Tag Archives: Silver-commissaries

Go to the Commissary…You Can Do It!

Images: Top: Avenida Central around 1940 shows the route of
the chivas that went into Santana and San Felipe.
Bottom: even into the 1960’s the same chivas were
being used in public transport.
Images thanks to CZimages.com

“Juni, come here!” my mother said one day with a note of urgency. When I immediately responded she said, “I want you to go to the commissary for me.” The “
for” is what triggered my incredulity as I could not believe that she was asking me to do this errand all by myself. During that time I had hardly left the confines of our neighborhood not even to go see my paternal grandmother or my mother’s aunt who both lived a little further up on our street. Going to the Silver commissary implied quite a distance clear out of our neighborhood into the area of Curundu. Continue reading

The Fourth of July, Christmas, Crown Pilot Crackers and the Commissaries-An American Lifestyle Unfolds in Panama

In 1996 Nabisco dropped the cracker
and then revived it in 1997 in the face of a
concerted campaign from consumers.

A real Westindian 4th of July “Picnic”
in the community
of Gorgona (earlY photo)
courtesy of czimages.com

By the 1930’s and 40’s the US Interoceanic Canal Commission (ICC) would, once again in history and with the able assistance of Black Westindian labor, effectively transform the bankrupt economy of the U.S.A. into the booming advertising centered economy that would eventually emerge during the 1950’s and 1960’s; and they would achieve this from an obscure corner of the world called Panama. Continue reading

The Silver Commissary- My Memories

The above images, all borrowed from wikipedia
symbolized my Canal Zone experience at the ages of three and four.

While I’m on the subject of the Commissaries, while they are still quite fresh, my memories of these unique shopping establishments stir very pleasant feelings within me, even today. Just shopping in the Panama Canal Zone Commissaries, perhaps some of the largest stores that anyone had ever seen before anywhere in the American hemisphere, made one feel rich and “privileged.” Continue reading

Between the Zone and the City- Transitions

A commissary book of the type
used in the Panama Canal Zone Commissaries.

Many Westindians with commissary
privileges shopped in the commissaries with
similar coupon books issed in different
denominations. courtesy of czbrats.com 


Empire garden school for “Silver Roll” children about 1910;
probably the first school gardens in the entire Republic.

For the Westindian the times seemed propitious by now for them to begin to enjoy the first wave of euphoria of being persons of independent thought and action. Life in the Barrios afforded them a focus for that much needed social integration into Panamanian society. Continue reading

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

The Silver Roll- Separate and Unequal Facilities

An early post card image of the
Old (Gold) Commissary at Las Cascadas (today under water)
Image thanks to: www.czimages.com

The newly arriving privileged white Americans, recruited primarily by the Canal Recruitment offices in New York, New Orleans, and in other parts of the United States, arrived with a “segregation mind set.” Although, and contrary to common belief, the American workforce was almost entirely from the northern United States at first, such was the attitude of those new white arrivals that it appeared that they had been recruited by the most radical of racist secret societies. Continue reading