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:
AA00016037:00037


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Full Text




Connell, James G. ; Estafa 3o. 1 Cal.idonia, Panama, E.P.


I the undersign do hereby write my memories of the
Isthmain Construction days. I arrived from my Native Land
Barbhdos in the year 1906 the month of February. My first
employment was carrying dynamite powder boxesn to the store
house in Lao Cascadas from box cars then I leave to go to
Culebra section and work under John F. Stevens first Engineer
before Col. Goethalls as water boy for the carpenters that was
building the Adminotration BD.d;. next employed as janitor at
the Culebra white school, then janitor in labor 7 quarters in
same section. next employment in Gatun 1910 in lock building
with electric cars switch men very dangerous job for one year.
return to Culebra and work for transportation down in the Oanal
as switch tender next as tower m.an directing trains to different
steam shovels through the instruction of the yatd master Mr.
Frank R. Hoberts &. :'r. Iace Gilliam until 1913. Water was put
in the Canal from Gamboa dike then to the Pacific side same
tower job. Sending big guns by train to Flamingo Island & Naos
Island before Amador. barracks was built

In the Construction days the headquarters for the engines
that drew the trains was at Pedro Miguel & at Las-cadas Pedro
Miguel was for the Pacific and Las Cascadas for the Atlantic,
western dump train carried stones for the break water and the
flat car trains fur the Pacific. Albrook Base was swamp land
& was dump from the Can.al dirt from Culebra there was a
place called the Y Switch a right hand train could be put
around the Y Switch and become a left train & vice versa and
one acuainted with a Y could explain when its needed for those
class of changes to suit the -stea n .shovel in a deep ditch dig-
ging X the Yard Master was notified & his instructions was
carried out that all my memmo til 1915

Respectfully yours
JA'LES G. CONNELL




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Connell, James G. ; Estafa 3o. 1 Cal.idonia, Panama, E.P.
I the undersign do hereby write my memories of the
Isthmain Construction days. I arrived from my Native Land
Barbhdos in the year 1906 the month of February. My first
employment was carrying dynamite powder boxesn to the store
house in Lao Cascadas from box cars then I leave to go to
Culebra section and work under John F. Stevens first Engineer
before Col. Goethalls as water boy for the carpenters that was
building the Adminotration BD.d;. next employed as janitor at
the Culebra white school, then janitor in labor 7 quarters in
same section. next employment in Gatun 1910 in lock building
with electric cars switch men very dangerous job for one year.
return to Culebra and work for transportation down in the Oanal
as switch tender next as tower m.an directing trains to different
steam shovels through the instruction of the yatd master Mr.
Frank R. Hoberts &. :'r. Iace Gilliam until 1913. Water was put
in the Canal from Gamboa dike then to the Pacific side same
tower job. Sending big guns by train to Flamingo Island & Naos
Island before Amador. barracks was built
In the Construction days the headquarters for the engines
that drew the trains was at Pedro Miguel & at Las-cadas Pedro
Miguel was for the Pacific and Las Cascadas for the Atlantic,
western dump train carried stones for the break water and the
flat car trains fur the Pacific. Albrook Base was swamp land
& was dump from the Can.al dirt from Culebra there was a
place called the Y Switch a right hand train could be put
around the Y Switch and become a left train & vice versa and
one acuainted with a Y could explain when its needed for those
class of changes to suit the -stea n .shovel in a deep ditch dig-
ging X the Yard Master was notified & his instructions was
carried out that all my memmo til 1915
Respectfully yours
JA'LES G. CONNELL