An interview with Edward Scott Jr.


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An interview with Edward Scott Jr.
Physical Description:
42 minutes
Edward Scott Jr
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 035 Edward Scott Jr 7-8-2011
PCM 035
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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 035 Interviewee: Edward Scott Jr. Interviewer: Paul Ortiz Date of Interview: July 19, 2011 O: Well first of all sir thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to talk with me. S: O: I wonder if we could start, if you could tell me something about your family background in the Panama Canal? S: Sure. As you know, the Panama Canal, the United States involvement in the Panama Canal succeeded French involvement, and it was engaged in as a result of the U.S. assisting a small amount of people in Panama to mount a revolution against Columbia. And then the U.S. got certa in treaty concessions to build its canal. Once that all happened, the process of building the canal involved very significant recruitment of people throughout the United States and throughout the Caribbean to participate in the construction project. And my grandfather was one of those people recruited from Pennsylvania. The method for one of the most important parts of the construction of the canal, which was the Culebra Cut area, was very similar to open pit mining, where railroad tracks were laid and the steam shovels and cutting machinery was mounted on a trail. And so they recruited lots of people who had railroad experience, and my grandfather worked for the railroad in Pennsylvania, and so he was among those railroad people brought down there to work o n the canal to engage in the excavation which as I


PCM 035; Scott; Page 3 say, was very rarely focused. At one time, he probably heard from other people, the Panama railroad was the largest railroad in the world. It had 400 locomotives ly got there. They went down there in the year 1908. The revolution against Columbia took place in 1903, so it was five years later. And my mother, my grandmother went down there with my grandfather and then my mother was born there. And she went to elemen tary school and high school there. Her name was Janice Scott, and I went to the same high school she did, but when I went to that building it was an elementary school. So I went to elementary school there and there was a new high school when I went to high school. And then my daughter was also born in Panama. After I had received a degree from Oxford, I went back and worked there for four years, and my son was born in England but my daughter was born in Panama as well, so I guess we had four generations the re. O: Did stories with your grandfather and his experiences, did he ever tell stories about his time or did any of those ever pass down to you? S: also going to interview, m ay have more information on that because she talked to my grandmother quite extensively about that. But I never did. I was a little boy when I knew my grandfather, and he died when I was in high school. I never did really talk much about his experiences ex cept that once the construction was


PCM 035; Scott; Page 3 within the canal. My grandfather worked first in the mortar transportation division as a mechanic supervisor and then he worked later i n the marine traffic area I believe. But the truth is, I am very vague about it, but he was there for a full career. I mean, retiring in the [19]60s; he spent his whole working life there. And my mother did as well. My mother spent her whole working life t here too. O: Did she work outside the home or did she S: Yes, she did. She worked for the Panama Canal; she was a civil servant and she was an accounting technician for most of her working career. And that was the job she held when she retired. O: Mr. S cott, you mentioned high school. What years were you in high school? S: From 1952 to [19]56. I mean I had to attend the 55 th O: S: O: Balboa, okay. What was the high school like during those years? S: It had the same football teams, basketball teams, cheerleaders. The instructors were all recruited from t he United States or experienced high school teachers from America. And the experience, the method of the curriculum, there was no as far as I can see there was zero Latin American impact on the high school. In


PCM 035; Scott; Page 4 fact, the Spanish teachers were not even local teachers. There were one or two, but most of the Spanish teachers were imported from the U.S. Which is very odd. There was no sense that you were going to school overseas. You might as well have been in fact, I remember a story once written in the Washing ton Post. They said that living there was like living in Hyattsville, Maryland. [laughter] And suburb of a city in the United States. I had a little different personal background than most of my classmates because my mother had married my father who was a British subject, a New Zealander, and he had got to Panama as part of a professional prize fighting troop. He was a boxer and he was also a journalist at the same time, and he ha d lived in Paris for many years, but he was originally from New Zealand. And when he came to Panama, he met my mother and married her, and they worked briefly for the United Food Company, and then he became the editor of the local English language newspape r called The Panama American And he was its editor for many years. He was ultimately deported from Panama by the president, named Arnulfo Arias and he was deported because he r esisted and spoke critically in the newspaper of the leaning of the president toward the axis powers. The p resident Arnulfo Arias was very much an admirer of Adolf Hitler and cozied up to the Germans quite a bit. And as a result, he we deported from Panama So my mother during part of that time subsequent to that, my father met a fellow New Zealander whose name was Lowell Yerex, and Lowell Yerex was the founder of an airline called Taca, T A C A. Taca stands for


PCM 035; Scott; Page 5 Transportes Areos Centroamericano, and it was started in Honduras but later moved its headquarters to San Jose, Costa Rica. So my father and mother, so my father became one of the cofounders of Taca, along with Lowell Yerex, and he became their sort of public affairs vice president. And he used to attend the IATA conferences on behalf of Taca. The reason that is relevant to me is that I lived when I was quite young in San Jose, Costa Rica, and I went to Spanish kindergarten. So I actually spoke Spanish before I spoke English. So you could sa y that Spanish is my native language. O: Okay. Were you old enough to reme mber World War II? S: Oh yeah I do, indeed. O: What were your memories of it as a young boy? S: Well, first there was a very large military presence in the Canal Zone And we lived right adjacent to a military base called Corazal. And we became quite frie ndly with the Catholic priest there whose name was Father Hieptas, H I E P T A S. And he was from Green Bay, Wisconsin. And my cousin, who was born and brought up in Panama as well, was a Roman Catholic. I was not, but I was a great admirer of my cousin, s o I became an acolyte in the Catholic Church. But Father Hieptas was very I said to my mother that he was going to be very


PCM 035; Scott; Page 6 diligent in not allowing me to become too enamored with the Catholic Church because he thought I should grow up in the church that it was, you know, my the difference between the Episcopal Church and the Catholic Church. O: S: So anyway, but going back to the high school, there was very much an enclave environment. Interestingly enough, most of the contact we had with the people from Panama were sons and daughters of rich Panamanians who paid tuition to go to the Canal Zone scho ols because their parents believed and I think correctly that it was very much to their advantage to learn fluent English and to learn the American tradition of education when they went back into Panamanian society because that would give them an edge over the other people. And it did. And many of my classmates are now quite prominent Panamanian political politicians and businessmen. People like Bobby Eisman and Johnny Moduro and Albert Calbow people like that. O: Were there teachers now you mentioned t he real high quality of the high school were there teachers that stuck out in your mind or that you have particular memories of? S: You know, the truth is, no. I had nice relationships with most of my teachers, but I think the only one that I can recall t hat I can say her name and talk about her


PCM 035; Scott; Page 7 class is Mrs. Whitman who taught English. And she was very good on teaching us the standard stuff you learn in high school English. Evangeline and all the other things your required to memorize and the various s peeches of Julius Shakespeare and Julius Caesar and so on. I think she was quite helpful to me in developing my writing skills. I had other experiences which contributed to that, but I have always been a pretty good writer and a pretty good speaker, and I think she was one of the building blocks to that process. But other than that, I me the same question about my college experience, I could tell you about that. But high school I was just I got very good grades in high school. I was very active in sports. I got thirteen varsity letters. I was very busy but I you know the academic experience must have been okay because I eventually went to Oxford University and got a degree there. S O: Now Mr. Scott, you were talking earlier about connections between Panamanians outside the Panama Canal Zone. People living in the zone, if you through school, were there other connections between people, or were they two separate worlds? S: uch. I mean, in Iraq, and you see where our troops are stationed in Germany or our


PCM 035; Scott; Page 8 troops are stationed in Japan. We have four of five, six different major military communities. They have their own schools, their own social network, their own entertainment centers, their own shops, their own stores. And there really is not a need for the people to go out into the community, into the local community. O: S: the same way no little tourist trip somewhere, but they might as well be coming from the United States. So their presence there d oes not lend itself to becoming knowledgeable and really integrated into the society. And it was by and large that way in Panama. But strangely enough, even though that was the core truth, it is also true that the Americans there developed quite an affecti on for Panama. So in an event like this one, you see that they play the Panamanian music and they feel hate things because on one hand they feel, oh Panamanians took our canal, but on the other hand they have great affection for the Panamanian culture that you see the symbols all around, you know, the molas and all that stuff. And the Americans are the great pulmogators


PCM 035; Scott; Page 9 of that. Much more than the Panamanians. The Panamanians, they could care less about molas. [laughter] O: [laughter] Right. S: But the Americans are very attached to the things that are sort of especially the music. And I think that was very much encoura ged by this Escarga family that had the band you know Lucco than my classmates because I left Panama; I went back after college and worked four years. Then I left and went to the States and worked for the U.S. government and I ended up being an assistant secretary in the Department of Transportation. And I ended up testifying on the treaty to return the canal to because they lived there I lived here, and I thought it was the right things to do under any circumstance. O: One of them was telling me earlier that even the high school students went out on strike. S: it was d uring the Carter administratio n I testified before the Senate that it was not only a smart thing for the U.S. but it was the moral thing to do. And it makes me very happy, very happy, to see how well the Panamanians have done as the custodians of the canal because they have run the canal and the canal zone as a real business


PCM 035; Scott; Page 10 personal strategic convenience and not as a commercial thing, and as a result, the Republic of Panama really d the fact that the canal was there. Today Panama is booming. In spite of the world using modern engineering methods to attracting different kinds of commerce. real estate and the tourist stuff all because they have this e conomic base which allows them to do that, which they never had when we ran the place because we gave them a piddling $100 million bucks a years or something. It was pathetic. And so they never really could thrive, and they were very much not oppressed by us Columbia. just taken it over and made it a 52 nd state. It would have been a very stupid thing to do. It would have sent a very bad global signal. a long done. That they decision of Carter and Torr ij os to do this treaty and to return it was a very sensible thing.


PCM 035; Scott; Page 11 O: this range of interviews that have mentioned Jimmy Carter and Torrijos in a non pejorative sense. S: [laughter] O: What marked you off as being different back then? S: Why? O: Yeah, why. S : way anyway. I never felt that way. I always felt that this idea that the made up to make thems elves feel good about themselves, you know? And sure had to be developed. So the plan that was put together by Carter and the canal administration, and in fact my boss, a guy named Ed Dullen was a very far sighted plan because it developed these people into pilots and tug boat operators and power plant operators and machinists and gave them more apprenticeships and so on. So by the time it was time to do the handover, it was seamless. I mean it was just like, you get up the next day and do the same stuff, and it was is just you know people who live in a constrained environment get this bunker


PCM 035; Scott; Page 12 me ntality about life. And they sort of see the axis of the world as going through them had great difficulty when they left Panama and come to the States and try to integrate into the society here where everybody has to kind of make it for in the military: go he very socialistic kind of environment. But I never wanted that for me, and it was very clear to me that there wa s a world outside the Canal Zone O: Do you think that was part of your Oxford training? S: when I went to Oxford it was the beginning of the Vietnam War, so it was a very politically active place. But I really think it was more my mother and my father bei ng internationalists themselves. My mother was a even though my mother only had a high school degree, she was a very, very thoughtful person. And my father, who did no t have a university degree either, was a very experienced international correspondent, worked for him in NBC for 21 years. I mean, he was in Cuba during the Castro revolution; he was in Egypt during the Six Day Wars. And so he really saw the world in a really broad way and I think that affected my thinking. I was exposed to one of the fellows who succeeded my father as the


PCM 035; Scott; Page 1 3 editor of The Panama American a guy named Reese Smith after whom my son is named, Reese. He had a very significant affect on my way of looking at what the world is and what the world can be and should be. And so what I tried to do in my life has been a product of that. Really, to some degree, shaped by my be ing less developed countries. And that work is was somewhat informed by my childhood, you know, seeing people living in real poverty in Panama. But the truth is, poverty in Panama is not very poor. I remember going to, it was involved in a church group and I was going to help them start operations in a couple of start operations in Panama and Nicaragua. And they spend this in Nicaragua being there. It was quite a revelation. [lau ghter] O: you could go back, Mr. Scott, and think ing about the testimony that you were giving, what type of interactions did you have with other individuals during that time ? S: Very little. I mean, not many in Panama. My job was two fold. One, it was to establish the position of the Department of Transportation, which ran the Su Canal up in Northern U.S. and to state why it was a good thing. And I did a little


PCM 035; Scott; Page 14 slide show, w hich I got slides from Panama and explained to the Senators just how the canal operated and why the economics were what they were. But at that time, it was very interesting because the department of the army, as it frequently is, even today in many issues, had a very schizophrenic attitude. On the one so sure because they wanted their bases there. And the Core of Engineers, which traditionally run the governor for the entire t ime the United States operated in the canal was always appointed from someone within the Core of the Department of Transportation messing in its little sandbox, you know. [laug hter] So it was a little tricky, but I think if, I mean, I never cared and went back and looked at my testimony to the Senator formal issues committee. It was very well received by the committee, and they felt that I mean, they were very effusive in their thanks for being informed about what the situation really was. And the point that I was trying to make is, it was not rocket science for the Panamanians to be able to take this thing over and run it responsibly, but that there needed to be this period of t ransition to prepare them. Because I, as it turned out, I was especially well placed to have that opinion because I had worked four years the four years I spent with the Panama Canal was in the personnel department. So I really understood a lot about the jobs and what jobs various people had and what the level of training was and what the needs were


PCM 035; Scott; Page 15 for retraining. I mean, I was truly, I had a fair amount of depth of expertise in that area. O: What years were you working in the personnel department? S: Well it was right after I left Oxford. I left Oxford in [19]62, so it would have been [19]62 to [19]66. O: Okay. Now when you came back S: O: Yeah because you graduated in [19]66 from high school? Okay. So when you came back S: To the U.S.? O: of change in Panama, right? S: Right they were. And they had those famous riots that were about the flag, you know, putting up the Panamanian flag at the high school. And they had, you Kennedy was assassinated dur ing that time and I was an employee there. It was a turbulent time. And the Vietnam War was just getting cooking, and so they had the army jungle warfare training center down there, Fort Gulick, where guys were


PCM 035; Scott; Page 16 passing through on the way to Vietnam. It was a very turbulent time. But I interestingly, had a very positive four years although I was glad to get out of there because it was a very claustrophobic place. But my boss was probably the most effective executive in the whole Panama Canal. They had a per sonnel guy, and this guy I mentioned before, Edward Dumond And he taught me more about being an executive than I learned anywhere else in my life. And it was, and two people who connected in a very serendipito us way to my advantage. O: What were some of his qualities? S: Well he really was a very effective executive, and he was very good at making certain that when you went to do a task, that you went at it in a very informed and thorough way. I mean, for example, he gave me the job of running a summer internship program f or Panamanians. So we put together this program, 40 or 50 Gamboa, and they are going to see the operation, blah, blah, blah, bl ah, blah. And he said, well, okay, where are assume somebody will? How are they going to get back to their place of work at the end of the tour? You know, he had this way of You know, being a young man and inexperienced, I just thought there were people out there who did these things that I what he got through to me was that I was the head of the


PCM 035; Scott; Page 17 operation. And even though it was trivial stuff, it made a huge impact o n my thinking. And so from then on when I had assignments not only with him but in other jobs in the future, making sure everything that needed to be considered was considered. And now when people work for me in succeeding years, I do the same thing to the m, and it was all because of that experience in Panama. But it had nothing to do with the Panama Canal per se, it just had to do with two people O: people that we have been interviewing have been talking about the widening project now. What are your S: very good about it. The first is, it will allow these monster ships to go though and will have a very positive effect on world commerce, and make the transportation of certain cargos much more efficient. Secondly and particularly the things like petroleum and ores and things like that again, which the current canal does not do. The current canal is totally dependent on the rain lockages where they would flush as much water through because every


PCM 035; Scott; Page 18 time a ship goes through in the current thing, I think it uses as much water as the city of Buffalo uses in a week. O: [laughter] Wow. S: recovered so the new design recovers the water. Now there were some concerns about environmentalists about doing that because the lakes in the interior were fresh do that very high percentage, and I think will make it much more effi cient to really operate the system. born boat cargo is still the most efficient way to move natural resources around, whether its liquefy natural gas or petroleum or iron ore, things like that. Boat cargos, you know d ifferent t ypes. Wheat, grains and things like that. Especially for our exporters trying to send things to China, so come out of New Orleans and becoming a very hot subject of concern by many people. So the Panama Canal is going to have a role in moving those food products, both to Africa from our West Coast, you know, the Central Valley grows a huge amount of foo d and sending it to Africa and Europe, and at the same time getting the products from


PCM 035; Scott; Page 19 the Midwest that go down the Mississippi on the barges and the trains from New Panamanians have a plebiscite to get referendum to get the population behind it and the population East where oil is, take Iraq or some of the other countries which have had Nigeria is another good example where they have this tremendous wealth of oil, but figuring out how to exploit it in a way that the population supports has been a l resource canal, but where gotten the citizens behind it which I think is very, very smart. O: Yeah, it seems that they understand the benefits, and those benefits have been spr ead a big more widely perhaps S: Right. For sure. O: Mr. Scott, I know you have a really busy international schedule obviously, but do you ever have the opportunity to go to Panama and S: there was almost ten years ago. O: What are you impressions about


PCM 035; Scott; Page 20 S: Well at that time my impressions were that it was really beginning to thrive, but I think the last ten years a lot of my friends they have this burning desire, they go almost every year. A burning desire to go back and kind of check new canal maybe I will go and check it out and see how the proud of the Panamanians. They have shown great wisdom and great around Latin America, how many other countries do you see where they are prospering? The on ly one I can think of is Brazil. Mexico is a disaster because of the drug cartels. Central America has shown very, very little progress. Columbia is coming out of the terrible period of the drug stuff too and maybe getting back her example. Argentina had huge economic done okay. They have a really good Cuba has progressed in many areas, but they stupidly have not found a way to suck up sufficiently to the U.S. so that they


PCM 035; Scott; Page 21 eventually they will. I think maybe another ten years you will see the Cubans being on a Panama type track because what they have done is smart: educated the whole population. So go t a pretty good resource there that can be drawn on if we and they can ever get our shit together. [laughter] O: hed upon? S: days of that period during the construction are where the U.S. really showed do thing. Y ou know, the United States saving the world. The French, who built the Suez Canal, and who thought of themselves the ecole polytechnique as the great engineers Malaria; you have to take care of the living accommodations for the work force. You have to show career paths for the people; you have to have security. It was a good example of sort of a multifaceted massive almost like fighting a war, where you have to take all these th ings into consideration. The Panama Canal was one of the first times the U.S. really did that. You know, later of course we put a man on the moon. But I think in that respect it was a great example for


PCM 035; Scott; Page 22 America and for the world. And I was very proud to be part of it, although as compatriots. O: more the museum. And I think more folks over time are echoing the sentiment and analysis that you have well th But it took a while for some people. May b e it seems that you got there more quickly because of your background. S: And I was in a different spot. O: Yeah. [ E nd of interview]

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