An interview with Stephen Cartotto


Material Information

An interview with Stephen Cartotto
Physical Description:
74 minutes
Stephen Cartotto
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Panama Canal


General Note:
Interviewed by Matthew White

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
PCM 014 Stephen Cartotto 7-2-2010
PCM 014
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Full Text


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


PCM 014 Interviewee: Stephen Cartotto Interviewer: Matthew White Date: July 2, 201 0 W: Its July second approximately 9:15, Matthew White for the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program is interviewing Steve Cartotta C: Co rtatto. W: Co rtatto, my apologies. At the Panama Canal Reunion and first if you could why overview of your involvement with the Panama Canal just sort of the umbrella sort of C: My personal experience? W: Yeah, when did you get there? How long were you there? When did you leave? C: I was born there in 195 1 I was a third generation at that ti me and I left in 1971 so I was there about 19 years. Grew up there, went to school had a great life and work out. W: Ok ay at you said third gen eration. So talk to me a little about your ancestors when they got there, who they were. C: Well my grandfather he was John Eugene Ridge. He came from Pennsylvania Pittsburg area with three of his brothers. I got some notes here from him W: Sure, you be t. C: My grandfather came down in November of 1909, when he was 19. His two older brothers, Joseph Patrick Ridge was a steam shuttle engineer and he worked with


PCM 014; Cartotto; 2 the canal in 1905. Alowishes Peter Ridge in 1908 and then my mom thinks, in 1911 Stephen Mark Ridge and Leo Martin Ridge came down to work. W: I assume these are yours mothers relatives. C: s. My grandmother had a sister I think. L et And wrote my mother and said went to a dance. So before she was married, Larry had invited her to a dance yo etting married. So the brothers I think all the other brothers left Jack was the only one who stayed down there and he had eleven kids of which seven of them stayed down there; my mom and my uncle John, uncle Bob, uncle P at, uncle Buber and they worked in various areas. Uncle John worked for the water treatment plant, Uncle Bu ber and Uncle Bob both worked for the oil bunkering plant, you know filling ships that came through. W: Sure. C: Uncle Pat was a canal pilot. My mo m did various clerical work and she ended up being the secretary to the governor and I was born in [19]51, I have a sister. My dad went down in the army in 1933 he was a musician. W: Musician? C: Yeah he played in the army band. W: Okay.


PCM 014; Cartotto; 3 C: Another stor y my mom just told me was that they arrived in Panama on Saint they were going to be at Fort Clayton and they had a dance that night at the American Legion Club, I think it was in Amador and so the band had to play for that dance. Turns out that my grandfather and grandmother attended that dance so his future in laws were there. Th [19]48 but he got out of the army. Well while he was down there he played in various local orchestras as well, you know moon lighting. W: Sure. C: bivouac, somewhere and one of the guys I think he name was Abalino Munoz had an him into town, play their gig and bring him back. Anyway when he got out of the army he was from Patterson, New Jersey he went back to Jersey and the guys in the band came up W: But did he know your mom at that point? C: W: No, ok ay C: So he came back down to Panama and he played in little orchestras, he got hired with the canal company. He was in the they did; they handled the reimbursements for various expenditures and different


PCM 014; Cartotto; 3 in the claims branch. W: Now when you say orchestra, is i t a synthening orchestra, a jazz orchestra? C: It was more a jazz orchestra; he played flute, clarinet, saxophone, and he had dance bands in New Jersey. They would play proms and balls and stuff like that. It was a small like an eight or ten p iece orches tra. Had a violin some of the old pictures a violin, a saxophone maybe a guitar, drummer, a bass player, a piano player something like that. W: Was there a thriving jazz scene? C: Beat Bob much, he was pretty mainstream big band stuff. You know the swing swinger stuff Benny Goodman th at kind of stuff B ut some of the photos we have; it was a whatever, the dancing girls in their gli W: Now is this in Panama or the zone? C: W: Ok ay C: experience. There might be a bar at the local officers club or something you know where people would hang out but


PCM 014; Cartotto; 5 W: Did you ever go to see them play or had he hung it up by then? C: if his family was that musical but he also playe d the mandolin being as it was an Italian family and his parent s had come over from Italy so they worked in a silk mill. They were silk weavers. W: In Italy or in Jersey? C: In Italy and in Jersey. Yeah so he grew up around that but later years I went thro ugh their attic and I found this old tear drop shaped mandolin and by that time I was playing electric guitar so I took the pick guard off of the mandolin and put it on my electric guitar, ruined both instruments. He became chief of the claims branch over W: Ok ay yeah, but how did he meet your mother then ? C: Well she worked under him W: Oh, okay. C: Yeah she worked under him and she had been dating John Drummond who was second generation. His father had come down, I think his father was a commissary division for many years and Jack ended up in the treasury division. He later became the treasurer and Probably the early [19]40s ma ybe, dated my mom. Dated and dated and dated and he went off on vacation and one year she said, Jack by the time you leave I may not be wa iting for you when you get back. He


PCM 014; Cartotto; 6 thought, y He wen t on vacation and my dad proposed to her and she accepted. When Jack came back it was a done deal. W: You snooze, you lose yeah. C: And so they got married. My dad died in 1968, he had had several heart attacks shortly after I was born in the early [19]50s catch up to you. Not fatal heart attacks, fortunately, but anyway he died in [19]68 and a couple of years later my mom married Jack. W: e noticed that that people can rarely second, whose first generation Zo nian. Is that something that you knew about each other? Was there any status associated with that? C: No, I don The community was so, I guess. I now if the word is insular but self contained. The families had a history you know so, my grandfather had his own circle of friends and through the church organization or different community organization s and you know that kind of followed through my mom, she was a very social person; invo lved in the church and scouting and whatever else. There were lots of community organizations for the catholic community the protestant community, the J ewish community and so it was very interconnected and people knew who people were and sort of like you might kind of


PCM 014; Cartotto; 7 W: i ved? Where you went to school? Things of that nature. C: Well, I was born in Gorgas Hospital (Panama) in 1951 and first lived in Ancon, structure on concrete piers, breeze way garage underneath you know. Second place we moved to Los Rios which was I think a fairly new community at the time or at least the houses were new that we moved into. That was a single family unit, perched up on a hill. My mom she was I guess a pretty avid gardener and when the houses were built it was nothing but mud around them. There was no clumps of grass in which would then spread. I guess it was Bermuda grass and by the second rainy season you had a lush lawn. She planted all kinds of native plants like cro to ns and hibiscus and everything. Probably the first house to be friends living in that birthday parties and stuff like that and everyone would get together. But from there we moved to Gavilan area which was in Balboa, bordering Amador, which is right on the coast. Gavilan area, where m ost of my childhood memories are, I was adding up some of the families I remember, I counted at least fifty kids that I knew directly that we would play with in groups or separately. So if you were in school, you got out of school, did your homework done a nd you go outside and som eone would be there. The houses, houses on each


PCM 014; Cartotto; 8 street and in between in the back was an open yard all the way down. There would be trees, we had a great mango tree in the back that we could climb up in the m ango tree, take a little salt shaker and pick a green mango and just peel it off and eat the green mango sitting in the tree. When we first moved in there was kind of a mud path connecting the two streets, which when it rained it would be just a total mess W: Sure. C: After a few years they put a sidewalk in and a playground right in the back of our house, so we kind of lucked out there it was the locus of all the activity in the pretty much had the run of the whole neighborhood which in compass was pretty how many acres that and how many houses but you know for there to be fifty kids that I personall y knew there was probably forty families for that many and maybe double or triple that much in the neighborhood. We pretty much h ad the run of it; it was like, o play. Okay be back at dusk. go a couple of blocks over or Okay see you later You knew you were safe. If they wanted you they could just holler and pretty much hear and that was kind of the rule, you wait to hear that yell and then ows horn cut off that W: Oh yeah, yeah.


PCM 014; Cartotto; 9 C: W: Whatever works [laughter]. C: Yeah lots of kids. For us a boy playing cowboys and Indians or army was the up into teams and there was kind of a swamp on the edge of the neighborhood title flats it was it really was lots of mangroves and mud and you wer e some older kids in the ne ighborhood. Mike Kerning ked to him about this later too, Mike Kerning and maybe his brother Tim, maybe Louigi Monavanni. Anyway these guys and a couple of us younger kids, ended up down of the edge of this tile flat and there was this gr ey oozy mud down there and there was some kind of like a storm drained concrete with a cast iron covered and we were standing right on the edg e of this and they were saying, i qui nd we were like n o! n o! mp in I was scared because they were older quicksand and I got totally muddy and they ran off laughing and I pulled myself out crying, yo u know whimpering I was probably; went home in tears to my mom. My mom tore into those boys, she called up their moms and got me cleaned up and everything. So I saw Mike at o ne of these reunions and said, Mike, I re member you did this thing to me. He goes o h yeah I was a real asshole back then. W: So which elementary school did you go to?


PCM 014; Cartotto; 10 C: W: Oh okay, was that in the zone or out in? C: Yeah it was a two minute walk from my house, literally right around the corner. The nuns there, I guess when I was there, there were Franciscan nuns from somewhere state side and particularly it was a mean nun I had for first grade, sister Mary Adela. My f amily pretty much I think, they adored those nuns and my grandfather had a long history of working with the Catholic Church down there. In fact, someone told my mom a story that he lived of Old Gorgona. This woman saw him sweeping the church before mass on it. It was just something he thought needed to be done, so he did it. He ended up working with the community house which I think at some point there was a large building right on Balboa road sort of used to be the main buil ding of that school. They had columns kind of almost a classical looking building. Later they expanded the school. But I started there in kinder garden and I kind of remember part of this story. The recess bell rang; all the kids went out of school. I find me afterwards, ended up calling the house as a big to do. They found me but I went there through the eighth grade and then W: So how was your C: Yeah keep that focus.


PCM 014; Cartotto; 11 W: ublic school? What where the differences? What were the similarities? C: Well the difference was mainly that it was a religious school so we had catechism [Laughter] C: In a pejorative way. W: Sure, sure. C: surprisingly I mean, I was a large catholic community; so I the school was pretty much full and W: Did other denominations had their schools? C: non Catholics they just went to the public schools. I was talking to a friend last night; she went there for one year. He parents said, i and she went for one year. For us It was ju W: interviewed who went there, they talk about how planne d your life was there. Not only was there a school but there was this constant array of activities for you just, from dance, to archery, to the C anal Z one had supplied for kids. Did you see the same in the private school?


PCM 014; Cartotto; 1 2 C: Well, actually those were avai lable to all of us. The summer program you just had to sign up for what you might find in the parks and rec department today. I took archery one summer, the YMCA had classes. I took an art class; I remember I was probably about ten. Swimming, we all swam the pool was the other W: Hot spot. C: We went through the whole beginner swimmer advanced. We had our little stickers on our bathing suits and the pool was the hot spot and the Amador beach. We all had a ccess to the mi litary recreation facilities. We had our sticker on our car windshield, canal employee sticker so. Saturday, Sunday we would go out to Amador beach and hang out there, kind of privileged really it was especially when you consider the co untry around it. The abject poverty right across the street you know. W: Now did you have much contact with Panama and the Panamanians? Were you aware of the poverty? C: Yeah definitely, definitely. W: At that age? C: Definitely, definitely. The groups of Panamanian kids would come in to the neighborhood to pick mangos and we wo olicia, later years they kind of just like look at us. I can rem ember feeling bad about that k now. We lived in a pretty much


PCM 014; Cartotto; 13 luxury necessarily you had a variety of income levels. So you had the blue collar jobs, the maintenance jobs, the guys that, well for the white community pretty much because it was an apartheid kind of situation there. The Americans were groomed for management jobs or supervisorial jobs in any of the departments or division. So if you chose as I did later to join the apprenticeship program, you would go with the idea that at some point you would be the head of a crew and your crew would consists of Panamanian local guys would be the laborers, either the west India ns or Panamanians so you know, you needed a light bulb change, division, the switch is not w out. And then Mr. So and so would come with his helper and fix it, the plumber. Mr. So and so would come, you k electrician; there were guys that worked at the electronic shop later years you know I played at a rock n roll band if my aunt needed fixing, took it over at Mr. re provided for a nominal fee. I great. My mom tells me y eah like some of our neighbors might. We got like a new Chevy. I every other year. We kept the car for five ten years. W: Where did you buy cars? C: Down Panama, they had local car dealers Smith y Pareres


PCM 014; Cartotto; 14 W: So you were at the Proctor have a high school? C: but t immersed in Spanish because I never actually learned Spanish living in Panama. I could speak words I could say agua W: C: I could be wrong and later in high school they did teach it. I took Spanish in high school and I learned more, went back to Panama and had a great time speaking because I was more tuned to the culture going back, I could appreciate it more than growing up there. much English speaking maids; that was another thing we had maids growing up you know, h ousekeepers. Usually just for the day, but later we had someone living, part time living maids who would clean and cook and generally take care of us while our parents worked. Yeah the Catholic School, it was different. It was much more disciplined than th e public schools. They were much more academically I think they were probably on a par. W: Yeah that was my next question; other people have spoken very highly of the teachers at the public school. I was wondering if it was the


PCM 014; Cartotto; 15 C: Yeah the academic transitioning to a public school. Yeah we would march through town to march through town at the steps of the church W: Even with the school uniforms? C: Yeah school uniforms. Guess there was a little hint, just wondering how it was like to be free in the public school world. We were so constrained with the nuns but I had some really good teachers that I liked a lot and then I h ad some that seemed to have a chip on their shoulder W: C: The Franciscans I think because they had to wear this wool, heavy black wool dresses you know. Then the Sisters of Mercy came down from New York and someone was saying they complained that other kids were picking up New York accents. [Laughter] But they were white light weight cotton dresses. They were a little nicer. W: So, high school. You went to C: I went to the G rande Junior High School, which was a new school I g uess at that time was maybe only a year or two old. They built big geodesic dome for the cafeteria, auditorium, brand new school and that was kind of getting out into the real world. W: Did you have trouble breaking into you already knew the people there.


PCM 014; Cartotto; 16 C: Yeah sure. You know when school is out, the uniform is out and then you know had a Jewish friend we never talked about it. We never talked about Judaism or Protestantis m the differences or whatever. It was just something that you had to do on Sunday pretty much. For us it was every day because of this church. The community became much larger at that point because you were part of that larger group. You were part of (long distance) you had more friends from more town sites. There was Balboa, there was Diablo, Los Rios, Curundu, military and some Panamanians at that point. So you just made more friends, you had more connections. You just got more of a sense of how the commu nity worked, who the gangs were you know, who the tough kids were and the bookish kids were, where do anyways. W: C: Just kind of finding your w ay. At that time I started playing guitar. Well I started when I was thirteen yeah thirteen. W: What age are we talking about here? Until 1964 [19]65? C: Vietnam, just support l W: Now how much living in the C anal Z one? And of course you mentioned Vietnam


PCM 014; Cartotto; 17 1963 e talking about a lot of events in the United States larger Civil Rights, Vietnam. How much C: We were pretty aware of all of that, especially of that time being in High School you know in [19]68. My dad died in [19]68 so that had a big impact on me, I wa s sixteen. I think I was just kind of lost for a personal hero or role model at that point. We had gotten Life or Saturday Evening Post, Life magazine, National Geographic. I remember just reading all this articles and seeing the pictures of the guys who d and just looking at it W: Who died in Vietnam? C: Yeah and our news outlet was mainly the army forces radio and television service. Later the Caribbean forces network and southern command ne twork after that. It was limited but even then which is just surprising that nightly news had the footage of Vietnam, coverage from Vietnam. I think as a rule, the community was pretty patriotic. I was in the boy scouts our church sponsored a troop. It was scouts and we had couple of our scout masters were in the military. One was a PFC Steve Leeber another guy Pete Hamlin, he was in the navy and Pete had access to landing craft I guess hi s job was to pilot this landing craft to do support missions or some kind of a radar station on Taboga island just off the coast so out in Taboga, we camped in the Perlas islands, like that. Anyway we had some


PCM 014; Cartotto; 18 involvement with the military, my sister was a couple of years older she dated a how they got together. Well, I know my sister W: Soldiers will find a way. [Laughter] C: Say again? W: Yeah yeah yeah well, at that point there was much more interaction [19]68 [19] 69 on just from the local hang outs. p arades, local parades, the army was always in the Fourth of July parade, the Veterans Day parade and as h wow, check this ou t. They did a lot of training there, the military for Vietnam. Our house approached Albric Air force Space. They used to re but they take off in the morning and then come back at dusk. I guess they do helicopter training because eight hui s would take off, fly off to the west bank, we were out there one night and they have some kind of exercise going flyin g over and then they come back. We were aware that all that was going on in addition to the news and I guess around that time we started having more friends who were in the military. Interacting with them more on social bases and the guys that were on ro ute to Vietnam or were in the Canal Zone and glad to be there instead of Vietnam. W: So actually the YouTube story kind of reminds me of a question and I ask to paraphrase than he re. So they have a lot of stories of how World War II affected the Canal


PCM 014; Cartotto; 19 int to be aware of for example a Cuban missile crisis, which is quite close to you in a way. Do you remember that? What e ffect did it have on life in the canal? C: We were all totally paranoid, sort of like the Russians are coming which I guess W: Yeah exactly [ laugh ter ] C: recall. so maybe it was [19]59 W: In Panama? C: Yeah, in Panama. It might have been the later one which I thi nk it was [19]64 where the rumo r was there were Cuban guerrillas up in C hiriqui province next to Costa Rica. They infiltrated, it was a really real threat and it was to be feared and opposed. As kids we were like whatever; its sort of like okay I understand because the Cold War was all the ducking cover stuff too W: Sure sure. C: Where you have air raid drills and would run down to the garage and watching the sputnik. We had black and white T.V. and I had a little model of the whatever that first rock it was that launched John Glenn in this first orbit. That was al l big stuff for us then we were super proud to be Americans you know, the second in space or whatever it was. By the time the Vietnam War came belong


PCM 014; Cartotto; 2 0 about all the stor ies [l augh ter ] W: Say what you want. C: But he was like we called him the general because he was like the chief whatever his rank was, he was up there in the ROTC. He had the saber and would command the ROTC brigade W: Now it this the high school ROTC? C: Yeah a car eer I think he retired as a major or maybe a Coronel was stationed for many years in Germany. So he was on the front line, had anything happened he did some kind of training at the special forces training Gatune or somewhere over there Fort Villex Special Warfare Training Center whatever it was and he talked about this mock up Vietnamese village thatched huts and stuff like that we had to go over there and do this training. We were aware of the school of the no idea what was going on there and later we find out now sort of that someone was pr etty interferous and W: How does that affect your memories at the time period now that you found out C: go lucky and severa l friends and I my first band. I had a band in junior high school s say


PCM 014; Cartotto; 2 1 maybe two, three, four, five years older. and they pretty much all went into the military. I remember Curtis Searcy was in the air been in the air force at that time but he was from Currundu. Mike Bishoni and Nelson Guerrero they were like our three singers so we had this band, two guitars, maybe bass, drums, and maybe a keyboard at one time or another and these three upfront singers with the white T shirts rolled up sl e eves, tight black jeans, singing The Monkeys and Paul Rivera in the radio We would play at the local N.C.O clubs, V.F.W, the American Legion. So we would be playing for these lifers, th ese master sergeants who were tough old crackers and I know there was some resentment. I can tell you that in 1960 even I got it in my head to take an army shirt and cut off the sleeves and write P O W on the black in a black marker a nd from one of the car magazines like a Malakar magazine in the back they always had adds for plastic German helmets and stuff like that you know. Iron cross and all that stuff was big so I got this plastic German helmet and we walked into a local clubhous e this was actually in the zone in Diablo clubhouse one night after we played at a teen club or N.C.O. or something. Walked in the back to get some fries and there were these two or three master sergeants sitting at the table, they wanted to kick my ass W: How old were you? C: I was like fifteen and they were steamed and rightly so [laughter] s this young kid who knows nothing about the war that they are coming back from or


PCM 014; Cartotto; 2 2 that age another couple of year s that point I was still the innocent. Fortunately, we had these older guys there that we able to s till years later and we talked about it, told me about his experiences going illegally into Cambodia and conducting cover operations and stuff like that. He was still very proud of that, very patriotic about it. I on the other hand, was glad h draft member I think it was 285 something like that where as a couple of my friends got drafted and actually got stationed and actually got stationed in the zone and one of them got the job as the LCM diver doing that support run. He lived at home, the o ther one also lived at home for a while too and he was stationed in Fort Amador and my mom saw him cleaning up mangoes under the mango tree on the golf course one day. I had a picture out of Life magazine f some drill sergeant They had an article on the marines which I read on boot camp This was maybe late [19]68 or something it freak me out, totally terrified me I thought, this is not for me. I tagged that picture up one my book case and I had acquired a bayonet, a small bay onet in the course of my boy scouts. I took the bayonet stuck it in the guys forehead and so you walk into my bedroom in addition to all the crap you have hanging around you know Ji mi Hendrix posters and there was this picture of the drill sergeant


PCM 014; Cartotto; 2 3 with a way or another army guys, friends of ours. They would get their head shaved if they were arreste d in Panama they would take them in, shave their heads W: The Panamanians would shave their heads? C: Yeah the Panamanians would instantly shave their heads, called it coco bolo. They would get sent Special Forces training you what their punishment, which you know. So the counter culture was really taking off like [19]68. [19]69, remember exactly when maybe it was 1970 and we all wore this black arm bands and we did a cand le light procession I think from La Boca to the center of town, Balboa. W: other people is a very patriotic community. C: Yeah well it was tough, it was tough for a lot of peop le at that time it was like the hippy days and the drug culture and all of that. There were a lot of problems, o but it caused a lot of families a lot of problems and some kids went over the edge and never


PCM 014; Cartotto; 2 4 about those problems That never helped them get any better; if someone had a mental illness of a deformity I had an aunt there was eleven kids in my family W: You had ten brothers and sisters? C: W: C: handicapped and physically handicapped and I never knew I had an Aunt Rita until I was sixteen of when I found out I had an Aunt Rita, I never met her W: Where was she? C: She was in Corozal which was the mental hospital. W: In the zone? C: In the zone yeah. Corozal Mental Hospital I gu called it but she was there. My grandfather used to visit her all the time, my or what B ut how can I live to be sixteen and not knowing my Aunt Rita that was. maybe I knew but it was never for front to my consciousness you know. out in the neighborhood playing yo u know, come over to my house it was, hey us. W: Right [laughing]


PCM 014; Cartotto; 2 5 C: But it sort of seemed in my family, things were sort of covered up a little bit. Later cause he lot of anxiety about that as a way of coping. The community there was an active police force and of course growing up they all knew us, and we all knew them. I in trouble but a bunch of us in Fort Amador, they had coastal defenses built for WWI they had these series of tunnels and gun emplacements on one of the islands out there. One afternoon we said, hey lets go out to the bunkers and check it out. So we went out and they had these steal gates at sort of road level and there was a hill and inside the hill there was a long stairway maybe a couple hundred feet long going up into the defenses in the middle of this hill, concrete and everything and the gates were never locked. So we went, we were fourteen years old lets go check it out. By that time we were probably smoking cigarettes and it was pitch black in there and you could go from one end of the island you could sa y, go around the top and go into one of these bunkers down into the tunnel and come out at the far end of the island withou t ever going out on the surface or you could go out in any number one of entrances. So there was this room of electrical switches, w hich probably powered some hoist for ammunition of something and they had these wooden handle put it into my pocket and I ended up keeping it but the nex t thing we know we see these fla sh lights coming up the stairs or something, or either we were on


PCM 014; Cartotto; 2 6 better come with us. So they took us down to Balboa police station you know no evidence of any misdeeds or anything but they knew we were fourteen and up to no good. W: Sure, exactly. C: They took us to the police station and took us in and Mr. Filo. Dad of a good friend of mi nd and long time friend of the family was the desk sergeant that d ay. Oh Steve Cartatto eh? Well, w deal but the point was that we k new all the policemen, they knew our parents and in later years I talked to one of the detectives, Joe Grills. At the time they would fully engaged in experiencing the counter culture. W: You were sixteen, seventeen, eighteen? C: sister decided to go on a diet. So the doc put them on Benzedrine and seventeen then she gets to eightee n, its counter culture. We know that we can just go down to the


PCM 014; Cartotto; 2 7 the board at fourteen you could go down to the local bodega, the local liquor store and pick up a bottle of rum, a b ottle of whisky which a lot of us did. So about underage pharmaceutical use and then other substances came on line. It all floated freely and so I was going to say later years well these guys would you could recognize a police car a mile away. W: Sure, sure. C: get you, just looking out for you. I get a little emotional thinking about it because we hated them so much for interfering in our affairs but you know some of us M time we put her at gre with my dad having passed she was incapable of dealing with two kids that were adults, to the teacher and everything a t school well, not much anyway no more than normal but we got through it. But the military at that time all the things that were happening in the military in Vietnam, guys coming back addicted and whatever. That all kind of funneled in a big current. All the guys that would come down through the Canal Zone brought all the influences and substances from the States and so it was kind of a strange time in a way because you were aware of all of that ; movies like


PCM 014; Cartotto; 2 8 come out yet and we were looking for another ten or fifteen years but you could sort of see it happening. You could see that these young twenty year olds were in a strange world, having to fight a war that was unpopular and had come t hrough the Canal Zone and experience this community of complete freedom. As kids we had the run of the place, we could go anywhere we wanted in the country of Panama, anywhere. As long as we could get back to the Zone was like a game of tag, if you reach b bit around [19]70 [19]71 they sort of had like actual laws that if you were caught in Panama you were prosecuted in Panama because it seemed that there was always someone that would come and bail us out. If we got caught doing something illegal in Panama W: How often did you get caught doing something? C: I never did. W: Oh okay. C: My sister did, someone pulled the string. A friend of mine did, someo ne pulled the string and either nothing would be said or something serious would happen sort of like that. I mean you might be deported, your family might be asked to leave. W: Now again, without saying anything else C: This would be twenty five year W: Okay so how big was this community of the counter culture. If you had to characterize it


PCM 014; Cartotto; 2 9 C: W: And then how many of those families might have been deported? For the shenanigans of their kids C: kids were a small percentage, a very small percentage of that. B ut it was was a stigma of it among Well it was just hard because let s say le the th at good for us in retrospect although we did have a good time. Without any regulation, without any restraints W: en and there will be somebody here about ten thirty. On a more politica l level, so you were in high school in a very interesting time for the canal relative to the local Panamanians I believe it was 1964 was the protest about the flag C: Right. W: od where you were, how did you experience all that? C: the big confrontation at the local high school W: If nfrontation at the


PCM 014; Cartotto; 30 C: It was before I went to high school. But our neighbor one of our next door neighbors lived in a duplex and our duplex neighbor I recall him sitting out. He had a Jeep and I believe he had a shotgun in his Jeep I could be wrong I think he was still around Chris Sky saying; You know I mean moss. There bat down the hatches. So it was tense that way and our neighbor next door was a policeman at Houston. He came down and gave us a forty five and a box of bullets. He said, lock your door and take this gun if anyone walks through th at door, you pull the trigger think was anywhere near that but you know f or me in retrospect that was a long myself patriotic in the way that when my son goes we go to baseball games I take my hat of f and put my hat over my heart when we sing the national anthem y areas in our history too. The dark side which we never learned about growing up and now my kid in History class; he learns abou t the Trail of Tears. I was never told about a Trail of Tears, I was never told about genocide of the native peoples and that kind of stuff. Now I see all in a different s just a different perspective. The Canal Zone was unique in that way, it had a Teddy


PCM 014; Cartotto; 31 Roosevelt about W: Did you recognize that when you were there or did that come later when you moved out? C: Well it really came later when I moved out. Growing up it was just an ideal a Swiss the rub s have to happen. In 1979 I went back for the ceremony, sort of the party really it was going to be a party because the ceremony I think happened and there was one big party at El Diablo ya cht clu b where some friends of mine were playing and I got up and jammed with them it was just a big party, a bunch of us. My uncle Pat was taking a ship through the Canal as he came by he gave a long honk on the horn as he passed the party. You know for me, that was all supposed to happen puts me at odds with most of my relatives and my mom had one of those calenda r with the green gremlin giving the finger whatever it was, thanks Ji mmy there was like a mock grave in the display window saying, here lies the body of Building 614 or whatever it was rest in peace because a lot of people lost their jobs and there was a lot of anxiety and I was long gone by then and so my perspective had already changed but it was a good thing. Some friends stayed


PCM 014; Cartotto; 3 2 on and I have to admire that. I went back in [19]95 with my wife; a friend of mine Jim Gesner worked on Miraflore s locks and took us on a tour let my wife lock a ship through in the control tower. It was great to see him interacting with his crew who were west Indian heritage. We could all talk beijim Anyway, he told me that they had a big carnival that year and th ere was a bridge that connects the two sides of the locks, it used to be an alternative to the ferry before the factory ferry was built in [19]62 used to take the ferry across from the east bank to the west bank to go up to the interior of Panama. So this bridge was an alternative at Fort out the plans and he and his crew took it all apart, put it all back together, got it working because there was going to be so much traffic fo r this carnival they needed the overflow. He was really proud of that and I was too it s like wow you something like that, that would last that long and still function you know p recisely and accurately when it needed to. All through the years and innovation and navigation or whatever, even growing up we used marvel it go yeah I What was it like? Well it was great. It was great living there, great place to grow up. W: So tell me a little bit about why you left?


PCM 014; Cartotto; 33 C: Well, I was an apprentice of heavy equipment o perator at a high school, me and a bunch of friends joined the apprentice program and had a job with the maintenance division operating cranes and sorted other heavy equipment. say it that way so that was essentially the reason, details around that. So I got called up to the I guess it was some Coronel maybe the deputy chief of the maintenance division or something on day. It was one of those conversations, today is the first day of the rest of your life think its better that you move on and it would just say termination during probation and no specifics because I performed well. Well, pretty well as an am I going to do? My siste r had already gone to the States she was in Florida, of followed my sister up to Florida, ended up fo llowing my parents out to California and then life W: Did you go to college? Did you C: Yeah later I went to community college in [19]75, studied music, commercial music; ended up getting a job in music pre thirty years now. W: What is music preparation?


PCM 014; Cartotto; 34 C: Music preparation is preparing music for performers so if you were a composer square to Star W you give that to an orchestrator to us and we prepare the individual parts for each musician in the orchestra get it to the stage, get it on the stand. W: talking about so yeah. C: production. W: So with all the unspecified troubles that you had, you still are very nostalgic, y ou come to the reunion and you certainly know C: Yeah well there are some relationships I mean not Canal Zones specific but I think to a large extent it is only because you have so m any generation. I can remember when I came to my first reunion it was in the mid [19]70s they would have them in Saint Pete and I just remember seeing was kind of a very I in g. with people. Sometimes there are guy was wild and crazy back them, he s till is you know. Whereas other people have settled down, raised families but you still have that connection of those


PCM 014; Cartotto; 35 stayed connected with. When I see them now we talk about what we did then abou t changes as I remember it. For me I loved going back to Panama W: How often do you go back? C: s in thirty years to go down maybe Christmas or something. I still have some friends down there visit her friends, you stop on the roadside and get a fresh coconut you know. You You go back and as an adult I can appreciate the culture more. When people, you call them on the phone and they sa y, Oh yeah come on by; they stop pencil you in for next month. W: thank you very much Let me go ahead and stop this. [End of I nterview]

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