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:
AA00016037:00048


This item is only available as the following downloads:


Full Text









Gard, Joseph H.; Rio Abajo Parque Lefebre, 10 St. # 9, Panama,
R.P.


I were immigrated by the Isthmanian Oommision the year 1906,
the month of April from Barbados 22d. I were brought to Culebra
Rio Grandi I were placed in camp were told in the contract I
would received furnish quarters but.when I reached it was not so
there were some large wooden bunks 3 leaves I took one the night
we had no light and for a whole week I had all.restless night
the old wooden troughs were filled with chinks but second teek
they were changed I begun to work on Culebra dump I :.worked $
weeks the third week I was taken out of camp smitten with
malaria was taken to-Culebra rest house I spent 12 days in the
rest house when I came out I was deaf from the Canine I went to
work at Culebra Hotel they was adding on some extension to the
kitchen the man in charge of job his name was Alsborn Mr John
L Stevens was the Ingineer for the canal at that time I even
remember the night when Mr Stevens Daughter marry I played the
guitar and sang a- song for some of the guest at the sidewalk it
came off to Christmas and. Mrs Stevens gave us a treat : I left
that job and got a job painting at Empire Mr Sampsel was chief
Foreman and Liscomb was the boss of the gang I remember the
month of November, President Rosvelt came he;e.i. I was painting
at the new hotel at Empire the steps outside arind the President
pass near me dressed-in white and wore an Alpine straw-hat

I was discharge from the job the month of December, 1906
because I wont feed on the mess, the food was not cooked proper-
ly and would not eat it so I was discharge

My next job 1907 I applied for a breaksman job on Ingine
No 211 I worked in that job 2 month and quit I went out to
work one morning the yard master change me off and told me to go
on Locomotive 303 I told him I did not feel like working that
morning he sent another breakaman that time New Town Culebra
were blown up and ready for excavating 303 Locomotive went to
New Town to S. Shovel before I leave the yard I heard the
Locomotive whistle blowing I saw the same engine coming the
breaksman f66t cut off I quit the same time I applied got
another job with Labour and Quarters I was sent to Camacha
kitchen to work by Mr J Poole I worked there until the Damm














Gard, J. H. p.2


was finish I was sent to work as a janiter I work there for
Mr Poole until August 7th, 1907 I leave the Isthmus and return
to Barbados I expected to return in six weeks but fehl sick
and could not return until 1909. I took another contract and
return to the Canal Zone I arrive the 22d day of April 1909
and was placed at Culebra again I started to work at Pedromi-
gull Spanish Mess as a fireman the Steward name was Mr John
Harper I work with him a fine man he has I took slk and went
to Hospital 15 days when I came out I went to Empire I stood
their for some time coming to the close of the year .1 went to
Porto Bello I worked until closing of 1910, I took sick in
Portobello sent to Colon Hospital during the time in Hospital
a Circular came out after discharge from Hospital must report
I stood two days in Colon when I return were discharge

I had forgotten Colonel Gothals 1907 I return to Empire
1911 on my return found things very difficult for a job after
knocking around I am a Shoemaker by my tools and start working
about the month of July I return to Portobello let me say this
the man that risked his life to work in Portobello quarry should
been compensated I work as night watchman on Steam Shovel until
1912 I left Colon and came back to Empire went to Pedro Miguil
and employ as a Machiner's helper My Foreman name Mr Valdes
Mr Bartholmew was Supervisor 1913 was transferred to Miraflores
1st Division it was called and work their until 1914 February
was laid off went to the Dredging department 1st of April and
work till November 1915.


JOSEPH H GARD




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Gard, Joseph H.; Rio Abajo Parque Lefebre, 10 St. # 9, Panama,
R.P.
I were immigrated by the Isthmanian Oommision the year 1906,
the month of April from Barbados 22d. I were brought to Culebra
Rio Grandi I were placed in camp were told in the contract I
would received furnish quarters but.when I reached it was not so
there were some large wooden bunks 3 leaves I took one the night
we had no light and for a whole week I had all.restless night
the old wooden troughs were filled with chinks but second teek
they were changed I begun to work on Culebra dump I :.worked $
weeks the third week I was taken out of camp smitten with
malaria was taken to-Culebra rest house I spent 12 days in the
rest house when I came out I was deaf from the Canine I went to
work at Culebra Hotel they was adding on some extension to the
kitchen the man in charge of job his name was Alsborn Mr John
L Stevens was the Ingineer for the canal at that time I even
remember the night when Mr Stevens Daughter marry I played the
guitar and sang a- song for some of the guest at the sidewalk it
came off to Christmas and. Mrs Stevens gave us a treat : I left
that job and got a job painting at Empire Mr Sampsel was chief
Foreman and Liscomb was the boss of the gang I remember the
month of November, President Rosvelt came he;e.i. I was painting
at the new hotel at Empire the steps outside arind the President
pass near me dressed-in white and wore an Alpine straw-hat
I was discharge from the job the month of December, 1906
because I wont feed on the mess, the food was not cooked proper-
ly and would not eat it so I was discharge
My next job 1907 I applied for a breaksman job on Ingine
No 211 I worked in that job 2 month and quit I went out to
work one morning the yard master change me off and told me to go
on Locomotive 303 I told him I did not feel like working that
morning he sent another breakaman that time New Town Culebra
were blown up and ready for excavating 303 Locomotive went to
New Town to S. Shovel before I leave the yard I heard the
Locomotive whistle blowing I saw the same engine coming the
breaksman f66t cut off I quit the same time I applied got
another job with Labour and Quarters I was sent to Camacha
kitchen to work by Mr J Poole I worked there until the Damm
2 image0124.jpg
Gard, J. H. p.2
was finish I was sent to work as a janiter I work there for
Mr Poole until August 7th, 1907 I leave the Isthmus and return
to Barbados I expected to return in six weeks but fehl sick
and could not return until 1909. I took another contract and
return to the Canal Zone I arrive the 22d day of April 1909
and was placed at Culebra again I started to work at Pedromi-
gull Spanish Mess as a fireman the Steward name was Mr John
Harper I work with him a fine man he has I took slk and went
to Hospital 15 days when I came out I went to Empire I stood
their for some time coming to the close of the year .1 went to
Porto Bello I worked until closing of 1910, I took sick in
Portobello sent to Colon Hospital during the time in Hospital
a Circular came out after discharge from Hospital must report
I stood two days in Colon when I return were discharge
I had forgotten Colonel Gothals 1907 I return to Empire
1911 on my return found things very difficult for a job after
knocking around I am a Shoemaker by my tools and start working
about the month of July I return to Portobello let me say this
the man that risked his life to work in Portobello quarry should
been compensated I work as night watchman on Steam Shovel until
1912 I left Colon and came back to Empire went to Pedro Miguil
and employ as a Machiner's helper My Foreman name Mr Valdes
Mr Bartholmew was Supervisor 1913 was transferred to Miraflores
1st Division it was called and work their until 1914 February
was laid off went to the Dredging department 1st of April and
work till November 1915.
JOSEPH H GARD


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