An interview with James Forbes


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An interview with James Forbes
Physical Description:
64 minutes
James Forbes
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Panama Canal


General Note:
Interviewed by Amanda Noll

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Source Institution:
University of Florida
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
PCM 020 James Forbes 7-2-2010
PCM 020
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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 020 Interviewee: James Forbes Interviewer: Amanda Noll Date: July 2, 2010 N : This is Amanda Noll with the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on July 2, F: Jim Forbes. N : And thank you so much Mr. Forbes for coming here to talk to us tod begin with your early childhood, some of your family history, anything like that. F: Okay. My father was on the way to the Columbian oil field s after World War I, about 1920, a nd he stopped off to see his sister T his is his oldest sister who was the wife of a United States Army engineer who had worked in Hickam Field in Hawaii and then had transferred to build Albrook Field on the Canal Z one. H e said he dropped off and stayed for thirty seven years. I learned from his niece that in fact he jumped ship and if h er had not actually becoming a police officer there for the first six or seven years and then he transferred to a sanitary inspector let me g et back to that. M y mother in 1929 my father was from Payette, Idaho, my mother was from Bra dford, Pennsylvania had raining and got her R.N. and this was her first job. She liked to travel she was quite a lovely lady and she went to Panama to work at Gorgas Hospital and dad was the blind date the first night that she was in Panama. And he sa id, well some guy said, come on, hey Ray go [out. ut he did, and the y ended up marrying and living happily ever


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 3 after M y father, my earliest memories when he went to the sanitary department I must have been four, five, six years old no, three or four or five before I went to school we lived in Peter Miguel, or Pedro Miguel, and I remember going out with him, dark night ito and kill it and put it in a little bag. And then they collected these all over the isthmus my dad and other people and then the laboratory and they would find out what mosquitoes were there and if they had an increase in A nopheles or in the Aedes aegypti which [transmit] suffocated. So, I remember that. And my dad, at the end of his career, he was one of the experts on malaria and mosquito control in South America because no education, I mean, high school but that was it. But, after he was doing whatever this was in Peter Miguel he went into Balboa and moved to Balboa, and we lived on Ridge Road near the administration building. Golly, I left for university from there. They moved to another place. They got better quarters because he had better seniority overlooking Albrook Field. But, during World War II he was in charge of garbage collection so he had to [supervise] all the garbage trucks. T hey ran trains out to


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 3 Summit where they had a big incinerator and he was in charge of that for sev en or eight or nine years. T hen at the last of h is career he worked out of the Panama R ailroad terminus in Panama City itself in a sanitary inspector My mother, she nursed for a bit at Gorgas Hospital and then she stopped to make babies, and she had two of those. And when World War II came along she went off to work and she was working out in the jungl e, at construction sites. S he did parents, I see c ompared to many Zonians who, f ive d of Spanish Spanish and were quite fluent. Dad needed it at his business, but less so than mother. Mother was out with construction workers and most of th em only spoke Spanish. There were these jobs, so mom worked in Spanish for five, six, seven, eight years. Now, in the late 1920s my dad inv ested ten thousand dollars in a coffee finca up in Chiriqu Province in Cerro Punta and lost his tail because [the coffee finca] was too high it was about six thousand feet and it was just too cold to grow a lot of coffee beans and you probably need three hundred cups to make a tree worthwhile. So he lost his money, but I remember mother saying that they would go up to David, [Conception] and they would get on horses an hours on horseback up to Volcan. And apparently, he said, we went through this one area at night, I got in at about midnight and, dad said, she had her arms in


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 4 the flour barrel making biscuits for everybody, because she was an ind ustrious lady. But, she said, on the way back we saw that it was a very narrow path and the mules or horses, whichever they would be on, would probably bounce once before they landed in the Chiriqu River I of my mothe a murderer and he came by to their house when she was by herself up in Cerro Punta and she said she fed him coffee he was the nicest guy in the whole world, but anyhow, all sorts of lovely stories. We spe nt a lot of our summers at the [Volcan] I guess it was about 1943 or [19]44 becaus states we went up to, a fellow named Pablo Brack ne y owned a construction business in Panama, a friend of my parents, he had a farm up near Volcan towards the Costa Rican border from El Hato, which is the last real town before you ge t to the Costa Rican border. W e went up there I think 1943, 19[44] and he gave my father a lot and dad built a summer home up there. So we spent a lot of time up in Volcan. Of course, we were expected to speak Spanish and we did pretty well. I mean, we took it in school, et cetera. And I still go back to Mexico lots of Sp anish speaking people here in Florida So structure. I was a professor thirty one ye ars and I understand structure [laughter] So, I was born at Gorgas Hospital in December 19, 1932. Sister was born there July 13, 1935. Both of u s graduated from Balboa High School. I was the class of [19]50 and my sister, the class of 19[53]. Well, some of my parents


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 5 Walter and Jessie Lindsay a nd he was the chief of the b otanical garden at Summit And m education a nd both Walter and Jessie had. T Pullman, W ashington. W into it, but it ended up that it was associated somewhat with the Baptist church that my parents we re quite active with the Balboa Heights Baptist Church and there was a missionary radio station. I ended up the last year, two years in high school that I would go down and announce on it and pull records and do all the rest of the stuff that needed, a nd it was really great fun. So I thought I wanted to get into radio speech and Washington State had both a radio speech program and I got up there and it and I ended up switching to agriculture and got a degree in agriculture. But, the reason I went up there is one, that Walter and Jessie Lindsay had graduated and then Bill Zeamer who was the swim coach [in Blaboa] because I was on the swi m team and the water polo team he went up to get a masters degree and several of us we nt up there, myself, a fellow named Don Conner who was a really good swimmer, and so we ended up because of that r or my parents had been to N : Well, maybe you could tell me a little bit more a bout what school was like there? F: Okay. Well, my kindergarten teacher was Mrs. Onderdonk forgotten the name, lovely lady N :


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 6 F: Well, when I went to school Balboa we walked to school, and because we walked through the botanical garden in Balboa and the elementary school was just at the end of the walk through the botanical garden, went through six grades there, and then went to junior high school and then to Balboa High School, still in walking distance. I was in a biology class and really enjoyed all of that. In fact, my poor mothe and I think between my second and third year, sophomore and junior year, the biology teacher, Mr. Lee, let me bring two boa constrictors home over summer. I ot snakes crawling across my back, but they liked it, it was warm [laughter]. But, she was okay about may have to choose between this current wife of forty seven years an d snakes, I think probabl hear the oral history. Mr. Fischer was a science teacher and everybody, we were talking in our reunion room yesterday just about what a great teacher he was a s well as Mr. Lee in biology. We would go out on field trips to Barro Colorado Island and stay the weekend, and you know, go out with howler monkeys. In fact, I was out there one time we stayed I think it was only one night, maybe two nigh ts but there was a fellow I think he was from the Entomology D epartment at Harvard and I went out with him and he was tracing army ants and they move at nighttime so we were out in the middle of the bloody jungle, dark, dark, dark


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 7 and he had a head lamp on tracing wh ere the army ants were going because squares of dirt and count the microbes and the things in them. And where the army ants had been, there were none, and if you go a little bit t o the right, you have thousands of them. But, it was really interesting to watch them. Do you know what they are, army ants? N : Yes F: They go and eat everything in their path. But that was just great, I mean, what a thrill for a young guy that likes science. But you had experiences like that. The fellow, name of Fred Wilder the Spanish teacher I remember, learned a lot of Spanish from that. We took Spanish and then of course we could practice it. When I was coming down on the plane from Vancouver two days ago we had a book of biographies put together for the fiftieth reunion of the class of [19 ]50 and the class of [19]49. I went through and read and I knew we had good schooling because almost every pro fessor or school teacher had a degree, like from Columbia and from one other university, some of the best in the world. to school, et cetera. But I had looked and I think som ething like thirteen or fifteen of the hundred graduates in my class of the women got Ph.D.s or D.N.s. Well, in 1950 women did not get these high degrees. Y ou know, what do they do? All they got to do is make babies. It just shows a, the quality of our education but also the quality of the parents. A lot of the se parents were upwardly mobile. L ike my


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 8 you just see what happ ened. I mean, the success ratio out of our hundred st udents compared to the normal high school is unbelievably high. N : Do you have any idea what caused that? F: ings you to. I ne of the lotteries of life. Y ou get born to terribly us t much fun. You get the parents that five years, and you can tell this. But, in addition to that, I think that plus the qu ality of the school education was such that you were expected to go to high s c hool and it was, I think, 60, 70 percent of our class maybe 50 percent went on to university, and a normal class here in the states or in Canada, 20, 30 perce nt. S o mean, might be a lot of behavioral science because I teach marketing. When you look at a lot of this about the family background a nd what it does to the children. W e were just lucky. I got the red stork. Life is good [laughter]. N : You mentioned earlier that your parents were involved in the Baptist Church down in the Canal Zone. Can you talk a litt le bit about that and church life? F: Well, I think dad went on sufferance [laughter] Mother, she fell in love with, I Bibi. I never thought very much of him he beat his wife for one thing, but she was very much that life in


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 9 the Canal Zone revolved around a church group, oft en is one of the big ones, and the fraternal group s like the Elks and the Masons, et cetera. And so, we were close to the Baptist Church. My mother had a Christian upbringing st ronger than my father. But, he went under sufferance and she, I think she played the piano a bit. I know that my sister, who became a pianist, she used to play the organ when she was in high s chool for a lot of the services Other than that, as I get older I get less and less religious and more against religion so I guess talk to this about. But a lot of great fun because the kids that I was with in my peer g about all th at I can remember. N : Was you r father a part of any other groups? Any fraternal groups? F: Dad was a Mason, but he never participated very much. Oh well, he had a real love very, very intelligent guy he was the president of the Peter Miguel ___(18:46 e lapsed)___ the Summit golf course. The Peter Miguel Golf Course built on the Peter Miguel locks, on the far side. Right after World War II I think they were having the canal expansion because they built they moved to Summit and dad was the pres ident before and then he shepherded the move to Summit He was the president of the golf course seven, or eight, or ten years. came to North America. I was a swimmer and so we had other things to do. But he was very in volved in that, and that took a lot of his time. I mean, my mother was a g olf widow on the weekends. H aving said that, he was a good dad. He did lots of things but he played golf on the


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 10 weekends lose our minds. N : Exactly. Get a nice record for you guys. Can you talk a little bit mayb e about the war experience for your family, [inaudible], and you? F: Oh yeah. I remember and so does David Roble s we were talking last night December 7 because we had some people from the states who lived in Panama, a young couple were at our house for dinner on the Sunday night and we heard the news and my dad quickly took them home, mom gave us a bath, and they turned the lights off because they were afraid the Japanese were going to attack that night. So they had no electricity unti l the next morning. And then it was a great place to be during the war because you had all t he soldiers. We used to go out, the camps had little identifying [aircraft] models for the people to identify them, used to get those from soldiers A nd I lived nea r Quarry Heights, which is the control station for all the Panama area and during the war I had a paper route on Quarry Heights. So, I used to deliver p apers every day up there. W e had air raid shelters and a couple of times you were called out to go to th remember I think the Battle of the Coral Sea it was the Yorktown or one of the aircraft carriers were just decimated, big holes in the sides, and it came into port and we went down and saw and saw all the big holes in the side of the boat, lots


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 11 of people were killed on it, and it was on the way to the East Coast of the United States to get repaired. I remember that happening. I remember hearing about submarine patrols, mainly from t he Atlantic side and the Caribbean. I also mean, you know, why not? What else? Well, as scouts we would go up to the names are escaping me Rio Hato Air Force Base and have a scout week, a week in camp, bu t it was on the military base. I miles north of Panama I had a friend over in Albrook Field, I used to g o over jitney, the bus, and go over happen this type of thing. Much worse than what we had. We had a pretty nice existence. N : And what did your mother think about going back to work? You said she went back to work around that time? F: back to work and then she became after the war was over she went to work at the Bal boa Dispensary. S he was the dispensary nurse there for seven or eight years. T she became the [Balboa High] school nurse from then until I guess 1955, [195]6, or [195]7 when they retired she was school nurse. So, all these people know Mrs. Forbes. S lly nice


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 12 lady, never met a stranger. Came up British Columb ia, little kids were both small. M other would go out and she says, do you know Mrs. Smith has had a down the block but anyhow, everybody liked her. I think she was really happy, and she loved work. She liked people a lot and they liked her so it was good meld and they used the money and it was good. N : Did you take vacations to the states? F: Yes. N : What was that like be ing raised in the Canal Zone and coming back to the United States? F: W there and get into New York. N difference in temperature was real ly quite noticeable. Some friends of ours, fellow name of Hit er, he was the captain of one of the big dredges. He was from Northern New York State, near a town called Parishville and [in] [19]41 he talked my parents into going up to a little lake called Jo e Indian Pond, which is near Parishville, and Potsdam, New York. And they had a summer house up there. I think it may have belonged to the family. But anyhow, we went up there and dad r four years because of war But in the interim, they won the lottery I think about three or four thousand dollars a nd bought a much better place, sight unseen, but


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 1 3 came back from Washington State the summer of [19]51 or [19]52 and was Business School in another era and my wife and I came up there with our two children [the summer of 1958] and a c ouple of mates from Harvard visited us on Pennsylvania where my mother was from and visit relatives there [it] was great, meeting my big cousins, you know were ten, or tw elve, or fourteen years older than I. I know two of them had been in the war, been wounded. It was a place called Bradford, Pennsylvania and it was really a pleasure to go back and see Aunt Sadie and Uncle Art. And Uncle Art was a blacksmith. Have you ever seen Zippo cigarette lighters? N : Yeah. F: He made the first dies for Zippo cigarette lighters in the late 1930s at his forge. You kno N : So how did traveling in the United States compare to the summers you spent in Panama? F: N : You said you had a summer house in Panama as well? F: up to Volcan and then we just had a great time in the summer. D ad would get a


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 14 mont h off. The difference in temperatu re was unbelievable. S ome of the nicest climates in the world, the tropical alpine all the way up through Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico. T hree, or four, or five thousand feet the humidity drops, it goes down to what not v ery cold, you know, fifty degrees, maybe forty five if five, seventy, low humidity. Magnificent climate. Actually, in 1975 I had a sabbatical and we took a camper from Vancouver to Panama and back over ten m onths and we took our two youngest children at the time they were six and nine all the way down and back and we stayed in Volcan for a whole month. The Audubon Society of Florida owned a house there they used for people to go down to stay when they we re studying birds and so I rented that house for a month and just had a spectacular time. I just love the area and of course speaking Spanish it was no points I think of my wi fe and my vacations is doing that. But answered sort of straying off. W ell three different years we did it be fore I left, but my parents would go up there. But, I remember I slaughtered hogs [laughter]. Take a degree in animal husbandry. But I came down, I think between my first and second or second and third it had to be second and third or third and fourth ye ar at Washington State taken a course in meats and I helped a guy slaughter the hog and butcher the hog. It was good. The mozo I remember his name was Juanelo really neat


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 15 way up near Cerro Punta going and not sure why he was going up there but I remember going with him. I remember taking this is nasty to tell you I had .22s and we were shorting orchids that were hanging from the trees, shooting them down as target At that time there were lots of orchids. But, we slaughtered the hogs. That was fun. And I remember we used to either take a horse or walk into El Hato and buy groceries. T nly seen people use it in Panama, it s called pes u ia. Pes u uying things for your mother. They give you a little piece of gum or something. We had a great time going with Juanelo to shop, becaus e my parents let me go off with him he and his wife were just lovely people and he was just a local laborer but a nice guy. I remember two or three summers when I was up there that I spent a lot of time with Juanelo, and nice people. And my wife and I went back in 2000, and we were there for a month or so. We rented a car and went up to Volcan and then around to Boquete and just had the loveliest time. People, the Panamanian people, I just think are so sweet and so friendly. We just had the loveliest ti me. We went to a place called Chepo and Chitr up there to David and we went out ther there so we w ere going to go out and see it. And there is this lovely restaurant, this fellow was serving us he was forty five, fifty years old


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 16 from here but I went to Panama for ten or fifteen years and then I came back, es paraso back in the hometown, but we had experiences like that all up and down the around to Boqu ete, and thing I liked in Boquete was the coffee. It is so good. We were having five and six cups a day. I used to use milk and cream, [but there used] nothing because it tasted so good A Boquete coffee, five or six weeks ago, got the highest price for co ffee ever paid in the world, 173 dollars a pound. They paid sixty eight or sixty six thousand dollars for a big bag of coffee, a Japanese guy he was on the news some place. Awesome, and I can see why, ut the high altitude coffees T hey mix them with the robustas that are grown in the lowland areas like over in most and coffees from the highlands of Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico are a world class thing, same class, same level, very expensive stuff but not 173 dollars a pound. sorts of little things. Oh, I remember, I went up to scout camp when they had VJ Day, it was August 1945 and we were at a scout camp and I remember this was in El Hato and a big celebration because the war was finally over. I remember we


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 17 walked up on the volcano on a big hiking mission I dropped out, my dad gave e it. We used to go up there and shoot pigeons. They had very large wood pigeons, just yummy to eat, and we shot those but everybody did. What else Are these interviews always this disjointed? N : A little bit. F: Yeah. N : Memories just keep flowin g back, I mean F: N : experience going to college? Was it difficult going so far away from home? F: Well, mine was made probabl y less difficult than others b ecause this fellow Walter Lindsa y, who was the head of the botanical garden, his wife had a sister living in Spokane and so my transition was such. My father had one of his sisters lived near Bo ise, Idaho so I flew up and they met me and I spent about a week there then I flew up to Pullman when school started and I had to get a job I worked in student union and other things but then I went up to see Mac and I forget the name [McCabe] but anyhow she was the sister of Jessie Lindsey and her husband. L ovely, lovely people and I was their son. But in addition to that, it was relatively easy because my father was from the area and the first Christmas I went down and stayed with, I called her I forget the name [his niece, Grace Powell] nine years old


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 18 and d lives down in West Linn Oregon. B ut her second son was born five months before I was so we were the same age and the son had a girlfriend, again within a month or two of his birth, so I went down and the first Christmas the minds would go out in the snow, so I skied twice and then I gave it up. That was e a lot of travelling as children, more so than most people would do in North American, so we had a lot of experience travelling. My parents were very supportive of me going to university und a girlfriend relatively quick, so that helped out. A fter the first six months, I joined a fraternity, five, six, sev en times over the years and so the worst part was going up to swimming practice at eight in the morning, minus twenty five a scarf so I ended up taking one of the towels and putting it arou nd my head to keep my ears warm. T his was tough stuff. I had long johns on have a daughter wh o lives where it gets minus fifty well, she actually died a year and a half ago but when I go up to visit Sue, went up for the funeral, I had


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 19 long johns on be cause it was minus thirty. I sometimes I was a little bit homesick but not a lot. It was good. N : Did your sister leave the Canal Zone after she F: Yeah, my sister came up actually to Washington State and she left after a year and went to Denver and married a fellow in the Air Force there. Got an R.N. like m we had a number of people, a fellow named Jerry [Ashton] his dad was the British consul in Guayaquil, Ecuador then became the consul in Panama and Jerry was on the swimming team, he was a year or two older than us. Jerry went up along with Don Conner and me I think that was the three of us that went up because Bill Zeamer had gone up there to get his masters and Jerry was a good backstroker, and so he went up and he got a masters degree of some sort. livia to the trace. Because he and I were very good friends. We did a lot together, both in Panama and up in Pullman. So, there we go. Next [laughter]. N : How long did you pa rents stay down in the Canal Zone? F: [19]56. e went to Arizona and my mother I say when she was there as part of mission there


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 20 was a doctor called Dr. Ike who was a sur geon. E very three or four weeks the two of them would fly over to San Blas and hold free clinics for the San Blas Indians. So when they retired, the parents went to Arizona B ut then Dr. Ike had retired and went up and opened a practice up in Coalinga, California which is between Los Angeles and Bakersfield or Fresno, and he enticed my mother to go for several years and become his nurse. They were living in a motor home, an Airstream motor home, so they went up and did that. T hen after Ike retired, he went back to Sun City, California and my parents went down to Hemet in their motor home. My dad died in 1963 or [19]64 of cancer, and when he was in Hemet then my mother moved to Sun City with her aunt by marriage had married a fellow who was quite a bit younger than her, she had quite a money, took great care of her, but he said come on back to Bradford and h elp me because Marie they had a place in St. Petersburg, so for two years actually she was there about eighteen months and Marie died. She was telling ever ybody how old she was, she died, said she was eighty five, she ended up b eing ninety three or ninety four. She died and mother stayed with Elsworth until she died. They ___(43:49)___ and then they moved to Sun City, California after that and were there for twenty one or two years and she died and he died abou t two or three year s later. I think it was a very platonic relationship, he was sort of asexual. But, he squired all the ladies around. My mother and all the


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 21 ladies, he just loved driving them around pla ces all over Southern California, but they had a very nice life. I think she lived longer with him than she had with my father, twenty six years and with dad it was only twenty three or four. But s all over, all the people work for here. A lot have migrated here or to California or Arizona where my parents went or Texas. Ok, next. N : Was it hard for your par ents to leave do you think, the Canal Zone? F: of family up here. Well actually when they left the zone, my grandmother my came to live with them for the first four or five years before she n either of them liked it, but they cou Angie, so Angie was there. And they would spend the summers up at Joe Indian Lake, up in New York, and keep track of them. I had to keep my head above water. I think probably if I went back I could probably try used it in th e summer of [1958] when I was between the two years at Harvard Business School. They d I and our two young kids. T gotten us up there, the Hiters Mr. Hiter had died but Mrs. Hiter was there. A


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 22 fellow name d Barney Barlow was in charge of either the Pacific locks or all the lock s I thin k it was just the Pacific locks he was the main control operator and ended up being in charge. He was in charge of ope ning up the St. Lawrence Seaway. B etween my two years at Harvard, I went up and I worked in the office for Barney Barlow, something to keep us eating I remember we got up from Harvard and we got there and I had no money, so I went to Mrs. Hiter and borrowed ten bucks until I got my first check from the St. Lawrence S `SEE IF THIS WORKS00:20:32 Real time eaway Authority. I put the first boat through the St. Lawrence Seaway [laughter]. Simply because I was there at night and somebody needed to take a line when they were just starting to fill it, but that was lo ts of fun. But it is like home. And actually, last November my wife and I took a trip from Ft. Lauder dale to Los Angeles on a ship. I and we we re going to stay an hour, and three hours later we were still standing, got to go through the lock. I think it was about nine or ten, twelve hours, and we only went down for lunch. We stayed out the whole time, it was the new canal was being built, seeing all of that happening. I knew so much dge was over there, we saw it. T he big Hercules crane st cranes in the world there was one they bought from Germany after the war, but it looked a lot like the


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 2 3 Hercules or maybe t here were two of them. T h is is massive e ngineering and living there down, no, no, my wife bought it for me on the boat and I read i t after about the feats of engineering. Here you have these hundred ton lock gates that literally float, they were designed about 1912 or [19]13 and they still work. They that though hen we went down there in 2000, one of the things that I found very interesting of America in many respects anymore I went down and the United States has the earth that had to be moved was moved by the Fre nch Canal C ompany before they went bust. Now they did a lot of very positive things, but if you were down read the real history eautiful history of all the things that had happened when de Lesseps instituted the canal, and this is a very interesting thing, I hear some of the people that I went to school with, just complain about Panama and how bad they are blah, blah, blah, blah. We stole it from them fair and square, because in fact Teddy Roosevelt sent gun boats in the Colon Harbor because the to the treaty they wanted to do, so they ended up taking it away from them. So, they got it back. A


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 24 transition and it was turned over the Panama, heard these dire predictions from made it a tourist venue so you c happening. I t seemed to be running very, very well. It d Panama in high school, we were just across Four th of July Avenue into Panama from the zone I remember one night I met a young fellow, older than me, but e in architecture from Tulane. H e came back to Panama and tried to get a job. Because he was Panamanian, they would hire him [two] hundred dollars a month compared to [six hundred] dollars a month had he been an American. Actually, one of his classmates this guy was second or third in his class this was a guy that was down in the middle or lowe price and so he went into private practice in architecture in Panama, was doing quite fine. But he saw how unfair this was. But this was before we had the Civil Rights Movement and all the rest of it, it was ok. B not fair. Of course, my parents were, I think, quite liberal they gave to me and passed on, relatively li beral, surely not redneck there were lots of those. N : Can you expand maybe on some of the prejudice that you saw there, from Canal ved there? And also, maybe you had more


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 25 you experienced some of their feelings toward s Americans? F: Trying to structure the answer I always thought when you went to La Boca or Paraso or Red Tank these were all black communities t hey were nowhere as wealthy as we were. I felt sorry knew the word at the time when I was experiencing it. B ut you see these people, dressings and stuff in the dispensary g to think of his name, just an absolutely lovely guy his son he sent to the states and he became a physician [his] dad had put through university and I was just heartbroken for this fello the nicest people. Mother just thought, he could dress better than an y white man a very tender, gentle fellow. Well, you lived with it, you saw it there What could I do? I was a kid. I know it was looked down on when, I guess I was still in grade twenty type of thing. I guess looking discriminated against took it. Maybe they just assumed that was their role in life, Ba lboa and the three or four black ladies and a couple of gentleman that worked


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 26 there were just the thought that was normal. They would be nice to me because I was nice to them, but I was thinking about their station how much I perceived this until afterwards when I look back on it but at the time, that was the way it was. Let me tell you a nice story. At the end of World War II, my parents hired a maid ev erybody had maids Delfina Mu oz and Delfina worked for the family for twenty years or more until she died. She became a member of the f amily. She was a single mother. H ad a daughter by the name of An a and Anna and my mother, once mo ther left the zone, mother and Anna corresponded until Anna died in 2000. So she kept this relationship going. Mother told us, you watch the Atlanta Olympics i n 1996, because An daughter Eileen is going to carry the Panamanian flag She was a fifty mete r freestyle swimmer and there she was carrying the Panamanian flag [at 13 years old] And because of this, Auburn University gave her a scholarship to swim for and both this I le arned since both got degrees. I knew that she was going Fort Amador. Jimmy! ed them in 1975, we came down in the camper from Canada. We were staying out at Tecumen Airport and I called Anna, oh Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy. So literally, with in a half an hour, forty minutes, she and Pedro her husband, were there, come, come. So we came and we


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 27 parked in their driveway in Panama City and stayed with them for the rest of the two or three weeks we were there. And so we met the sons, the two sons and a daughter were at t he point of getting mar ried. O ne son, Pedro, went to university I think his brother did, oh no, all three of their children went to university. Zeomar a is the daughter, now lives in Washington D.C. But, Pedro and Lupe had two daughters, these were the ones that went to Auburn. Rolando had three daughters, all those three graduated as engineers. And Zeomar t ready to go to school some pla ce in Washington D.C. And I think that one of the reasons these kids had all done as well ch a lovely success story. C oming back around, when we went down to Panama last year a Pedrito and Lupe, his ninety second birthday two days ago s in his eyes in my eyes it was just lovely. We learned t hat Eileen had moved to Seattle. S phone type company in distribution. So the ninth of January, we took s he and Drew in Athens. An other little point, David Roble s, who was one of my classmates, we


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 28 had dinner last night, his wife Sylvia said, oh Eileen Coparropa, what a lovely been appointed twenty eight or nine, thirty years old, thirty two years old, and they all knew N : I know that you had already lef t for school and your parents left in the [1950s] as well, but do you think the American Civil Rights Movement going on you know, on American territory affected the Canal Zone? F: gold or silver payrolls I did er, we were gone forty years before that happened. So it continued for a while. I just N : the zone? F: e? N : Carter. F: lad. I thought it was fine. I mean, give it back to them, damn it. We took it away


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 29 live in a the scheme of things. N : F: N : would want to F: hate to go down to Panama where they had air condi tioning in the movie theaters because it got so bloody cold when went outside again We went back there in [19]75 once when we took the camper down and then in 2000 hout it so there you go. N : people vote in United States elections? F: One of the reasons we became Canadians I went up there from UCLA when I got my doctorate is because they wanted us to lie to be able to vote in California elections. We had to tell them we were coming back to the states, and I was disenfranchised, and then I started looking and went


PCM 020 ; Forbes; Page 30 nicer society. N : Do you think that American politics played a large role in the Canal Zone? Or were people pretty separated from it? F: I don you know it affected it a bit, but not a lot. I mean, my dad during the depression, got along fine. They cut their wages 25 percent, but look at what happened to all the unemployed. I think they came out just fine, and I think they role. Are we done? N : Yeah, I think so. F: Thank you, Amanda. That was lots of fun. N : Yes, thank you so much for giving us your time F: Listen to old people reminisce [E nd of interview]. Transcribed by: Kaycee Smith, 10/2012

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