Scouting Amongst Panamanian Westindians

Image is of the Canal Zone Boy Scouts meet of July 4th 1938
which, in that moment, was called The Isthmian Scout Council
which later changed to The Canal Zone Council and later on would
evolve into the International Boy Scouts Canal Zone.

 

Image is of Camp Chivo Chivo January 1964
International BSA
Both priceless images can be found at
www.scoutspanama.org

My previous posts were intended to give a glimpse of the childhood activity of Scouting which, I was sure, would have benefited not only me but my family and community for a life time. I can also assure anyone that I know not where I got those ideas from. However, the analysis by proven mental health professionals would be as much accepted as any one of us as humble pundits of today.

It has been our hope that our work for the Silver People Chronicle these past two years has focused needed attention on the Silver People in general and has gained the attention of those of us who are descendants of Black English Speaking people in particular- immigrants of the West Indies who had their humble beginnings on the historic Panama Canal Zone. We hope and pray that the coming year will preserve us in the vibrancy of Spirit and permit us to gain the attention of persons all over God’s Universe. We mean to prove to all students and teachers in all schools from preschoolers to the loftiest universities that Black History still holds an irresistible interest for all people.

The mission is yet to be completed but we are thankful for the reports and comments we have received thus far from our loyal readers, those who have been following us on this journey. It is on this special tour that we hope to continue being your tour-guides as we explore the country and region of the Panama that our forefathers saw and experienced. It has been a special place for us, not only because it is our place of birth but it is also that place that has molded that unique character we have inherited as the Silver People of Panama.

When I was assigned to write articles about Scouting amongst the Silver People of Panama, it became necessary for me to return to the archives of the Panama Tribune for additional information. My trepidation was such that I considered very carefully handling such a vulnerable source of information. This fragile resource, one which I have always considered as undeniable proof that we have been a vital and respected part of the Panamanian community, remains on library shelves in the most precarious of conditions.

It would most assuredly be a great concern to any respectable researcher who would hold in panic the thought of handling these very delicate, crumbling leaves of a bygone day knowing that the sources he dares to handle, in an age of digitalization, would be saved by our modern technology forever.

At any rate, I’ve ascertained that my limited experience with Scouting in the year of 1942 made me a witness to part of the early stages of Scouting, if not some of its worst and declining years amongst the Silver People of Panama. My continued investigation, however, enabled me to discover the work of Mr. Ivanhoe Phipps who came to Panama in 1929 from Jamaica to work as a linotypist for the Panama Star and Herald.

Mr. Phipps had been working until then for the Kingston Daily Gleaner and was welcomed by his close friend and fellow Scouting brother, Sydney Young, who founded the Panama Tribune the year before. The Panama Tribune newspaper welcomed Phipps as a highly valued newcomer and member of the Silver community, as well as an eager supporter of the Scouting movement.

Now, the year 1929 happened to be a key year for me since it was the year in which my paternal side of the family tree suffered its greatest loss in the death of my grandfather Joshua Austin Reid. As I’ve related in previous posts, he was a devoted father and servant to the people of the Black Canal Zone. He had served all of his young life, some twenty three years, as, first, an employee down in the infernal pits of the digs and the cuts, and then served as Dispensary Director at Paraiso on the Silver Canal Zone from about 1914 until his sudden death on the job in 1929.

It is reported that by 1923 there were eight Baden-Powel Boy Scout troops amongst British West Indians in Panama alone. Mr. Sydney Young who was a former Jamaican born troop leader remained faithful to scouting and made sure that a weekly report of Scouting activity was published on page 14 of the Tribune. “Scouts Corner,” however, never revived Scouting to the satisfaction of Mr. Young after the W.W.II events in Panama. The pages of the Panama Tribune, nevertheless, continued their special column in the hopes of locating readers in all parts of the globe and the overlapping geographies of the British Empire.

He hoped that the “World brotherhood of fellow Scouts” would include the Westindian Dispersion in Panama and Central America as a vital part of the Westindian cultural heritage. If such positive traits can be fostered as the ones that promote service to country and community activism, which we can safely say has made a difference in the fight against racial injustice, then my own life story has been molded by the attendance to just one night of Cub Scout meeting at the Jamaican Society Hall in Calidonia.

This story will continue.

3 responses to “Scouting Amongst Panamanian Westindians

  1. YOU FOUND THE PHOTO! Well, if your previous writings made me tear up this one… I can only thank you.

    I would dispute the year of the photo as 1964, because when we went to Chiva Chiva (the correct name is Chivo Chivo) in 1966 it was all bush and we cleared it for the Jamboree in the photo. Then again, the vestiges of time may have warped my own mind. This is presentation of colors once the camp was ready, and not the incident I commented about before on the closing day.

    I went to the link, and as you can see the Scouts within Panama City and Zone were mostly West Indian. I remember Lady Powell’s visit to Panama and several of the faces are familiar to me. I am shaken by all this in a joyful way because these were wonderful memories I have ensconsed.

    If you go to the link, the photo labelled Paraiso I believe is somewhere else since those types of buildings were not in Paraiso on a flat surface. I believe this is either Camp Beird or Gamboa. The Colon photo is Rainbow City, and I wish I could give the names of the people but time has devoured these names.

    I am hurriedly sending the link to my brother. Many thanks again for this early morning surprise.

  2. Here is a scouting story that I relish in making my brother quiver about. Troop 13 was located in the back of Camp Coiner in what appeared to be an abandoned gym or warehouse. Several fellows from Colon were part of our troop. I was a Cub Scout. My brother and his cronies were the pack leaders and would come up with the strangest schemes to earn our badges.

    This one involved, with the permission of my father, renting part of a farm just outside of Colon–this area today is a thriving suburb even listed as a great investment land here in the USA, but back then it sat at the banks of a river. We were told it would earn our ‘nature’ badges. We learned survival.

    Our stay was for the weekend, and it must have been a holiday or vacation since we stayed 5 days. Despite the place crawling with snakes and tarantula spiders, the first two days were fun. We learned to dig around the tents and fill with water like a mote, but the critters still came in the tents. I can still hear the screams when people discovered them at night or in the mornings when we went through inspections.

    I wish this were the only calamity since on day 3 were told we were had run out of provisions. The fun times bathing in the river and washing clothes by noon were just a memory that seemed to be another place and time. Order became disorder. We made bush tea which is actually quite delicious. Scavenged for provisions from the woods and took the owner’s chickens to feed ourselves. The Cub Scouts were in charged of the slaughter of the fowl by wringing the necks. The older boys plucked and cleaned the birds. When Daddy picked us up were just dirt and mud and very upset.

    Years later, at a Christmas family gathering I am laughing about this with my older brother. He then confesses, it was all planned by him and the leadership. I got serious. What could have been the purpose of all this suffering? Well, you would have to know him to understand, but I laughed afterwards since it gave me and understanding of nature, and I realized several of the people of the area lived this way ALL THE TIME.

  3. Ocho Gritos,

    We were sure you’d get a kick out of the photos after we read your experiences. Brings back nice memories.

    I guess the joke was on you guys, the Cubs, but your brother and his “cronies” gave you memories to last forever and laugh about.

    RR

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