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

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Source Institution:
Afro-Antillean Museum
Holding Location:
Afro-Antillean Museum
Rights Management:
All rights reserved by the source institution.
System ID:
AA00016037:00025


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Butcher, John Oswald; Apartado 7719, Panama, R.P.


I landed in Colen on January 12, 1906 from the island of
Barbados e.nd traveled. by train to caralso, the first place of
my luth nian living, tc be with a cousin w.-ho was employed as a
painter in Culobra. tn January 16, I made my first attempt
to look for a job and was. succoerful to be employed in Culebra
as a plumber helper -- a job which h I held until June, 1950
whon I retired from active duty with the Pan-ama Canal Construct-
ing Division.

My first "boss" was 1' r. Yenney. There were several others -
Mr. Hearn, Harry Otis, Bill Drisco, Getman, /Edward T. Nolan.
Mr. Nolan, now retired and living in Los Angeles, Calitornia,
still writes me regularly and never fails to send me greeting
cards on my birthday and at Chrictmas. I remember Capt. R..E.
;Wood ac qu:trtermant(or and Mr. .alItor D. Smith, assistant
quartermaster. MIr. Smith was a real pusher. He always promised
permanent wcrk to the. better woricnen. Hearing this, I tried
my best to work harder and more than anyone else.- Carpenters,
plumbers, electricians, painters all accepted this challenge
but of course, as far as plumbers were concerned there wore
none bcttcr than the ?Nolan-Butcher team. Through hard work,
we excelled in whatever jobs we were assigned.

We worked fro::. Ca-;tun to Tavcrnilla, then later putting up
houses in the Ancon F.rca. Ancon in those early days was
nothing. like the 'kncon we know toJay. Part of the area which
now surrounds St. Luke's Cathhdral was the hospital grounds.
The laundry -w:a in the arc". of the present Pad'roll Bureau.
Right near that was ;;organ's Flower Gardens. If -one continued
in the general dli uctioi 0.o the present Gorgas Hospital, you
would come to the com-nunity then known as Bishop's Hollow
where the U.S. citizens rs:i'3od. Housing for all employees was
under the Depmrtmsnt of LItabor and 0.uart ers w'ich was in effect
from 19Oi. until about 1908 when it wan I-en-:oned Quartermaster
Department. It was hefadeLd by a Col. DuV:.11. Ills assistant
was a Lt. .. E. E. oods, who later became Chief Quartermasteo
and re-nained so until the beginning of the f-rst \World War in
191i. The old cor2.:r.1l t-nd the ment-l hosp;it.l wore all found
in the same general direction. In due course of time these -
peoole anc landmark v.:ore rtrriniferred to other parts of the
Can:'l Zone, brinLing on the gradual transformation we have
today.










Butcher, J. 0. p.2


What was called a comr: lose.ry was located in Balboa near
the spot that now has the bachelor building on Barnebey Street,
and right beside thin, the quartermaster's office. From this
point in 1909-1912, one cold look at what is now La Doca but
would see only water (the Pacific Ocean). We would watch the
dump trains and flat. c.rn .!,carry stone and dirt from other
places, includinC Quariy Hicghts, to fill the land for what is
now beautiful L2. Doca.

Removal of the dead began in 1912. Corpses were taken
from the cemetery which ':,sE on the site of the present Admin-
istration Building, and taken to Corozal which was being
opened then. The first set of -'Wet Indian workers were moved
to La Boca In October, 1913 and the second set in November,
1913. Arthur DuSaire, Bossiere, and John Eastmond, a police-
man, wore along the first. Next batch included Clifton Chandler
and John Butcher. ;Most of the original residents are now'
deceased. I feel blessed to be still alive and chipping
strong.

During that time thern were only 6 family-houses in La
Boca. Four were two-story frame houses and accomodated 8
families each. Two wero four-family cottages. There was an
outside wash-house, and an outside bathroom since there were
no indoor baths. AlthouCgi there were some kind of paved
roads, one did not dare -o outside at nipht fro:n one house to
the next without a lantern for between the houses were sharp
roc-;ks and rubbish of various kinds.

Housace which were built alonr the "lines" in the very
early 1900's were then transferred from all over in box care
to the now L. '0loco.. The first t p.chool wan built in 1913 and
the orig;inil teachers+ wcre mainly from the VWont Indies. Mr.
Innis, now deceased. \wats ti-:e fir:;t principal in the new .com-
munity for nWest 3(n5lin em.ployeent

In lator yc.r ".'hen t-. e :--rc i.n.-uf'icient family quar-
tcra in Dlbona. r-coc of t.c houn.es in a certain street in La
Doco were improved In ord-er to hcc some U.S. rate families.
Hence the nrami "rol,0" street for what later was named Trini-
dad. Street. Mt that ti;nc; 1.S. citizens were called "gold."
employees and they ,ecre -.ctually paid in gold coins during
the construction ye,'rs. H;o i-U.:;. citizens were referred to
as "silver" employees and were paid with silver coins.

The train stops were more and different from the present
ones. Culebra, Empire, Lao Cascadas, Obispo, Gorgona were .











Butcher, J. 0. p.3


among the good old train stations or train stops. Some of
those went under water after the opening of the canal or the
building of the Madden Dam; however, Balboa, Pedro Miguel,
Gamboa, Frijoles r.nd G,-tun are still in existence.

I worked a.pJ:roxim-.tely 14 hours daily during the build-
ing of the Administr-tJon Building. During 1906 I was trans-
ported daily by'train from Culebra to cut up what is known as
figlead for use in plumbing work. i-'iost of those houses on
which we worked are now taken down or sold. Some of the land-
marks that are still exlstinf include the Tivoll Hotel, now
called the Tivoli Guest Houso and the Miraflores Eleotrio
Plant (1913). Just about the only remaining family 1906 model
still standing in the one in which the District Judge lives.
During the building of this house I worked with 11r. Kenney.
The foreman plumber in Ancon at that time was Mr. Carter.

As a husky, strong, active, young man who was never afraid
of work, I was always in demand. 1 still have the joy of just
knowing that there are so few of those early houses on which I
did not work. I have worked all over the Canal Zone-wherever
workers were needed and even as far as Porto Bello and Cape
M!alo. Some of the district 7uartermastors under whom I worked
in the early days and prior to 19121 when water entered the
Canal were; hoy d'atson of Old Crictobal (worked with him
twice); nob Ga.mble of QPe.tun; J. I1. K. Humphroy of Tavernilla
mnd &an Pablo; 1'. C. Shady of Gorgona (also worked with him
twice); John i;. .in: of Las Cascades (worked with him twice
in Las Cascadac and fip.lboa); Rob ;m.!ith of Pedro Miguel;
Oliver Farrar of Coroz.1l; P. C. Poole of Ancon (had him twice
in Ancon and Balboa); 5codwick of Culebra. I remember Col.
C. A. DuVae.11 ;. c.-of nuartc. master; Capt. R. E. Wood,
assistant; .n,.\ .Lt. ::a.lier D. ,:nith, constructing quartermaster.
In 1906 when I arriveci ncre Johui F. Steveno was chief engineer
for the Pannm Canal anrl livo-d in Culebra.

'Ir. Nolc.u ind 3 v;ll.:ed *ailly from:! Ancon to Balboa and La
Boca respectively, .until the :'-overn:rient kindly gave us a mule
and a wagon. In 1913 we got a Ford truok but were unable to
move it ov(:r alounu. Hie:>hts ;:ill as we did not know how to use
the clutch. U:_'.ch to the corral we pushed it and created quite
a lot of fun for the mrachhin!ts who had to explain the use of
a clutch and nhow uc how to drive. Actually, neither Mr.
Nolan or my:3clf hnew how to drive. This would never happen
today, would it''










Butcher,. J. 0. p.4


There ;were many sad accidents. I once saw three workmjen
at Culebra lumber yard who oat on a railroad track under a
boxcar to cat their lunch. Since there was a daily two-hour
lunch period, they fell asleep after lunch napping with the
hope of getting up for return to duty. Before awaking however,
an engineer started to move the c:-rs to another line and un-
knowingly, killed all three of thiom. Another similar accident
happened in the same urea, but tAs time the victim heard the
engine. Thin poor China:;ian in attempting to escape got his
body mangled in the wheels; of the train. His hoad severed and
I actually heard his voice cry out "ya ya."

The first road to Gamboa, or in fact the first trail was
built by Culebra prisoners going through Paraino Hill in 1908.
An experience 1 will noev-r forget wan the big explosion in
Bas Obispo on December 12, 1908 w.hlch killed many people. As
I recall those hol biblee construction days, that were so fhll
of sacrifices and hardships, I firmly believe that all of the
West Indian survivors and particularly those who contributed
so much of themselves before water was let: into the Canal
should always be especially rcme:iiberod and kindly treated.

Food wai difficult to get from private restaurants. This
made life unusually rourh for bachelors and there were no
many of them. hIost of un came from our homelands in search
of .'work and inprovcn:ent. '..'e turned out to be pioneers in a
foreign land.

The Pa-narma Canal. employee wa.u alwr.ys able to cat since
there were 'ner, hrl.l alonr- the "lines" wherever work was
going? on. Each em-;;loyve only had to present his meal ticket
and in turn was fed a meal of coi:ked rice which was hard
onouj,h to 5jhoot dec:rz, stuce svx-L-ad all over the rice, and a
slab of ie-at which many aen either Ppont an hour trying to
chow or eventually thrcu a.way because it was too hard. Along
with our rice anrid matt ea.ch one '.ac handed a loaf of bread
which seemed. so ts.uty with our .c-Lal.1 cup of coffee. Three
meGls a day co-t only .27. oincc there 'cere no luxuries,
there were no tab)lcs so -.:e eithl.- tat on tlh ground or remained
stt"ndint to et,t. khcrc -:s lot's of gi'l -r'i fevor. Sick men
were taken to the hospital on du.ip trucks and needless to say
how very many of t'c:n died before. the sanitation we now enjoy
wav.s made posuiblc. Thanl:s to Cciu. William C. Corgas and his
medical skill.

When the Ad::inistr2tion Building and Headquarters of the
Isthmian Canal was moved from Culebra to Balboa Heights in










Butcher, J. 0. p.5


1913 and 191, the dismantellnE of all the construction towns
along the Canal was begCv. The buildings wer.e cut In sections
and transported on flat c.rs by railroad from Gorgona, Culebra,
Empire and Obispo, tc such touy. as Corozal, La Boca, and
fc.lbc.1 The men oun this ;ovk n,,: !.1n.ncnt were known as the
"traveling .. GoS." Thiu ...: a Lime -:hen men wcre proud of
their ability to turn out -re t'an a good day's work.

The names of those men who -were rated Foreman Carponters
were; Johnny .aync3, [. 0. Qul: by, J. B,. Fields, father of
our present Rev. J. B3. Fields, hd Gallagher, Jerry Kirby,
':illiam Murtaurh, hrn6st Harrod, and others. Naturally there
:.*ere other crafts represented plumbers, painters, roofers,
electricians, etc. The .'oan prominent team among the plumbers
ats mentioned earlier in my paper, was the pair that turned out
a four-family house, roughed in, tented, and completed in ten
days Nolan-Butcher as plumabol -helpor.

How well I recall the strike of 1920. Employees refused
to go to -work in de:.and for higher. wages. Even with butter at
about .30 per pound and coffee at .25 per pound, the salaries
of .10, .12, .16 per hour 'roved inadequate for a man wanting
to live decently. Anyone who .did not report to work was evict-
cd without delay. I was ru.tier fortunate when the quarter-
master boss and police officer co. e around to ovict all em-
ployees at hoie. No tWurr 1 out to be ono of my own "bosses"
who g.tve me the c.oilce of removing rather than be thrown out.
Slu a short whilo, iionevcr, I ioo ri:ht bad:c in my job and
quarter wnjich wore V'rcohl.y :Pintod, u.nd. hcrc 1 remained until
;y retirement. "ty of uhc .'est India:nc left at that time for
Cuba and the Unitcd 50i'.tcs.

Looking .'O'.c feel t.it. in Uy .ma.. .cars hcre I have
nide a. vcry dcf.inite contribution to the b.ildind of the Panama
Canal. I feel pa"cud of ny afo.ily ccn'isting of my wife and,
four dxu-t-t-sa all of wUo, 0'ere born rnd ;::ostly reared in La
Bocc. I inust add th:t 1 A .' ill au.oy:& to eny that I have
no pin nor official :mieneto that I ccn proudly E-nd justly show
c.s c. ppreci:-.tlon frmt rcceivcd for my 4 ycars of faithful
carvico. I feel ticn'/: i'or. all 'cnt l".lian oldtimers who
retired r'-ior to 1.0. 1 also fe.l that .;e should be given
the opportunity ci e.,:soyioyCg scmz:,hing we helped to build -
the anronia Canal u.p.d the Locks. 1 do not rofer to the Cut,
but the iLckc.




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Butcher, John Oswald; Apartado 7719, Panama, R.P.
I landed in Colen on January 12, 1906 from the island of
Barbados e.nd traveled. by train to caralso, the first place of
my luth nian living, tc be with a cousin w.-ho was employed as a
painter in Culobra. tn January 16, I made my first attempt
to look for a job and was. succoerful to be employed in Culebra
as a plumber helper -- a job which h I held until June, 1950
whon I retired from active duty with the Pan-ama Canal Construct-
ing Division.
My first "boss" was 1' r. Yenney. There were several others -
Mr. Hearn, Harry Otis, Bill Drisco, Getman, /Edward T. Nolan.
Mr. Nolan, now retired and living in Los Angeles, Calitornia,
still writes me regularly and never fails to send me greeting
cards on my birthday and at Chrictmas. I remember Capt. R..E.
;Wood ac qu:trtermant(or and Mr. .alItor D. Smith, assistant
quartermaster. MIr. Smith was a real pusher. He always promised
permanent wcrk to the. better woricnen. Hearing this, I tried
my best to work harder and more than anyone else.- Carpenters,
plumbers, electricians, painters all accepted this challenge
but of course, as far as plumbers were concerned there wore
none bcttcr than the ?Nolan-Butcher team. Through hard work,
we excelled in whatever jobs we were assigned.
We worked fro::. Ca-;tun to Tavcrnilla, then later putting up
houses in the Ancon F.rca. Ancon in those early days was
nothing. like the 'kncon we know toJay. Part of the area which
now surrounds St. Luke's Cathhdral was the hospital grounds.
The laundry -w:a in the arc". of the present Pad'roll Bureau.
Right near that was ;;organ's Flower Gardens. If -one continued
in the general dli uctioi 0.o the present Gorgas Hospital, you
would come to the com-nunity then known as Bishop's Hollow
where the U.S. citizens rs:i'3od. Housing for all employees was
under the Depmrtmsnt of LItabor and 0.uart ers w'ich was in effect
from 19Oi. until about 1908 when it wan I-en-:oned Quartermaster
Department. It was hefadeLd by a Col. DuV:.11. Ills assistant
was a Lt. .. E. E. oods, who later became Chief Quartermasteo
and re-nained so until the beginning of the f-rst \World War in
191i. The old cor2.:r.1l t-nd the ment-l hosp;it.l wore all found
in the same general direction. In due course of time these -
peoole anc landmark v.:ore rtrriniferred to other parts of the
Can:'l Zone, brinLing on the gradual transformation we have
today.
2 image0080.jpg
Butcher, J. 0. p.2
What was called a comr: lose.ry was located in Balboa near
the spot that now has the bachelor building on Barnebey Street,
and right beside thin, the quartermaster's office. From this
point in 1909-1912, one cold look at what is now La Doca but
would see only water (the Pacific Ocean). We would watch the
dump trains and flat. c.rn .!,carry stone and dirt from other
places, includinC Quariy Hicghts, to fill the land for what is
now beautiful L2. Doca.
Removal of the dead began in 1912. Corpses were taken
from the cemetery which ':,sE on the site of the present Admin-
istration Building, and taken to Corozal which was being
opened then. The first set of -'Wet Indian workers were moved
to La Boca In October, 1913 and the second set in November,
1913. Arthur DuSaire, Bossiere, and John Eastmond, a police-
man, wore along the first. Next batch included Clifton Chandler
and John Butcher. ;Most of the original residents are now'
deceased. I feel blessed to be still alive and chipping
strong.
During that time thern were only 6 family-houses in La
Boca. Four were two-story frame houses and accomodated 8
families each. Two wero four-family cottages. There was an
outside wash-house, and an outside bathroom since there were
no indoor baths. AlthouCgi there were some kind of paved
roads, one did not dare -o outside at nipht fro:n one house to
the next without a lantern for between the houses were sharp
roc-;ks and rubbish of various kinds.
Housace which were built alonr the "lines" in the very
early 1900's were then transferred from all over in box care
to the now L. '0loco.. The first t p.chool wan built in 1913 and
the orig;inil teachers+ wcre mainly from the VWont Indies. Mr.
Innis, now deceased. \wats ti-:e fir:;t principal in the new .com-
munity for nWest 3(n5lin em.ployeent
In lator yc.r ".'hen t-. e :--rc i.n.-uf'icient family quar-
tcra in Dlbona. r-coc of t.c houn.es in a certain street in La
Doco were improved In ord-er to hcc some U.S. rate families.
Hence the nrami "rol,0" street for what later was named Trini-
dad. Street. Mt that ti;nc; 1.S. citizens were called "gold."
employees and they ,ecre -.ctually paid in gold coins during
the construction ye,'rs. H;o i-U.:;. citizens were referred to
as "silver" employees and were paid with silver coins.
The train stops were more and different from the present
ones. Culebra, Empire, Lao Cascadas, Obispo, Gorgona were .
3 image0081.jpg
Butcher, J. 0. p.3
among the good old train stations or train stops. Some of
those went under water after the opening of the canal or the
building of the Madden Dam; however, Balboa, Pedro Miguel,
Gamboa, Frijoles r.nd G,-tun are still in existence.
I worked a.pJ:roxim-.tely 14 hours daily during the build-
ing of the Administr-tJon Building. During 1906 I was trans-
ported daily by'train from Culebra to cut up what is known as
figlead for use in plumbing work. i-'iost of those houses on
which we worked are now taken down or sold. Some of the land-
marks that are still exlstinf include the Tivoll Hotel, now
called the Tivoli Guest Houso and the Miraflores Eleotrio
Plant (1913). Just about the only remaining family 1906 model
still standing in the one in which the District Judge lives.
During the building of this house I worked with 11r. Kenney.
The foreman plumber in Ancon at that time was Mr. Carter.
As a husky, strong, active, young man who was never afraid
of work, I was always in demand. 1 still have the joy of just
knowing that there are so few of those early houses on which I
did not work. I have worked all over the Canal Zone-wherever
workers were needed and even as far as Porto Bello and Cape
M!alo. Some of the district 7uartermastors under whom I worked
in the early days and prior to 19121 when water entered the
Canal were; hoy d'atson of Old Crictobal (worked with him
twice); nob Ga.mble of QPe.tun; J. I1. K. Humphroy of Tavernilla
mnd &an Pablo; 1'. C. Shady of Gorgona (also worked with him
twice); John i;. .in: of Las Cascades (worked with him twice
in Las Cascadac and fip.lboa); Rob ;m.!ith of Pedro Miguel;
Oliver Farrar of Coroz.1l; P. C. Poole of Ancon (had him twice
in Ancon and Balboa); 5codwick of Culebra. I remember Col.
C. A. DuVae.11 ;. c.-of nuartc. master; Capt. R. E. Wood,
assistant; .n,.\ .Lt. ::a.lier D. ,:nith, constructing quartermaster.
In 1906 when I arriveci ncre Johui F. Steveno was chief engineer
for the Pannm Canal anrl livo-d in Culebra.
'Ir. Nolc.u ind 3 v;ll.:ed *ailly from:! Ancon to Balboa and La
Boca respectively, .until the :'-overn:rient kindly gave us a mule
and a wagon. In 1913 we got a Ford truok but were unable to
move it ov(:r alounu. Hie:>hts ;:ill as we did not know how to use
the clutch. U:_'.ch to the corral we pushed it and created quite
a lot of fun for the mrachhin!ts who had to explain the use of
a clutch and nhow uc how to drive. Actually, neither Mr.
Nolan or my:3clf hnew how to drive. This would never happen
today, would it''
4 image0082.jpg
Butcher,. J. 0. p.4
There ;were many sad accidents. I once saw three workmjen
at Culebra lumber yard who oat on a railroad track under a
boxcar to cat their lunch. Since there was a daily two-hour
lunch period, they fell asleep after lunch napping with the
hope of getting up for return to duty. Before awaking however,
an engineer started to move the c:-rs to another line and un-
knowingly, killed all three of thiom. Another similar accident
happened in the same urea, but tAs time the victim heard the
engine. Thin poor China:;ian in attempting to escape got his
body mangled in the wheels; of the train. His hoad severed and
I actually heard his voice cry out "ya ya."
The first road to Gamboa, or in fact the first trail was
built by Culebra prisoners going through Paraino Hill in 1908.
An experience 1 will noev-r forget wan the big explosion in
Bas Obispo on December 12, 1908 w.hlch killed many people. As
I recall those hol biblee construction days, that were so fhll
of sacrifices and hardships, I firmly believe that all of the
West Indian survivors and particularly those who contributed
so much of themselves before water was let: into the Canal
should always be especially rcme:iiberod and kindly treated.
Food wai difficult to get from private restaurants. This
made life unusually rourh for bachelors and there were no
many of them. hIost of un came from our homelands in search
of .'work and inprovcn:ent. '..'e turned out to be pioneers in a
foreign land.
The Pa-narma Canal. employee wa.u alwr.ys able to cat since
there were 'ner, hrl.l alonr- the "lines" wherever work was
going? on. Each em-;;loyve only had to present his meal ticket
and in turn was fed a meal of coi:ked rice which was hard
onouj,h to 5jhoot dec:rz, stuce svx-L-ad all over the rice, and a
slab of ie-at which many aen either Ppont an hour trying to
chow or eventually thrcu a.way because it was too hard. Along
with our rice anrid matt ea.ch one '.ac handed a loaf of bread
which seemed. so ts.uty with our .c-Lal.1 cup of coffee. Three
meGls a day co-t only .27. oincc there 'cere no luxuries,
there were no tab)lcs so -.:e eithl.- tat on tlh ground or remained
stt"ndint to et,t. khcrc -:s lot's of gi'l -r'i fevor. Sick men
were taken to the hospital on du.ip trucks and needless to say
how very many of t'c:n died before. the sanitation we now enjoy
wav.s made posuiblc. Thanl:s to Cciu. William C. Corgas and his
medical skill.
When the Ad::inistr2tion Building and Headquarters of the
Isthmian Canal was moved from Culebra to Balboa Heights in
5 image0083.jpg
Butcher, J. 0. p.5
1913 and 191, the dismantellnE of all the construction towns
along the Canal was begCv. The buildings wer.e cut In sections
and transported on flat c.rs by railroad from Gorgona, Culebra,
Empire and Obispo, tc such touy. as Corozal, La Boca, and
fc.lbc.1 The men oun this ;ovk n,,: !.1n.ncnt were known as the
"traveling .. GoS." Thiu ...: a Lime -:hen men wcre proud of
their ability to turn out -re t'an a good day's work.
The names of those men who -were rated Foreman Carponters
were; Johnny .aync3, [. 0. Qul: by, J. B,. Fields, father of
our present Rev. J. B3. Fields, hd Gallagher, Jerry Kirby,
':illiam Murtaurh, hrn6st Harrod, and others. Naturally there
:.*ere other crafts represented plumbers, painters, roofers,
electricians, etc. The .'oan prominent team among the plumbers
ats mentioned earlier in my paper, was the pair that turned out
a four-family house, roughed in, tented, and completed in ten
days Nolan-Butcher as plumabol -helpor.
How well I recall the strike of 1920. Employees refused
to go to -work in de:.and for higher. wages. Even with butter at
about .30 per pound and coffee at .25 per pound, the salaries
of .10, .12, .16 per hour 'roved inadequate for a man wanting
to live decently. Anyone who .did not report to work was evict-
cd without delay. I was ru.tier fortunate when the quarter-
master boss and police officer co. e around to ovict all em-
ployees at hoie. No tWurr 1 out to be ono of my own "bosses"
who g.tve me the c.oilce of removing rather than be thrown out.
Slu a short whilo, iionevcr, I ioo ri:ht bad:c in my job and
quarter wnjich wore V'rcohl.y :Pintod, u.nd. hcrc 1 remained until
;y retirement. "ty of uhc .'est India:nc left at that time for
Cuba and the Unitcd 50i'.tcs.
Looking .'O'.c feel t.it. in Uy .ma.. .cars hcre I have
nide a. vcry dcf.inite contribution to the b.ildind of the Panama
Canal. I feel pa"cud of ny afo.ily ccn'isting of my wife and,
four dxu-t-t-sa all of wUo, 0'ere born rnd ;::ostly reared in La
Bocc. I inust add th:t 1 A .' ill au.oy:& to eny that I have
no pin nor official :mieneto that I ccn proudly E-nd justly show
c.s c. ppreci:-.tlon frmt rcceivcd for my 4 ycars of faithful
carvico. I feel ticn'/: i'or. all 'cnt l".lian oldtimers who
retired r'-ior to 1.0. 1 also fe.l that .;e should be given
the opportunity ci e.,:soyioyCg scmz:,hing we helped to build -
the anronia Canal u.p.d the Locks. 1 do not rofer to the Cut,
but the iLckc.


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