Letters from Isthmian Canal construction workers

MISSING IMAGE

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:
AA00016037:00043


This item is only available as the following downloads:


Full Text







Douglas, Eehemiah E.; Chilibre, R.P.


I left the island of Jamaica in the year 1911 for the
Isthmus of Panama.

I arrive on the Isthmus on January 6 of the same year,
and began workinG the following day with the. Panama Rail Road
Co., at ten cents per hour. I was then residing at Martha
Chin. Later, I went with the I.C.C. Depat., and then took up
residence in Faraiso, working at Cold Hill in the Power Gang.

At Gold Hill we had to work very hard. We worked in the
torrid sun, under the heavy rain, day and night, and the mos-
quitoes was a plague. The government had to feed us with
quinine tonic to save us from malaria. There was alsocon-
stant danger to our lives. I remember there in Gold Hill where
the big explosion took place. It was a very sad experience
for all. Many livesoo were lost, many were injured and had to
be taken to the hospital in the little engine. The only reason
why I wasn't hurt was because I took shelter under a car of the
dump train when the rocks were thrown in the air. The dead
were buried riLht there on the bank of the Canal. But even
though the salary was only thirteen cents per hour, the living
conditions were not bad.

From Gold Hill I went to Miraflores to work. Here I work
in the Spill Way with a foreman by the name of Mr. Ballin. It
was here that crane knocked me down broke my skull and cause me
to take some stitches, after being rushed to the hospital.

After leaving liraflores I worked with the Municipal De-
partment, under Mr. Doyd, nnd moving from that job I was put to
work with the Drudging Division. Here I work for four years
with favorable conditions.

I would not be surp:r inning to say that those were very
rough days, yet I would dare say that it was a privilege for all
of us to be conside'- as the foundationers.

As we gave our time and energy laying the foundation of
such.a great enterprise, we now boat about. In nearly every
places in those dayn, the men were une-asy, intranquil, fussy and
rough. There was nlwayc misunderstanding, quarrel and a strife
to show some superiority in ability, strength and mental power.












Douglas, U. E. p.2


Those were rout-h days with little of sympathy, but as we look
back at the circumstances then, we do realize that that was
really the beginning of the construction, and so we can sym-
pathize with one another. Suro there were many obstacles and
much danger, causing our liven to be in constant danger and
possibility of losing it, but the work had to be done. Because
of the many lives lost on the construction, the blood that
washed the ground and the energy tiven for the construction of
the Canal, we must consider the enterprise the most important
and the most costly in Panama.

I remember the time when I was working on a leaf and the
cable broke. I was a rigger then in Miraflores. One morning
about nine oclock as I was carrying out my duty, the cable
broke and killed some men, on the spot. The amount of blood
that flowed gave the appearance of a little gully, and when I
saw what. appeared an island of blood, I got nervous, I -think,
because how I got down, I do not know; but I got down and ran
like never run a man before, straight home in Paraiso. So
fast did I run that when I arrived home I heard the whistle
giving the knock off signal.

Of course, these are personal experience, but you can
imagine what others have experience.


unsigned name typed




Full Text
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8
REPORT xmlns http:www.fcla.edudlsmddaitss xmlns:xsi http:www.w3.org2001XMLSchema-instance xsi:schemaLocation http:www.fcla.edudlsmddaitssdaitssReport.xsd
INGEST IEID EF31E1SUV_DDWKY9 INGEST_TIME 2013-07-24T00:04:27Z PACKAGE AA00016037_00043
AGREEMENT_INFO ACCOUNT UF PROJECT UFDC
FILES


xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 standalone no
TEI xmlns http:www.tei-c.orgns1.0
teiHeader
fileDesc
titleStmt
title Letters from Isthmian Canal construction workers
publicationStmt
date 2014
distributor University of Florida Digital Collections
email ufdc@uflib.ufl.edu
idno http://ufdc.ufl.edu/AA00016037/00043
availability status restricted
p All rights reserved by the source institution.
sourceDesc
biblFull
Letters from Isthmian Canal construction workers
publisher Isthmian Historical Society
pubPlace Panama
All rights reserved by the source institution.
notesStmt
encodingDesc
classDecl
taxonomy xml:id LCSH bibl Library of Congress Subject Headings
profileDesc
langUsage
language ident eng English
spa Spanish
textClass
keywords
list
item Panama Canal
revisionDesc
change when 2014-07-07 TEI auto-generated from digital resource
text
body
div type Main
pb n 1 facs image0110.jpg
Douglas, Eehemiah E.; Chilibre, R.P.
I left the island of Jamaica in the year 1911 for the
Isthmus of Panama.
I arrive on the Isthmus on January 6 of the same year,
and began workinG the following day with the. Panama Rail Road
Co., at ten cents per hour. I was then residing at Martha
Chin. Later, I went with the I.C.C. Depat., and then took up
residence in Faraiso, working at Cold Hill in the Power Gang.
At Gold Hill we had to work very hard. We worked in the
torrid sun, under the heavy rain, day and night, and the mos-
quitoes was a plague. The government had to feed us with
quinine tonic to save us from malaria. There was alsocon-
stant danger to our lives. I remember there in Gold Hill where
the big explosion took place. It was a very sad experience
for all. Many livesoo were lost, many were injured and had to
be taken to the hospital in the little engine. The only reason
why I wasn't hurt was because I took shelter under a car of the
dump train when the rocks were thrown in the air. The dead
were buried riLht there on the bank of the Canal. But even
though the salary was only thirteen cents per hour, the living
conditions were not bad.
From Gold Hill I went to Miraflores to work. Here I work
in the Spill Way with a foreman by the name of Mr. Ballin. It
was here that crane knocked me down broke my skull and cause me
to take some stitches, after being rushed to the hospital.
After leaving liraflores I worked with the Municipal De-
partment, under Mr. Doyd, nnd moving from that job I was put to
work with the Drudging Division. Here I work for four years
with favorable conditions.
I would not be surp:r inning to say that those were very
rough days, yet I would dare say that it was a privilege for all
of us to be conside'- as the foundationers.
As we gave our time and energy laying the foundation of
such.a great enterprise, we now boat about. In nearly every
places in those dayn, the men were une-asy, intranquil, fussy and
rough. There was nlwayc misunderstanding, quarrel and a strife
to show some superiority in ability, strength and mental power.
2 image0111.jpg
Douglas, U. E. p.2
Those were rout-h days with little of sympathy, but as we look
back at the circumstances then, we do realize that that was
really the beginning of the construction, and so we can sym-
pathize with one another. Suro there were many obstacles and
much danger, causing our liven to be in constant danger and
possibility of losing it, but the work had to be done. Because
of the many lives lost on the construction, the blood that
washed the ground and the energy tiven for the construction of
the Canal, we must consider the enterprise the most important
and the most costly in Panama.
I remember the time when I was working on a leaf and the
cable broke. I was a rigger then in Miraflores. One morning
about nine oclock as I was carrying out my duty, the cable
broke and killed some men, on the spot. The amount of blood
that flowed gave the appearance of a little gully, and when I
saw what. appeared an island of blood, I got nervous, I -think,
because how I got down, I do not know; but I got down and ran
like never run a man before, straight home in Paraiso. So
fast did I run that when I arrived home I heard the whistle
giving the knock off signal.
Of course, these are personal experience, but you can
imagine what others have experience.
unsigned name typed