An interview with Thomas Richard Grimison


Material Information

An interview with Thomas Richard Grimison
Physical Description:
51 minutes
Thomas Richard Grimison
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Panama Canal


General Note:
Interviewed by Paul Ortiz

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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 034 Thomas Richard Grimison 7-8-2011
PCM 034
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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 034 Interviewee: Richard Grimison Interviewer: Paul Ortiz Date: July 2, 2011 O: Well Mr. Grimison, first of all thank you for taking time out of your schedule to sit there? G: My name is Thomas Richard Grimison, I actually go by my middle name. I am one of eight children to Thomas William and Anne Nancy Grimison. Grew up in the Panama Canal Zone. My father was born in Panama, his father, my grandfather, was born in Panama and m y great grandfather Thoma s Irvin Grimison went to the Panama Canal Zone in the early 1 9 00s to work on the construction of the canal. He is a Roosevelt medal holder and he stayed after the construction and made his career and raised h is family in the Canal Zone and so O: So the family has a long history in the Canal Zone ? G: went down there. He was in his early twenties and went down there with his wife J essie Shaver they came down from Pennsylvania and they had three children; my grandfather Thomas Richard, and his sister Janice and another sister Helene and Janice and Thomas Richard both had families in the Canal Zone, my Grandfather Thomas Richard marr ied my Grandmother Helen Craw and they had a son, my father and then unfortunately my grandfather died at a young age at the age of twenty nine


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 2 O: Oh wow. G: And so I can go the Corozal cemetery in Panama and I can see my name on a headstone there. [laughter] G: My father was born and raised in the Canal Zone, graduated from Balboa H igh S chool I believe in 1953 and he went to college at Penn State University where he met my mother and my mother, interestingly enough, she was born in Brooklyn but her family moved around and they ended up in Easton, grandfather came from O: Really G: When he went to the Canal Zone and I actually born there as well because I have two older sisters, my oldest sister was born in Easton then my father after graduating from Penn State University with a degree in Architecture, he did two years in the M arine C ore. Then he went back to the Canal Zone and started his career and my sister a year older than me was born in Panama in the Canal Zone and then, even though they were living and working in the Canal Zone at the time, m y mom decided to go back to Pennsylvania when I was born and then I had five younger siblings who were all born in the Canal Zone. O: Okay. G: great grandfather before he went to Panama he did some time on a merchant marine trading ship, a Pennsylvania merchant marine trading ship and the story is he met my great grandmother walking up College


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 3 Hill in Easton Pennsylvania and my grandfather who died at a young age, he shipped out of the Merchant Marine before he became a customs officer in the Canal Zone. I ended up attending the US merchant marine acad emy and I shipped out of the merchant marine for a good eleven years. Then I went back to the Panama Canal and I became a Panama Canal pilot, taking the ships through the Canal and I did that for three years and then I ended up coming back to Florida and n Z great grandparents that both came to Panama for the Canal construction and we have four children. Our three daughters and o ne son. My three daughters were born in Coco a Beach and my one son in Panama. O: [laughter] alright. G: S generation, so even though my grandfather, my father and my son were all born in Panama. O: Well, so with that, so many generations in Panama and the Canal Zone. Did you grow up hearing a lot of stories about the Canal Zone and about the G: a great place to grow up. Very much your do well you locked your doors at night to a degree but kids who run were,


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 4 with a very unique history, I mean, the Panama Canal, you can practically look out your window and see the ships going by and so it was a constant reminder. So my dad let us know ab out the history, about my great grandfather coming down for the construction and so it wa s interesting O: Do you remember any stories from the construction that era that were G: Well my great grandfather was a railroad man. He was a conductor on the dirt trains hauling the dirt out of the Gaillard C ut basically and all alone the route I guess A nd then so when the construction on as a conductor on the trains and Panama and they bought a beautiful beach house up in Gorgona which is a little beach town. It was actually a town that was relocated when they flooded the house was well known and my dad has memories as a ki d going up to the beach house and there was one incident, I think I have some other relatives that are going to be giving oral history too and they probably got this story better than I do. I guess it was around World War Two era time and there was trainin g, a US airfield nearby this town and they were sitting out on the porch one day and they saw this plane come overhead and it crashed into the water and the pilot parachuted out and came wading ashore right there at the beach. A military vehicle came and p icked him up and took him back. Unfortunately the house


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 5 it was a big part of growing up down there, it being water sports basically, surfing and going to the beach. O: Where did you go to high school at? G: I graduated from Balboa High School from first t hrough eighth grade and they to joke and say we spoke with Brooklyn accents because the nuns there were the S isters of M ercy from Brooklyn and then after eight grade we all went into the Canal Zone public school system which has always had a great reputation for being an excellent school system and I was actually, 1979 was the Canal Treaties and that was the date when the transition began for the twenty year transition 79 to 99 A nd the department of defense schools took over the school system at that time becau se Canal Zone government was basically stopped being the government entity that ran the Canal Zone and the Panamanian authorities started taking over the civic and the civil administration and everything. So the school system, a lot of the things had to be absorbed by the military at that point and the school system was one of them, hospitals were another and so all eight of the children, my seven siblings and I all graduated from Balboa high school. My oldest sister Elizabeth in [19] 77, my sister Christina in [19] [19] 80, I have a brother class of [19] 82 Patrick, my sister Rebecca in [19] 84, my sister Melinda in 86, I take that back, my two younger brother did not graduate from Balboa H igh S chool, my dad took


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 6 early retirement in 1986 and mov ed up here to Merrit t Island, Florida and my two younger brothers graduated from high school here. O: G: Going back, I went to the merchant marine academy and my grandparents on my go up there for Holidays to be with that side of the family and I used to carry and then I would ship out as a cadet I used to walk up College Hill with my sea bag over my shoulder just like I guess my great grandfather did when he met my great grandmother coming back from his sea training O: Oh d o you have, you mentioned Balboa H igh S chool and a really positive experience. Do you remember like favorite teachers G: positive experience, I enjoyed it. You know I played football so we had good coaches. One teacher who stand s out who friend now and he t Island where my classes but he was football coach and his name is Loui s H o uston and if he ever gets a chance to do a history he kno O: Oh w G: O: But he was your football coach?


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 7 G: Yeah, he was my football coach. The interesting thing about the Canal Zone, there was o nly two high schools. We had one on the P acific side and one on the A tlantic side they called the Caribbean side A nd so by the time we were in school and the school served not only the Canal Zone depe ndence of the Civilian employees but also all the military dependants and there was enough of a student population by the time we were there to create more teams so they divided our high school into two and they created two teams, Bull Dogs and Red Machine and then the junior college fielded a team which they did for many years even before that and so there was three teams that played each other and they were Balboa H igh S chool, Cristo b al H ig h S chool and Canal Zone college and then they expanded it. It was actually after my time but when Coach H o uston was my coach I was playing for the college team because I did two years of junior college there before I went up to the merchant marine, which was nice because I lived in the town site of La Boca which was right across the street from Canal Zone College so I could get up at 7:30 for my 7:40 classes. It was unreal. [ laughter ] O: Mr. Grimison. You said you were a pilot for a few years in the Canal Zone and Wilder who was a pilot right after World War Two, he was in the merchant marine during World War Two and then another gentleman whose name I cannot remember but he was a f ew years later and so what years were you a pilot?


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 8 G: I was a pilot there from 19 97 till 2000 and I got out of the merchant marine academy in [19] 86 and I started sailing on the merchant marine, mostly on oil tankers. O: Ok ay G: tonnage and then in [19] 97 I was able to get back in, for a while there because treati es you would be h ired any US citi zens hired post treaty were on like a five year rotation, you could only worked there for five years. But as yo aware, many Canal Zonians have dual citizenship and so by the [19] 97 came around and there was only three years lef t till the transition s they finally realized, you how I did it Even though I was born in Pennsylvania I w as able to get my Panamanian papers through dad being born in Panama and so it was really neat, great place to learn how to handle ships and be a pilot, it was a lot of fun, really interesting Now. pilot so it was interesting, it was fun and so I did that for three years and then I was able to get a job up here in Port Canaveral after the final transition in the year 2000. But I worked for the Panama Canal Authority for the first nine months. O: What was it like moving from now you have been on oil tankers before?


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 9 G: Yeah. O: And what was that transition like from oil tankers to being a pilot i n the Canal Zone. G: Well you know becoming a pilot is a goal for a lot of people that ship out because when you ship out anal working the night shift b O: Closer G: Three, four months at a time. So that was a big plus and that was right about the time I had just gotten married and started a family. My first our first daughter was born in July of [19] 97 and I started piloting in October of [19] 97 so it was perfect timing where I an its long hours and a lot of chances to build up that experience which is basically what a pilot is, you have to have the ship handling experience. But yeah, we have four children: my oldest is Carly and she was born in [19] 97 A nd after I had graduated from college and my parents had retired and moved from Panama and moved to the Coco a Beach area of Merritt Island which they Zone in the early [19] kid we would


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 10 come on vacation, we would go to Pennsylvania every other summer. The government would pay for annual leave, which was really neat because we were able to grow up with our cousins in Pennsylvania A nd then after m Coco a Beach S o it was nice because we knew the area and then when I started shipping out, I ended up buying a home after my grandparents passed away in Merritt Island and then when I got th e jo b in Panama, we had to move back [laughter] G: A nd so the funny thing is I tell people that I moved back to Panama through the mail because like I said the department of defense took over a lot of the functions of the, you know they took over the postal system. And so I had a lot of friends, my oldest sister one of them who stayed and went back to Panama to work and they were department of defense school teachers and so between all the friends big furniture but we sent boxes moved back to Panama O: Wow that is so cool. Now you mentioned it takes a while to build up experience to learn how to be a harbor pilot or a Canal Zone pilot. What were some of your early experiences in the Canal Zone? Take us through what you had to learn in order to be a successful pilot through th e G: Yeah, we, the training program, really what you do is riding with other pilots, so the senior pilots I nitia


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 11 and then they starting tell ing you, ok you got it, you take it. T hen what a pilot actually does is throttle. The pilot takes navigational command of a ship, the captain basically turns it over to the pilot. T hen the pilot gives the verbal commands for steering the vessel, for the speed, for the tugboats and then the canal for the locomotives on the loc k walls to pos ition the ship in the chambers S And then what they do is they after so many months of satisfactory training with transit through the canal solo, as a solo pilot might be on a tuna boat. O: Okay. G: You know two hundred and i I T, pilot in training is two hundred and twenty five foot or less. So you get these Japanese fishing vessels which are affectionately known as C hooga Chooga Marus because the diesel sounds like chuga chuga chuga chuga chuga chuga chuga chuga chuga A nd then you build up over months and over the first year of training N ext five ships or less T step one pilot, step two pilot, step three pilot A nd it takes one to two years in between each step A at that time especially was you were mostly working night when the smallest ships go through because day time is when the


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 1 2 Panamaxs which are the large st ships that can fit in the locks which are a hundred and six foot in beam, nine hundred and sixty five foot in length S o the largest ships which were daylight transit only, r equired the senior pilots. So on the night patrol we got banana boa ts, the ree fers, the smaller, the fishing boats, the smaller ones. A nd it was really neat to han dle those kinds of ships a little bit different handling. The big ships you gotta put tugs on and ease them rig ht into the locks and glide along the center wall. Whereas the little ships, actually the goal was not to run down the wall you know. You wanted to keep them out A nd approach which was how you approached th e lock chambers, you try to keep the ship kinda way out A nd then you try to take into account the hydrodynamics effects of suction which will pull a ship in towards the wall, nar row channel effects on ships. S o it wa O: The other, the earlier pilots that you talked about some of the harrowing experiences. Do you have any well say exciting experiences? G: Yeah, I mean eve ry pilot has close calls. T hat comes with the territory A nd g to have a bump here or there as well you kn or dock In my case since smaller ships in the locks at the same time. I was on a tuna boat, I guess and I was behind a little bit larger ship but a smaller ships relatively speaking, maybe a


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 13 five hundred foot long reefer or something like that or a four hundred and fifty foot ship A in touch with the pilot ahead be c ause the two of you are transiting, are locking down tog ether in a chamber. A nd the pilot had neglected to tell me that he was stopping the ship waitin drop the anchor and everything worked out fine but that was a little bit of a [laughter] G: M oment. Even though it was a small ship. I was a junior pilot one time and again, not a who I was on a refrig erated cargo ship, a reefer. I got on at the Atlantic anchorage and I was heading up towards Gatun Locks. T raffic had gotten backed up somewhere along the way or maybe there was fog in the cut and traffic had gotten backed up so they told me, we got ta turn the ship around and go back to anchor and l have to wait another day. So the position where I was in the channel, for me at that time, maybe for a senior pilot it was no big dea l, but for me to turn the ship around where I was in the channel, that was pretty a pretty interesting maneuver at the time. O: Wow. Can you take us through that maneuver? G: at they call the third locks. Which now actually using that build the new locks. It s tarted, I guess, pre World War Two on both sides of the Canal. They were getting ready to build a whole new set of locks on each side. A fter the US got into World War Two, that project kinda faded


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 14 away. B the only position I could see where to turn the ship around in the channel. So, a back and fil l maneuver. You know when you do your car and you know a three point turn on a car or something like that. But I had the of course you have the tug to push. But it was nice because after I did. I turned bow to port and give the ship a good kick of stern W h en give a conventional ship an astern belt it has a tendency to kick a stern actually I went by the starboard but take advantage of this fact. The stern of a ship will have a tendency to twist to port so you can make a turn at a tighter area by taking adva ntage of that fact. It gives you more of a rotational moment, so you can get like, put the rudder hard to starboard, give it a kick ahead on the engines and get it turning to starboard and then you put the backing belt. P ut the rudder minch in put in a bac king belt and that tendency for the stern to move to port is gonna help the ship twist and you already have that rotational m ovement going on A nd if you have a tugboat that will help you nd the nice thing about it was after it was all said and done the tugboat captain hat was a good job, I like that. So it m ade me feel good anyway. [laughter ] Other guys might look at it and say, ah no big deal, what are you talking about bud? It was nice.


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 15 O: Was there a kind of fraternity among the y ou mentioned the different st eps of the pilots, did they would the more veteran pilots tell you stories about older days G: Oh yeah, yeah and in my case because I had family members who were pilots I had the benefit of hearing those stories around the dinner table, family functions and things like that too. My first two weeks as a pilot in training they put you with two weeks so that was nice. It was kind of interesting though because he cut me loose, all right I was s ti the merchant marine going in and out of ports you see, you observe pilots so you have any idea. O: Yeah. G: We were y ou know one of the big things down there, the challenge s with handling ships is the wind E specially if yo the cruise ships, the wind will set the ships so you have to take that into account when direct course in to the lock so you hav e to put a couple of degre es a lee way one way or the other to account for the w I was coming I was making a lake approach at Gatun Locks and it was extremely windy and the wind was blowing across the lock entrance tow ards the spillway o f the dam, at th e Gatun dam at the Gatun Locks I mentioned a wing wall wide approach earlier and this was a small ship Y ou also have what we call the sea


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 16 ks O: uh huh. G: When they spill or when the lock s gates are open A nd on this maneuver you aim directly for the center wall and then as you get close, you kind of turn the and so you turn the ship. And then y ou can call it a little bit of an S curve, and then you go towards the chamber opening and then you come back in towards the wall. So bit of an S curve turn A and curves So I was on this small cargo vessel making my approach and I should have been doing a lake approach because of the wing wall wide but the wind was so strong coming from across the locks entrance that I had to do a sea entrance approach. So it was pointing right at the center wall and then when I got there, I turned and I put the stern of the ship right in to the wind that was howling across and trying the push the whole ship across to the dam And then I did my S turn and brought it right back in and it was a beautiful maneuver. The only problem was I was over speeding as I was going by. Now in order for the locomotives to pass lines and make up you have be doing 3 knots or less. Usually m ore like two and a half knots or less and slowing down all the time and the bigger ships are even slower under the wall. But I gotta say all those guys on the wall, the locomotives, they were running the locomotives, t hey had


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 17 and we drop the anchor A n d when it was all said and done, we had locomotive wires on a ship that size on ly takes four locomotives total, two on the center wall two on the side wall We had come nicely along side the wall. The locomotives were made fast and the only probl em was we had the anchor down. We had to drop the anchor and the ship ca ptain and crew were great because they because as soon as I said, drop the anchor they put the anchor right down. And so, now we had to back the ship up to retrieve the anchor and then we went in. So, it was an interesting experience too. [laughter] O: But you had -Was this something being a pilot was that something I mean you kind of growing up with it ? Was that a goal you always had? G: you grow up watching ships going up all the time. But actually w hat caught my interest more t han piloting was the tugboats. Growing up, I looked at those tugboats and I thought, what a c ool job that is. I mean pushing on, you know helping the ships down to undock. Getting into the locks and out of the locks. S o that was really my interest and they had an apprentice program down th ere where you go into a tugboat mate trainee. I took the right at the treati es. A s I mentioned earlier, they got rid of the police force and the gove rnment side jobs .S o a lot of people were transferring over and they got


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 18 preference, some extra points if they got to try to get into the various apprenticeships. Plus Panamanians were getting eleven point preference at that time too; we tried to get more P anam anians into the workforce I did okay on the best but become a tugboat captain, where do I have to go to school and all of that? And hant Marine Academy. But the interesting thing is that my other Great N ewfie from Newfoundland. In his early twenties he was a captain of a Grand Banks fishing schooner Then he emigrated to New York and was a harbor type captain in New York and from there he ended up down in the Canal. So I guess i t was in the blood! [laughter] G: d and I started looking around going, ok where do I up at the Merchant M arine. O: Okay. And what years were you there at the academy? G: From 1982 to 1 986. I did two years A fter I got out o f high school I did two years at the canal former Canal Zone College and the name was changed to Panama Canal College after the transition and the Canal Zone ceased to exist. Which made it at the Merchant Marine Academy with out the two years of colle ge. The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 19 at K s Point i s one of five federal academies A maritime academies too. the Canal Zone. Ther lmost every year went into King s Point and just like the other federal academies, the only way you get in is from appointments through congressman. But the governor of the Canal Zone had two appointments as well. O: Ok ay. G: So I come to these reunions. You usually see a couple of the guys wearing their Kings Point shirts and so we have to stop and talk with them. I just met a guy last night from Kings Point class of [19] 72 who was a classmate a couple of the pilots I worked with over a t Port Canaveral, so that was interesting. O: that have occurred on the job over the years? G: Well the size of the ships just keep getting bigger and bigger A nd of course hu ge Project, and so t for the new one is the use of a geographic information system or AI S system is actually what it is. W hich is they have these handheld units the pilots c an take aboard. Th ese came into being right about the time I was training A nd they would put these units on the ship and it gives you an electronic and nautical chart and it shows y ou the position of


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 20 the ship of where you are, it shows where the other shi ps are. So it was a huge technological aid in be ing able to figure out O k, whe re do I want to meet this guy beca use there in the canal where you prefer not to meet another ship. Especially two big ships, bigger ships. Tha t was pretty interesting because it used to be that it was all by radio and you had to trust the other pilot to be truthful about where his you know? Because you could be, you know the daylight transit only ships or the cut restricted ships where they can only have one ships in the cut. One way traffic in the cut would have to hold up. For example southbound ship would have to hold up in Gamboa and wait for pilots who say oh cohoist er point to have an idea on how close you could get or hold the ship up them So AIS system on board, nobody could O : You know where they are. G: [laughter] here based on you r speed. On the night patrol it comes into play a little bit too because it another ship. You have to stop th e ship and try to hold the whole position with the ship so


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 2 1 O: Now were there any with all these difficult turns. Do you recall people talking about collisions that occurred? G: ship that sank in the cut and I think the cargo was rice O: Jesus. G: A nd the cargo was all over the place. Luckily I think they were able to get over to the side of the bank so that traffic could still move, which is one of the interesting thing. They actually have beaching areas along the canal A nd the idea is if channel to obstruct the whole canal. O: Yeah. G: So one of the things you do as a pilot as a trainee pilot is that they make you memorize basically the chart. The nautical charts and the maps of the canal and you have to draw them from memory. They give you the outline of the land and all and you have to put in the channel, boundaries and the markers and everything. Now one of the things on the chart is all these little beaching areas. So if you ever have a steering failure or a power failure or whatever and you these s oft mud beaching areas. Hopefully to avoid any major damage and still keep the Canal clear. I can remember seeing a picture, I was still shipping out at the time on tankers but I think that maybe my father in law or somebody emailed one of these very large Mersk container


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 2 2 turns in the lake and ended up outside the channel and that was something to see, this nine hundred and sixty five foot long container ship high and dry. So e but luckily nothing catastrophic or anything that obstruct ed the canal. O: Now what here a lot of people talk about the widening. As a pilot though what does that really mean? Do y ou think in your estimation if it makes a bit easier, a bit more challeng ing? G: Well if the ships were staying the same size it would make it easier. But since not widening the channel and deepening the channel to accommodate ships. Right now the maximum draft for a ship in the canal is thirty nine feet, six inches and I going up to forty five foot R ight now the maximum beam or width of a ship that can go through the leg is a hundred and six feet A going to accommodate ships that are a hundred and forty to a hundred and fifty feet in beam and length wise too. Right no sixty five is the O: Those are big ships. G: away with the locomotives. Bec ause right now ships will go through the locks and the locomotives are on each side and they put up wires and help. Some people


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 2 3 think, sometimes you hear people say, well the locomotives tow the ships into the chamber Well the ships still has to use its own power to get into the chamber as well, but they h elp keep the ship in the middle O: Yeah. G: Off the walls and they help brake the ship and get her stopped. T hey do tow as well, they do help with moving the ship but the factor in actually moving the ship. The ship has to use its engine as well. But with tugboats and tugboat ahead and tugboat on the stern. Ma ybe two on the stern, I O: So no more locomotives? G: Right easy now. T O: issue. G: Yeah, keeping a ship centered in the chamber and helping to brake them in the s like a big piston you know A ship going into one o f those lock chambers is. Because the ship has to displace the ship is coming in, that water is being displaced and pushing out. O: Yeah


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 2 4 G: And a couple of feet underneath the shi p and a couple of feet on each side and that inda crazy when you think about it. How the ship c ould still be floating. O: Yeah Jeeze, right. [laughter] O: Would you go back now? With the widening would th at be something or you G: Yeah, I still have a lot of good friends that are piloting in the ca nal and relatives. Yeah I sometimes think about it. I I tell you man, those pilots down there earn their money because those are long transits and being a harbor pilot here in Florida is a much shorter run. My hours are a little bit better, my time off is a little those large vessels in close proximity to in very narrow channels without a lot of room for error and close proximity to large concrete structures whether there a re locks and d ocks et cetera You know, it takes its toll. So even though I love Panama and I enjoy going back there a ll the time and I would happy to stay there as a pilot but I ended up getting the opportunity to come up here. But I y into it a little bit. [Laughter] O: Yeah, Yeah right.


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 2 5 G: Those guys work hard down there, they earn their money. I can see retiring down there though, at least part of the year, so. But I do think about it s ometimes, to make the change [laughter] O: Yeah you It just seems that with the widening and everything and the ships less G: nd restrictive open ocean where you can go guys O: Yeah. Well do you have any I think one of the thing that C aptain W i lder was yet, was the association. The pilot s association, did that have much of an impact on working conditions when you were a pilot? G: un it. Back during the U S era was a branch of the Master, Mates and Pilots Union. A nd I guess at times you could say it was a little bit of a contentious relationship between the union and management. [laughter]


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 2 6 O: And that kind of continued a little bit, a little bit probably with the Panamanian administration and when I was up at the Merchant Marine Academy in King s Point A bout the time I was there we started getting a lot of Panamanian students through various government programs to get more guys train ed to take piloting jobs at the Canal e ventually after going out to sea and getting some experience. O: Yeah G: And so you know, I took the guys come and seek me to help them out with their English papers and things like that. I worked in the lobster tail s and stuff and I had all the guys in the crew after weddings and stuff. So anyway, here I am back at the Canal in [19] 97, [19] going forward A nd some of the pilots who were on the negotiating team were up at Kings Point with me and they said, get Grimison in here to proof read this stuff and mak wording A nd so I came out of the Canal and I came in and it was really interesting because I got sit at the table and watch some of these negotiations O ne of the pilots that was negotiating I can just remember as he was walking around the room, engaging back to remembering his imitation of a rooster back Kings Park [laughter]


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 2 7 G: In the dorms. But so in finally, after about a week I said, you know I really gotta all, you know seniors. He said well anytime you need, you want me to read something just tell hall and read it. So, that was pretty interesting. [laughter] O: Oh yeah. Well I was curious because I know that in an earlier period the but G: Yeah very much so I think probably the Panamanian Administration would prefer it not to be so. But yeah, the p u situation between them and it does get a little contentious at times I guess. O: What are the main points of barga ining in terms of are there safety issues? G: Well pay and yeah well working rules and scheduling rules and rotation and how much time rest periods do pilots need in between jobs, how much time off do they get between duty periods and all that kind of thi ng. And the pay, the pay that all comes into play. O: When you were piloting back in between [19] 9 7 2000, would you get bonuses for larger vessels G: remember what that all B ut th at was part of it and number of transits I guess was


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 2 8 one thing that you would get a certain bonus after you hit a certain number of transits in a period. Yeah O: But generally if you um more transits and G: The way they structure d the pay, you know. You would have a base pay and I just a little bit different how they divvied up salary, you get this salary. And you did have to complete certain amounts of transits and stuff like that to get all the bonus but I think by the time I was there it was almost kinda rolled up into like an automatic pay rather than specific bonus one I mentioned earlier that had to do with number of transits. O: Okay. w t of your time. G: No problem. O: G: nds of stuff after I walk out. O: Right. [laughter] O: You can always call us if you wa nt to do a follow up. If there are other aspects


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 2 9 G: was just a great place to grow up. A lot of history, you know, living as so many people describe it You know as the rainforest i s your backyar d. J ust really neat. And of course being there for a l ot of the history, a lot of the the treaty transition and all of that. Going through all of that was interesting and you know, at the time most of us down there were up set. We even, when I was in high school we actually went out on strike during treaty negotiations. I think it was around 1978 when I guess it was being debated in C ongress whether or not to sign these treaties to transition the Canal Zone, get rid of the C anal Zone and transition the Canal over to the Republic of Panama. I showed up to school one protesting against the treaties. And you know, of course teachers and principals come walking around and ,get into our classrooms, few more people start crowd of kids out there and the bell ring s and nobody goes in and a couple of the ringleaders start getting out and making their little speeches. Before you know it we had a huge group and we went over in front of the administration building and had these big protests A nd of course the Panamania n press got wind of it and they came out, taking pictures H eadlines in the Panamanian newspapers the next day, Zonians want another January 9 th which is a reference to the 64 riots. W hich was kind of the thing that got the treaty negotiations going and y ou know


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 30 where and I think it went over two or three days. T here was one picture of what looked s, Generales estoy con tigo. O: [laughter] G: ou. I got a kick out of that one. So that was a very interesting period T here was a little bit of tension and turmoil and people wer e not sure what the future held. A nd then of course, I but of course you have that whole perio sure you got some oral histories from people that lived it my wife to come on down because she was here for that. And listening to all the [19] 89 and tension was so t hick you could cut the air with a knife. But the people who lived there had been going through this for so long and they had gotten used to these alerts because the military had different PMLs I think they called them P ersonnel L imitation M ovements or something li ke that, movement limitations. A nd with all the tension that had been building and incidents going on gotten so used to it, but when I went d own there on vacation I was like, this place is gonna blow Watching these APCs and tanks rumbling through town as the US


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 31 kinda over showing their muscle and mov I flew back, I actu ally flew back after vacation. G ot on a s hip, a tanker over at Texas somewhere. I think we were coming in a channel and I look and I see this outbound tanker leaving Texas heading south. And it was a military sealift ship the ships turn ing to fuel for the military, O: G: shit about a month later it all happened. O: I was actually stationed in Panama from [19]84 86 G: Oh yeah? So you were there for some of that, the early stages of it. O: Well we were in I was in Special Forces and we were mainly in other places We were in country only to be G: Ok a little bit o f R and R in between? [laughter] O: Well we were stationed; our post was in F ort Davi s We were mainly in Honduras and other places. G: There was a lot going on in Central America back then. [laughter] O: Yes and I can remember the ten sions but I remember more about I do remember getting up in the barracks one of the few times I was there and watching the big vessel come through and it was amazing. My father had been in


PCM 034; Grimison; Page 3 2 the Navy and I came from a traditionally my family had been from the Navy you differen t. G: uh huh. O: A nd so they all had stories of going through the Canal and the hazing. You know A nd we went through that so it was really interesting. Well is there anything else miste r Grimison? G: [End of interview] Transcribed by: Giovanni Noguera July 2, 2013 Audit Edited by: Ross Larkin, August 20, 2013

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