Joshua Reid, might have supervised.
Bottom: Paraiso Dredging Division about 1920.
Images thanks to www.czimages.com
I consider my grandfather, Joshua Reid, as my first link to the Silver town of Paraiso. One of the legendary “White West Indians” (he was a fair skinned Mulatto from Easington, Jamaica on the south-eastern coast) he arrived in Panama in 1906 and immediately found work. His first job was in the “Cuts” as one of the Jamaican Bosses and he supervised the distribution of supplies all the way to the Atlantic coast.
Around 1908 he was given the job of Dispensary Director in Paraiso where he worked dispensing medicine, receiving and referring Silver Roll patients for hospitalization or outpatient care as the case warranted at the Ancon Hospital in Balboa. He supervised several assistants and ambulance drivers who transported patients and deceased individuals to the hospital.
He worked there in just about every medical capacity imaginable until 1913 when my grandmother arrived in Panama from Jamaica and contacted him and they were married. Both he and my grandmother, Fanny, had been promised in marriage in Jamaica previous to his departure. At the Dispensary, however, he could no longer afford to work since the pay, according to my grandmother, was “too meager” to sustain a growing family. They moved off the Zone and into a two room apartment in “War Zone” building in Panama City in the San Miguel district.
The following is a brief historical account of the Silver Township of Paraiso, Canal Zone, a fascinating and bustling hub of activity in its day.
Paraíso is the Spanish word for “paradise” and it became a convenient stop for travelers during the dry season along the trail between the Atlantic and Pacific in those early Spanish colonial days of the Panama Route. According to legend Sir Henry Morgan first saw Old Panama from a hilltop (Cerro de Buccaneros “Hill of the Buccaneers”) near Paraiso and was captivated by its beauty.
During the “Railroad Days,” when lines and plans were being laid out for the Railroad between the two coasts, surveyors and engineers discovered a path which led into “the most beautiful undulating valley of Paraíso, or Paradise, surrounded by high conical hills where Nature in weird profusion seems to have expended her choicest wealth.” (F.N. Otis) Even today, if you are fortunate enough to climb one of Paraíso’s many hills on a clear day, you can see as far as the towers of Panama Viejo (Old Panama).
Aside from its strategic value and utility to the French and, later, the Americans as their machine shop headquarters and construction dump, Paraíso was known for its wonderfully pure and sweet tasting spring water. It was the only town along the line where the water, which came from a nearby natural spring, could be used right out of the faucet without first boiling.
In fact, in 1905, a Coca Cola bottling plant was founded in the town to tap this source of pure water from the neighboring natural spring. So abundant was the supply of water that the spring also supplied drinking water to Corozal and many construction era towns. The Coca Cola plant was eventually sold to the Panama Coca Cola Company and moved out of Paraiso at the end of the Construction era (1914).
This story will continue.