gangs. Bouth
matac or axe. asses and dymit. I work along with him for a
few weeks and he put me as a pussher under him as a helper.
Making tral for diman drills an small drills, making trails and
roads to take them throu. And from their up to sanjuan cleaning
up all river bases both water an land up to Oulabra crick, finish
everything an come back to maden dam. And got laid off, finish
all jobs. Then, Contras come in and laying down foundation, dry
the Sagre and start to work, then who as start the jobs leave
out like a out of a river. Joe Edwin stranfor to Pedmegel to
Mr. R. A. Cauthers, he was the general formen over all Jobes.
Then Joe ewin 6nterjuse him to, and he send for me, because I
was a very good man on a jackhammer. That was the 5 job I do
and Panama Canal, now take me to lacoba Soso hill, to drill
start driling, some tines running pans car some time feed the
oruss all around. Now thing getting low again. Laying off
com again
escuse my righten because I only have one eyes. I can
berly see, but prase God I am still living
Mr Cambley Surpendend take me to Gamboa, when they was:
putting down foundation, he put me over the driGing gan. Jack
hammer cutting cutting and making Drawns. Water and toilet
drain then every thing was finish again, laying off. Well I
run and run around, an till I met a friend name of peet working
at Gatun mess all bying stuff for the mess, he say to Bunting
boy the stuward want a good elper in the kitchen let take a
wark I sed off. The of the boss was C. A. Miller. And the
saturday name was Mr. Henry. Then I start in working as a
elper in 3 weeks I first cook. That was 6 Job on the Panama
Canal. Then I work and work my way up on till they stranfor me
at the new mess handling over 3 or 4 thousand of men feeding.
Tha bosses was new, But I got to with them, and they care
3 image0077.jpg
Bunting, I. p.3
for me. That was Mr Shaffs and Mr Amlet, and I was along with
them an till them get a sranfar to the ablo eigh at balboa
eigh and they took me along with them. That was the 7 and I
work there an till they love, and I there. Changing stuward,
then come Mr fry, an he goes to then come Mr. Magna. Then I
give up the goat no more all through war I alone in that
clubhouse, an the lord, black out com all night me an the lord,
antill the war finish, working there alone is 5-7 month. Then
I thanks uncle sam what he has:done for me from I .was a boy at
19 up to 45 God be with you all for ever and ever I hope the
lord may keep all weapons from you all armen
I remain yours truly old man
ISAIAH BUNTING
I cant see much, one eye