Category Archives: Silver Roll Townships

The West Indian Culture of Colon

I attended the debut of "Carmen Jones," starring Dorothey Dandridge and Harry Belafonte for the first time in Colon in 1954. Image.

I attended the debut of “Carmen Jones,” starring Dorothey Dandridge and Harry Belafonte for the first time in Colon in 1954. Image.

Just as my stepfather was doing at that time, most of my classmates’ parents were working on the Canal Zone. In fact, the American Canal Zone was never far from their lives or from any geographical point in the city of Colon. The Silver Roll Clubhouse, for instance, was that small piece of cultural space that served as a soda fountain, cafe and as a multiservice center offering spaces to members to conduct their club meetings.

It also served as a movie theater where the youth of the Silver Roll gathered on both sides of the wall that separated the American Canal Zone from the rest of Colon to reconnect and enjoy a movie. It premiered the latest movies out of Hollywood and was always crowded with young black people. Continue reading

Adventures in Bamboo Lane


As you can probably judge, we get many people visiting and commenting on all our web sites, especially The Silver People Chronicle.  We get comments, for the most part, in support of what we are trying to do and others often join us in adding to the collective memory with their own experiences. Continue reading

The Housing Exoduses- Deplorable Conditions on the Zone

Silver Housing in Cristobal in about 1912.
Notice the appalling lack of sewage/drainage.
This is the housing unit in Red Tank known as the Titanic Building.
It was originally a wing of Ancon Hospital which
was already quite old and deteriorated when it was
moved to Red Tank to serve as housing for the Silver
employees and their families.

By the time I was born n 1936, the Silver people had undergone many periods of privation in so far as their housing needs were concerned. In supporting several posts regarding their struggles with finding decent housing I have provided for you a succinct history following an outline originally written by George W. Westerman. Continue reading

The Silver Townships: Silver Gatun and Silver Santa Cruz

Very early engraving of Gatun Station, Railroad days.

Early Gamboa.

Gamboa Commissary.

Images: Top: Gatun Station around 1851
Middle: Early photo of Gamboa (circ. 1930)
Bottom: Gamboa Commissary as it stands today
even after the reversion of the Panama Canal.

is a small town on the Atlantic Side of the Panama Canal, located south of the city of Colon at the point in which Gatun Lake meets the channel to the Caribbean Sea. Best known as the site of the Panama Canal’s Gatun Locks and Gatun Dam, built by the United States between 1906-1914, it, as with many of the former Canal Zone towns had segregated facilities for the “Silver” or “local rate” employees. The same may be said of Silver Santa Cruz which was next to Gamboa. Continue reading

The Silver Townships- Rainbow City Part III

Images Top: Rainbow City Elementary School
Thanks to

The Camp Coiner area bordering Silver City was originally known as Camp Randolph, having acquired its name in 1942 from Lt. Col. Richard T. Coiner, Corps of Engineers when he and the main offices of the Construction District of the Panama Engineer Division occupied it. By the end of WWII (1945), the U.S. Army transferred Camp Coiner to the Canal Zone and the area became Silver City’s second suburb. The Army buildings were then replaced with more suitable buildings, including the first “experimental housing” for local rate (Silver Roll) workers. Continue reading

The Silver Townships- Rainbow City Part II

The images point to the glaring problem
of adequate housing needed by the Silver People.
In Colon it was especially pressing.
Top shows the dwellings for the West Indian
canal workers built during the French Period (1880-1889).
The bottom shows the squalor of the “Silver” housing
areas in Colon townships.

Images thanks to George Westerman

In 1915, soon after the Canal was inaugurated, a housing survey conducted throughout the Canal Zone pointed out the urgent need for more and better housing arrangements for Atlantic side towns. At the time, the population of Fox River was 932 and Camp Bierd was 1,818. Continue reading