An interview with Albert Wilder

Material Information

An interview with Albert Wilder
Albert Wilder ( interviewee )
Ortiz, Paul ( interviewer )
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
87 minutes


Subjects / Keywords:
Panama Canal


General Note:
Interviewed by Paul Ortiz

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
PCM 010 Albert Wilder 7-3-2010
PCM 010


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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 or call the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program office at 352 392 7168. October 2013


PCM010 Interviewee: Captain Albert Wilder Interview er: Dr. Paul Ortiz Date: July 3 2010 O: with Captain Wilder, and first of all I want to thank you, Captain Wilder, for agreeing to be interviewed. I really appreciate you taking your time out. I wonder if we could star involvement with the Panama Canal and the Canal Zone first started. W: Where do you want me to start? O: Maybe when you first arrived, or did your parents have any involvement, or did it begin with your generation? W: Faraline for eight years, and I was a skipper with Faralines for about five years, from 1942, I guess it was, to 1950. Five of those years I was master of the ship going to a few ships going to West Africa, on a regular run, which was the requirement in the Panama Canal to become a pilot. You had to have an unlimited license, and then sailed at least one year as Master in an ocean going ship. So I left Faralines in 1950, during the Korean War, when I _______ in the Navy as Lieutenant Commander in operations _______ on the ship. My twin brother, who had also sailed with Faralines, had sailing with Faralines, he put an application in to


going to sea for three months at a stretch, he put in an application, and so did I. He happens to be my twin brother, so his name is Arthur, and my name is Albert. well as ________, and third mate, and second mate, and so on. And they got my application, and it was A. Wilder, and about the same ships as he had been maste r of, I had been master of, so they put mine in the round file. They thought down to Panama with my family. O: Can you talk a little bit about your earlier life? Did your parents, your father, have any involvement in the Navy, or was that something W: No, he w as in the National Guard during the war, but he never go to sea, and he stayed in the United States, but he was in the National Guard for a going is concerned. I think I had an uncle Phin neus My brother and I, when we graduated from high school in Weymouth, Mass, we 1936, cadets of the Munson Line, I was a juni or in high school, I went to South America and back as cadets. And then when we graduated from high school, we both went to Massachusetts, they call it the Massachusetts Nautical School, it was a three masted barque, a sailing ship, and we spent two years


before the local inspectors in 1939 and got our third mates license, unlimited. Both of us shipped out, it was A the same ship. I was on the eight to twelve watch, and he relieved me at midnight and the second mate that was coming on watch said, after about While on the school ship th ough we got ashore and we made a voyage to Eu rope on this three masted bark The Nantucket. We had an auxiliary engine coal get tattooed, so we did. So we went to Coleman, it was on East Main Street, tattoo artist. In fact, he has his exhibition in the Newport News Maritime, anchor that he put on me. And my brother got the same thing. And he wanted to k 1938, what do you think that cost? O: dollars? W: Yeah, twenty five cents. Fifty cents with initials. Anyways, we had a uniform similar to the ones in the Navy. Navy enlisted men. And so we came back, board ship, and of course the news has spread around the ship before we got there met us at the gangway and says,


to sail A O: Now when you sa W: Sailing as a sea man. An able sea man. We both were on the Beacon at one time, about six months, a tanker, running from New York to Aruba and Boston and so on, ________, mostly. But then he got, we both ended up on the Olgra. He got the th ird mates job for a while, and I was boats man and we made the short trips, we were cold though, running from New York to Norfolk or Virginia, either Newport News or the other place. Anyway, sometimes, as boats man, sometimes I had them in a crew member, and sometimes you was on the bridge. I always got even with him when he was a crew member. Anyway, we both shipped out that time, you had to sail at least a year on your license, so we both Boston in front second mate on the William Hooper, A liberty ship, and I went second mate on the Daniel Morgan. And we load, I made my ship in Willmington, and we went to New York and loaded air planes and so on, and ammunition. O: That was the Liberty ship also? W: yeah, and he was in, I forgot what port he loaded, but anyway, we went into Hallifax in Nova scotia waiting for a convoy, and who should come in the next


da y? The William Hooper! So I waved to him as they went by the _______ and basin, Bedford Basin. And then he took off for England, and I took off for Iceland and we had a gun crew aboard an d we put what we call a fog buoy streaming back aft, so that the ship a convoy, you could see the fog buo I think it was, fog set in over the oce an there, and we had a gun c rew fog with a three inch fifty gun they had on the bow, and before the mate could stop, co uld shout that it was a fog buo y, they fired 2 shots, and one of them hit the fog buioy. Which is darn good shooting cause the comma nde r blinked over us and said the fog buo we got into Iceland and I could, just outside of Recovick, and would com e in the nex t day? The William H ooper! So he anchored beyond us, and at walky talkies or anything, we did it all mostly by signal light, so I watched them to see where they were anchored. So both he and I had stood in charge of full watch, in the afternoon and in the Morning. So around midnight I get this long tube that had a trigger on Willia m H forth. He was a half a mile away, but anyway we got underway finally, I think it was July first, somewhere there, and on the way to Russia we got attacked by the submarines, I forgot how many ships were sunk, w e ran into fog, and we had twenty six ships I think it was, more or less, along with the heaviest protected


convoy that ever left Iceland, bound for Mearmax, and arch angel. And we proceeded till July fourth when we got attacked by a squadron of torpedo pl anes and we saw 2 torpedoes coming for my ship, I was se cond mate, and the skipper he headed into the same course as the torpedoes were, and you could see them running down one side and the other, I looked over and I saw the William Hooper, the William Hoo per got hit, right in the engine room, and it drifted back, on, word came from the British Admiral ,who was in charge of the convoy, the escort, which was about fifteen naval ships, including an aircraft carrier, were to leave the convoy, and the convoy was to proceed to its destination at its upmost speed. separated. We were attacked by two dive bombers ______ the Farefeild City was one of the ships that was unarmed, we had a three inch fifty forward deck, anti aircraft gun, and aft we had a four inch surface, but was useless for airplanes, so we had this good gun crew that shot that bu oy. So two dive bombers come at us and drop three bombs a piece and they dropped them once trying to startle the ship, cause the captain would zig zag, and they missed us, and I think we got one of those planes with that three inch fifty, forward. And about two hours later, here comes four dive bombers. And I think we got one out of that one, but all the rest of them missed and I think the last attack was about three ho urs later. It was day light though entire time, I think it was about five of them that came over, and the last on e got an air miss back aft simply because when they try to seat the shell into the three inch fifty, the barrel was so hot that


the shell contracted of the barrel expanded, it was short of going into being set good by about two inches. So I went back aft t o get a, ________ crew, but we tried to help the gun crew, and I got a Picher of cold water to pour down the room, ruined the steering gear room, and with no rudder we w ere helpless. So The chief mate launched his boat before the order was given, he got kind of excited, he launched his boat and tried to get into it before it got into the water, an d we was crushed against the side of the ship were they boats are, so we lost that pulled the toggle on the life raft and jumped in the water after it. And that water, the engi ne room usually takes their water temperature every morning and every evening, and the water was thirty six degrees, and I was swimming in it. I practically walked to that raft from here to that plant over there, with that water, I got out of it. And comma ndeered one of the life boats, and got back in. and took side and I climbed aboard, went up to my room soaking wet, took my clothes off pair of pants and shirt, and I got back into the life boat. The Captain had all his papers, had his log book and so on, he rapped a cor k life jacket around so it all of a sudden, a torpedo hit the ship. Boom! there she went, I could still see it,


she just broke in half. She went this way and went down and t he old four inch gun fired as it short circuited or whatever it was, and made the thing fire and she sunk. And the su bmarine come up, a lot of debris around and so on, so we had 3 life boats, one had a motor in it and we were going to hook them up, which w e did, the third life boat was all holes from machine guns that had been fired at us she had a lot of holes in it, but anyway. We got shot we started heading and the submarine surfaced, and the captain came on the _____ tower, and yelled over, know? So Sullivan quickly changed the subje any good, what otor _______ _______ for the submarine, and he was of course spe e dier then we were, so eventually he was out of sight. So we were going to try to make Nova Zembla, Which is an Island there off the White Sea. It had been a couple of days sailing, but anyway here comes this ship, and by God he was coming toward us, and who was it? It was a Russian tanker. So he slowed it down, and we got aboard. He had a crew already that had been sunk Harris, so that was three crews for


one set of life boats. So if got su nk on this thing you would know it. So we got aboard and the Captain, myself and the third mate went up to the bridge, and one of the A d we all went in and he said to the A he Russian Captain spoke where you fifties, one forward and one aft. Well our gun crew had been up since the first of July, now this was the fifth. So they went forward, Henson was in Charge, and they had empty shells all around them, well I guess they were in the convoy, I and thr ow the empty shells over the side and so on, got the gun ready, they and all of a sudden they start to dive. O: German? W: Yeah, German, so the gun forward, pow, pow, pow, as fast as they could load we got aboard the ship it was suppose to be a twin screw and he heard rumors. Twin screws and she was fastest thing, she did ten knot s, the same speed as And we kept thos


morning same thing. Two dive bombers come over, drop their load and leave. They never hit us, but b oy, they come close. I remember the Captain and I were standing up on the bridge and you could see them, if you could see the bombs them, man you can hear them coming you kno w? I looked over at poor old whoa ake get a good bearing on you, so he decided to zig zag too. Anyway we come in to, we picked up two days, we picked up land. We came into a nice sheltered basin harbor, dropped the anchor, daylight of course, and everybody went to bed, including the lookout, mate, skipper, everybody! Eight Captain Sullivan woke up and there was nobody around, group forward, we were come close they fired at it! O: Was it an American Plane? W: And the Plane Veered off and somehow another you see crosses on the wings, not the stars like we had, German yeah! That son o f a gun was going to drop


O: What port was that? nt ashore, because we were going to be on our way as soon as everybody got rested. I always wondered what it was. But anyway we went into the White Sea and anchored in the Ark Angel before docking. So they had two Rescue ships in the Convoy, one was the Ra ffilin and I forgot the other one, but anyway the Raffilin anchored about a half a mile away or less, about a quarter of a mile, but you could loud hail them with a loud hailer, you could yell over. Once the Raffilin got anchored someone got a hold of the Raffilin was built to carry, to rescue sunken ships, the crew anyway, and I wanted to know if they had the crew of the William Hopper aboard, dered of us, we we gave them our clothes and so on, they were going to wash them, and iron them or whatever they did, well they gave us pajamas and we had cots that they ha d put out. We went to the _______ Hotel, and they had cots out for us and so on. And two days later here come the clothes and they piled them in the corner, about that that high as a suit case


know if I got the same pants or not but you went in and grabbed what you could! And my brother had been ashore, he got ashore before I did so he went around to a store and, through high school I played the guitar he played a mandolin we used to play at dances during the in termission, during high school dances and so on. He picked a mandolin cadet aboard the ship traded the captains sweater for a guitar. So now he had a mandolin and I had a guitar. So there were abo ut five hospitals there, so we went in and around Russia for about two months, every other day we would go to one of the hospitals and give them a song. And they sent a woman up from Moscow to teach us a couple of Russian songs. She said the words and I wr ote them down the way it sounded and then we memorized it. We lived in Mexico at one time for six years, so we knew Spanish and we had a ________ and ________ and a couple of others that we sang to them. And I guess the people liked it. Most of the casualt ies were frostbite. There was one poor cadet, British He had I think it was these two fingers left, and on the left hand I think he had these two fingers. He was only about seventeen years old, poor kid, but he was in good spirits and I remember we were playing one time and this poor guy who had lost his legs both of them, and know? Anyway, there was also a Cuban, and I played a Spanish song I think it


was _______ or one of them, and he had both hands cut off,and you could see tears coming because nobody spoke Spanish you know? Just Russian songs, So he heard that Spanish s ong it really brought him back. Well anyway, we were going to insist that they fly us out of there, And after two weeks we insisted we go back on the Navy ships, and after about a month we were going to find out how long it would take us to walk across Sib eria They did what they were going to do, they doubled us up on the ships that were going back. So we had. O: How many ships did you loose on the convoy? W: About twenty six, out of thirty six. O: So it was almost disastrous W: O 17, the even wrote a book about it. And what they did was they doubled us up on the ships going back, and some poor guys got sunk on the way up and sunk on the way back. They sunk four on the way back, b bad but it was still bad. O: Had most of the ships been sunk without the escort on the way over? W: yeah well the escort left us Scattering procedure, scattering procedure at your upmost spend which was about ten knots, Which you could run that fast.


Fairfeild City they Some of them had some good guns on them went under, just unarmed. Anyway we doubled up, we got permission for my brother and I to come back onto the same ship, which we did in fact, it was a British ship and I forgot the name of it. But they brought us back to Blasko and we stayed there for two weeks in a small town, Hamilton I think it was, outside of Blasko I think there was some _____ because merchant ships, when the ship is sunk or the, your pay stops. Your job is gone. In the Navy your money continues, your salar y continues. So we were actually broke more or less, then we got to Scotland And I think the Red Cross gave us some money. Anyway, we doubled up and after two weeks the put us aboard the Queen Mary, about ten thousand troops going back home, and it was on ly a cabin for two, they put six of us in one cabin, and like the British always do, they always had a sing song. So _____ and I had to get that mandalin and we had a sing song. We were asked to play and sing, so we did. So we sang in the main lounges of t he Queen Mary for the crew. Oh! By the way when we were in Moscow we made direct recordings. The gal that taught us the Russian songs had us recorded and about three or four hillbilly songs you know bill hilly, know, and then when we got to England Blasko they sent a fellow down from the BBC, and we made a couple of records for them, whe


you got Boy Chip and second mates, we were both licensed second mates, so we both shipped out immediately afterwards. The ship came in to Boston, and originally from Boston, so the folks where there when they met us, went down to New York and shipped out again. I shipped out a second mate on the African Dawn, very nice, at the time it was the American South African liner. I stayed aboard her until I got chief mate, got a tie in for chief mate, and then I went on the Liberty ship as chief mate for a year. Going to Europe and so on. as master, I got married about the same time. I met this gal when I was chief mate, when I was in New York, Brooklyn. Had a date Friday, Saturday, Sunday she said she had to go see a girlfriend. I sailed Monday for six months from New York down to South Africa, up through the Red Sea and back, it took six months. Came back and we married two weeks later. And out marriage lasted fourty fou r years. W: yeah, so everybody says how many, of course I was three years running as master to West Africa. And we hit about fifteen ports down and back. So


O: Wow. Did you ever keep in contact with any of the other members of the, any of the survivors of the convoy over the years? W: A couple maybe. It faded. They died or whatever. Cause we were spread out we scattered as soon as we got to shore. And the crew of course, not the officers but ship out for a haul, and get a different company, and a different ship so, you lost track quicker. The new officers of course, we usually shipped out at that time and the company usually tried to keep the officers aboard ships so, but the only problem the n was, they only gave you two week vacation a year, and being master of the ship, you were done. Like if you want to ord it. But at that time before I Africa and you would probably stop in New York, so you would be about ten days in New York till you go home, then grand time for two days then the ship would go to Philadelphia and Baltimore, Norfolk, back up the coat of New York and much time at home, Time enough to get your wife impregnated so each of my kids were about three years apart Being a twin, my brother was married first, he had a boy, then I got married and had a girl. And he I did, about a year and a half, and six years later after I got there, guess what? in


fact _______ called me from the hospital, called from the hospital about three in phone. And I and not only is he left handed, but he looks like his uncle. O: Really wow, strong family resemblance low and you we had time together her, and all of a sudden my wife gets a boy, my wife would laugh like unny at society, Tom Wilder. O: Wow, that must have been something. I mean you must have had a lot of stories to tell each other about the convoy, and the war. W: shot at. We were attacked on the East Coast of Africa heading to the Indian Ocean. We were attacked by a submarine when we were in a convoy heading north to the Red Sea. And we put nets over, our chief made us, on the Liberty ship, he put anti submarine nets or something on each side, put over the booms that brought these nets aboard and damned if we had a torpedo in the next that


ordinance or whatever it was, they took the submarine and gave him a rec e ipt for it. So he had a rec e ipt on a German sub, torpedo delivered to the Navy So that was pretty good. O: well life as a pilot and the Canal, sounds like it may have been a little less dramatic. W: No it was more! O: it was more dramatic, ok. O: sure, every transit was traumatic because entering the locks whether you were going to whack them or not you know? The difference in the pilotage in Panama then any other place, Boston, Baltimore, anything, the pilot comes aboard at the sea buoy don can make it in an hour, sticking to the speed limit of course, the Panama Canal, especially south bound, the called you, intact we had Shafer driven cars to pick us up at th e house and deliver us to either the boat house or to a pier to take a ship. And you were given a t ime to be at Gatoon. Now you bet ter make that time, the matter whatever. You got to make sure you get there on time otherwise, the locks are idle and wasting time, and you are holding back the huge power ships and so on. So your schedule, you have to maintain it, maybe you could pick up a couple minutes, my brother and I always did. In fact I got to the cut one time about six


Gambolee you take your time going the locks. I pasted Gambloa and I was approaching Cookaratcha bend and I heard the dispatcher cal ambloa time, _______, for him. But my brother and I would always try to gain time, a lot of them just drifted and some would wait here and there, and everywhere, they would call down about it b ut we had to make a certain time to be there and we had to be there, otherwise you rode with a senior pilot for three months and then you were let loose on a yacht or something. And then you get three hundred and fifty feet I think was the first one, and i t went up to, the biggest ones, nine hundred and fifty feet lo ng ships, which were called Pana max size. ready for about ten years, it wil l take that long. But anytime you approached any got what?, twenty or, figure it out, on either side, hundred and ten foot wide and the thing to build up what speed you want, or stop, same thing, it takes a while to stop the damn turbine, and she would drift a ballast and the wind blowing it one way or another, it was quite a job getting in and out of a lock wi


O: shuttle, when you have an eight hour watch more or less, kind of how long it took ips or lock down two ships at _________ and then you record of them. I made 2554 transits in a period of about thirty years. you got to know practically every ship, a libert y ship you knew everything was full ahead or get the thing going, a half ahead of motor star wait too long for your maneuver. But then you had to slow it down, at that time years ago they only had the old locomotives on a single wire, and if you got over to the tote at two knots. .they used to have men walking o n the side of the side walls that lined in case the locomotive failed or something they can put a line out and make it fast at a _______ before you hit the concrete. You would come in and if you over ran your locomotive, they are no used to you, so you had to get a speed of two knots or less, but you had to keep it coming. If you k icked it too much over speed whe into a lock or leaving. Y max size ships, or six hundred foot ships, they were extreme beam that you could go through was one hundred and six feet, you only had two feet on either side. Two feet on either side of a seven hundred foot sh ip, and your looking down the side and as soon


as you see day light disappear, you tell that l ocomotives to stop towing over were, or to break or whatever. In Gatoon there is no place for the water to go, squeeze water, it won have a current coming out because you have salt water and fresh water mixing on the surface, about ten feet down, and from there on it might be slack of whatever because the ships drawing thirty six feet, you got to figure on that. So anywa y you come in, you make the damn dest maneuver you know, the first nervous when he sees you heading towards the side wall and then bringing in th ones, no use in trying to g et smart with them, just get her up against the wood they called it on the center way, and slide her in. we ll her stern wants to go off and hit that knuckle over there, but you get on your locomotive finally and you break on him. So you finally get into th e lower chamber, and now you have to watch her when they give the water because there is a lot of turbulence she may set to one side or the other, they give you water on both sides, well if there is ot your ship


begins to slow down and when you got her on a half ahead, at half ahead at sea So s bulk carriers. They are nine hundred foot long, they got inch and a quarter plating, for about eight hundred feet, a battle ship forget it, a battle ship is tapered so that th e extreme beam is one hundred and nine feet, but its armor And about seven hundred fee t of that is inch and a quarter plating to where the see the water going up on the gate like this because there is no place for it to go on the side, or the bottom, so it goes up abo ut three or four feet on the gate, and back about twenty feet. And when she goes back about twenty feet you say to a speed is al and several miles of cut where they dug the rest for the ________. You go down the


had a navy ship one time, and we lost the plan, in other words, something went O: Did you ever have an incident where the ship did hit the side? W: Yep! The Sunkum In fact just lately the ship coming in was and she lost the plan right under the bridge and it drove ashore right by the bridge. Must have hit the, whatever it is they put for the bridge structure that goes down into the bed rock or something, but she was cross ways se get cross ways, and she lost the plan according to the paper. Well you figure they three hundred foot, and you figure one percent you have an accident, one percent of thirteen thousand is what? One hundred and thirty ships? something like that. But its only about one e ship, its going to watch his pilot, because the pilot is experienced, but you never know, you make mistakes. But the old man it is his ship but he better not interfere be cause you could push him ashore, as a pilot in Panama Canal is the only place in the world besides going into a dry dock where the pilot is solely in charge of the navigation of the vessel. The skipper stands by and is a witness to the


accident, but he can pick the ship out of the other side cap. O: Did you ever have to do that? ones. You get all types wh en you have over two thousand ships. you get a lot of ships through here, especially gray slide mate about initial Gatoon on the big ones the bridge is normally even with the control house which is on the upper level, and the control house operator is the guy that opens the gates and so on, after the lock master tells him to open them. So when he has nothing to do when the ship is going into the upper chamber, the bridge is just about even with the balcony there. And the control house operator normally comes out and talks to the pilot if he know them. You were watching the side wall and working your locomotives and he comes out Robby Robin son a very astute gentleman, a pilot, good friend, good pilot, and he went to the c


before we got there and when we got there, there was only about seventy five, just cleared and is going over to this grace boat and of course the guy pulled out the log book, the different initials, he was willing to bet that I had been there before. O: How did you communi cate with the locomotive? Walky talkie? Or? W: First when we got there it was all hand signals, they called it a silent lockage. Thi s was tow, this was point, bring the locomotive back to break, dock breaking, O: Where ther e locomotives on either side? Or one? W: well most ships, the average size, had six locomotives, two forward, two mid, and two as sort of a string line to bring the bow one way or another, you could control the stern with the rudder and the engine, bu the four locomotive forward you turn on four and you bring these two back to ___ and when you break you break on at least four locomotives or you can bring the bow locos back and break with six. But you usually break with four and send the two that were in the breaking position back aft they were always in a breaking


you use them to control the power. But now they have the new locomotives that are simpler to handle, they got two wires, and you can just put two forward and two aft. O: What types of changes did you see as a pilot over your three decades of service? Did things change much? W: Very slow, very slow, mostly the job is the same as far as the locks are especially in the cut and a little in the lake, but mostly in the cut. You have slides in the cut so it looks like hills of grain you get too steep a thing and it just flows in. s o they are dredging all the time in the cut. your association? W: yeah, the Panama Canal Pilots Association, I was president at one time, 1972 I think it was. Bu strike, but you could slow down. And we did slow down one time. There were one hundred ships anchored outside, but we were doing our job because the job said this is how you did it, you broug ht it in you tired it up to the center wall then you put your locomotives on and then you moved up and picked up your side wall and with that you went in under locomotive speed so they could have traction and when you got up there you waited for the gates to be opened and recessed


before you towed again and man that takes time. So, what you do, you come in you pick you locomotives up on the fly and then you get in as soon as you tow, if you water until the gates where closed naturally, so you when you were aft you quickly break, and when they ships in the water he gives you the water. And all gr avity, so when the water from the upper chamber comes down into the lower because the mot or that operates the gate is only about forty horse power, and when you see the gates crack, the gates are floating now, so very little suppose to tow till they get set inside the walls. B ut you can time it so that, in other words so you can time it so that O: And what was the, whe n you said you slow down, was that over an issue involving work load? W: no, you see we always had an extention with the governor, with the marine of course, so our wages were kept bellow them. But we were the highest paid employees of the canal, besides the governors and directors. So we liked to have more. Every other pilot in any other port in the United States earned twice as


much as we were getting, and there job is t o get the ship, no time schedule, just get her in there, there is no stopping and starting mostly. Sometimes they go to anchor and sometimes they go along side the pier. And there was no time set, you sent the pilot up and he got aboard and took the ship i n, that was his job. North of Virginia they used two pilots. They used a sea pilot would come in off the pier, and the tug boat skipper would come aboard, he was the docking pilot. And the guy that brought it in from sea just sat back and waited for the g angway to go ashore, so the job was finished. South of Norfolk he does his own docking time schedule or anything, the pilot went aboard and when he got there, he took the ship in, nothing much. In Gatoon the ship would say, was five minutes late going into Gatoon and the next ship might be ten minutes late, and now the third ship in there, O: So it was a pretty stressful job? Did anything come out of the slow down? but they fired the President of the Pilots Association as well as the two other fellows, I forgot who they were. But, they hired them back the next day. O: So they retaliated against you guys? W: Yeah, but they were growing and moaning you know? You called in sick, and t a sick pilot out there. O: In what year did you retire Captain Wilder?


W: 1980, ah, wait a minute let me think, yeah, 1980. But I went back in 82, in retired, the y were running out of pilots. 62 was the cutoff date, and I came home happened. W: Yeah, that was it. But then two years later, I met an assistant port captain in, where the hell was I, I guess I was in North Carolina at the time, an d i wanted to worked for another year so total I worked for thirty years. I would have never lef t t been mandatory retirement, cau se, even in my day, there were assistant port Captains. And they got the same pay, and went and read drafts to anal, it meant climbing a ladder, or going down a ladder, sometimes a gangway, not often, but sometimes a gangway, mostly a pilot ladder. I remember I took a friend of mine I grew up with in high school, he came down to visit me and said he wanted to make nurse


boat. Well a nurse boat is six hundred and some odd feet, so you have to free board her so it was about thirty feet, well it looked like it anyway. Canal crew came aboard, we get over to Bal boa and they are suppose to get off at the basin, them? Do u think you can do that? Do you think yo u can do that when you get did was, I got on the ladder first the ladder see? And we went down that way. And of course I step ped onto the grabbed his arm and pulled him. My brother in law, went through one time, and putting hi s hand down on the pilot launch, he puts leave that, Get O: Well, Captain Wilder I know you have a lot of things to do at the reunion, and we spent abou t an hour, I really appreciate your time. W: I could go on forever! chance to talk about? W: Well I had a few accidents. O: Uh huh, ok.


W: one was, I will never forget the name of the ship, the Heminactra she was a the locks of Merafloris s deep, turbine, slo so it went from Abbet to Ab, anyway he calls thirty, and it was about a quarter of six now ave to take bunkers, so I got down, and I was getting up to about ten knots now, and the piers coming in sight and the basin. When a ship is in shallow water, she tends to take a bigger circle, around. Well, pier 18 and _______ was heading this way, and we have docks here, here bow, and blump, and there she is! God, it ma


disturb the bed or the winch forward that heaves the anchors and makes fast with the stem, anyway, and put a big notch in the concrete pier, at the end of it. Ah jeez, so I ended up along side of it, I finally got it around, and the next day they put me on ______ file, I was two months, I guess it was a month, maybe longer, but I was dock foreman, no officer pay. I reported to the office the canal. One British skipper was going past the ship when it was along s ide, discharging its oil I think it was loaded with, but anyway, it was discharging along side of another ship, and you could see the bow from the canal, and the skipper, around too fast and hit the end of the pier, you see where the notch in the pier _____ tha t leaked oil, just fresh water. had. O: W W: Oh yeah, less than one percent.


O: Did you pilot after you retired any other port? pilot aboard because the old man coming from sea, everything looks awful narrow and s o on. So I was never ______ like most ports do. I know West Africa, and Langola Lebeda and Londa nice concrete docks and you could dock alongside them. And for a young fellow, I went skipper at twenty six years old, and you take a lot of chances and you years in Panama I know how, matter of fact, I al ways tried to dock it without, going along side of any of the piers, any size ship, you always had a tug, or two. screw, the stern will literally walk away from the pie, especiall y if the ship is loaded. rotation of the propeller, you use just one tug. But I tried every dock and I tried to dock it without using the tug. The tug was along side, charged to the _______, ring what em


about twenty feet off and try to push the whole thing in, what if the tug gets near? stream crashing without a paddle. I went from there after retirement, I went to Midland Mar itime Institute in ______ which is in Virginia. And I was instructing in ship handling on two simulators I had there. So I was sixteen years working that after I left the canal, and it was the same thing, but simulated work and I used to have fun when the in and back the hell out of her, it was a lot of fun. O: Do you ever go back to Panama? W: Yeah, my wife died, after fo rty four years of marriage my wife died, and we took her ashes and went down in ninety one and spread her ashes in _______ Bay. And we won a prize last year from the Society here, my wife and I, so, second wife, so we went down for four days, free. We were suppost to stay at a hotel in Coronado, but that was for youn g people so, I have three daughters I took down O: A lot of things have changed. W: Cocosolo cocosolo buildings and made roads, improving. I hope they continue, but as far as giving the Panama Canal away,


as a country, we built the canal, and then we gave it to them. We gave them the docks, we gave them the buildings, we gave t their relatives wanted their graves removed. We removed it at our expense, not the Panamanian expense get it back, place, Things were so, it was hard to fire you, unless you did something really rotten, such as murder, or somebody accused you of taking his wife, or somet hing like that, but outside of that, it was pretty tough to fire you, it was a government job so they give you a slap on the wrist, and outside of that you were pretty secure in a job. It was a good place to raise kids. O: Well Captain Wilder thank y ou so much for taking time to do the interview, I really appreciate it. W: Oh I enjoy it! W: but my twin brother, anything over and eighty foot beam they put two pilots on, they split the thing. One guy goes to Gambola and the other guy takes it from there, first and second half they call it, but anyway, I got aboard this ______ tanker, about six hundred foot, and I was half way through the lake I had the first half, my brother was standing outside the wing, enjoying the sunshine, and the skipp


[End of Interview]