The infectious energy and enthusiasm of the Cub Scouts.
When my Scout chaperon and I finally arrived at the Jamaican Society Hall I couldn’t believe my eyes. Before me stood a group of boys much older than myself neatly grouped by aged. Before I was placed in the group to which I would be assigned I’d find out that I was the youngest child amongst all the troops since there were some baby boys there who were a little older than I was.
“Not many of my age,” I thought a little uneasy but soon the smaller boys took me by the hand and welcomed me into their group. I looked at their Boy Scout uniform shirt with awe noticing the pins and the beautiful blue scarf around their necks sure that I would be coming to many meetings like this with my great looking uniform.
The Scoutmaster looked my way and said to me, after a pause, “What is your name son?” I answered without hesitation, “Cobert Reid Junior!” I said proudly, and then he asked, quizzing me for intelligence and bravery, I suppose, “What they call you at home?” “Everyone calls me Juni,” I answered without fear. “Ok, you can stay with that group but the next time you come you will have to have your scarf on first. We will get it for you. Now you all go over there and line up!” The group of smaller boys, all a little older than me, as I said before, led me over to the spot and started to show me how to salute.
I was so excited that my little hand could hardly make the three fingers salute but the boys were committed to teaching me. I was so proud of myself for having been accepted into the troop that I would have done anything they asked of me just to belong. That would have been my first encounter with a group of all Westindian “Silver” kids in a long time since the Fourth of July picnic in Colon where I heard them sing Joe Ba’linda and the Engine Building song returning home from the Black Canal Zone. I was so overjoyed to be there that I was hoping the meeting would never end.
The meeting did come to an end, however, and the same respectful, enthusiastic young man who had brought me had me in tow again and took me back home. Then he said to me before he turned me over to my mother, “Scout salute!” My arm automatically rose to my head and my small hand manoeuvred to try to make the three fingers salute while my mother looked on and smiled happily. Then my escort said, “See you next time Juni!” With that he left hurriedly and my mother, all smiles, lingered with me at the door of our one-room as we watched the young Scout run across the street back to his group.
That night I could hardly sleep and for the next few days I waited patiently for the young man to come pick me up for Scout meeting again. At last he appeared one evening just as he had promised, saying, “Miss Rosa, I come to take Juni to Scout meeting.” This time, however, and to my total astonishment, my mother said to him, “I’m sorry but Juni’s father will not allow him to be in the Scouts.” I was absolutely floored fighting back anger and tears, and I could not believe she was uttering those words with such finality and without emotion. “How mean!” I thought as I noticed my mother impassively telling the disappointed young man that I would never be able to become a Scout.
With those few words my dream just evaporated. Broken-hearted I then started to become suspicious of that man that had greeted me with a scowl at my grandparents’ home in Colon, the man who called himself my father. My childhood dream of ever becoming a Jamaican Society Cub Scout had been reserved for me I thought for it to then be dashed to pieces by so mean and unfeeling a gesture. The resentment over this indifference on the part of my parents would accompany me into my adult years. Those profound hurts and resentments had a terribly implacable way of following me right into my adult life.
In the meantime, the man that I had met as a scowling stranger had really been venting his anger against me in particular, I reasoned. From that moment on I set myself to the task of finding the reasons why. By the end of that decade of the 40’s there’d be some things about the struggles in the Canal Zone that I would never understand or ever think of myself a part of.
It was the legitimate struggle of my people the Silver Roll of the Panama Canal Zone that, years later, would take a college educated and unrelenting researcher, working long and hard, refusing to totally hate myself and his people to understand. I would wind up viewing this struggle, however, as having produced few changes for Silver Roll labor as part of Panamanian and United States history.
This story will continue.