Tag Archives: silver-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

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.

The Silver Townships- Rainbow City- Part I

Image: Map of the Panama Canal Zone.
Rainbow City appears at the Atlantic end (north)
Image courtesy of www.wikipedia.com

Of all the Silver Townships on the Isthmus of Panama,
Rainbow City in the Province Colon is the place that has been known by the greatest variety of names imaginable. It was first known asSilver City” but, in the early days of construction was variously referred to as The FolksRiver end of Manzanillo Island, Silver town at Mount Hope, New Silver town site at Big Tree; and Cristobal Silver Townsite. After the area was settled, however, it was also known as Silvertown, Silver Town, and Silver city. The term Silver “City” with the city capitalized was not formally recognized until July 1921 when it was named in this manner in official correspondence. Continue reading

The Silver Townships- Cristobal, CZ

Images: Top: View of Cristobal, CZ circ.1933. Bottom: Royal Mail Lines Building well preserved. Thanks to www.wikipedia.com

Once known by the name of “The Other Side” or “El Otro Lado” Cristobal was once the swampy islet out on the Atlantic Ocean called Manzanillo. Upon completion of the railroad by the Americans in the 1850’s, however, the area or town became known as Aspinwall. Continue reading

The Silver Townships- The City of Colon

Colon City around 1910 when it was mainly a West Indian city.


Colón is the port city on the Atlantic (Caribbean) coast of the Republic of Panama and is actually the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal. The city is also the capital of the Province of Colon and has historically and by virtue of its population been recognized as Panama’s second major city. Continue reading

The Silver Townships- A History Unfolds Part I

Image: A rare photo of Red Tank
before it was deserted and dismantled.
The beautifal large Cuipo tree stands sentinal
over this road.

As we continue with our narrative of how the Silver Townships came to be, we must note that these dynamic communities also underwent a great many changes during their life cycle which, in some cases, resulted in their being dismantled all together and in others integration into the country’s governance, culture and economy. Continue reading