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.