An interview with James DesLondes


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An interview with James DesLondes
Physical Description:
61 minutes
James DesLondes
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Panama Canal


General Note:
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 038 James DesLondes 7-7-2011
PCM 038
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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 038 Interviewee: Jim DesLondes Interviewer: Paul Ortiz Date: July 7, 2011 O: D: Hospital. O: Okay, and I understand that your family has a long history in Panama. D: All four of my grandparents went down there during the construction of the canal, and my grandfather with the same name that I have was killed on the Gatun locks in 1911. He was ele ctrocuted three months before my dad was born. So, my grandmother took his body back to the States and buried him, and she returned to the Canal Zone and went back to the job she had there. O: What was her job? D: She was a telephone operator. She was fro m Lafayette, Indiana, and her father was a major in the Civil War. She had a family friend who was going down there to work, and she was just out of school. She took a trip with him down there, and ended up taking a job when she was there. Then, she met my grandfather. They grandfather, he graduated from college in Missouri and went to work in Washington, D.C. He was an accountant, and he was recruited to come to


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 2 Panama to work. T hen, he returned to the United States, got married, and took my grandmother on that side down to Panama. My mother was born in Washington, D.C., but her mother was on the ship to go to Panama and started having labor pains and they rushed her back to Washi ngton, D.C. [Laughter] My grandmother gave birth to my mother, and then my grandfather came back and got her and took her back to Panama with the new baby. O: D: Oh absolutely. O: What were your earliest memories growing up? D: Well, I was born in [19]38, and many of the old houses were still in existence. It was just we lived in these old wooden houses. In fact, I counted the other day that I had lived in twenty th ree different houses in the old Canal Zone. I lived in nine different houses when I was a boy growing up, and then when I employed, I did the balance, I did fourteen houses during my period of employment. These wooden, big tropical houses had scuttle holes at the floor, the sides of the house. People would take a hose and wash their house out, push all the water out through the scuttle holes. [Laughter] Those tropical houses were something else. Everybody had mango trees around their houses, they all had tin roofs on


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 3 them except for those that had the tile roofs. I can just think back about the hard rains and the sound from those old tin roofs, no air conditioning. And the bu gs: the roaches were something else in those days. [Laughter] Every house had roaches. No rats, but roaches. O: D: I remember it well. My mother was a Red Cross worker, and she would take me she worked on the docks handing out coffee to the sailors that were coming through on the ships coming back from the Pacific. I was just a little fella, and she would take me down to the docks with her. I had the bigges t collection of sailor hats you ever saw because all these sailors coming from the Pacific going back up to the east coast would give me a sailor hat. It was quite a collection. But I also remember all the activity there for World War II. I was like four, five, six years old. My dad worked seven days a week. He worked all the time. He ran what they called Section I, which was the storehouse operation for the Panama Canal. And they were moving millions of board feet of lumber through there all the time. That was being used for different projects a nd what have you, but it was an exciting time. One of my best stories is, at the end of World War II the military guys used to play softball games with the Canal Zone people. You know, there be big, big crowds at these softball games. I was at this softb all game in a little town site of Diablo. I went home for some reason our house was about two blocks away and while I was home, the radio was on and they announced that


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 4 Japan had surrendered and the war was over in the Pacific. My little legs started runni over! Japan has surrendered! And they said, what are you talking about, little you know? And then the sirens all the towns had sirens that woul the sirens came on and the announcement was made that Japan had surrendered. O: Wow. How did people react? D: Oh, it was bedlam. As a little kid, I can remember everybody was yelling and screaming and running around, h ugging each other. These were civilian teams playing there was a Navy team that they were playing at the time, and it was just really, really exciting. I ended up being the superintendent of housing for the Panama Canal, and I was involved in tearing down many of the old houses and all of that. That was an emotional thing for me. Back in the [19]30s and [19]40s, we were still living in the houses on the furniture that they had brought down in the construction of the canal, because they would employ people f rom the States and bring them down and give them a house to live in and give them furniture to live on. The Panama Canal had these big ware houses full of furniture to be able to furnish houses for people. And then later on, they phased that program out and people bought their own furniture, and they bought it from the commissaries that were owned by the canal. But one of the projects I had working for the housing branch was to get rid of all that furniture. It was all in a big, huge


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 5 warehouse. The warehouse must have been two blocks long, and it was just full of tens of thousands of pieces of furniture. I was charged with recording it all, and we were giving it to orphanages in Panama. There was a big, vacant lot nearby the warehouses, and I was carrying hav ing the men carry all this furniture out, and I put the beds in one place and the chairs in another, separating it all out. I can remember cars stopping along the highway and people running up, could I buy some of that? [Laughter] I mean, it was all wooden furniture. It was good are going to the orphanages in Panama. The canal turned over, like I say, tens of thousands of pieces of furniture to these orphanages. O: Wow. So whe n World War II ended, you were about seven or eight? D: Right. O: Can you talk about your high school experience or where you went to high school? D: I went to Balboa High School, and I graduated in [19]56. It was a typical 1950s always felt like the people who lived in the Canal Zone were more like Americans than Americans. We were all very patriotic people, and I think most of us really knew more about American history than kids back in the United States. O: What made the diffe rence? What made that so.


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 6 D: ; all the employees of the canal would go back every two years on vacation. Th e canal operated three ships that you would travel back and forth to the United States on the ships. They would go to New York Harbor when I was a boy growing up. They changed later on and went out of New Orleans, but during the time I was go into New York. So I made a number of round trips from Panama to New York and back. I can remember in the late 1940s, we got on the ship in New York City and were supposed to sail and come back. They had the ocks of New York, and we spent two weeks living on the ship there tied up to the dock. [Laughter] I can remember, with my little buddies, we would hang around the dock and all these longshoremen were the unions gathered them all together, they were running around with clubs, yelling and screaming. [Laughter] It was bedlam. But for a little fella, it was interesting going through that. If you study American well, union history, you look back and see that it was considered one of the biggest strikes of all ti me in America. It closed down the Port of New York. O: You mentioned earlier, Mr. DesLondes, the sense that in the Canal Zone you were kind of more American. That was really something emphasized. Was that something emphasized in the schools, like in the b ooks or the curriculum or the teachers or the


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 7 D: I think so. I think we were more aware of being Americans, like Fourth of July was like the biggest celebration of the year in the Canal Zone. I mean, it was the biggest day of the year: there was fairs an d athletic events. It was an amazing day. Every little kids lived for the Fourth of July celebration. O: Did you do fireworks or ? D: [Laughter] Oh, did we do fireworks! We could go into Panama City see, the Canal Zone was separate and operated under sepa sell fireworks in the Canal Zone, but all we had to do was step over into Panama City and we could buy anything we wanted. [Laughter] And every little kid had loads of firecrackers and little bombs and everything else. You just thousands of little kids running around with all these firecrackers. [Laughter] I mean, big firecrackers, it was something else. O: Okay, wow. You mentioned going to the U.S. periodically. What types of connections did your family have to fa mily and friends in U.S. in the [19]50s? D: Mainly people went back to visit where their parents may have come from. Now in my case, my grandparents, my grandmother retired back to Lafayette, Indiana d go back and go visit


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 8 out in California so we would visit with her. As a boy, growing up I did at least three round trips from New York to California and back. O: Wow. What were the differences you saw between California and New York and Panama? D: United States was really better. [Laughter] Most of the food was imported into the Canal Zone. At on e time, the canal had its own dairy; it had everything. The canal was self sustaining, but for some reason there was an attitude that the meat tastes better in the United States and the butter tasted better and the milk to go get a milkshake and things like that. was a perception more than the truth. Like I say, most of us just that was America and we lived in the Canal Zone, and we knew that we were Americans and that we were living in another country, so to speak. It was interesting. O: every experience is subjective, of course, but some folks have said, people were taught better manners in the Canal Zone compared to say American kids in the States. Does that ring true to you or is that kind of -? D: representative of America, you know? I think that the Americans down there tried


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 9 been a stigma between the Americans and the Panamanians, but there was two classes of people in Panama basically when I grew up. There was t he working class, and then there was the upper Panamanian class. Most of them had been educated in the United States, they went to all the best colleges, they all had something abo other interviews, but if an American man married a Panamanian girl they were told they ha d to live in the town of Anc n, which was right on the border. A lot of t remember I go back many, many years. There are many, many of my friends that came from mixed marriages and they were half Panamanian and half American, but they grew up in a way, they were stigmatized. And a lot of them had a chip on their shoulder about the way they were treated. Their father was an American and their mother was a Panamanian. Very few of the American men remember, the majority of the people working in the canal were working class Americans. They were tradesmen, they were electricians, th ey were plumbers and all that. Most of those men that married Panamanians married Panamanians from the non rich class of people. A lot of the men married girls from the interior of Panama; these girls had no education. So there was always that stigma. But these guys that I grew up with that were half Panamanian half American did well in school, they went on to college, they became doctors and lawyers. They were terrific people. Most of


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 10 ber about that part of living in the Canal Zone. O: Okay. Along those same lines, Mr. DesLondes, do you remember what relations were like kind of in general between people who lived in the Zone and kind of the broader society? D: It was like many, many ot her things. There were Americans there that never left the Canal Zone and then there were Americans that had many friends in Panama. I was lucky M y father had been a very good athlete down there and he had many Panamanian friends. So, I grew up knowing bo th. I knew both sides. I was a golfer; I spent a lot of time playing golf. I played golf and was friends with a couple of the presidents of Panama and all that. But I have many friends who really know how to phrase it. You have that everywhere you go, you know? O: Everywhere. Yeah. D: the wealt American because they looked at most of the Americans as the laboring class. They saw them as plumbers and electricians. They were from high society in


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 11 ir kids marrying those working class Americans. [Laughter] So it went both ways. O: Speaking of occupation, when you were in high school you went to Balboa High School. D: Right. O: In high school, were you thinking about a career or your future or aspira tion? D: myself drafted right out of high school. O: Wow. What year was that? D: 1956. I got very lucky. I got selected to be the assistant to the golf pro at the golf club at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. [Laughter] So I spent two years in a job that I dreamed of. In fact, I was assigned to the 82 nd Airborne Division pre airborne tra ining, and I got this call to report to main post to the golf pro. He to work for me. He had paperwork sent up to have me transferred from the 82 nd down to his outfit down there at the golf club. I went before the sergeant major of the 82 nd Airborne Division who had fought in World War II and he had all these stars on his wings and all that. [Laughter] I can remember standing in front of his


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 1 2 going to leave the Airborne to go work terrible thing to do! My knees were knocking together because I was so excited. old and getting my dream major, no, sergeant major. This is what I want to do! [Laughter] Oh, golly. And then I had a general take a liking to me, and he had me tutored by a very brilliant young captain. I took the West Point exam and got selected to go before a board to go to West Point. There were two lieutenants on the board, and when I walked into this room they spent a lot of time at the golf club and they knew me well I O: So you were in the service from [19]56 to D: [19]58. O: [19]58, okay. What came next? D: Well, I went to the Canal Zone Junior College, and at the same time I opened a miniature golf course in Panama City. Oh, I opened three or four different businesses. I had another miniature golf course up in the town of David in Panama, and had a small go kart racetrack. But I ended up going broke in business and going back to the United States. Then I returned to Panama in the


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 13 early [19]60s and took a job as the assistant project manager on a project for the Army, building five hundred houses at Fort Clay ton and Fort Amador. But I had hiring many people that grew up in the Canal Zone. In fact, at that time there was almost a, O: To work in the Cana l Zone. D: To work in the Canal Zone. There was a few that got employed, but very few. Anyhow, I took the police exam and got a hundred on it and had five points for being a veteran. So, I was at the top of the list and the riots came in [19]64? O: Yeah. D : And they started hiring policemen. I was at the top of the employment list, so I got a job as a police officer and worked six months and transferred into the housing branch and spent a career with housing. My last job with the Canal was chief of the comm unity services division. I left Panama in [19]89. I got robbed I several days later I was playing golf at Amador with a fellow who helped save my life there because these gu ys that held me up were what they called maleantes talking about came to help me, they fired the gun at them and left. Then three one of them gets into an


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 14 argument on the first tee at the Amador Golf Club. I went up there to help him before. And it turned out one of these guys was a pilot from Noriega, and the anything about golf, and I ended up having like a fistfight with this guy. And he threatened to kill me and my family. That same week, these same guys with some other guys had b urned down one of the yachts at the Amador Yacht Club that belonged to a Panamanian businessman and killed a guy who was working on the boat. So, I had had enough. I sent my wife and daughter back to the States, and I retired in [19]89 and left there. But it was an exciting what was really bothering me being in charge of all the housing and everything, at this point in [19]89 we were having about five or six houses broken into every night. These were not good times. I just was unhappy with the whole situati on. I was unhappy back to the United States. But as a side note to this, I was par t of a group that was pushing to have a different type treaty written than was planned by the State Department. And the State Department recognized the effort that we were making, as we were getting a lot of tension in the T.V. in the United States. In fac t, I got interviewed: it was on NBC Worldwide. A lot of different things like that happened. But I can still remember our whole group listening to the State Department. They came out to my house, and I had all my people in the house,


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 15 and these guys were tr ying to convince us to not fight the treaty anymore. They said they were writing provisions in the treaty that would give us early retirement and all they were asking us right out in front, what would you like? What can we do for you to make this treaty pa States. It still came out the way it came out, but I e nded up getting early twenty some years now. I came back to the United States and became a P.G.A. ses. gave away more than they needed to. In fact, I was the guy who had to sign over all the houses to the government of Panama because I was superintendent of housing at the time. They had a ceremony where we signed over all these houses, and I represented the United States. Officially, when I signed that document, they became the owner of close to five thousand houses in twenty one town sites in the Canal Zone. And from t hat point on, we had to deal with Panamanian officials on everything we did in managing the houses until it was all turned over. But these houses were given back to Panama little by little. It was an emotional experience.


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 16 O: houghts about the treaty in a few minutes, but you Can you talk about that, like what you studied, what it was like? D: It was very typical of junior colleges anyplace in the world. In fact, my brother States and he ended up I helped him get employed down there. It was a very, very good school. Many student s did their two years there and went to universities back in the United States, the best universities, and did well. Joe O: Yes, sir. D: Joe Wood did two years at the Canal Zone College and graduated and then went t o University of Florida and got his degree. Joe ended up being one of the top men with the Panama Canal. My brother used to kid around, he was an accounting teacher and an economics teacher. In fact, one of his students ended up going to Harvard and he wro te him a letter. He said, you were as good as any professor I had at Harvard. That was quite a compliment to him, but most of the school.


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 17 O: Actually, this is something that where did you learn how to play golf? Who taught you? D: Well, there were a number of golf clubs in the Canal Zone and Panama. My grandfather was one of the original members of the Panama Golf Club, so my dad was a member of the Panama Golf Club. Every weekend, my dad and I would go out there. But also there was a course called Fort Amador. It was a military course, and many of the Zone people were a member of that club. The dues, when I was growing up, wer e like ten dollars a month. I worked there during three years of high school I worked there on the weekends. I made a dollar an hour. Golf has been a big part of my life. Many, many young men came out of Panama and went to college and played on golf teams back in the United States. was on the first golf team that played in the what they used to call it was a national junior championship in the United States. It was run by the Jayce es. In 1953, the first four guys who finished in this tournament it was an all Caribbean tournament and they called us the Latin American team, but I was on that team and went to Ann Arbor, Michigan. We stayed at the university there and played golf. One o f the fellows was from Costa Rica ; I watched him through the years. Then several years later, I was seventeen. I got to go to Georgia and play, and than me. A story I love to tel l: I was standing with some guys, talking. We were


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 18 eighteen. Somebody said, you see that little fat guy over there? His name is Jack greatest golfers in the world. [Laughter] And I remember somebody saying, well, Jack Nicklaus turned out to story. O: [Laughter] Yeah, that is. What are some of your other memorable experiences as a golf professional? D: es. [Laughter] O: D: Most of the golf courses in the Canal Zone have closed up because of the treaty. president of Summit Golf Course at one time. But n ow, Summit Golf Course is one of the finest golf courses in Latin America. The money, I think, was used to rehabilitate Summit and make it into what it is, I think came from Colombia. It was c ame [Laughter]


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 19 O: Exactly, yeah. You mentioned a few of the other social upheavals or the [19]64 riot. Now you were in D: In [19]64, I was the assistant project manager with a company called Jefferson Engineering. We were building these houses for the army. My boss asked me to Rodman and we were coming back through a street that runs between the Canal Zone and Panama, because he was staying he had a house with his family in Panama City and I was running him home before I went to where I lived. Within an hour after we passed this place is when the riots really erupted. We were there an hour before. Anyway, we were in his house we were doing a barbeque there had been through the 1959 riots and saw all that happened. I said, re go nna houses here. So I left. I got in my car and I left and I went through the back g ate of Curund and drove it back into Ancn, Balboa area. You could see I mean, it was unbelievable. I spent that whole night on the border sitting up on the hill with many other people watching all this go ing on. O: Wow. D: Yeah. I ended up having to get have heard the stories, but there was hordes of Panamanians looking for


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 20 Americans, and these people were really afraid that they were gonna get so all the American contractors that were involved in our compan y had come to this one house, and I ended up getting permission from the Panamanian Guardia. They got some trucks and we went in there and brought them out and brought them back into the Canal Zone and put them up in the Tivoli Hotel. One of the events tha t happened when we checked them into the hotel, I went out and I was inside the hotel but looking out of the hotel down the steps of the Old Tivoli Hotel, and a soldier got shot right there. A shot came from over in Panama City and he had just stepped out of a truck and got shot there. Those were exciting days. O: Serving there, I recall of course, I was there in the mid [19]80s some people have asked me about the kinds of relationships that we had with civilians. And I ct. When you were there, I mean, the other side, did you have much contact with the U.S. military? D: The Canal Zone people and the military people were very close. I have so many friends that were in the military there that I still keep up with, but it wa s through the things that you do. So I made a lot of these friends through golf, you follow me? O: Oh, yeah. Okay. D: by the Canal Zone people. In fact, when I was in high school if a girl dated a


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 21 soldier, she was called rat bait. Things like that. These things happen back in the I live in Sun City here in Florida military, but I lived there, and the relationships they had. One guy married a nurse. He was a sergeant in the army down there, and he married a nurse at Gorgas Hospital. Many o f the girls that grew up in the Canal Zone ended up marrying military poor relationships, bu O: Anyplace, yeah. Between the time of the [19]40s and maybe through the [19]70s, what types of changes did you see in the Canal Zone and even in the broader region? D: Well, like I told you, I graduated in [19]56 and we were s till They changed over the electrical: they went from twenty five cycle to sixty cycle. That was a big move. Then, television came in. Now, I never had a television, I igh school. Air conditi oning was the biggest thing I think that ever happened down there. [Laughter] I can remember that was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. You know, the canal did away with the ships that they operated; at that time they were going back and forth to New Orleans. People started flying back to the


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 22 United States when they returned. Little by little like the rest of the world, technology changed and things became different. One of the interesting things in growing up was, your sho es would grow green mold overnight in the house. You anything that got wet got moldy. But the air conditioning changed everything, but school. The building was very, very hot. [Laughter] O: now you were managing the housing D: After I transferred from the police department, I transferred into housing. I started off as what they called t he assignment clerk; I assigned the houses and also ran were two ways to get a house. You got it through your service. I lived in my lifetime I think I said this before I lived i n twenty three different houses, but house became vacant and we advertised every week. You apply for your house and your service date was the determination of whether or not you got the house. In other words, if you had the most service of all the people that put in for that particular house, you got the house. And so, people were moving all the time to get better houses. Then there was official housing. When I became chief of co mmunity services, I got an official assignment and the house I lived in was


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 2 3 big folks lived. [Laught er] So I had arrived in my mind, you know? I loved that house. I went back to Panama a year ago, and a friend of mine was driving me around there and I wanted to see my house up there. It had been bought by a fellow who had a lot of money, and he took that old wooden house and must have hired a very creative architect. It went from just being an old, wooden Canal Zone house to a gorgeous chalet, you know? O: Wow. D: O: So what was your job title as you reach your s enior position? D: I was superintendent of housing from about [19]75 to [19]85, and I got promoted to assistant chief of community services, and my last six months there I was chief of community services. O: Housing was your main activity. Were there other activities D: As the chief of community services, I had four branches under me. I had the library branch. We had a very, very top notch library. We also had recreation services that came under my division. We had the housing management branch, and at tha t time we had slightly under six thousand houses left. I also had what


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 2 4 they called the buildings management branch. We managed many of the buildings operated by the Panama Canal. At one time, the division that I was chief of also had the grounds management branch. You know, as a sidebar to this, one of the things that they used to the newspapers that were trying to convince everybody that the treaty was right used to always put in articles about the manicured lawns in the Canal Zone. Yeah, the Canal Zone ha d a branch that jungle real soon. So it was simple grass cutting. I live in a town, a retirement community here in Sun City, the lawns are ten times better than any lawns were down there in the Canal Zone. [Laughter] But the newspapers made such a big deal with the manicured lawns in the Canal Zone. O: What was wrong with having manicured lawns? D: They were simply lawns that got cut. [Laughter] Oh, golly. It was a big joke. O: Was it jealousy? Were they D: No, no, no. It was trying to convince the world that the Canal Zone concept was considered colonial, that the United States was practicing col onialism in the Canal Zone. They based their argument on making this type of treaty on the fact The Washington Post and all the


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 2 5 newspapers New York Times they were constantly bombarding the people that lived in the Canal Zone with the fact that they lived in manicured houses with manicured lawns. Big deal. O: Yeah, I thought that was a positive thing. Now, you mentioned the treat y and trying to you were part of an effort or an initiative to negotiate a different kind of treaty. What were your goals? What were you trying to ? D: the canal. Look, the ca nal had been operated all these years in the best interest of worldwide commerce. They kept the rates down. It was well operated. We felt that, yes, some of these things hire more Panamanians, which we had been doing that anyway. But there needed to be mor e Panamanians hired. There was operated in the a colonialistic operation. But it had all the appearance of that. We had communities that were segregated not by color, but by citizenship. They called them the silver and gold communities at one time. They were referred to as that, the Panamanian employee s. And these communities that had the Panamanian employees were originally made up of the people that were imported into the Canal Zone to build the canal. They were the Jamaicans and the Barbadians and all of those people that came out of the Caribbean. T hese were the houses that


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 2 6 the canal built to house these people. Then as these people married Panamanian people, they became integrated into the Panamanian way of doing things. So these towns were not originally meant for Panamanians; they were meant for t he imported laborers. But it seemed as time as went on, as these people became Panamanian citizens and all that, that we were segregating the that were imported to do the work on the canal were the black people out of the Caribbean, although there were many, many Italians that were brought in. Chinese people were brought in, and many of the Chinese people went on to become Panamanian citizens and became very, very wealthy people in commerce in Panama. Hindus: there were Hindus that came to work. There were people brought to the Canal Zone from all over the world to build the canal. It thousands and thousand s of people that died in the construction of the canal. My grandfather happened to be one of those three hundred that died, but most of the people that died were the black, Jama ican people. Landslides in the construction of the canal, the dynamite accidents. For political purposes, they tried to make the American Canal Zone people look bad. And it was wrong of them to do that. So many of the Canal Zone people had, like I told you before, married Panamanian girls and what have you. Probably at the time the Canal Zone was turned over in [19]99 to the Panamanians, most of the people that


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 2 7 were still down there I would say more than half of them were half Panamanian, half American, you know? It had gradually changed over where it O: It was changing constantly, all the time. D: Constantly changing, right. Yeah. O: Yeah. Whereas people maybe in trying to get a handle on this. People from the outside, say, people from the United States appear s -D: came down here and did research. The way the truth was perverted by a lot of doing here with The Washington Post and I asked them to retract some of the things they said. They absolutely twisted what was said. O: What you said. D: Yeah, what I said. Twisted it. I never got a reply from them. But once something t. People read that stuff. But I think Panama has done a pretty good job of operating the canal. The last twenty years, the canal from the point that the treaty was signed, we were forced into


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 2 8 promoting Panamanians and hiring Panamanians in the trade group s and going through the schools that the canal operated to become electricians and plumbers and things like that. It was almost all Panamanians put into those jobs. So little by little, even though it was still the Canal Zone, it was becoming more and more concerned with the fact that notoriously, the Panamanian government had like could get and the people around you take all you can get. We saw that happening if they took over. In fact, the Panamanians saw the same money and steal it from the canal. Well, t I think they set up a way of managing it that prevented a lot of that from happening. But the Canal Zone people, based on history of the way Panama had affected world commerce and the cost of goods in the United States far mo re than people realize. O: D: give them seven billion dollars to widen it, you know?


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 2 9 O: taken a lot of your time, Mr. DesLondes. D: O: But you mentioned that you went back. When? D: A year ago. O: A year ago. What were your impressions? What were your feelings going back? I eaving this behind. But you what were your D: Well, the Canal Zone is no longer what I knew growing up. It was one of the most changed. Well, the world has changed. There's so m uch traffic in the old town of Well, I grew up in what I consider one of the greatest places in the world. It was fun to busi you with any of this.


PCM 038; DesLondes; Page 30 O: like to add? D: O: questions. Thank you, Mr. DesLondes. D: O: I really appreciate it. [END OF INTERVIEW] Transcribed by: Jessica Taylor December 7, 2013 Audit edited by: Matt Simmons January 15, 2014