Tag Archives: Black-Canal-Zone

Is This All There Really Is to Life?

This is how Escuela Artes y Oficio
looked back then, before 1952.
Image thanks to their facebook page.

I guess my timing or approach was faulty, however, and for a youngster like me, who promised to become an intellectual, my attempt to get into night school was completely thwarted. The ploy of disguising myself as a day worker, hoping perhaps to pass for an older youth did not work for me that unforgettable night I spent my last dime on bus fare to get to Artes y Oficio vocational school. Continue reading

What’s in a Name?

I was a surprise even to myself, I thought, by the time I’d reached those days in the sixth grade. I also felt as though I were a hypocrite speaking Spanish and writing it much better than my classmates both Spanish and Westindian. I had evolved culturally, in fact, right along with my proficiency in the two languages of my birth. There were definite signs around me, however, that I lived in a changed, bi-cultural/bilingual society. Continue reading

A Tribute to Alfred E. Osborne

Alfred E. Osborne. Image thanks to Afropanavisions.com

Venerable Teacher Osborne, father of Alfred E. Osborne, left his Island home of Antigua, when his son Alfred E. was only three years of age. He arrived in Panama in the year of 1911 and most assuredly met my grandfather Mr. Joshua A. Reid, the Dispensary Director of Silver Paraiso Township. Mr. Reid had left his beloved Island of Jamaica in 1906 to get work on the construction of the “Big Ditch” which would later turn into the Panama Canal. The elder Teacher Osborne then labored at the segregated Canal Zone Silver Schools until he achieved the rank of Principal. Continue reading

A Different Reality

This was how Central Avenue looked in 1940. Image thanks to our friends at czimages.com

This is an image of how Calidonia looked in 1940. Thanks to our friends at Afro-panavision.

For someone like me, who experienced life as a Black Canal Zone Silver child and also a black Panamanian child, I can safely say that the insight I gathered from what it was like to be a Silver laborer came from my brief experience with my maternal grandfather, Seymour Green. Continue reading

The Silver Townships- Red Tank- Part I

Red Tank around 1920.

The Red Tank sign today in front of the area that was once Red Tank, CZ in Panama.

The ruins of what was once Red Tank, CZ in Panama.

The origins of the town of Red Tank are, to this day unclear- not at well documented for a town that was established during the days of the construction of the Panama Canal, 1904-1914. Former surviving residents recalled there was a big water tank, painted with red lead, on a hill behind what later became the town. From this undoubtedly came the name of Red Tank, a Silver Roll community.

One account mentioned the town of Pedro Miguel Tank, a very brief distance south of the town of Pedro Miguel on a Panama Railroad timetable (schedule) as early as 1904. The recollections of the “old” people, however, are, perhaps the best and, unfortunately, the only testimony we may have left of the existence of this former very bustling Silver Township that swelled to a population of 2,200 between 1931 and 1941 (numbers were taken from the Panama Canal Company Review of 1953).

It was a town, however, as with so many other Black Canal Zone towns, that, once their usefulness had been reached they were simply “dismantled,” the families uprooted and moved somewhere else and the site of the town either flooded by the Canal waters or, as in the case of Red Tank, used as a “dump” site. By 1953 the last residents of Red Tank, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Moseley were moved to Paraiso to resettle along with many of their former Red Tank neighbors who had been moved before them. Mr. Moseley, a Canal employee for over 40 years, according to this account, had been the Salvation Army Red Tank representative for the last 3 years.

In our next post concerning Red Tank, however, we will introduce the real “substance” of Red Tank, its people, and, more importantly, its gifted people which Red Tank seemed to produce in abundance. Return with our chronicle as we profile the story of Edward Aston Gaskin, a profile in brilliance and courage.

Images: Township of Red Tank (around 1920)

Thanks to Mr. Charles Chevalier

Middle and Bottom photos of part of the ruins
of Red Tank today thanks to
Mr.Art Mokray

This story continues.

Communal Life in the “Black” Zone

Image shows an early Culebra “Silver” School (1905)
courtesy of Mr. George W. Westerman

Construction of the “
Big Ditch” once again became the priority project despite the feelings and attitudes of the white Americans. The “character set” of racist America, however, surfaced in the whole country of Panama. The Westindian* community, with their Black American counterparts, lived and somehow blossomed in the places set aside for them on the Black United States Canal Zone. Still being dug out where mountains once lay dormant, not a ship, as yet, had traveled the trench. Continue reading