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:
AA00016037:00068


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Full Text






LeCurrieux, Jules E.; Calle M 759, Room 10; San Miguel
Dist., Panpma City, R.P.


For the Societies information I the author of the history
of my life spent on the Can&l Zone from the 14 of Jan 1906
when arrived here as an enm;igrant from the island of Barbados
B W I to help dig the Canal, yet though I was not a Barbadian,
I was born in French Guiana Marmi de Cayenne as French cit-
izen taken to Barbados B W I my mothers home, and was raised,
and educated until prior to my being emmigrated here. I was
born in French Guiana Jan 11, 1889. I landed here on the
Isthmus Jan 14, 1906 and commenced e.nployment after dinner the
same day with several others on the top of Gold Hill, that
crossed the Canal from Paraiso on the East bank to Rio Grande
on the West bank. Cur e-mployment was that of drilling holes
20 ft. deep to be loaded with powder to be blasted and tear
the old hill down. With the loss of many lives, we have a Water
Way. During same digging I changed my location to Gatun on
the Atlantic side where I was employed on the railroad trqoks
during which time I got struck in my right eye, and was laid
in the Colon Hosp. the whole year 1907 still with the loss of
sight in my right eye, yet I got out and obtained employment
in the Cristobal Hotel and was there the whole year 1908 and
left and returned to Catun, and was again employed, helping
complete the digging of the Canal for the valves to set in,
before the walls were built, during which time I was trans-
ferred to take cf.rre of the lumber yard supplying the carpen-
ters of the Locks with lumber, when I was again sent to work
on completing the ce.nent ;hed that was being built to meet
the arrival of the first load of cement on its arrival and
continued until the first load arrived when I was placed in
charge of the gang when the and the boss got in call-
ing for some protection from the swallowing of the cement
dust, and he blamed me, rnd discharged me, and as he was the
biggest bo:s of the Locks, any where I got a job, and he saw
me, he had me dlinciharged until I had to leave Gatun, so I
departed the next day to another section called Gorgona, and
immediately obtained e;nployment in the Car Repair shop as an
air brake helper clcaning cylinders and adjusting their
breaks all railroad cars until I was transferred to Pedro
Miguel when that nbop wa-s moved to Balboa Flats below the
Adm Bldg, lien again same shop was ,'!oved to Mech Div where I
wa.s employed for yea.rs until one day we were all sent to work
in an oil tanker a.nd we could not take it on account of the
scent of 1ras from the oil, ..nd we all decided to get on deck
and make our complaint, and boys to talk for them, and the
boss to them, if you men want to work get back down in the











LeCurrieux, J. E. p.2


hole, but you pet up in the office for your clearance, Sir.
On my way to the office, I heard a car blowing its horn, and
I was made to understand that 2 of the very men were damaged
that was returned b:.ck to work in the hole of the oil tanker.
I may have been one, God In)owvn. The very next morning I was
employed by the Fortification Div at flinta Bruja, and employed
by District Engnro until I was again sent to do work that was
not in my line so fault .could be found for my discharge, which
did happen. So Sir on my way home I met one of my old fore-
men who questioned me and told me to call on him the next
morning when he employed me and turned me on' to work right
away, and continued in same employment until my employer was
leaving on retirement, and just as the new boss took over I
was laid off and in seeking employment I found same, but I had
to pass Doctors Exam and was turned down and placed on the
D R with Cash 1Relief with 23 years actual service with the
Panama Canal and only received on my first Cash Relief check
Jan. 1939 017.50 when I was in the expectation of $23.00 as
per Bill passed by the U1 S Congress granting 01.00 for each
year of actual service exempting services rendered previously
with the I C C, and. after.when I was transferred from the Dist
Engrs to be employed by the Dpt Engra U S Army at Corozal
until 1937 making a total of 31 years service rendered by me
to the U'S Govt from my first employment Jan 14, 1906 helping
dig the Canal until it was3bcompletely dug--- Commencement of
the construction of the entire Locks until their completion,
for which I worked in all three, that I was witness of the
breaking away of a scaffold at -edro Miguel losing 2 lives.
I also remember seeing a time keeper being taken as a dead
corpse after talking to me 20 minutes previous at the forebay
of Gatun when it was 1lirst being constructed and several more
instances of which I th'a.nk the Lord I also have seen the
water entered in the Canal, the first ship pass through and
when it was returnin;- to the Atlantic side. I also had the
pleasure to work at Brujas i-oint until those 4 16" guns were
all installed and tested for the protection of the Panama
Canal. Mr. Editor, Sir, This is my full statement of my
entire 57 years of existence on the Canal Zone and this
Republic cut of my 75 years of existence on this earth.
I thank God with all my heart and may lie forever bless
the U 3 Govt and continuously be 1-er protection -

Thile I remain respectfully
your hum'mble servant
JULES E. LECUFIEJUX









LeCurrieux, J. E. p.3


For your Societies information, I the author of this
letter beg to state here that I am a French born citizen, of
French Guiana on Jan 11 1889 and was taken to Barbados BWI
when a kid where I was educated, and when I was aged 17, I
contract, and was emmir.-rated to the C Z to start
digging, the Canal and commenced employment after dinner the
very d^ayI landed at Paraiso, Jan l1i, 1906, and several
others to start drilling holes on the top of Gold Hill that
extended across the Canal, from Paraiso on the East bank, to
Culebra on the West bank where I continued until I obtained
another employment on the Atlantic side, the section of Gatun,
where I was employed on the railroad tracks until I was made
a subforeman for a few years until I was made foreman of same
gang, when my foreman was transferred elsewhere. During same
time there was no need for so many track foremen, so I trans-
fered to the lumber yard, to supply lumber to the carpenters
engaged in the commencement of the building of the formsafor
the culverts and sides of the lock walls, when I was again
transferred to help- in the building of the cement shed where
the cement was to be unloaded when it should have arrived,.
while I continued in same employment until same first load
came, and I placed in charge of same gang, and it was not a
customary employment many of the poor fellows could not
stand it and fell on the job, and because I spoke to Super-
visor of the whole of that Div he got mad with me and ran me
off the job, yet 1 obtained employment, but any where he saw
me employed he made the foreman run me off until I had to
leave Gatun for good, and my next abode was the Section of
Gorgona where I was employed as air brake man on the cylinders
of all the railroad cars that came in the shop to be repdred
until I was transferred to section of Pedro Miguel where I
continued employment until I was again transferred to the Car
Dept Balboa Shops 74ech Div where I was employed until one
day I was sent with moany others to work on an oil tanker, and
we could not make it, we decided to go on deck and talk to
the big boss, when w.'e ascended be was there, and he wanted to
know what was the trouble and the boys told him that I will
tell him, as it were the story, which I did, and in response
he said get back down and go to work, but you go to the
office and get your clearance, and on :iy way, the ambulance
was taking two of my name company to the hospital, for which
I was glad he did not send me back down. The following day
I was employed with the Dist Enginers at Bruja Point now Fort
Kobbe where I and the gfnlg waz- transfored to be employed by
the Dpt Engrs until I was again advantaged for what reason I
know not by being sent to work in a labor gang from a
for many years, yet with all I am yet alive after seeing










LeCurrieux, J. E. p.4


with my eyes individuals run over by trains and engines,
killed by powder blasts, killed by falling off the locks, from
1906 1938 during my employment, and alive and still cared
for the U S Govt on the D E C R 2266

Resptfly
JULES E LECU2';RIEUX

Continued
In 1906 Sir, a storehouse boss was going to employ me
in the storehouse after dinner and on my way meet him I hear
the train whistle blow, and saw a crowd running, and when I
got there, found that it was the same gentleman I going to
was killed, cut in two by the engine, that's no 1 I after-
wards was permitted to see a dynamite explosion where several
workers lost their lives at Lasascadas No 2 -- I was again
permitted to have seen an employee who supplied material for
me to deliver from the forebay for Gatun Locks brought back
on a flat car in 2 pieces No 3 I was again permitted to
see workers, on two occasions fall off the Gatun Locks while
being employed on the mule tracks,:' No 4 Sir, and I also am
yet alive with my services from 1906 Jan until Oct 1,1938 for
the U S Govt on the P C with the I CC PC Dpt Engrs
U S Army Corozal lost sigfht of my right eye by being struck
with a stone flake by a co worker, carrying me to be hospital-
ized in the Colon Hospital 1 year after the left eye being
affected, yet thank God I have been privileged to be able to
have seen all of those occurences I have already mentioned
above, and now to be on the D F C n 2266 on just what I am
receiving after it. This is my full statement.

JULES L' IECIfjPIIjEUX

Thic is to inforn you that in searching all my old writ-
ings I came ,'.crons thin one wi;ic1h I believe you would be
interested in, no I posted came to you in behalf of the Soci-
ety, if used I will tli-rn you very much for a copy, .ir.

Life .nd Livin:- o' the U'est Indian Negroes
on the Canal Zone-from
1906 -- .nd on
To those who are Intercstcd in the above named and title
of this book, lot me the author so disclose my entire life










LeCurrieux, J. E. p.5


spent on the Canal Zone after being landed here as a contract
laborer brought here on Jan 1i 1906 and on for the know-
ledge of those A..ericans whlo are not acquainted with same,
also Panamanians and foreli-ners, as to how the Canal became a
Panama Ca.nal as it is today.

...I the undcerigned, w.as l".ndec at the Royal Mail dock
in Aspinwall Colon to wor. dig, and build the, this, Panama
Canal, after having a rough start,,which is I as many hundred
others, having been contracted for same had to pass a very
rigid medical & physical examination prior to leaving our
native homes to cross the Atlantic to arrive in Colon, and
distributed in groups along the lines of the Canal Zone where
the amount of men were neededd and to our surprise we were
unloaded off the train as animals and not men, and almost
under strict guard to camps, and in some sections to canvas
tents, -.with bunks on each nide around 8 long and 3 high mak-
ing a total of 96 in 1 camp, then we were taken to a kitchen
and each of us were given 1 plate, 1 cup, 1 spoon, and a meal,
then those utensils.were ours the. price to be taken out of
our first pay, then were distributed to several gangs that
needed men until all were distributed to work that half day,
and at the close of the work day period we were given a meal
ticket valued 30 cts that ticket entitled each one of us to
an evening meal and a ticket bla.nk for our coffee in the next
morning previous to starting our next days work, and a midday
meal, also a ticket which entitled each one of us to a shelter
for the previous, night, and mind you if you lost it you better
beat the bush that night or any other night you could not pro-
duce that blank, or go hungry the next day, all of that con-
tinued until our first pP.. day, when, if none of us was pro-
vided with a blanket the a?.st two weeks, we could purchase
one, and a pillow, and a fc.w cakes of soa.p to wash our dishes
and. clothes for there we-o no women around those days, we had
to do all of our washing on Sundays, and if we did not have
two sets of working clothes, and the rain was fell and we got
wet we surely ha.d to .-ar the s .me w;-t clothes to work the
next day. -Again in my da,'.s there vwre no electric lights
all ntor lanterns and at 9 P -. an old piece of rail would
knock that me-'nt 'o to bed no !c.inc3 and at 5 a.::i. get out
of bed, go to work, the :m.en food as. not so hot but vwe were
not allowed to cook: around the campLs, and no restaurants
around anywhere, neither w'o:nen, only in Panama or Colon and
not even then for if those .who felt to ta.kce a trip to Colon
or Tr.nama if you were thirsty a.nd wanted a drink of water
you better lug a or lug a bottle of soda water, in









LeCurrieux, J. E. p.6

those days no beer, no soda water as now, even the working
men had to drink water from the creeks in the mountains, but
the Canal had to be dug In those days there were no 10
or .$15.00 shoes, you had to buy the Chinese Walk Overs, what
they call Pusses, a cloth shoes ;with rope soles. So just
Qac<-t and think of the life of pioneers of this Big Ditch
the West Indian, JigGer, of the 1903 to 1908 gang. Now here
comes a little improvement the '.est Indian Negro woman began
to immigrate here, than the poor old bastards found themselves
wives of 'their 4V-S;s and began to live like human beings and
not beasts, or slaves, they found someone to cook them a
decent meal, to wash their clothes, some one to be a companion,
and then to find a clean and decent place to sleep, and started
a new generation of Weot Indian Panamanians, to the best
respect and ability holding all clasnoes of positions in the
Republic. Now here goes we have lived to see the old Ditch
dug, we have heard of how many thousands, who lost their lives
in the job, by yellow fever, malaria, diarhoela, typhoid fever,
on the .railroad, dynamite explosions, on the Locks as I have
seen several fall 75 ft, even 20 ft from one one time, and
hundreds by drowning since it was dry and built. Who dug the
Canal? Who suffered mosot tweve u+ ?\ Who died most?
Who but the West Indicn Negroes. But dear friends that was
not all, having seen the Canal dug, the large grand locks,
_dams, and spilwayc all complete and some of the worlds largest
ships passed safely through from end to end, was not all,
there was hill another Great job to be done, that was the
protection from tidal waves by building the Colon break water,
and then another greater protection and that was from the
enemy by air, land, or sea, and that wa.s by the construction
of all types of guns and fortresses at both entrances, and
aloo the paraloll lines on either side of the boundary line,
of which most were ..-es:,t Indian icgeroes who did this work, such
digging gun pits, building concrete, o.nd carrying cable on
their shoulders for miles in the woodland, up hill, and down
hill, to some tol.:er or other, until their shoulders wore
9U A as mines uan.. but the C:.nal was built but not com-
plete without that protection :'.d you nay still ask the ques-
tion Whno helped to inntall the C0.nals urotoction, the West
Indian Negroes as myself, for I know, even from the last
Fortified island on tle Pacific to the quarry in Portobello
where those- solid harkC rocks in tons sizes were to
help build the stony fate valves. I the undersigned was in
all of this great mystery building of connecting the two
oceans together, or I would better say emptying one into the
other at correct tim:er; and this my statement and full
knowledge and experience of the bldg of this present Panama









LeCurrioux, J. E. p.7


Canal from Jan 14, 1906 until I wais terminated in general in
1938 and placed on a Cash relief of only v17.50 per month
up to my last allotment, which was too small to live on,
paying out light food and clothes, 2.nd at present a hundred
times worst, for any human being to live on, and this my full
recompenses from services in 1906 to 1938 serving as from a
water boy, on and up unLil was now having a fair knowledge of
several mechanical skills but not available to us around, so
most of us just have to take what i:e are allowed until those
who are in authority some day to reconoider our real needs
and distresses, and oblige us with %iomethlng more decent, and
I trust the God of Heaven will still grant me health and
strength to live long enough to see that day, when I will
rejoice in the labor of my helping hand in the completion of
one of the vorlds greatest mysteric :i and that is the bldg and
completion (not that of Solomons Teaple) but of this big and
great waterw.ay The Pana.ma Canal. And I c vo- how to
say, God bless its handy work, its operation and existence,
For throughlit I had my existence from the age of 16 even
until this day, I am sheltered and pitanced to her ability
so far until timo may smile, when a consideration may
be considered of us poor old time Canal diggers, especially
those of my type, who have- ooen and experienced days, and to
survive even until this day, should receive worthy praise by
all the autboritiec, and -all of its employees
Especially when w.e just think that our lives have been spared
even until this day. Acknowledging that the Panama Canal are
one of the riysterie5 of thc.- world, I trust that the God of
Heaven will ever have her under His Divine Protection, and
its director may ovcr allow themselves-to be led to do, and
whatsoever they aobk to do will His Divine Guidance,
and justifiable to one and all, a.nd to God and man. Thank
you.


JULES LEC'ERIEUX




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LeCurrieux, Jules E.; Calle M 759, Room 10; San Miguel
Dist., Panpma City, R.P.
For the Societies information I the author of the history
of my life spent on the Can&l Zone from the 14 of Jan 1906
when arrived here as an enm;igrant from the island of Barbados
B W I to help dig the Canal, yet though I was not a Barbadian,
I was born in French Guiana Marmi de Cayenne as French cit-
izen taken to Barbados B W I my mothers home, and was raised,
and educated until prior to my being emmigrated here. I was
born in French Guiana Jan 11, 1889. I landed here on the
Isthmus Jan 14, 1906 and commenced e.nployment after dinner the
same day with several others on the top of Gold Hill, that
crossed the Canal from Paraiso on the East bank to Rio Grande
on the West bank. Cur e-mployment was that of drilling holes
20 ft. deep to be loaded with powder to be blasted and tear
the old hill down. With the loss of many lives, we have a Water
Way. During same digging I changed my location to Gatun on
the Atlantic side where I was employed on the railroad trqoks
during which time I got struck in my right eye, and was laid
in the Colon Hosp. the whole year 1907 still with the loss of
sight in my right eye, yet I got out and obtained employment
in the Cristobal Hotel and was there the whole year 1908 and
left and returned to Catun, and was again employed, helping
complete the digging of the Canal for the valves to set in,
before the walls were built, during which time I was trans-
ferred to take cf.rre of the lumber yard supplying the carpen-
ters of the Locks with lumber, when I was again sent to work
on completing the ce.nent ;hed that was being built to meet
the arrival of the first load of cement on its arrival and
continued until the first load arrived when I was placed in
charge of the gang when the and the boss got in call-
ing for some protection from the swallowing of the cement
dust, and he blamed me, rnd discharged me, and as he was the
biggest bo:s of the Locks, any where I got a job, and he saw
me, he had me dlinciharged until I had to leave Gatun, so I
departed the next day to another section called Gorgona, and
immediately obtained e;nployment in the Car Repair shop as an
air brake helper clcaning cylinders and adjusting their
breaks all railroad cars until I was transferred to Pedro
Miguel when that nbop wa-s moved to Balboa Flats below the
Adm Bldg, lien again same shop was ,'!oved to Mech Div where I
wa.s employed for yea.rs until one day we were all sent to work
in an oil tanker a.nd we could not take it on account of the
scent of 1ras from the oil, ..nd we all decided to get on deck
and make our complaint, and boys to talk for them, and the
boss to them, if you men want to work get back down in the
2 image0160.jpg
LeCurrieux, J. E. p.2
hole, but you pet up in the office for your clearance, Sir.
On my way to the office, I heard a car blowing its horn, and
I was made to understand that 2 of the very men were damaged
that was returned b:.ck to work in the hole of the oil tanker.
I may have been one, God In)owvn. The very next morning I was
employed by the Fortification Div at flinta Bruja, and employed
by District Engnro until I was again sent to do work that was
not in my line so fault .could be found for my discharge, which
did happen. So Sir on my way home I met one of my old fore-
men who questioned me and told me to call on him the next
morning when he employed me and turned me on' to work right
away, and continued in same employment until my employer was
leaving on retirement, and just as the new boss took over I
was laid off and in seeking employment I found same, but I had
to pass Doctors Exam and was turned down and placed on the
D R with Cash 1Relief with 23 years actual service with the
Panama Canal and only received on my first Cash Relief check
Jan. 1939 017.50 when I was in the expectation of $23.00 as
per Bill passed by the U1 S Congress granting 01.00 for each
year of actual service exempting services rendered previously
with the I C C, and. after.when I was transferred from the Dist
Engrs to be employed by the Dpt Engra U S Army at Corozal
until 1937 making a total of 31 years service rendered by me
to the U'S Govt from my first employment Jan 14, 1906 helping
dig the Canal until it was3bcompletely dug--- Commencement of
the construction of the entire Locks until their completion,
for which I worked in all three, that I was witness of the
breaking away of a scaffold at -edro Miguel losing 2 lives.
I also remember seeing a time keeper being taken as a dead
corpse after talking to me 20 minutes previous at the forebay
of Gatun when it was 1lirst being constructed and several more
instances of which I th'a.nk the Lord I also have seen the
water entered in the Canal, the first ship pass through and
when it was returnin;- to the Atlantic side. I also had the
pleasure to work at Brujas i-oint until those 4 16" guns were
all installed and tested for the protection of the Panama
Canal. Mr. Editor, Sir, This is my full statement of my
entire 57 years of existence on the Canal Zone and this
Republic cut of my 75 years of existence on this earth.
I thank God with all my heart and may lie forever bless
the U 3 Govt and continuously be 1-er protection -
Thile I remain respectfully
your hum'mble servant
JULES E. LECUFIEJUX
3 image0161.jpg
LeCurrieux, J. E. p.3
For your Societies information, I the author of this
letter beg to state here that I am a French born citizen, of
French Guiana on Jan 11 1889 and was taken to Barbados BWI
when a kid where I was educated, and when I was aged 17, I
contract, and was emmir.-rated to the C Z to start
digging, the Canal and commenced employment after dinner the
very d^ayI landed at Paraiso, Jan l1i, 1906, and several
others to start drilling holes on the top of Gold Hill that
extended across the Canal, from Paraiso on the East bank, to
Culebra on the West bank where I continued until I obtained
another employment on the Atlantic side, the section of Gatun,
where I was employed on the railroad tracks until I was made
a subforeman for a few years until I was made foreman of same
gang, when my foreman was transferred elsewhere. During same
time there was no need for so many track foremen, so I trans-
fered to the lumber yard, to supply lumber to the carpenters
engaged in the commencement of the building of the formsafor
the culverts and sides of the lock walls, when I was again
transferred to help- in the building of the cement shed where
the cement was to be unloaded when it should have arrived,.
while I continued in same employment until same first load
came, and I placed in charge of same gang, and it was not a
customary employment many of the poor fellows could not
stand it and fell on the job, and because I spoke to Super-
visor of the whole of that Div he got mad with me and ran me
off the job, yet 1 obtained employment, but any where he saw
me employed he made the foreman run me off until I had to
leave Gatun for good, and my next abode was the Section of
Gorgona where I was employed as air brake man on the cylinders
of all the railroad cars that came in the shop to be repdred
until I was transferred to section of Pedro Miguel where I
continued employment until I was again transferred to the Car
Dept Balboa Shops 74ech Div where I was employed until one
day I was sent with moany others to work on an oil tanker, and
we could not make it, we decided to go on deck and talk to
the big boss, when w.'e ascended be was there, and he wanted to
know what was the trouble and the boys told him that I will
tell him, as it were the story, which I did, and in response
he said get back down and go to work, but you go to the
office and get your clearance, and on :iy way, the ambulance
was taking two of my name company to the hospital, for which
I was glad he did not send me back down. The following day
I was employed with the Dist Enginers at Bruja Point now Fort
Kobbe where I and the gfnlg waz- transfored to be employed by
the Dpt Engrs until I was again advantaged for what reason I
know not by being sent to work in a labor gang from a
for many years, yet with all I am yet alive after seeing
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LeCurrieux, J. E. p.4
with my eyes individuals run over by trains and engines,
killed by powder blasts, killed by falling off the locks, from
1906 1938 during my employment, and alive and still cared
for the U S Govt on the D E C R 2266
Resptfly
JULES E LECU2';RIEUX
Continued
In 1906 Sir, a storehouse boss was going to employ me
in the storehouse after dinner and on my way meet him I hear
the train whistle blow, and saw a crowd running, and when I
got there, found that it was the same gentleman I going to
was killed, cut in two by the engine, that's no 1 I after-
wards was permitted to see a dynamite explosion where several
workers lost their lives at Lasascadas No 2 -- I was again
permitted to have seen an employee who supplied material for
me to deliver from the forebay for Gatun Locks brought back
on a flat car in 2 pieces No 3 I was again permitted to
see workers, on two occasions fall off the Gatun Locks while
being employed on the mule tracks,:' No 4 Sir, and I also am
yet alive with my services from 1906 Jan until Oct 1,1938 for
the U S Govt on the P C with the I CC PC Dpt Engrs
U S Army Corozal lost sigfht of my right eye by being struck
with a stone flake by a co worker, carrying me to be hospital-
ized in the Colon Hospital 1 year after the left eye being
affected, yet thank God I have been privileged to be able to
have seen all of those occurences I have already mentioned
above, and now to be on the D F C n 2266 on just what I am
receiving after it. This is my full statement.
JULES L' IECIfjPIIjEUX
Thic is to inforn you that in searching all my old writ-
ings I came ,'.crons thin one wi;ic1h I believe you would be
interested in, no I posted came to you in behalf of the Soci-
ety, if used I will tli-rn you very much for a copy, .ir.
Life .nd Livin:- o' the U'est Indian Negroes
on the Canal Zone-from
1906 -- .nd on
To those who are Intercstcd in the above named and title
of this book, lot me the author so disclose my entire life
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LeCurrieux, J. E. p.5
spent on the Canal Zone after being landed here as a contract
laborer brought here on Jan 1i 1906 and on for the know-
ledge of those A..ericans whlo are not acquainted with same,
also Panamanians and foreli-ners, as to how the Canal became a
Panama Ca.nal as it is today.
...I the undcerigned, w.as l".ndec at the Royal Mail dock
in Aspinwall Colon to wor. dig, and build the, this, Panama
Canal, after having a rough start,,which is I as many hundred
others, having been contracted for same had to pass a very
rigid medical & physical examination prior to leaving our
native homes to cross the Atlantic to arrive in Colon, and
distributed in groups along the lines of the Canal Zone where
the amount of men were neededd and to our surprise we were
unloaded off the train as animals and not men, and almost
under strict guard to camps, and in some sections to canvas
tents, -.with bunks on each nide around 8 long and 3 high mak-
ing a total of 96 in 1 camp, then we were taken to a kitchen
and each of us were given 1 plate, 1 cup, 1 spoon, and a meal,
then those utensils.were ours the. price to be taken out of
our first pay, then were distributed to several gangs that
needed men until all were distributed to work that half day,
and at the close of the work day period we were given a meal
ticket valued 30 cts that ticket entitled each one of us to
an evening meal and a ticket bla.nk for our coffee in the next
morning previous to starting our next days work, and a midday
meal, also a ticket which entitled each one of us to a shelter
for the previous, night, and mind you if you lost it you better
beat the bush that night or any other night you could not pro-
duce that blank, or go hungry the next day, all of that con-
tinued until our first pP.. day, when, if none of us was pro-
vided with a blanket the a?.st two weeks, we could purchase
one, and a pillow, and a fc.w cakes of soa.p to wash our dishes
and. clothes for there we-o no women around those days, we had
to do all of our washing on Sundays, and if we did not have
two sets of working clothes, and the rain was fell and we got
wet we surely ha.d to .-ar the s .me w;-t clothes to work the
next day. -Again in my da,'.s there vwre no electric lights
all ntor lanterns and at 9 P -. an old piece of rail would
knock that me-'nt 'o to bed no !c.inc3 and at 5 a.::i. get out
of bed, go to work, the :m.en food as. not so hot but vwe were
not allowed to cook: around the campLs, and no restaurants
around anywhere, neither w'o:nen, only in Panama or Colon and
not even then for if those .who felt to ta.kce a trip to Colon
or Tr.nama if you were thirsty a.nd wanted a drink of water
you better lug a or lug a bottle of soda water, in
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LeCurrieux, J. E. p.6
those days no beer, no soda water as now, even the working
men had to drink water from the creeks in the mountains, but
the Canal had to be dug In those days there were no 10
or .$15.00 shoes, you had to buy the Chinese Walk Overs, what
they call Pusses, a cloth shoes ;with rope soles. So just
Qac<-t and think of the life of pioneers of this Big Ditch
the West Indian, JigGer, of the 1903 to 1908 gang. Now here
comes a little improvement the '.est Indian Negro woman began
to immigrate here, than the poor old bastards found themselves
wives of 'their 4V-S;s and began to live like human beings and
not beasts, or slaves, they found someone to cook them a
decent meal, to wash their clothes, some one to be a companion,
and then to find a clean and decent place to sleep, and started
a new generation of Weot Indian Panamanians, to the best
respect and ability holding all clasnoes of positions in the
Republic. Now here goes we have lived to see the old Ditch
dug, we have heard of how many thousands, who lost their lives
in the job, by yellow fever, malaria, diarhoela, typhoid fever,
on the .railroad, dynamite explosions, on the Locks as I have
seen several fall 75 ft, even 20 ft from one one time, and
hundreds by drowning since it was dry and built. Who dug the
Canal? Who suffered mosot tweve u+ ?\ Who died most?
Who but the West Indicn Negroes. But dear friends that was
not all, having seen the Canal dug, the large grand locks,
_dams, and spilwayc all complete and some of the worlds largest
ships passed safely through from end to end, was not all,
there was hill another Great job to be done, that was the
protection from tidal waves by building the Colon break water,
and then another greater protection and that was from the
enemy by air, land, or sea, and that wa.s by the construction
of all types of guns and fortresses at both entrances, and
aloo the paraloll lines on either side of the boundary line,
of which most were ..-es:,t Indian icgeroes who did this work, such
digging gun pits, building concrete, o.nd carrying cable on
their shoulders for miles in the woodland, up hill, and down
hill, to some tol.:er or other, until their shoulders wore
9U A as mines uan.. but the C:.nal was built but not com-
plete without that protection :'.d you nay still ask the ques-
tion Whno helped to inntall the C0.nals urotoction, the West
Indian Negroes as myself, for I know, even from the last
Fortified island on tle Pacific to the quarry in Portobello
where those- solid harkC rocks in tons sizes were to
help build the stony fate valves. I the undersigned was in
all of this great mystery building of connecting the two
oceans together, or I would better say emptying one into the
other at correct tim:er; and this my statement and full
knowledge and experience of the bldg of this present Panama
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LeCurrioux, J. E. p.7
Canal from Jan 14, 1906 until I wais terminated in general in
1938 and placed on a Cash relief of only v17.50 per month
up to my last allotment, which was too small to live on,
paying out light food and clothes, 2.nd at present a hundred
times worst, for any human being to live on, and this my full
recompenses from services in 1906 to 1938 serving as from a
water boy, on and up unLil was now having a fair knowledge of
several mechanical skills but not available to us around, so
most of us just have to take what i:e are allowed until those
who are in authority some day to reconoider our real needs
and distresses, and oblige us with %iomethlng more decent, and
I trust the God of Heaven will still grant me health and
strength to live long enough to see that day, when I will
rejoice in the labor of my helping hand in the completion of
one of the vorlds greatest mysteric :i and that is the bldg and
completion (not that of Solomons Teaple) but of this big and
great waterw.ay The Pana.ma Canal. And I c vo- how to
say, God bless its handy work, its operation and existence,
For throughlit I had my existence from the age of 16 even
until this day, I am sheltered and pitanced to her ability
so far until timo may smile, when a consideration may
be considered of us poor old time Canal diggers, especially
those of my type, who have- ooen and experienced days, and to
survive even until this day, should receive worthy praise by
all the autboritiec, and -all of its employees
Especially when w.e just think that our lives have been spared
even until this day. Acknowledging that the Panama Canal are
one of the riysterie5 of thc.- world, I trust that the God of
Heaven will ever have her under His Divine Protection, and
its director may ovcr allow themselves-to be led to do, and
whatsoever they aobk to do will His Divine Guidance,
and justifiable to one and all, a.nd to God and man. Thank
you.
JULES LEC'ERIEUX