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The Foundation for The Gator Nation An Equal Opportunity Institution Samuel Proctor Oral History Program College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Program Director : Dr. Paul Ortiz Office Manager : Tamarra Jenkins Technology Coordinator : Deborah Hendrix 241 Pugh Hall PO Box 115215 Gainesville, FL 32611 352 392 7168 Phone 352 846 1983 Fax The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP) was founded by Dr. Samuel Proctor at the University of Florida in 1967. Its original projects were collections centered around Florida history with the purpose of preserving eyewitness accounts of economic, social, political, religious and intellectual life in Florida and the South In the 45 years since its inception, SPOHP has collected over 5,000 interviews in its archives. Transcribed interviews are available through SPOHP for use by research scholars, students, journalists, and other interested groups. Material is frequently used for theses, dissertations, articles, books, documentaries, museum displays, and a variety of other public uses. As standard oral history practice dictates, SPOHP recommends that researchers refer to both the transcript and audio of an interview when c onducting their work. A selection of interviews are available online here through the UF Digital Collections and the UF Smathers Library system. Oral history interview transcripts available on the UF Digital Collections may be in draft or final format. SP OHP transcribers create interview transcripts by listen ing to the original oral history interview recording and typing a verbatim document of it. The transcript is written with careful attention to reflect original grammar and word choice of each interview ee; subjective or editorial changes are not made to their speech. The draft trans cript can also later undergo a later final edit to ensure accuracy in spelling and format I nterviewees can also provide their own spelling corrections SPOHP transcribers ref er to the Merriam program specific transcribing style guide, accessible For more information about SPOHP, visit http://oral.history.ufl.edu or call the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program office at 352 392 7168. October 2013
PCM 009 Interviewees: Lila and Richard Cheville Interviewer: Paul Ortiz Date: July 2, 2011 O: All right, Mr. Cheville. Well first of all, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy reunion schedule to sit with us to do an interview. And I wonder, could we start by having you describe your early life kind of generally in the canal? Were you a second generation person or did you move there? RC: No, I moved there later. I went down to the Panama Canal when I was about thirty to do an internship at Gorgas Hospital. I was interested in tropical medicine and public health, and it was really on e of the very, very few places where you what took me down to the Canal Zone in the first place. That was in 1961. I did my internship and then they were short staffed in a cou ple of areas. I took the debts and to save some money. And then after that I went back to the United States. Actually, when I went to Stanford, I was there from 1963 to 1970 doing post graduate medicine and also for a while on the staff in community medicine. Then we had two children there, and then the Canal Zone for a couple of years in 1970. That stretched on until the time of mandator y retirement for me at age sixty two in 1993. O: And so your children went to high school in Panama.
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 3 RC: Yes, they were in kindergarten and first grade when we left California, and they went through their schooling through graduation from high school here O: Oh, okay. Which high school did they attend there? RC: Balboa High School. O: Balboa High School, okay. The bust of the school now is down in the museum, right? [Laughter] RC: Yeah, that was kind of a joke thing. Every year, the students would either capture it or pink with green spots. It was kind of a fun game between the statue. That went on all the time. O: What was your impression about kind of social life, political life, comparing it between the Panama Canal Zone and say, the United States in the 60s and 70s as you went back and forth? RC: In the Canal Zone, we were living in a quite benign system of socialism. Everybody was salaried who live d there. There were Americans who were in business in Panama City, but the Canal Zone was kind of a socialistic system. Salaries were squashed together so craftsmen made more relative to the United States and people at upper levels made less relative to th e United States. There were no fancy, big houses. There were no slums. So the quality of houses also
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 3 was other options. Later as Panama improved, there were options downtown. But even as late as the 1960s, early 1970s, shopping downtown was n o t as good as shopping in the Panama Canal commissaries. O: As your kids were going through school, what kind of educat ional experiences did they have in the Canal Zone? RC: My opinion is that the Canal Zone schools were better somewhat, even maybe considerably better than most schools in the United States. compare this to urban magnet schools or something like that, but in general I think they were quite good. The schools at that time were the Canal Zone schools; after the treaty they became the Department of Defense dependent schools. In either case, I stand by what I said. Part of it is a matter of money : the teachers were paid better salaries in general than in the United States. Secondly, there are always folks that are looking for some adventure in life who came to Panama and later to D.O.D. schools because it just was a thrill to go somewhere, to go w ork in the jungle, to be where the beaches are. So, I think our schooling was really good. A lot of kids kind of socialistic system made a difference a lot of kids of blue collar workers ended up going to very good schools in the States and getting their degrees. Our
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 4 Medical School, and our son, Alan, did a Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Rice. I handicapped by what they had for high school. O: What was social life like in the Canal Zone? RC: There were a fair amount of clubs that people belonged to. That was fostered during construction, bec ause early in construction people were going back to the States almost as fast as they came down here because there were no amenities. So, clubhouses and a lot of other things were fostered. Those were still in ext e nt at the time we came here, but I thi nk the idea of clubs and doing things together had continued in the Canal Zone. Of course, there we re just all sorts of things, from foreign legion to a historical society to garden clubs, whatever. O: What types of clubs did you participate in? RC: I thin k zero. O: Zero? [Laughter] Okay. RC: I worked with Boy Scouts a good deal in the sense that I really enjoyed the other adults that I worked with, but I spent a lot of time working with Boy Scouts. I was in the American Society, as an officer of one kind or another for a long time. Initially it was for Americans who were in
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 5 business downtown; later, it was for any Americans here. It was kind of an active way to get together. O: Was that kind of a business ass ociation, like the chamber of commerce, or never heard -RC: Not really. It was really quite social. The garden club, for example, was wonderful because it had no purpose. It had no officers, it had no constitution. It took place at s called Garden s Dot Morgan that fought in World War I in France, and had gardens for economic purposes. She was the one, really, that kept it going even when she was quite old. That was the idea l end two years writing a new constitution ever. We just went and had a good time. O: [Laughter] All right. After your graduate work at Stanford, did you come back and work as a practicing doctor? RC: At that time, I came back and I did adolescent medicine, pediatrics department. And I was in public health: I did a lot of work in the schools, did some work in baby clinics. Gradually over time, I did more and more just straight public health, preventive medicine and a lot more administrative time, although all during my career I always had two days a week where I saw patients believe a doctor who stop s seeing patients knows what medicine is about after a couple of years.
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 6 O: What were the facilities you had to work with in the Canal Zone? How wo uld those have compared to facilities, say, in the United States at the same time? RC: Not as slick O: The work was funded by the U.S. government or the RC: Everything here was funded by the ships going through the canal. What was left of dollars made it into the U.S. Treasury over the American life of the canal. If there w ere a worldwide recession and shipping tonnage went down, then we had to cut stuff out of our budget. We always had to have a plan for what was going to be cut and some kind of rank order in case the ship tran sits went down. But for the most part, it was such that if you were a credible manager any trouble with funding. O: What were the politics like of the country at that time in Panama? RC: When we came back, we came back in 1961 and it was very much like it had been since the opening of the canal, since the time the gringos came here. There were tensions between Panama and the United States, and in 1964 there was a real confrontation, with s hooting and breaking diplomatic relations, closing a bridge. By the time we came back in 1970 it was clear that the United States hold on the canal was going to end sometime. There was an attempt to do a treaty in
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 7 1967, but it was broken when the three col onels came to power in 1968. Torrijos was one of the three colonels that was left standing, and he was pretty much in charge of the country by the time we came back in 1970. Initially, he was quite benign and I will give him credit for pouring money into u niversities, schools, and health. The other thing that Torrijos did was open the way for black people and Indians and Chinese, who up until that time could not expect ever to rise very there always are but in general the black kid faced a real uphill fight, even if he was very clever and well educated, too. To enter not society, but levels of employment either in the government or private business. And Torrijos broke that. Panama changed totally from th O: As you think back on the political, social system in Panama, Dr. Cheville, what kind of impact did the U.S. have on any of this? On, say, the three colonels or the social system in Panama? RC: My own personal opinion is that t he three colonels would not have overthrown Arnulfo Arias and come to power without some kind of back door agreement with that they would have because the United States inter vened enough times that they had that very easily, either. Torrijos played he always dressed in a fatigue uniform, a la
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 8 Castro. He toured the country a lot and made a lot out of starting peasant things. There was a lot of interchange with Cuba. There was nationalization of a lot of small farms to create huge state owned sugar plantations up in the interior. So there was a fair amount of movement and a leftward economic disposition of the to know how things got started, but gradually I think on the top first, people began drilling hol es in the cashbox and catching what came out. And if the top guy is taking the next guy down see he has the right and then the next guy. So gradually, the system had more and more troubles. For people that were well connected in the government or even on lower levels doing things for their own purposes also, a lot of economic situations in Panama were carved out amongst the colonels and lieutenant colonels. So if a guy had the telephones, for example lephones and a lot of money had to go out to get a new telephone system, and the more you But up until Noriega desaparecidos under Torrijos and the colonels. I had some video clips of people digging up graves and identifying people that were opposed to the regime and disappeared. There was the case of Padre Gallego s who was a Colombian priest, who was rather leftist and working for the poor. He disappeared. He was
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 9 working up in Veraguas, where Torrijos came from. He disappeared, so much that he had a leg of pork tied to his leg and dropped off in the shark channel out here. Nobody really knows. There was a lot of to the main one I remember. But there were little things going on. Pe ople occasionally were shot. I was involved in a visit for President Carter in 1977, and five kids died at the University of Panama that night in some demonstrations O: When Presiden t Carter came to visit, what was the reception given to him? RC: screwed by the United States in 1903 To some extent they had been. been wanting things better for a lon g time. For example, in the 20s and 30s, you could only drive in the Canal Zone if you had a Canal Zone license. So Panamanian families going to the interior, when they got to the border of the Zone west of Panama City, would have to hire a driver to drive through the Canal Zone because they were not allowed to drive through the Canal Zone. If you so the term for very rich, old family people here was rabiblanco. If you were came over to get mangoes were chased out. There was a lo t of prejudice against Panama. It varied from person to person. There were a lot of people from the
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 10 South and the veterans from New England who carried a lot of prejudice against the Panamanians who were here. O: So when President Carter visited in 77, Panamanians at least kind of saw him in a positive light. RC: Oh, yes. Oh, yes, by all means. I mean, they were getting Panama back. The Canal Zone was coming back, lock, stock, and barrel. The treaty the negotiations were finished in 1977, and it was going to start taking place two years later in 1979. So I think it was a rather outpouring of positive feelings for President Carter. O: How about within the Zone itself? RC: and none of us had the feeling that it was a birthright. On the other hand, a lot of people in the Canal Zone whose g randparents or great grandparents came down to build the canal and the family had been there ever since, they looked upon this were other people who were, at least compared to me, farther to the right, who practical reason for that, draw a fifteen hundred mile radius around Howard Air Force Base and then draw one around Homestead Air Force Base and see how much you can command in Latin America by air. [Laughter] And so I think the
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 11 military reasons were in the treaty we might have wanted to control something. So there we re people that were like that. But there was a great deal of opposition to the treaty and there were a number of people who worked very hard to try to derail the treaty in any way that they could. I think the number of people who were either neutral or els e for the treaty was a good deal more than was publicly thought because those who were against it were very outspoken. If you were a moderate leftist today in a meeting of Tea Party people, you might keep your mouth shut. I think that would be a good analo gy. O: interviewed so far talk about the Canal Zone being almost like an exception to wa s a static world changing in the United States. Is that fair to say? RC: significant changes from 1963 when I left after being an intern, to when our family came back toward the end of 1970. There were a lot of changes, and they did was in business downtown who had been in Argentina at the start English in Argentina. There are a lot of English people in B.A., and he had been in Argentina at the start of World War II, went back and fought with the Brits, then came back to Argentina. The reason he went back to Argentina is because he
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 12 said it was li that. I think people looked at the Canal Zone as something like 1935 to 1950 in comfort for that. I gre w up in a little bitty small town in the Mid w est, and not terribly happy with a lot of the social movements that we have going on, economic movements in the United States, and I have some discomfort for that. O: the Zone. RC: Yeah, sure. O: So far, people have not really mentioned the types of political figures that you often hear people talking about in the 60s like John F. Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson or Martin Luther King. Did that have any impact? RC: Well, w e came from California in 1970, and I had been in San Francisco and Palo Alto during all that turbulence. We were there when the flower children started in Golden Gate Park. Used to go and spend some time in Haight Ashbury. Up until I left in 1970, there h ad been sixty eight murders in the Haight Ashbury district most over drug wars, which is what the flower children came to. So then, in that sense, I think it was kind of unchanging. I think that down here, people had no idea the real social turmoil that w as going on. People got drafted and went off to Vietnam. My time in the army was during the Korean War, and nobody in the United States raised hell about getting drafted in the Korean War.
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 13 T part of our culture. At the time all of that was happening in the United States during the Vietnamese War draft card burning, people saying, save the whales, sacrifice Jane Fonda, all that kind of stuff that was not happening down here. It was absent. O: But people knew it was kind of ha ppening at a distance, do you think? RC: The kids in high school emulated to some extent, and we did have a drug problem. In fact, I was kind of recruited back here to deal with the drug problem in young people more than anything else. But they started tal king about it, and having come from the Bay Area in 1970 I had a hard time seeing what the hell they were talking about initially, about the big drug problem. It was here. It was significant, but comparatively speaking not much. O: You mentioned earlier th at it was almost a sense that people could see a treaty renegotiation of some kind coming on the horizon. RC: Well, there were treaty negotiations. First of all, the white paper about the Canal Zone was written in the Eisenhower A extant in archives up there. The federal government was dedicated to having some kind of different arrangement with Panama from 1955 on. The treaty was act ually negotiated in 1967, 1968, but that went out the window when the colonels came to power. The gov ernment may have had something to do with that; I kind of suspect that, but you can never know.
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 14 O: We may find out fifty years from now or something. [Laughter] RC: O: Yeah, right, exactly. [Laughter] Were you still in the Canal Zone? I guess I should kind of back up and ask when you retired? RC: First of 1994. I lived through all of everything. For three years, from 1976 through a little while after the treaty took effect, I was the president of the Pacific Civic Counc through all kinds of stuff: making arrangements for older people to be taken care of, trying to make some arrangements with some people i n Panama looking into what kind of retirement s the people would have. I appeared before Congress probably ten or twelve times during that period of time. So for somebody who was not paid to be in that position, probably was as central to all the negotiations, everything that went on, as it could have been. O: leader of the civic society in some ways, right? RC: Well, it would be like anything. People would elect a mayor political activity that go es on. Our neighbor at that time was one of the most active people against the treaty and was crazy radical. We were glad when he by a little shrapnel. [Laughter]
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 15 LR: Talk about -? O: Oh, yeah. LC: communities and the white communities I suppose you have gotten some of this information and what happened through the treaty and your experience who was it, Metcalfe? RC: Congressman Metcalfe. LC: Metcalfe. RC: Not Metcalfe LC: [inaudible 27:40] g o back to the RC: He was a congressman from Louisiana, but he was second to Jesse Owens in the 36 Olympics i n Berlin in the hundred meter dash. He was on the four hundred meter relay that set a world record with Jesse Owens that stood for a know. There was an earlier date when, for s ome reason, all the Canal Zone had The people were going to speak the same language. In order to keep the blacks the schools were segregated. The hospital was segregated still when I g ot here in 1961. The wards were segregated. The euphemism was, local rate and U.S.
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 16 rate, which went back to how people were paid during the construction. And in the schools what happened is, overnight it was decided that all the black people were Panamania ns so they would go to a Spanish speaking school. The LC: RC: That was sometime before the treaty. But at any rate, part of the treaty was that any black kids that continued to live in the Canal Zone after the treaty would all go to the U.S. schools. There was a fair amount of opposition to that, and there to te ach kids. There were a few more problems per whatever unit of number of kids who were happened in the United States, so that happened here late and was associated with the treaty. There was a lot of opposition to that, but there were no problem s of parents lining up and spitting on kids or anything of that sort. Just a lot of talk and unhappiness. They melded the kids in, starting with one year so that after a certain amount of time, all of the grades would include the blacks. But the ones say o ver in the black high schools at the time this happened, [inaudible 30:10] they would graduate without ever going to the U.S. schools. And there were a lot of Spanish speaking people in those schools, and they simply changed to schools in Panama. There was some of that that took place, too.
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 17 O: Canal Zone, especially schools and hospitals. RC: I remember when we first got here, we were driving. We bought ourselves a little blac k VW about three days after we got here. We were driving around looking at what we were going to be living in for a while. We came around the corner, and there was a guy digging for a sewer or a water pipe or something, and there were five black guys sitti ng down in the hole and there was a big tall fat white guy leaning against the palm tree reading the newspaper. There was a lot of that. LC: Supervising. O: [Laughter] Supervising, yeah. RC: But there were a lot of other ideas. I remember a guy who was t he superintendent of the locks on the Atlantic side, was a very good friend of mine. After the treaty, we had a lot of retirements, both U.S. and Panamanians as well. I was asking him how he was working without all the U.S. people and he said, you know, Di the old fifty five year old guy that pulls on my sleeve and says, hey boss, bossman, we have same problem back in 1952. This what we do then. Why you try that? I think it fix it, boss He said, those are the guys that are causing me trouble to man the locks, their absence. And i n the midst of this, there was a lot of camaraderie also between whites and blacks and good friendships of people
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 18 leave the impression that it was like the South in 1935, either. It never was that hard. O: As ships were coming through, would you say Panama was did the ships have an impact on social life, did people pick up news from people coming through the canal? O RC: before television, perhaps there were the tourists made some difference. But as far as affecting lives, really the people in Panama the cultures were different really affect ed the life of anybody in Panama. They were just people going by. Wave back and act like a native and let it go at th at. O: Okay. [Laughter] All right. Were you president of the civic council during Operation Just Cause, or was that after? RC: y early 1980 I finished three terms and that was it. I had done my duty. [Laughter] O: What were some of your most difficult duties as president? RC: there were certainly p eople on the civic council who were radically against the
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 19 treaty. Trying to balance that, I developed techniques for how the meeting went depending on what I expected. If I thought it was going to be really wild and bad, I would not cut off any discussion. I would let people talk as long as they wanted take people head on. Also, another technique I used as people raised a lot of paper that we could O: c ongressional testimony. Was that testimony on behalf of the council or was that RC: People in the Canal Zone. People in the Canal Zone, period. O: What was the process of were you canvassing people in the Canal Zone for the ir ideas? RC: often we met now, if it was monthly or what. I think as it got busier for the treaty i t was even more often that once a month. But I think I had a pretty good earful
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 20 or three people telling me what they really not quite that democratic. I tried to put together what I could, and for some things ral, I had some people that I knew and trusted some more conservative, some more liberal who I would consult what they thought about this and that or something that I was writing, because I wrote all my business papers totally when I was going to testify. O: When you went to testify, did you find a receptive audience in Congress? Were people trying to kind of gauge American opinion within the canal? RC: I know people in the Canal Zone thought. We were sort of kind of strange people set off in the distance. LC: Can I interrupt here for just a moment? Because one of the things that happened not only did representatives from the Panama Canal Zone go and appear before Congress, we continua lly had a group of c ongressmen, as they like to do, used to come down and to visit the Canal Zone apparently on a fact finding mission. One of the social gatherings that was el rigueur during any s enatorial or c ongressional meeting was to go on a midnight cruise from Balboa on one of the East River ?
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 22 1 RC: locks out on the lake LC: And then turn around and come back. RC: It was a cruise ship primarily for visiting dignitaries, although people in the Canal Zone could rent it and use it. LC: But during some of those midnight visits, that when we were invited to have dinner and socialize, particularly with Senator Congressma n Spellman. RC: She was a c ongressman; Spellman, yes. She was LC: She came out of the Department of Education herself, and as a board member, something like that. RC: She started a school board in Maryland. LC: And she was very interested in education. O ne of the things that we particularly worked with her all night [Laughter] in fact, was to incorporate within whether it was the treaty or whatever it was and one of the things was to have a sabbatical for teachers, because it was very difficult for them t o get additional education coming out of the Canal Zone. There were some perks like that actually effectively got into some of the negotiations. I think everybody on those ships that night had something to tell a c ongressman that they wanted in the treaty. [Laughter]
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 22 RC: It was variable. She was quite interested, Metcalfe was quite interested. I remember a lot who were not interested. I remember Congress people, senators, you sen their preconceived picture. But my two best lobbying points were the ship and the train, because we went to the other side by train and people would come down for fact de right over on the train. I remember our daughter went to a school that was right on the border. It was a small school, and her class looked like the United Nations. There was a little Scottish boy who was as blonde and blue eyed as you could be, right u p to totally black kids and everything in between. They had met Congressman Metcalfe. Congressman Metcalfe, all day, black people on the other side. And I almost countered everything that was said ds that looked like a biblical picture of the lion and the lamb. LC: was not your experience, with what happened with President Carter and the president of the pilo t union, because that was very significant in the treaty. RC: Actually, I was half of that and he was half of that, because people were going to finish early and things were going to change, and we were looking for some kind of better retirement for people that were going to lose a lifestyle and job and be
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 24 3 Association White House. LC: Jordan? RC: about that. Anyway, that was a lot of the stuff that I did, was representing Spellman and Metcalfe both. Actually, there was a truck at three ways Then, know the details, but he was highly effective in regard to the people. And there bring his name up. But he was the one that actua lly put the bill before the House. LC: can have a sickout. And the pilots had a sickout, and the teachers supported the pilots with an additional sickout. RC: And a lot of other people as well. LC: And a lot of other people as well. O: This was during the Carter administration? RC: No. This wa
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 24 LC: This was before the treaty because when our conversation and I forget the -RC: LC: He had the friend, he got an appointment with Carter. And Carter said, what do you want? Because Carter wanted the treaty. He said, well and one of the things from conversations that you and other people had had with John was, they were asking for what was called an eighteen forty eight: eighteen years and forty eight years old, you could retire without penalty from the U.S. government at that point, a s a way of easing people out and what Dick was saying about protecting them. RC: Right. You could take your equity an d run. Not that you were going to get fantastically great retirement, but that if you really felt threatened by it or if things changed so your job died, you could your equity and run. LC: everybody to have it in the Canal Zone. And the reason why he said that because, again, there was this closeness among people and watching out for one another and so he wanted to protect everybody, not just the pilots. And he said, you know, the teachers w ent on the line for us. I want it for everybody in the Canal Zone, and he got it, too.
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 26 5 O: Wow. So you were able to take your seniority and you could either retire or apply LC: You could go to another government agency, but the main thing if you had to leave, you had that little bit without penalty that you could take with you. RC: Pennsylvania. He was very friendly; he was on the committee that oversaw the canal. He was the one that introduced it. O: Is that Murtha? RC: No, not Murtha. LC: RC: O: Okay. But eventually it was approved. RC: Well, the sickout was interesting because down from the Pentagon came all this saying anal with the Navy. run the canal. The people who went out got scared, and the people who were
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 27 6 have view. O: But the strike happened during the Carter A dministration. RC: negotiations. LC: It was becau se it was before John went to Washington. RC: O: Okay. We can ballpark. RC: O: Yeah, this is the first time anyone has mentioned this. LC: Well, not many people understood wha t was going on under the table behind closed doors. RC: butt about people in the Canal Zone anyway. There was a fifty year fight between the Pentagon, the Panama Canal Commissi on and the State Department. And the State Department oriented everybody coming down, and it had all the stuff about all the manicured lawns and people who were taken care of so royally who d friends from
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 28 7 down at the embassy and I dealt with them an awful lot during this time. They used to tell me about their orientation before coming here and la ughing about it. One colonel that was the head of the unit out of Fort Clayton who I worked with i n Boy Scout s after about two years, he said, you know, this or I would try to stay here and work. He said, they really poisoned me about what you people in the Canal Zone were like, and I found you to be very good people like those in my hometown. O: So the Pentagon gave him a certain image of the civilians. LC: Very much. RC: ; heard it from people in the military and in the embassy. O: Interestingly enough, even t hough I was not in country as much in Fort Davis, we heard the same thing about civilian life actually. [Laughter] The way it was them and you guys are in the jungle. It was interesting, because interviewing a couple yesterday they said, oh, we had great relations with the military. And I
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 29 8 have been different for officers, maybe. RC: Army, and the governor was a major general and the lieutenant governor was a colonel who was shortly to be a brigadier gen eral unless they screwed up. Engineering department was overseen by military engineers. It was a combi nation thing, and actually the Secretary of the Army was essentially the president of the board of directors for the Panama Canal. That went back from the Clayton or especially out at Amador with the Navy and the Marines and the Army, relations were quite good. But I think a lot of people in the Canal Zone aughters running around with enlisted men. If you had a daughter and had been here, you probably would have taken the same view. O: Right. [Laughter] So there was the State Depar t ment, Pentagon there were different groups who saw themselves as having a st ake in the Canal Zone. LC: There was a real battle, which I only heard of just through Dick and other forces about who really was going to control the Canal Zone. There was this continual battle between the powers that be, being those three forces. It was a little tug and pull all the time.
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 30 9 RC: When the treaty went into effect, you can guess some of the winnings because the head of the agency became a lieutenant good, who was very good. He came with for me a bad reputation because I knew some people up at Corey Heights that worked for him. He was prone to do things like getting everybody up at two in the morning to go to have a review of some situation, which I thought was just a good show of his power. But he never demonstr ated any of that while he was head of the agency. I worked with him a lot, sat in a lot of meetings, and I just thought he was excellent. LC : That was General McAuliffe RC: Yeah. LC: Dick, tell him about your invitation when you met in the treaty negoti ations with some of the very, very wealthy power players in Panama. RC: Oh, that was interesting. There were a few of us that came over that were not in the power structure that much in the Canal Zone or in the company. But it included three guys: one who was the foreign minister, and two had been foreign ministers, and some very powerful people. They were essentially trying to bribe en pro seem to me our country should really control Panama, this is Panama. Then after that, I was never contacted but some of the other people that were in that group
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 30 were contacted by McAuliffe no, that was Parfitt at tha t time; that was before the treaty -General Parfitt, who in kind of a general way suggested it would really be better to leave all the routes and negotiation to the pros in the State Department and the Pentagon. LC: But you were pretty well offered, weren RC: Later on I was offered, but the time I was offered quarter bribes was when we were building we put together the ten million dollar contract f or the retired people from Pan Canal in Panama, the old black folks downtown. Before the treaty was over, I managed to con money out to build a home for them, a silo And that was done through one of the three, at that time, big clinics in Panama. We had it out on bid and the largest, most famous clinic at that time, the Centro M dico Paitilla, and the head of that guy offered me a bunch of stuff. I sort of shut them very unhappy if they had. [Laughter] But the time that we all got everybody else O: Oh, offered something to support the treaty. RC: concrete. O: Your feeling was that it was offered by private individuals or by..?
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 31 RC: Well, there was a mixed group. Fernando what the hell was his last n ame? he studied engineering, set up the first television station, two radio stations, and by the time I knew him he was rich as Midas. Eleta, Fernando Eleta. He had nothing to do with the government and some of them were very much in bloody or deadly at that time. There was a lot in the newspapers and there were angry feelings, a lot of worry about the direction Panama was taking. But people on both sides of the spectrum or all seven sides of the spectrum could sit s so much coming out against the treaty in the United States, both in the United States but some of it originating here, that they really thought it would be nice to have some people thought of as leaders in the Canal Zone come in on that side. Essentially do anything, just went to a meeting. O: What were your impressions of Noriega? RC: [Laughter] Noriega was evil. There were some very bad things done when the thre e colonels were in power, because there was a lot of opposition to that. Some of the video that you saw t know whether you saw the video we were looking at yesterday that I put together is fin ally after Operation Just
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 32 Cause, they were able to dig up the graves. There were students that disappeared and other people that disappeared that could be identified. My own he was an evil man and he had a technique, almost inborn, of reading people and knowing what their cou while this was happening, pictures were being taken to archive that could be used later to get rid of you. It was interesting. We were in Sum merville South Carolina. We lived in Charleston for a while and I bought a car from an ex colonel who had been involved in that and almost lost his career over me exactly what happened. But anyway, he got involved in Noriega this way down here as a colonel, and almost des troyed his career because if he wanted Coralia and Noriega and his relationship with the troops and the officers? LC: Well, I do folklore in Panama and one of my colleagues is Coralia Hass n de Llorente. Her husband was a captain in the military, and her brother was one of the very high colonels working with Noriega. RC: He was like the general staff. He was one of half a dozen main guys.
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 33 LC: Colonel Hassn. And Colonel Hassn was just a happy just doing his job, but Noriega was able and would off er them in this hotel, they would offer them women, they would offer them booze, whatever they wanted. He himself I think personally had a certain charisma among his officers, and they were just schmoozed and pulled in to be very faithful. Then, they were very afraid of him because they knew his techniques, they knew what he was doing, and it could happen to them. So loyalty that was gratuitous in the beginning then became mandatory if you wanted to save your life. RC: get off. But this spilled over into the child of a corporal was really sick and in the hospital, something from Noriega would show up or even Noriega himself. He extended himself for the soldiers and for the officers in kindly, supporting ways as well, to o. LC: In the true patrono system that is known in Panama, and so he did become also as well as evil, he also became the patrn. O: Yeah, he had a certain charisma. LC: Yeah, and under the patrono system is, again, the peon works for the you know, he als o gives them the birthday party, he gives them all of the Catholic type of thing, he pays for the marriages. The patrn is the one that really supports in times of celebrations.
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 34 O: There has to be some kind of reciprocal LC: O: s a responsibility of RC: shit falls on the household, the patrn shows up with a shovel. [Laughter] O: There was a perception that, at least in the beginning, that the U.S. either tolerated or even openly supported Noriega. Did you see that? RC: perception, although I do know that the president of Panama Noriega through the middle group in Panama these are military folks attached to the embassy working with the Panamanian a rmy that the re were guns and other supplies going out of the back door of the embassy to Noriega literally up until the time that the war started. So we had a little trouble with the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing as well. This I really know. LC: Arias, Arnulfo? And you have to know the history of our Arnulfo, what a dictator
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 35 World War? RC: N o. Yeah, he was, but we need to go back further because he got a beca, scholarship to go to Germany to study neurosurgery in the early 1930s, and he medical school at Harvard so he United States and started the Panameista Party and made a symbol with a lightning bolt that was yellow on a purple background. You may still see some and the arnulfistas are still a powerful party. But then he organized his party really very much on a fascist level, and he was very close personally to the German ambassador to Panama and the Japanese ambassador to Panama. There was a lot of tic tac toe going on in 1940 and 1 941. One of the tic tac toes is that L loyd Areo which is a German airline, was building an airport in the jungle of Colombia within a hundred and fifty miles of Panama. And they were bringing in Heinkel 110s, which is a bomber ; they were calling them fast mail planes. Franklin Roosevelt pushed and paid for Colombia to take this over. That threw Arnulfo out at that time because s of how he was kicked out, but he was throw n out three times, twice by the United States, and
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 36 some connivance from Corey Heights, which was the high command for the milit ary here. LC: So even though you had two bad peas in the pod, which is the worst pea that you throw out? I think that was that time when the three colonels came to power and the U.S. saw, we better back the colonels rather than Arias. RC: Well, there was the hassle between the three colonels. At that time, Noriega was in a group of Panamanians in Mexico no. Torrijos had gone to Mexico, and Noriega was in charge of the area up by the Costa Rican border. W hen Torrijos came back, he came to Panama through San Jose, Costa Rica and then they started a march down the isthmus sort of like Mussolini marching in the 20s on Rome. And they pick ed up people as they came along; there would have been no Torrijos w ithout Noriega, which was probably why Torrijos was so Castro LC: RC: Oh, yeah. LC: From an American perspective, if you had the elected president in Panama who was Arnulfo, and knowing the history of Arnulfo and he was a little crazy and
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 37 then these colonels coming to power, who would you choose to back? I think at O: Yeah. I mean, you had mentioned RC: [Laughter] I think we took the wrong choice, personally. LC: But there was a less RC: Tha is a nave fool. O: And there are the broader broader region, hemisphere. RC: That was a lot o f the reason for the treaty. Holding onto it Torrijos beat the hell out of us in terms of propaganda, in terms of moving towards the treaty. And all of Latin America talked about the heathens to the north, the shark and the sardines. LC: I would also like to say in terms of your experience in Panama was really within mil groups in other countries in Latin America, and I think that was the entrance in terms of, the U.S. was very interested in SOUTHCOM and what they were eople we talked to that were off to Peru, were off to Argentina, were off. We knew exactly
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 38 RC: Oh, we knew about it. LC: What was happening with the SOUTHCOM and their involvement all through South America. So I think your comment is very important becaus e at that time it was not just Panama. RC: It was a huge C.I.A. center, it was a huge listening post. It had people that read newspapers from all over Latin America every day to find little bits of information. It seemed like there was one period of time everybody we met turned out to be associated with the C.I.A. in some way. A lot of what we were doing Lila was doing folklore studies out there, and she got a guy she met, George Archer, who was a good photographer and was set up to do photography and work ed with him for a while. All of a sudden, he and his wife just split. [Laughter] They disappeared, the two red George went. LC: George went back to C.I.A. RC: But his wife, it turned out later I found out from other people, was with the agency. LC: So there was a lot going on. RC: It was an interesting place. LC:
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 39 O: We needed Arthur Miller to write a book about Panama, right? [Laughter] LC: Yeah. O: taken well over an hour already, and I know me ask this question: how often do the two of you go back to Panama? RC: urbulent during the last years right up through Just Cause. I was on a hit list, carried a radio around for a year and a half, two years. A message came through hammerblow I was to get hold before where there was a telephone, had a number to call and an armored vehicle would pick us up. We had big Ford sedans with blackened windows that would drive up in front of our house. We lived next door to the head of the Marine Bureau and he was also o n that list. Six guys with crew cuts and muscles under tight T shirts would get up and go through some kind of exercise and get back in the car and drive away. These wer e Panamanian Guardias who clearly had a right to be there because it was Panama by that time. None of this really got through to me. I tolerated that all very well, but after it was over when I watched the new government go into Panama. Endara got married to a Chinese chippy, then he decided to haul into the c athedral for and he lived in the cathedral what for a month or six weeks, just some kind of crazy business. They were fighting like cats and dogs. Two people that I had pushed Panamanians for hi gher
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 40 positions like bureau directors got caught for acting like Panamanians with contracts. One of them, for example for this cut wi dening now, that started about 1990, as a matter of fact. There were twenty seven separate contracts involved and he was either a part owner or on the board of directors or in some way associat ed with seventeen of the twenty seven, and me. My friends used to say, well, just let Panama be Panama, forget about it. I was not really able to do that. I was quite angry whe come back I guess I came back for some depositions later, but beside that we that we had an apartment in what was Corey Heights for three weeks in Janu ary and February, which is the early dry season, the best part. We come down every her folklore again, and our contacts and friends. longer, a nd I had no interest in doing so. The part that got me was I guess I expected more of the Panamanians, and I thought that the Panamanian dead and the U.S. dead from Just Cause deserved better out of Panama than we were getting. O: Now when you talk to ot her folks in the reunion, do you find yourself what do you talk about in -?
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 41 RC: Oh, at this reunion I talk about old days or playing tennis or swimming or mutual be with a few people that I would talk to. I think you were there when Rich Wainio maybe not. LC: RC: Tampa, an d he was the chief economist for the Panama Canal at the end. I would talk to him. I go back and talk to some of my good friends in Panama, who were people that I talked to a lot when I lived there. So there would be people that I trust, but aside from tha because everybody expected Panama to screw it up in three years when the p iqueish about. LC: very many places in a tropical, lush environment that you could go to the beach within an hour, an hour and a half. If you were hunting, you could go down to the Da rin, you could go hunting. If you were a birder, you just go half an hour out to Gamboa and go on Pipeline Road and you see some of the most beautiful birds in the world. If you liked SCUBA, you could go over to the Caribbean and in that regard, fishing o ut in the bay, some of the best fishing in the world. People, even the blue collar workers, they could afford a boat and things were kept
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 42 think artificially cheap but it was a time which everybody could afford to do anything like that that they wanted to do. RC: uished so that it was not expensive to have your boat at the yacht club. The yacht club was built by Pan Canal people off duty. If you had a little boat, you could afford t o have it out there. As soon as the treaty occurred, that was gone. You had to be LC: To Panamanians. RC: To Panamanians, or like it would be in the United States, mostly. LC: And so, I was invol ved in education. And one of the things that was very evident to the counselors at the secondary school was that Panama was so seductive in its lifestyle for people growing up in Panama, that kids graduating from the high school, they wanted to stay there. They would do anything that they could; they would take a mediocre job in order to stay in Panama because the lifestyle was so beautiful. In fact, Dick with our own kids we went to Panama thinking that we would travel internationally with the kids on our vacation. Then one day Dick came home and said, you know what? We got to get our kids back to the States. Because what he was finding in his interviews with adolescents in the adolescent clinic the same mentality of wanting to stay here and it being what they called this third world of kids growing up in the military outside of the United States, not
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 43 really feeling comfortable as being U.S. citizens. So, probably when the kids were about eight, something like that, every year we either sent them back with relatives to the States, or we took all our vacations back to the United States. O: Back to the States, okay. LC: shing so that there would be no alternatives for them to want to stay in Panama at that time, and to have their higher education in the United States. RC: By the time we came back in 1970, it was clear that the days of the Canal Zone were numbered. That wa s before all this treaty stuff even started, but it was clear. O: So you wanted to make sure your kids would be able to adapt to life outside LC: Back into the States. O: But probably not everyone probably shared that belief, right, in terms of childrear ing at the time? RC: I think a lot of people just had their children here, and when they got out of high school, they sent their son to go to the States, whatever happened. set up the difference between people that have a lot of college edu cation and blue
PCM 009; Cheville; Page 44 that. But there were a lot of kids that stayed here, no matter what, and are still here. LC: Still in Panama. RC: Just doing anything in Panama to get by. Some of them have done fairly well. If skill needed in Panama, LC: But in terms of the whole feeling and the Canal Zone and the comfort and just the b eauty and just it was easy. It was a great life. I think that what you talked about earlier in terms of people looking back on that, most people feel like, wow. And they did have something very special there. There was something very unique about the Canal Zone. RC: both about twenty nine or thirty when we went to Panama the first time. concludes without further information.] [END OF INTERVIEW] Transcribed by: Jessica Taylor 12/11/2013 Audit Edited by: Matt Simmons 1/24/2014
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