The End of An Era

My grandfather, Seymour Green, left me an old Panama Hat like the one pictured.

My grandfather, Seymour Green, left me an old Panama Hat like the one pictured.

Colon by the draw of 1953 was, in fact, witnessing the end of an era, another big period of transition in the lives of our Silver People. Personally, my own experiences would become landmarks, though tragic they might have been from my perspective since I had also taken on the role of an observer who needed not to be writing at that particular time in our history as a people. My memory served me well and I really believed that I had been blessed with a unique ability to remember details of my times in Panama and our history would prove to me that it was for a purpose.

By then I had sworn to remember the names of my classmates and anyone of the teens I had been meeting along the way in our third year class at Colegio Abel Bravo. The days were full of wonder for me since I had been also meeting boys and girls from the Silver Schools at Silver City High who were also enrolled in Abel Bravo College in Colon City. The test automobile that Simeon had entrusted to me had made me famous with car owners though at times Simeon would deny me work. Choir practice had been keeping me busy and so I had made myself scarce for some time. In the meantime I continued to suffer hunger and, try as I might, I could not drag myself away from school and the happenings there to go and plead with Simeon to give me work.

Within days word would get to me through my sister Aminta, that our grandfather had died under strange circumstances. “Juni!” she said one afternoon before I could get lost, “Rosa said that you should make yourself available that she would like to talk to you.”  Since my mother seemed quite serious I showed up at the funeral.

It was a very sad affair for me but it wasn’t until after the funeral that I sought out my dear grandmother Marcela Green, we all knew as Nanny. When I found her we both seemed as though we were back in the days of my early childhood when we’d be awaiting her husband, my grandfather Seymour Green, to show-up at any moment and read the newspaper to us. However, I was not the same kid I had been. I was all grown now and more knowledgeable about the adults who interacted around me and what they were capable of. But, for the time being, I played out my role for her that day, as I would end up being the only one there to console, my Nanny, Miss Marcela Anglin Green.

That day at his funeral at Mount Hope Cemetery Chapel I decided to stay outdoors until the rain drove us to the waiting automobiles that took us over to where he would be buried. But, throughout the events of that day I will never forget the words of my grandmother who seemed genuinely grieved. “We both will miss him, no Juni?” she said dolefully to me. “Here is what your grandfather has left for you!” she continued as she handed me an old rolled up Panama Hat which, I would later learn, was one of the things he was known to wear as a real “Original Colon Westindian Man”- his signature.

At the other end of the Canal, on the Pacific side, 1953 also spelled the end of an era for the people of Red Tank. In that year, the last residents of Red Tank, Mr. And Mrs. Charles Mosely, were moved to Paraiso, Canal Zone, and any remaining structures of a once thriving township, a silver township, were demolished or dismantled and left to be forgotten. Many of the former residents and their children who had been born and grew up there were greatly impacted by this rather callous plucking up of their family and histories.

In later years it would always perplex me how the Canal administrators could just uproot a people and dismantle their home town like that as if they never existed. But, most of them resettled in Paraiso and in other Canal Zone towns and in the urban areas of Calidonia, Marañon and the now growing areas of Rio Abajo and Juan Díaz. Theirs would have to be a speedy re-adaptation, especially in Panama City, as it would be a far cry from the lifestyle they had become used to in the small town of Red Tank.

This story continues.

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