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:
AA00016037:00062


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Full Text




Husney, Brandt ; c/o ;lrn. Louise benjamin, caretaker, Mt.
Charles Dortder I.C.. SIt. Andrew, Jamaica.


Some days ago I were looking over a newspaper and I came
across your advertesment stating that you would like to find
some West Indian that work in the Panrrma Canal prior to 1915
to give some experience about the diging of the Canal and. as
I am one of the pKan thi.t worh their I would like to give some
of my experience of what I see a.nd what .1 know In the year
1909 I leave Jamaica for Colon I land in Colon the 10th of
May same year I went in the Zone a couple of days after and
I got a Job in Cristobal hotel as a cook helper from their I
bigin to experlaice some of the work that were going on in the
Canal first thing I admire moot how Cristobalwere kept
lane that wore a plaisurc After some time drudge 86 came
down from the USA and went to Fox River I got a job on her
and on that drudge I opent the most of my time That. drudge
were a sand piper her pipe line wereqlaid on pantons across
the sea and are connected by ruber band and when that drudge
lower her cutter she dig 45 feet deep and suck 5 feet total
50 feet and any time she leave that spot she leave 50 feet
of water and she will trow cand rLud and rocks true her pipe
line to any where they want it to go to find out'how she
work she has got two large woden pole and any time she stop
work they low the two poles but when they start work they lift
one and then the operator swing her too and frow and then she
work day a.nd-n-ight if she-ohould coijie across rooks that she
cannot cut they move nor away to another spot then the star
drill come in then they drill the rocks and load them with
danamite a.nd every Saturday after noon thay blase those rooks
Then they bring In the dipper drudge and she with her shuvle
scrape out all those rock and throw them into barge then the
big boat come and t;.'ke the barge -.nd carrie it out to torra
point and dump It thoir

I will cay soir nc ilin!- about to.ara point and Magareta
point those are two trslc- that is GLretching out in the sea
to form the brake water the toaran point trusle is 7 miles
long and :.Mgareta truslc is 3 miles long with those two
trusle only the chanel is left open that shows if the Atlantic
should r:.aise .h-en the fcrt'c of that water meet against those
trusle it rebound. a.id ucild not able to enter the Canal with
her force if one *.Ta to be goiaj up to Colon and see those
trusle you wold. not bc(.Le:.ve it is d!ump land.

I would like to sa.- some thing about Catune for it is be-
tween gatune and Criotobal I spend the most of my days. I
were in Catune .jhecn they digf do-wn a hill and bring it to level.
Then they start doing the excevating work to make the .looks.









Hussey, B. p.2


After they ,come pleat that then ccnnes the-McKlentio Marshal to
hang the gates Then that is whcr I zee wonders first they
put up a concreet mixer then cement sand and grave and water
all gage and below the mixer their is a lot of pan oar running
on electric lines they goes under the shute and get their
load and then they po to the place they want the concreet
They dump it out and away they go clay and night. I have seen
some of the Can'l where the French ma.n were diCing in the day
of the Delesseop I toes to the dry dock at 4t. Hope and see
where they repair ships I go to the ibasheen Shop at Mt. Hope
and several other part of the Canal Many of my country men
lost their life in the Canal Colon were a dirty place .full
of mud dirty water masquita But the American to 86 drudge and
dump up the whole place I was their when the big fire were in
Colon so I can say the American Government do lots of good for
Colon and Panama Their wore a place wheree some people was
living call Guarva rig when any one.have to go their you have
to walk onboard walk the American dump up that place and now
I here it is call the Silver City God bless the American Gov-
ernment for they have save a lot of life from dirt and filt
I have stay their long enough to see the first ship go true the
Canal and after that I leave the ismust and I never go back
.I went to many other country I work in Cuba in the American
naval station in Guantanemo I have lots of expriance about
that naval station but as you are not interested in the naval
station I wont worry about it but I were in the naval station
before I go to Colon

I wish you will accept' this and escuse writing for I am a
old man now today is my birth day I am 82 years of age I
write this my self I beg no one to write for me

Dow I must cloote at this and my no-me is Brandt Hussey
born in Jamaica in the year 1881.




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Husney, Brandt ; c/o ;lrn. Louise benjamin, caretaker, Mt.
Charles Dortder I.C.. SIt. Andrew, Jamaica.
Some days ago I were looking over a newspaper and I came
across your advertesment stating that you would like to find
some West Indian that work in the Panrrma Canal prior to 1915
to give some experience about the diging of the Canal and. as
I am one of the pKan thi.t worh their I would like to give some
of my experience of what I see a.nd what .1 know In the year
1909 I leave Jamaica for Colon I land in Colon the 10th of
May same year I went in the Zone a couple of days after and
I got a Job in Cristobal hotel as a cook helper from their I
bigin to experlaice some of the work that were going on in the
Canal first thing I admire moot how Cristobalwere kept
lane that wore a plaisurc After some time drudge 86 came
down from the USA and went to Fox River I got a job on her
and on that drudge I opent the most of my time That. drudge
were a sand piper her pipe line wereqlaid on pantons across
the sea and are connected by ruber band and when that drudge
lower her cutter she dig 45 feet deep and suck 5 feet total
50 feet and any time she leave that spot she leave 50 feet
of water and she will trow cand rLud and rocks true her pipe
line to any where they want it to go to find out'how she
work she has got two large woden pole and any time she stop
work they low the two poles but when they start work they lift
one and then the operator swing her too and frow and then she
work day a.nd-n-ight if she-ohould coijie across rooks that she
cannot cut they move nor away to another spot then the star
drill come in then they drill the rocks and load them with
danamite a.nd every Saturday after noon thay blase those rooks
Then they bring In the dipper drudge and she with her shuvle
scrape out all those rock and throw them into barge then the
big boat come and t;.'ke the barge -.nd carrie it out to torra
point and dump It thoir
I will cay soir nc ilin!- about to.ara point and Magareta
point those are two trslc- that is GLretching out in the sea
to form the brake water the toaran point trusle is 7 miles
long and :.Mgareta truslc is 3 miles long with those two
trusle only the chanel is left open that shows if the Atlantic
should r:.aise .h-en the fcrt'c of that water meet against those
trusle it rebound. a.id ucild not able to enter the Canal with
her force if one *.Ta to be goiaj up to Colon and see those
trusle you wold. not bc(.Le:.ve it is d!ump land.
I would like to sa.- some thing about Catune for it is be-
tween gatune and Criotobal I spend the most of my days. I
were in Catune .jhecn they digf do-wn a hill and bring it to level.
Then they start doing the excevating work to make the .looks.
2 image0147.jpg
Hussey, B. p.2
After they ,come pleat that then ccnnes the-McKlentio Marshal to
hang the gates Then that is whcr I zee wonders first they
put up a concreet mixer then cement sand and grave and water
all gage and below the mixer their is a lot of pan oar running
on electric lines they goes under the shute and get their
load and then they po to the place they want the concreet
They dump it out and away they go clay and night. I have seen
some of the Can'l where the French ma.n were diCing in the day
of the Delesseop I toes to the dry dock at 4t. Hope and see
where they repair ships I go to the ibasheen Shop at Mt. Hope
and several other part of the Canal Many of my country men
lost their life in the Canal Colon were a dirty place .full
of mud dirty water masquita But the American to 86 drudge and
dump up the whole place I was their when the big fire were in
Colon so I can say the American Government do lots of good for
Colon and Panama Their wore a place wheree some people was
living call Guarva rig when any one.have to go their you have
to walk onboard walk the American dump up that place and now
I here it is call the Silver City God bless the American Gov-
ernment for they have save a lot of life from dirt and filt
I have stay their long enough to see the first ship go true the
Canal and after that I leave the ismust and I never go back
.I went to many other country I work in Cuba in the American
naval station in Guantanemo I have lots of expriance about
that naval station but as you are not interested in the naval
station I wont worry about it but I were in the naval station
before I go to Colon
I wish you will accept' this and escuse writing for I am a
old man now today is my birth day I am 82 years of age I
write this my self I beg no one to write for me
Dow I must cloote at this and my no-me is Brandt Hussey
born in Jamaica in the year 1881.


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