Fourth of July in Panama

I suspect the Covid-19 threat has nixed a lot of holiday plans: family picnics, cabins on the lake, evening fireworks displays at the ballpark or on main street. My family never did much to celebrate the fourth, back yard stuff mostly with a few family members and friends. As this year’s holiday approaches, I think back to my favorite.

 It was 1956. I was visiting my cousins, Margaret and Katherine Whelan in Ancon, Panama Canal Zone, courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard. I was a first-class cadet (senior) on our summer training cruise. Having relatives there led to my getting an unusual 48-hour pass.

I must tell you, the Zonians, as Americans living in the Canal Zone like to call themselves, know how to celebrate the event. It is a big deal! Every Zonian wants to renew their patriotic ties to the “upper 48.” The ladies took me to a great party at a grand hotel, large crowd, great dinner, big dance band, magnificent fireworks—the whole nine yards. I expounded on the event in a chapter in my book, “The View from the Rigging: Memoirs of a Coast Guard Career.” My uncle Fenton Whelan and his brother Joe helped build the Canal. Fent stayed in Panama after construction, married a Panamanian and had four children.

So now you know why I’m interested researching Panama for my next writing project; a historical fiction piece centered on the building of the historic canal.

Author: Dick

I have to tell you right up front. I’m a story teller. After graduation from the Coast Guard Academy in 1957, my twenty-eight years of active duty have given me a lot of fodder. I finally heeded my daughter’s pleas, “Dad, you have got to write those stories down,” and published my memoirs in 1975. Caught up in the writing experience, I moved on to publish a novel in 2019 and I'm continuing to write. It's my new number 1 hobby.

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