Abelistas and Other Acquaintances

The Nicholas Brothers from the United States,  are pictured here doing some fantastic stunts. Image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_brothers

The Nicholas Brothers from the United States, are pictured here doing some fantastic stunts. Image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_brothers

The fact that I had been doing well with bringing in more work for the car wash business allowed me to keep some money for my meals and the evening “Bun” and Royal Crown soda that allowed me to participate at school. I was in the top fourth year class A as we promoted to the next year and I met others who joined our class and some who did not attend Abel Bravo College at all.

I had always prided myself on being amongst the crème de la crème of the student body both in Panama and in Colon. Now I had started making new friends as a member of the school choir which was composed of these students who had passed on into the regular life of Colon and would just show up to hang out or to sing with us in Professor Carlos Grant’s Coro.

In addition to my classmates and school friends, there were those, as I’ve mentioned before, who didn’t attend school but whom I met up with on the streets of Colon through going to events such as dances, private parties, or to sponsored dances or staged floor shows, or affairs that included ballroom dancing. There were singing and dancing duos or groups performed by members of the Silver Community who imitated the famed “Nicholas Brothers,” for instance, who did that unique brand of acrobatic dancing so well done by the blacks in the United States. Ziggy and Zaggy, a dancing duo from the West Indian community, soon earned fame as skilled imitators of this American legend.

We also enjoyed some concerts that also followed the patterns of paid professionals and allowed the public in attendance to dance the night away. I felt like a real part of Colon’s fantastic cultural life and I started to meet girls that were interested in nothing but showing off their dancing abilities, which was just fine by me as I also loved to dance.

There was my good friend and classmate, Albert Bryan, whose father, George “Baron” Bryan was a well-known producer and promoter of shows and boxing events at the Colon Arena. I dedicated an article to him here because he was very much a part of Colon’s exciting night life. From time to time, in fact, I was able to pick up some extra change in my pocket for my meals through the encouragement of Rene Stephens, one of my mother’s ex men friends who had a son with her, Alfredo Stephens, my half-brother.  Tito Johnson and his brother, Renaldo, and Gloria Wilson, a very smart and classy young lady, were all my classmates as well and we all respected and looked up to one another. At the time I really felt we were all a big happy family.

There were also my friends Roger, Rafael Samuels and Millicent Edwards, who, in my opinion, was the best female athlete of our times. Millicent was an excellent soft ball fielder and managed to inspire a great deal of respect in us boys. Then there was Domitila Ceballos who also visited our home and took sewing lessons from my mother.

Dances had started being organized for us young people and all of our classmates couldn’t wait to attend at least one of Victor Boa’s Band’s dances when he came to town. It was great to see Victor Boa’s performances in Colon since it reminded me of how my friend from Panama City, Pilito, and me used to make sure we had a seat at the Radio Station to hear them practice some of those unforgettable tunes we so loved to listen to over the radio. In those days the song to a girl by the name of “Mercedes” was one of my favorites. There was also a Calypso that said “You betta learn to dance the Swing Mama” and, of course, the classic song he became known for, “Dancero,” that no one could play for us but Victor Boa’s Band.

This story continues.

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