Tag Archives: St.-Paul-Methodist-Episcopal-Church

Goodbye Good Neighbors

The nasty street fight with Donaldo in which I had seen myself cornered into defending myself apparently also became the cause for my next door neighbors to move away. I awoke one morning and Donaldo and his family had moved away silently without saying goodbye.

Although I was pretty sure of the “why” for their sudden departure it left me truly saddened and touched in my heart that I hadn’t been given the opportunity to tell my side of the story to anyone. So strongly was I affected by the incident that my emotional state slipped into a kind of silent turmoil, although my family did not seem aware of it. At least, that is how I perceived it.

Even though the reasons for my aggressive gut reaction to being threatened by a boy, who heretofore had been like a brother, were quite clear to me, I still blamed myself for the fight, for the boy’s broken arm and for the eventual decision of the boy’s family to move away. It was probably then that I earnestly turned to religion to provide answers to my plight at so young an age. My encounter with my own explosive emotions scared me though I knew that most boys my age probably would have reacted in a similar fashion.

I remembered that since early childhood I had attended the St. Paul’s Methodist-Episcopal Church but hadn’t learned to read the Holy Bible which sat on the little bookshelf with the rest of the small collection of books at home but which my family rarely touched. I voluntarily joined the Sunday school at the Salvation Army Church in Wachipali, the area of the city known in Spanish as “Marañon.”

I purposely chose this venue for my spiritual studies of the Bible because it was required of us to read directly out of the Bible by the Lady Captain who, by her strong accent, was obviously Barbadian. God had endowed her with the gift of great patience and forbearance and I began to enjoy my lessons. In fact, I started to read the bible at home while on summer vacation, taking advantage of the infrequently used Bible we had in preparation for my Sunday school readings.

Soon, however, new neighbors moved into the two room apartment next door where Donaldo’s family had lived and, as it turned out, it was a single mother with a daughter who was my age. I really had no interest in girls even then although I had experienced the bliss of that one night out dancing with a classmate at the school fair. I also assumed that girls had no interest in me since after the dance I never heard anything more from my lovely Albina. Well, I was in for a surprise soon enough. By this time, however, I was a complete loner, a puny kid who avoided the streets entirely.

During this time my Aunts also decided that I had to be circumcised and their decision might have been influenced by their frequent conversations with our new neighbor lady who happened to work at Santo Tomas Hospital. I knew nothing of what was being planned for me but one day I was simply marched down to the hospital by my grandmother in the same manner that she had done when she’d taken me to the morgue for the preparation of Miss Polly’s coffin. Of course, I never opened my mouth to question her in any way.

Without any explanation as to what was about to occur to me I was given a bit of anesthetic and the surgical procedure was performed in one of the hospital operating rooms. It was all carried out on an outpatient type basis with my grandmother hovering nearby outside the O.R. until I was whisked away to another room to recover.

Concerned for me since she had already suffered the losses of a husband and a young son, she asked the hospital personnel in English, “What is wrong with him?” The nurses reassured her in Spanish that I was all right and was put there to recover thoroughly. She stayed close until I was conscious enough to leave with her.

To my dear aunts and my grandmother I had been the good, cooperative, tolerant and submissive boy, nothing of what they seemed to be experiencing with Westindian men at the time or so it seemed to me.

I swore to myself, however, to be different in mood and attitude to any man I had known up to that time in my young life, and as the wound from my circumcision healed, my emotional wounds from the recent encounter with my own rage also began to heal. The Bible readings helped this along a great deal I believe.

This story continues.

Seeking Models of Leadership

The venerable Right Rev. A.F. Nightengale,
Archdeacon of St. Paul Episcopal Church in Santana

That I should have had some idea of the qualities that would dignify a person should have been something fixed in my mind by now. Since there were no physical areas in the city where I could discover “modeling tools” for human beings such as libraries, concert halls, or any other cultural emporiums, I’d reached an age where that characteristic of many adolescents-
cynicism– had started rearing its ugly head. Continue reading


An image of Reverend A.F. Nightengale Rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church of Panama.

An image of Reverend A.F. Nightengale
Rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of

It was on one of those nights that I sat beside my grandmother when we attended what for me was my first experience with any type of spiritual education or lecturing at one of the evangelical churches that my grandmother loved to visit. I say “visit” since she was ever wary of “organized” churches and preferred to visit all the many and sundry expressions of the Christian religion and the other unconventional ones like the “bush” churches which I will get into later. Continue reading

Wedding Bells

A 1930 Studebaker sedan similar to the one Cobert owned.
Image is of my sister, Aminta, and myself serving
as flower girl and ring bearer at one of several
weddings we would be called upon to adorn. My mother
would also be asked to do all the dress making for these
Silver weddings of the 40’s. I remember refusing to
smile for the photo as no one had really informed me
before hand that I would be participating in this wedding.

Rosa Lena Green and Cobert Reid, as with most young people, had very little notion of the enormous responsibility ahead of them as a married couple. They were too busy falling in love and enjoying themselves and their friends in the few areas around Calidonia and Santa Ana in Panama City that offered anything interesting for adolescents. Continue reading

Auntie and Her “Sleeping Sickness” – Part I

My Auntie Berenice Charles (on the right) and Aunt Gweny on the left. circ. 1991

St. Paul Episcopa Church in Panama City’s Santana District hasn’t changed much even today.

Old St. Paul Episcopal Church. My Auntie really introduced
me to regular church attendance at this church and
the joy of listening to the word of God in my first Sunday School.

My Aunt Berenice always struck me as a more gifted woman than what she led on. She had a good singing voice, had taught herself to play piano, she sang in the choir at St. Paul Episcopal Church. She could write, cipher, was big and powerful and was an exceedingly good cook- a talent that would earn her work in many Canal Zone kitchens throughout her long life. I first became acquainted with my Auntie when I was eight years old under adverse circumstances- the break up of my parent’s marriage. Continue reading

Blacks Living the Affluent Life- An Emerging Social Network

The Sojourner’s Hall (today restored)
on “P” Street in Panama City
The Christian Mission Church,
today is the home of the
Westindian Museum in Panama City  

Silver Clubhouse and Dispensary

Throughout the late 1920’s and during the decades of the 30’s and 40’s Westindian Blacks in Panama, Colon and the Canal Zone began to organize, seeking any means of channelling their social energies that would serve as an agglutinating force. The local Canal Zone Silver Clubhouses became the centers for dances sponsored by the clubhouse staff. Continue reading