An interview with Russell Bowen


Material Information

An interview with Russell Bowen
Physical Description:
69 minutes
Russell Bowen
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 016 Russell Bowen 7-3-2010
PCM 016
System ID:

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 accoun ts 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 res earch 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, SPOH P recommends that researchers refer to both the transcript and audio of an interview when conducting their work. A selection of interviews are available online here through the UF Digital Collections and the UF Smathers Library system. Oral history interv iew transcripts available on the UF Digital Collections may be in draft or final format. SPOHP transcribers create interview transcripts by listen ing to the original oral history interview recording and typing a verbatim document of it. The transcript is w ritten with careful attention to reflect original grammar and word choice of each interviewee; 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 f ormat I nterviewees can also provide their own spelling corrections SPOHP transcribers refer 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 016 Interviewee: Russell Bowen Interviewer: Matthew White Date of Interview : July 3, 2010 W: My n with the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, P anama Canal interviewers, they start telling stories as soon as they go in the room, but I know ve me a brief outline of who you are and what your connection is to the Panama Canal Zone B: Okay. Um, well, I was born in Panama, 1951. Ancon, Pa nama, in Gorgas Hospital, and Panama, but what Delaware Panama but he arrived in Panama just a few months after the construction of the Canal had been completed and worked as an electrician. My gr andmother came from New Orleans. A gain to Panama grandfather was originally fro m California, went to New York -s where my father was born in New York. My grandfather and grandmother went down to New York, and he lived down in Panama. Then my father actually went back and forth between New York and Panama, and then ended up staying in Panama with my grandfather. He was a machinist, same thing he got down in Panama not


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 2 too long after the Canal had been constructed. Lived in Balboa on the Pacific side, and only lived in two different hous es, lived in the Galv an area until the time I was twelve then moved to La Boca, which was really close to the mouth of the Canal and lived there until I was twenty I went to a parochial school, first through eight [A parochial school provides conventional education in addition to religious education. A parochial school is typically run by a parish]. W: When you were twenty ? B: No. W: B: Went to p arochial school one through eight, and then went into the public school system. Went to Balboa High School. And then I went to Canal Zone Junior College for a couple years before I transferred to the University of Florida in Gainesville. You kn ow, it was kind of interesting I was traveling with some business associates and we were just kind of talking about, you know, what are some of the most -thing that you cherish the most in terms of your background. Basically, I just told them, growing up in Panama. The experiences I had growing up there as a kid. The t hings that really stick out in my mind, o ne of my friends was the director of the meteorological hydrographic branch of the Panama Canal His job basically was kind of like the water resources management division, and they had to monitor the flow of the rivers coming into the Gatun Lake which


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 3 formed the Canal Basically made sure that there was the proper water balance in running the Canal outdoorsman. W: Uh B: W: Okay. B: I just thought that he was an amazing man. His name was Ted Hinter I guess this was as early as when we were about eight years old, he would tak e us up into the rain forest onto the main river which they damned to create the Gatun would camp along the banks of the Chagres River. As we got older he would take a group of us, th ere were usually three or four of our friends and we would go up for the weekend. And then over the years we actually built an encampment, and Ted Jr. and -they had rapids -hem up the bank. Ov er several weekends, Mr. Hinter, and he had some other friends, would mix up concrete. We made a big concrete slab. He used, I think, d rilling rod and made steel posts and then we made a thatched roof. And then we would string our jungle hammocks f rom each one of the posts. T lot of great experiences camping out there in the rainforest. W: Now what did you do while you were ou t there? Did you hunt, did you -? B: We swam and there were, like I said, there were some pretty good rapids. I remember right across from our encampment at the base of these rapids there


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 4 was a large rock and we would sw im across river it was a good sized river and we would jump off that rock at the base of the rapids an d there was a real strong eddy that would just take you, you know, in a circle behind a rock again so you just kind of do a loop [An eddy is the reverse current and swirling of water created when water flows past an obstacle] You know we swam and fished a little bit. Mainly just hung out and just swam and explored up and down the banks of the river. Saw a lot of wildlife. We would see some of the rainforest Indians, the Embera Indians and a lot of wildlife, large i guanas [The Embera Wounaan people are a se mi nomadic indigenous population in Panama They live primarily on the shores of the Chucunaque, Sambu, and Tuira Rivers]. They had another do know why they called them it was the Jesus Christ l izard be cause they would run across the water. They get up a good head of steam on the bank and they would just run right across the river on the surface. They had big webbed feet. It was incredible at nigh t how many stars you could see be cause it was so d ark. I remember one time we were sitting there and we could actually see a satellite going across at night. W: Now when was this? B: Guess that w as around in the late [19] 60s. Remember one time we were up there and I was on the roc aid, w gonna go back across the river. So he swam across and you know the current would take you downstream a little bit. I saw him over on the other side of the river and the river


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 5 there I guess at that point was maybe thirty or forty yards wide. I looked over and I saw Ted jumping up and down waving his arms. He was pointing upstream. I looked up and there was a flash flood coming down the river. Wall of water, it was about a couple feet high. It had a lot of sticks and logs in it, be cause there w as a lot of rain up in the watershed and it would just concentrate and create a flash flood. Looking back on it, it could have been a mistake but I decided to do it. I dove in and tried to get across river and it hit me. I got probably about two thirds of the way and Ted fortunately ran and got his dad, Ted Sr., and some of the other guys that were there made a chain and got me as I was going by. It was a good thing because just directly downstream the river just slammed into a rock and went to the left so it was like the first time Mr. Hinter saved my life. He actually saved me again. W: And t he other links in the chain, too. B. Yeah, right, right. And then i t start ed to rain later that day and t he water level came up so high that it actually flooded our little encampment. We had to take our jungle hammocks and go up into the jungle. The river probably came up, I would say, fifteen or twenty feet. We had to go well up into the j ungle. At that time it was dark. S o here we are little kids, climbing up i n there at night and having to string up our jungle hammocks. The river, it took so long to subside. We were up there until Tuesday. Of course this was before the age of cell phones, and my parents were wond ering where the heck are they. Bec ause you know n


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 6 there and it was just drizzling the whole weekend and there were like four of us, four kids and Mr. Hinter. We were g etting bummed out so Ted says, w ell look, d c limb up the mountain there. Ah, okay. It seemed like it was about a 50 seemed like we were going straig ht up a nd climbing up through the vines and what not. We got up pretty high and we were takin there, hanging on t o vines and trees and what not, and Ted was in front me and I look down and there was a snake coiled up behind him, looked like he was getting rea dy to strike him. And I said, h about ready to bite Teddy. And Mr. Hinter just slid down on his butt, slid down the hill, got his machete and just cut the head off the snake. The guy was like Indiana Jones. He was just an amazing guy. Tremendous amount of respect for him. Jus t really showed us a lot of adventures, up along the Chagres River. It was really a lot of fun. The thing I really loved about growing up there when I got a little o lder in high school W: And you went to Balboa, right? B: Yeah. Balboa High School. We got into surfing. It was right when, I guess, surfing started in California and it found its way down to Panama. There was probably a group of about twenty of us that really got into surfing. Right around Balboa, I guess the way the shoreline was, the swells r part of the coastline. You really had to go up the coast, further up the coast, towar ds Costa Rica along the Pacific before you coul d get to some good surf


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 7 spots. It s tarted out where our parents would take us up there for the weekend, a place called Rio Mar. It was just a great, great pastime and we built a lot of really close friendships with all the kids that we used to surf with. Got to the point where a little bit older, I mean we were still in high school, in the summertime our parents would take us up there and give u s a twenty dollar bill and say, w l see you in two or three weeks. A nd we would just camp out on the beach and it was a blast. A lot of good, good memories surfing. Then when we got old enough to d rive, we started exploring a lot of different surf breaks and found a lot of really cool surf spots that kids still go to tod that whole coastline probably about twenty or thirty miles all built up now. A p lace called Coronado a big resort, and back then they were just little villages. Little dirt road villages. kind of, as the tide fluctuated, we would go to different spots because in Panama on t he Pacific coast, the difference between high and low tide is about eighteen e got too high or too low then the we just kind of migrated -W: Yeah, a nomadic existence. B : Yeah, just kind of migrated up and down the coast depending on what the tide was to go to the best surf spots. One of the places that got discovered, we called it Malibu. It was out on Chame Point. A big river called Chame River came out


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 8 and it created r eally large sandbar that went out into the ocean. It was a really cool break; the waves would break on the sandbar. But it was I think about five miles from where you could drive down to the beach. And you could only get out there at low tide, wher e it exp osed enough of the sand the hard packed sand so you could drive out there. We drive out there and surf but if you wanted to get back that day and the tide came up you had to wait until the tide would go back down again so you could drive all the way back one time we went out there the waves got really big and one of our friends thought he could make it back, it was about mid tide. He had a Volkswagen van ame up and hit the two wheels closest to the ocean, undermined them a little bit, and after about three or four waves the van was on its side. The next thing you know it was just rolling in the sand and he was out there trying to get in it to get his camer a out, he left his camera in it. So that was probably one of about three or four t there and just low tide. It was a great spot. W: Sounds like it. B: Just a great surf spot. Really a neat place. I remember one day we were out there and it was over Christmas vacation. The waves w ere just perfect that day. I forgot the name of the mountain, it was just a beautiful mountain. Th at time of the year there would be very strong offshore breezes. They would just kind of come down that mou ntain. It made for


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 9 good waves be cause you know the offshore breeze would pull the waves up. But I r emember that day very vividly, be the wall of the wave was just gold b ecause it was sundown. It was just fabulous. Some of the scenery while we were surfing was just incredible. It was a great experience. W: Sounds like it. Now you mentioned something earlier, of course, that begs for a follow up question. When you said that that was the first time that gentleman has saved your life, what was the second time? B: We were coming back, and taking the cayucos You know what a c ayuco is [Cayucos are small, usually 4 seater, vessels carved from the trunk of a tree and propelled by paddling. Cayucos are used by the indigenous people of Panama as well as for recreational racing] ? W: I heard about the race the other day, I was going to ask you about that. B: Right. Well, Ted and I were in the race too. Anyway, we were getting the c ayucos out of the water and we were standing on the dock and I decided to dive off, into about three feet of water and hit the pavement, knocked myself out. Mr. Hinter was busy worki out and dragged me out of the wat er. So, second time he saved me [ Laughte r]. W: clearly the one ut of the Zo ne on a regular basis. I guess my question is then, how did you interact with the lo cal population, be they Indians


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 10 you mentioned running into the local Native Americans. What was your relationship with the locals? B: The Indians up along the Chagres River, I remember there was one whose name was Tony. He was the one that Mr. Hinter would commission to make c ayucos And he would make the Cayucos, but w e never really, aside from Mr. Hinter, communicated with them that much. It was this kind of i ntrigue, as yo u went up the river looking at th em living along the banks of the river in their bojillos But w e never really stopped and talked to them. W: What about on your surfing trips, what were the Panamanians doing? B: Right. We used to, when we wer e camping out, we would either walk or hitchhike to this town of San Carlos. There was a little place where they had a little bakery in this hut, and we would go in there and chat with the guy who made these sticky buns and you would go in there and talk w ith him. There was another One of the things that stuck out, particularly in the late [19] 60s, w hen the between the U.S. and the Panamanians, p articularly the Guardia Nacional, the police force for Panama. It seemed like they took more than a few oppor tunities to give us a hard time [ laughter ]. W: Can you give me an example?


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 11 B: There was a checkpoint when you were going up the Pan American Highway from the Canal Zone up along the coast. There was a checkpoint in Arraijan that you had to go throug h. It was really intimidating, be cause the checkpoint actually always be two or three Guardia there and they would just seems like they just would relish in just making us stay there and just staring down at us, looking int o the car i f we had any beer or whatever. So w e were always really scared that they were going to grab us and throw us in jail or something. They had a law where W: Sure, absolutely. B: sometimes they would actually pull you over for that. It just seemed like they took other than just g oing to the stores and the restaurants much. In fact, at that time, there were only two Panamanians that got into surfing. not that way W: Do you still surf? B: Every so often. Last time I went su rfing in Panama was March of [20] 08. Ended up leaving my surf board down there. Ted has a house down there, so I left it ch anymore. W: ight?


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 12 B: Yeah. W: the Panama Zone school system. The teachers were great, th e public schools were great. Tell me a little bit about what it was like not to go to those, at least for the first eight years I guess. B: Yeah, well when we first started, I think it was th e Franciscan Nuns. And they wore dark brown habits; they were the teachers. W: You told me they were wool. B: What? W: Wool? B: strict. Corporal pun ishment was the rule of the day [ l aughter ]. And they used to hit us pretty regularly if you got out of line. They were very intimidating. W: Yeah, I suspect [ laughter ]. B: I remember one, what was her name, Sister Adella. I had her for third grade, and she just struck fear into everybody because if you talked or did anything she would whack you over the head with a ruler. You had to stick your hand out, and your hand, which really hurt. I think it was after third grade a different order of nuns came, aptly named the Sisters of Mercy [ laughter ]. And they were great. It was a really g ood school. I remember we would -I think it was once a month -all


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 13 march up to the Catholic Church and go to mass. We had to wear unif orms, with dark blue pants, white shirt and a blue plaid bowtie. W: Clip on or did you have to tie it yourself? B: Clip on. The girls wore the same blue plaid jumper dress. So we had to march up se all of the kids in the public schools would be going by in the school bu yelling at airies [ laughter ], while were going up there so they always kind of made fun of us. Made some really good friends, and there are people he re in this W: One of the things I keep hearing is how cohesive the Panama Canal Zone -B: You know, a little bit. But t hen, once you got into high school, that kind of went regularly. And a lot of -since y value that, have those friends, and that we still get together. In fact, now we get together even more frequently. Probably once every three or four months. W: B: and high school. W: Now, tell me about your childhood when you were there. Your parents, did they grow up in the Canal Zone ? B: Yes.


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 14 W: Of course th at also brings another question if they talked about what it was like for them to be in a kid in the Canal Zone Can you think of any differences? Y bout a diffe [19]50s and [19] 60s, about that. B: of the phot os when they were kids. One of the things I guess it was similar between our childhoods, were we used to go up to the beach on the weekend and rent these houses right along the Pacific. I remember seeing them as kids at those same places. It was just very rustic. Just wooden houses, and they had running water but that was basically it. No electricity. I remember that and going to some of the same places, and there was one particular house in Gorgona It was just a beautiful spot on a cliff overlooking the beach. Same deal, it was just a lighting the kerosene lanterns an d almost burned the house down a couple times. But I remember seeing them just going up to the beach, same thing hanging out all weekend, going swimming, body surfing. When they got older, as young adults, they really socialized at a pretty high level. There was a couple of beer gardens, one of them was called El Rancho. They would go down there for dances. There w ould be probably ten, twelve piece band playing and all the women would be in long dresses and the men would be in white suits. Just seemed like they had a fabulous time when t hey went out at night to the El Rancho beer garden.


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 15 W: B: Yeah, it was in Panama. It was probably about a couple blocks in from the border. It just seemed like they had a really good time going to the night clubs and restaurants W: Now d id you do that when you were -? B: down there with a suit and tie on like they did. Everything just seemed to be really formal when they went out. For some reason people got away from that. Yeah, we used to go down into Panama quite a bit and go to differe nt clubs and restaurants. I remember as a kid going out to dinner with my parents down there. Really good restaurants in Panama City. There was a Catholic Cathedral called El Carmen, and we would go there and right across the street from it was a great Ita lian restaurant called the Capri. So that kind of became a tradition. We would do that at least once or twice a month. W: Okay. So you went to church in Panama. B: Canal Zone That same church is where my grandparents, my parents and my sister were married, in St. reception. It was a hotel down there called the Tivoli. Just a grand building, just beautiful, all wood. They just had some wonderful ballrooms, just beautiful grand old hotel. Unfortunately they took it down. I n its last days the only thing that was k eeping it up were the termites were holding hands.


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 16 W: ructure of that size would last long in that climate. B: It was a sad day when they took that down. W: ur family. You had a sister, any -B: W: Can you talk a little bit about it? B: Sure, sure. My mom was just a nut about holidays. Just really loved to decorate. My mom was quite the lady. I remember I used to have a ra bbit as a little kid. At Easter time she would dye the rabbit pink [ l aughter ]. W: Using what? B: Some kind of food dye. for the holidays. In the first house that we lived in, was on Oleander Street, but it started to become known as, what do they call it, Santa Claus Lane Because at Christmas time, everybody on the street would just go wild with decorations, lights and W: And you could get your standard issue Christmas lights in Panama? B: Oh, y eah. Yeah. The only thing that was different about Christmas in Panama, W: B: They imported the Christmas trees. They brought them on t h e ship. Everybody would go down. A t one point you actually went down to the pier to get them and


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 17 then they started bringing them into the commissary. You were lucky if the needles would stay on more than about a week [ laughter ]. The other thing that was i nteresting about Christmas in Panama is Christmas tree burns. W: B: Every neighborhood, we wo uld collect them, all the kids wou ld collect them and -w hile you were collecting them, wait ing for your sanctioned Christm as tree burn. The fire department would actually come to your neighborhood and oversee it. While you were waiting an d your collecting all the trees you know, we were kids. Then it got to be a Christmas tree gangs and you would actually raid other neighborhoods to steal their trees. That was a lot of fun, the night of the burn. It was quite the bonfi re. It was a lot of fun. W: are the origins of it? W here did it start and why? B: W: school. What were your subjects? What were your activities? Your hobbies? Besides camping and surfing, or is that i t? B: That was pretty much it. I was pretty small, scrawny kid in high school, kinda stayed to myself. But then in my senior year, I went out for football.


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 18 W: B: Oh, yeah. Well, you know, you got three teams [ l aught er ]. W: Three? B: Balboa High School, Cristobal High School from the Atlantic side, and the junior college. At one time there was a fourth time, the athletic club. These were young men. M ost of them were apprentices in the Panama Canal Company Of course, go into the bowling alley and drink beer at halftime [ laughter ]. So then in the seco worst football of seven to nothing. Nobody ever made a touchdown. W: But everyone loved it, it sounds like. B: Oh, yeah, it was a great time. And then, actually I got injured. My knee got taken out, so I playing in junior college, and that was fun. It was a lot of fun. And we they call it the jamboree Atlantic side to play Cri stobal High School. That was a good time. The train back then was really just a beautiful train. Open air with wicker bench seats, and it was just an hour ride. W: B: right along the Canal along Ga a lot of really pretty


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 19 scenery going through the jungle. In the summertime as kids we got into this thing where we would drive our bikes down to the train station. What do you call the guy that works on the train? W: The conductor? B: The conductor, yeah. The conductor would put our bikes in one of the freight bikes and then come back in the afternoon. W: And the other kids on the other side let you get away with that? B: Yeah, they did. W ha t are you guys doing over here? W: Yeah, exactly. When I was a kid we had dirt clods thrown at us i f we tried something like that. Oh, I had a your high school or a t least your later part of your did you ca ll it elementary or junior high -? B: Yeah. W: -career would have been around the time that I understand that there was a lot of protests, bot call it counter protest, over the flag. W ere you involved in any of that or what was the effect? B: See that was in [19] 64. A nd I was not in high school, my brother and sister were. Yeah, they were there. Those were pretty stressful times. Yeah, they had -Panamanians marched on Balboa High School. We were gonna take the flag down. So the police came and it got pretty ugly. My mom worked in the


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 2 0 administration building the Panama Canal administr ation building up on the hill that overlooked Balboa High School. She was rather feisty and she ended up W: Well anyone who would dye a bunny pink [inaudible]. B: [Laughter]. Yeah, that riots got pretty ugly, and people got killed. We were under Martial l aw when that was going on for it seemed like, we were under Martial law. I remem ber my brother snuck out one time and went down to the border to watch it an d he came home and he was really upset because I think he saw the first guy first American troop -that got shot and k illed. So it really upset him and I remember t hat very vividly as a young kid. M y brother Bob came home and was really upset over that. W: I mean, just sitti ng here of course what some thirty, forty, fifty years later now? It seemed to me that that might have an effect on how one view s your life there. I mea ng and then you find out there are people over there that want to bust in I mean, what kind of effect did that have on your view of yourse lf, your community, the country? B: I mean, up until that point, the [19] 60s, it seeme d to be a very harmonious relationship with the Panamanians. We never felt threatened when we w ent into Panama City at all. I thought it was a great relationship between the Panamanians and the U.S. citizens. 60s that you could tell


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 21 anymore, going into the city. You know, you could feel the tension. And I remember one time going back after I ha d left, went back in the early [19] 70s, and I was actually asked to leave a store by the Panamanians. I was the only American guy. W: Proprietor? Store proprietor? B: anymore. It was a bad time. W: rioting over civil rights, Vietnam. Did that have any effect on life in the Canal Zone ? Did you stay abreast of what was going on in the rest of the world or the country? B: You know it just seemed like we were in a cocoon down there. It really did. It just everything that was going on in the states W: So did you keep up on ? B: No, no. watching football, baseball. W: Now did you keep up on American sports? B: came to the states that I really started following it sports fan of U.S. sports at the time. Maybe it was because I was just really into surfing at that time.


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 2 2 W: How a bout the war in Vietnam, did that have any effect? B: Well, yeah it started to. And then when I transferred up to the University of Florida. You know those were the hippie days. W: Sure, sure. Were there any hippies in the Canal Zone ? B: Yeah, yeah. It was starti left. I just found that so different, because we had some pretty good riots in Gainesville. W: B: The Gainesville Eight with Scott Camil back in those days [The Gaines ville Eight were a group of anti Vietnam War activists charged with conspiracy to disrupt the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida. Scott Camil was a political activist and member of the Gainesville Eight] I remember being stuck in the riots there on Thirteenth Street right in front of Tigert Hall, watching the riot. Kinda made me think back to the riots in Panama. W: B: Yeah, I know. I know. W: Um, oh I had something, now I forgot. Now what did you study at the junior college? Wait I had a question, let me go back a little bit. It actually brought up another question when we talked about your high school and following politics. It makes me curious, ev ery Ame rican here in the states maybe not every American, but the vast majority of us w ho at least go to public school learn civics. You learn how the government works, and history. Did you learn that, was


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 2 3 that part of your curriculum? And what did it mean to s omeone living in the Canal Zone ? B: Yeah, it was. To me it was a subject I had to take. W: Just another subject? B: Yeah. Just another subject. I was more interested in science and math. W: And is that what you studied when you went to the junior college ? B: Yeah, uh huh W: And then specifically talk about your college career, both there and in Gainesville, and then your transition of course, that must have been something. B: Right, right. Well I think, looking back, I think the quality of education th at we got in the Canal Zone was really good. I think that in general the teachers were very well qualified. I was a good student. When I went to junior college, the math and the chemistry and physics teachers, I just thought were top notch. W: Now were th ey second, third generation Canal onians ? Or were they recruited down there? B: I think quite a few of them were recruited. One of the things that I found and this was right around the time that the hippie movemen t and Vietnam era was starting there w ere two teachers down there. One taught middle school, the other one was an English comp. teacher. The English comp. teacher, everybody really liked. He was really a good teacher. In fact, I consider myself today a rather good writer. I attribute that main ly to that English comp. teacher. But they were both gay.


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 2 4 W: Were they a couple, or just ? B: Yeah, they were. Yeah, they became a couple. And when that became know n, they were deported from the Canal Zone because of that. Thinking back on that, and how narrow minded. Here were two well especially the English comp. teacher, the guy was just a really good teacher. If you talked to a lot of my friends that had that class, and they said, yeah, he was really good. W: Did you ever find out what happened to him after? B: No, no. W: How did it come out, I mean if you guarded. B: W: B: [ Laughter ]. I know. Everyone figured it out. W: Any other instances of that? This is t you assume there are gay people everywhere, but B: No. The whole deportation thing was I remember there were two kids where their families got deported because their kids just go t in really bad trouble. W: Really? Doing what? That sounds like a B: I think, one of them just got kinda violent. Beat up a couple other kids. And his family was deported. The other one got drunk and went out onto a yacht that was


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 2 5 parked at the yacht cl That family got deported. W: B: Hm? W: B: Yeah, yeah. I mean you had to do something pretty bad. But if you did, you were gone. Your family, father lost his job, you were gone. W: You talked about your relationship with some of the Panamanians. But my understanding is there were really a whole host of minority communities there. Some left over from the construction days. Did you work? Did you interact with th em? Were they a part of your community? B: Well, yeah, it was the West Indians that lived in W: Sounded like quite the community actually. B: Right, right. Looking back on it, the thing th at I found so interesting, was all the West Indians lived in this place called Paraiso. Those are the descendants of people that built the Canal and mo st of them worked on the locks, line handlers and so on. Looking back at it, the only time that I as a kid noticed, there was a softball league. They had their team, or teams, then they would play with all the other Zonians. But it just struck me that they live d out there and everybody


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 26 situation, you know, in the states in the [19] 60s. It never was like that. It just t thought it was kinda odd that they lived there and everybody else lived elsewhere. W: Well that then brings me back to the question of your transition then from being junior college in the Canal Zone to the University of Florida. Because Gainesville, le So that must have been a real. B: I had a really hard time making a transition to the states, because many rules. Drinking was one of the things that really bothered probably heard other interviews, I mean, social drinking was pretty much a sport in the Canal Zone When I transferre one yet. The whole idea of ha ving to be twenty one sending people to Vietnam at eighteen We just had so much freedom in the Canal Zone It seemed like I gave a lot of that up when I came to the states. So many rules, it really bothered me. It took me about a year; I got over it [ laughter ]. But it just seemed like I had a much free er life when I lived down there. Of c ourse, you know, if you got in trouble in Panama, all the police knew your family and everybody You get pulled over, and say, Ru W: ds go to school to get freedom. B: Yeah. To me it seemed the other way around. Yeah, I was living on my own, but emed like it back then.


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 27 W: Yeah. Did you live on campus, or did you ? B: Yeah, I did the first semester. Back then we were on a quarter system First quarter I did. My friend Ted, he also transferred, and we shared an apartment. So I lived off campus from that point on. W: Hopefully a little free er. B: Um hm. W: What did you study when you were at Gainesville. B: Civil engineering. W: Okay. An d what about your life then now? Y B: No. W: to the Z one. Why not? B: You know it was interesting, my father, I think he saw the hand writing on the Canal forever. And he just really gonna be here. So it worked, that sunk into my head. When I graduated, I really B ecause I knew that unless I worked for the Canal ing to have the opportunity in Panama at that time. W: And that wo 75? B: [19] 74. Yeah I graduated in [19] 74. So then I started my career. W: And do you go back much?


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 2 8 B: different country, a different place. W: Do you still have friends who live because I understand a lot of people stayed and continued working for the Canal B: Yeah. Yeah, I have a couple friends who still live there. W: And so you think the transition went well? B: W: Okay, well please share your opinion of that [laughter]. B: I had a great opportunity to work there. I worked for an envi ronmental engineering company a nd we had a contract performing environmental assessments of the property that wa s there were military bases, A rmy bases, Air F orce bases, in the Canal Zone W: Ours or theirs? B: Ours. So we were hired by the military to per form these assessments of the property to determin e a condition of the property as it was being reverted. W: This would be about when? What years? B: This was in the early to mid [19] 90s. You could tell the place just was in absolute turmoil. To me, it appeared that way. The civilians who were working fo r the military on these bases had a lose their jobs. It was just so much uncerta seem to be a very well organized process for the reversion of the pr operty. And so during that time you saw what used to be the Canal Zone kinda decaying.


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 2 9 W: At the site of your childhood. B: Right. Back when Americans ran it, it was kind of run like a military base. Everything was like neat as a pin. As the reversion was going on, that c ame to an started to mildew. And it was just part of the process. It took a while before all of Canal Zone h better condition. But in the [19] 90s, it just was not going well. It was just a rough W: Better than the [19] 90s, or better than B: Yeah, better than [19] 90s. W: ut how often? B: About once a year, once or twice a year. W: So it feels to me like we might be coming to the end. If you have any stories or I wanna make sure I hit everything you wanna hit, and that usually leads to more questions, but B: No, I W: Well, I wanna thank you for coming by today. I hope you enjoy the rest of your reunion; I understand it goes for the rest of the weekend. Thank you very much someday [lau ghter], i n a museum exhibit or W eb site. [break in recording] W : ayuco rac e. First off, how do you spell c ayuco?


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 30 B: C a y u c o Cayuco. W: So tell me a bout your participation in the c ayuco race. B: When was the first year [19] 67. W: Was it its first year or your first year? B: That was my fir st year. At that time it was a Boy S cout event. Although everyone did join the Boy S couts, that was pretty muc h why they joined, was for the c ayuco race. Not many other scou ting activities were done throughout the year. It was just a great event. All of the crews had to do all the work themselves on the boat. Usually one of the fathers would be the scout master and could help using power tools. It was a three day race through the Panama Canal It would start on a Friday afternoon. The first leg of the race was from the Cristobal Yacht Club to Gatun Locks. W: So you had to travel. B: Yeah, we had to drive over. W: Did you get the day off? Friday off school? B: Yeah, we actual ly got it off from school. What would happen is families on the camping out underneath their house, because the houses were built off the ground. It was a real adventure; you got to go in there and camp out. The night before or actually after the first day you would sleep over after the first leg of the race. And then the second leg of the race you would start on the lake side of the locks and go to Gamboa. That was really the m ain part of the race because


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 3 1 six miles. When you get out at Gamboa, then you would start there for the third day. And you actually went through two sets of race and it was just a blast. W: And you got to go throug h th e locks as they lowered and B: Yeah, we actually went through the locks. W: Did they suspend? T B: Oh yeah they did Back then the traffic through the Canal was nowhere near was just a great event. Back then there was probably no more than fifteen to I think last year there were ninety two boats in the race. W: Uh huh. Did you ever w in? B: No, we came in second though. Came in second one year. First year we came in third. Second year I think came in seventh. And the last year came in second. W: But didn B: Oh, yeah. The scout master. At that ti me, all the boats were genuine c ayucos. take off to make it lighter So we would plane or sand off W: wood derby, they give you good.


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 3 2 B: Right, and then we would put I forgot what you call it a canvas top over the bow with the wave break. Sometimes if the water got rough, water would come over the bow There were four people in each c ayuco. W: So these are pretty good size. B: Oh, yeah, they were like thirty feet long. W: Okay. I was envisioning something a little smaller. B: Kinda like, you know what you see in Hawaii Five O but without the outrigger [Hawaii Five O was an American television series about policemen in Hawaii that aired from 1968 to 1980] W: Well, c ongratulations for second place. things. B: I actually started back up again. I went back in 2008 and did it again [laughter]. W: Oh you did? So will you explain the differences? You said before they had to be wooden, but now it sounds like B: Some of them now are fiber glass. Some of them are kinda hybrids, where pa rt of the boat was an original c ayuco and then to it. Not very sustainable to be going out and cutting all the trees out of the rainforest to make c W: couts anymore. B:


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 3 3 W: Really? B: a very well organized race, the [19] 70s. W: Yeah. Did people travel? Is this something t hat pulls in ? B: Hm? W: Is this something that pulls in some sort of, a certain level of sports tourism? Do people travel from around? B: Well, some people do. I would have thought there would be mo Panamanians that are in the race and a few Zonians. Still quite a few Zonians that keep doing it last year t here were ninety. And this year W: And what time of year? When does it happen? B: I guess. W: Oh, it sounds like a lot of fun. B: W: Now, is you r cayuco is the one you use, is it wood or do you use a fiberglass one?


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 3 4 B: some of the original c ayuco in the main body of it But in the bow got wood st ri ps built on to it. W: Now does he live in the Z one or does he ? B: No, he lives here in Florida. But he and his wife own a home down there, so he goes down quite a bit. W: Okay. And I never did ask you, where do you live now? B: I live in Clearwater, Florida. W: Clearwater, Florida. So a lot of Zonians seem to have settled in Florida. Is there a reason for that? I would have thought Texas or California. B: Well there are quite a few in Texas as well. Yeah, the Texas. But y eah, it seems like most of us ended up here in Florida. Probably because the weather is similar. W: Yeah. That strikes me as right. B: W: hat would people who liked the cold woul else would y ou like to share, let me know. Sometimes w stories. S ome people actually show up with little notes, they want to make sure they get to every single story. Thank you for joining us. And I hope you stay


PCM 016; Bowen; Page 3 5 abreast of what goes on with t he museum. I t seems to me that the community really has embraced the museum in a way that really is good for its overall health so my opinion is a bright future for it. B: Great, great. W: Thank you very much. B: Al l right, thank you, man. W: Thank you [End of I nterview] Transcribed by : Annie Boggs, 09/10/12 Audit edited by: Anna Walters 02/07/13

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