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:
AA00016037:00059


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Full Text









Holligan, John A.; 13 St., A. G. Building 13-185, Room 18,
Colon, R.P.


I John A Holligan D.E. 3971 leave the Island of Barbados
In the year 1906 the month of June landed on the Isthmus of
Fanama the 3rd day of July 1906 Was employed on the 6th of
July of said year at the Cristobal Corral in the days of I.C.C.
as a Steamster at the rate of $30.00 per month got a raise at a
later date to $40.00 My first boss was by the name of Mr.
Powers I worked at the Corral from 1906 until 1920 In the
year 1906 1907 1908 they had no sanitation Malaria fever was
killing out the people the deads were so many we the Steamstera
had to go to the hospital around the beach for the deads in
wagon to place them in box cars around by Christ Church they
had track line lade there to Mt Hope Cemetery. The cost of
living at that time was so low any one could live on what you
work for the things in-the commissary was at a low price for
instant Rice 4 lbs for 12% Flour the same a bread 4% 1 tin
milk 5% a blue shirt for working A40 at that rate a 2.50
book you could almost buy everything you needed. Rent in the
government Quarters free until when we started to pay I paid as
much as $4.35 I got married in the year 1908 the 14th day of
July to, my present wife was the father of five children 2
died leaving 3 who were girls. In the year 1920 Feb month I
lost that job a strike came up I was then hired at the electri-
cal division 1st day of March of said year as a helper under the
supervision of Mr Jack Martin I worked with many others but my
last boss was Mr Meyor. I got retired in May 1949 on account
of my sight I have never been sick in all those years of
Service not until my sight had failed me now I have lost both
legs but thank God I am still feeling good in my body. During
my years of Service 1 got along .with every one I came in contact
with.

Hoping this will meet your approval

I remain
DauChter Ethel H. Worrell
Attorney in fact for John A Holligan




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Holligan, John A.; 13 St., A. G. Building 13-185, Room 18,
Colon, R.P.
I John A Holligan D.E. 3971 leave the Island of Barbados
In the year 1906 the month of June landed on the Isthmus of
Fanama the 3rd day of July 1906 Was employed on the 6th of
July of said year at the Cristobal Corral in the days of I.C.C.
as a Steamster at the rate of $30.00 per month got a raise at a
later date to $40.00 My first boss was by the name of Mr.
Powers I worked at the Corral from 1906 until 1920 In the
year 1906 1907 1908 they had no sanitation Malaria fever was
killing out the people the deads were so many we the Steamstera
had to go to the hospital around the beach for the deads in
wagon to place them in box cars around by Christ Church they
had track line lade there to Mt Hope Cemetery. The cost of
living at that time was so low any one could live on what you
work for the things in-the commissary was at a low price for
instant Rice 4 lbs for 12% Flour the same a bread 4% 1 tin
milk 5% a blue shirt for working A40 at that rate a 2.50
book you could almost buy everything you needed. Rent in the
government Quarters free until when we started to pay I paid as
much as $4.35 I got married in the year 1908 the 14th day of
July to, my present wife was the father of five children 2
died leaving 3 who were girls. In the year 1920 Feb month I
lost that job a strike came up I was then hired at the electri-
cal division 1st day of March of said year as a helper under the
supervision of Mr Jack Martin I worked with many others but my
last boss was Mr Meyor. I got retired in May 1949 on account
of my sight I have never been sick in all those years of
Service not until my sight had failed me now I have lost both
legs but thank God I am still feeling good in my body. During
my years of Service 1 got along .with every one I came in contact
with.
Hoping this will meet your approval
I remain
DauChter Ethel H. Worrell
Attorney in fact for John A Holligan


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