Panama

We were married on June 19, 1953. That fall I was drafted into the army, about the time we discovered we were to be blessed with our first daughter, Debra. After basic training I was stationed in Panama and joined 6 months later by Debby, who I met for the first time and Ginny whom I really mised for the first time. A dresser drawer provided Debby with her first bed in Panama, in an appartment we were pleased and proud to claim as our home.

As we thought about a way to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversery. we stumbled upon an instant agreement, something that does not happen often in our marriage. We would take a cruise, with Panama as our primary destination. An objective, of course, would be to revisit some of the places so vivid in our memory of that first year.

We were told the political climate of that area was not conducive to free travel, so we reluctantly choose the standard tour and tryed to sweet talk our guide into helping us find some familiar places. we were only mildly successfull. What we learned was that the Canal Zone no longer existed, and the armed forces bases no longer existed, at least in name. A vivid reminder of the difference 50 yuears can make!

After getting to Gatun lake which provides 52 million gallons of (fresh) water per ship to fill the lock and then is flushed out to sea, we debarked our ship on a small tender boat that took us to the mainland. We boarded busses and for 8 hours experienced Panama City. In many ways it was a comedy of errors that contributed to the fun of the day . . . not the least of was arriving back at the ship at 8:30 when it was supposed to leave at 8:00. They closed the gate behind us and ten minutes later we were under way.

We had hoped that we would be able to find the places where we lived in the canal zone (now part of Panama) and in Panama city. It soon became clear that if we could just find one landmark we would be satisfied. I had a glimpse of the Army base where I spent most of my time, but would have loved to have found my barracks. Balboa, where we lived briefly, provided a quick view of the theatre, church and school . . . places we had been. Needless to say a half century brought many changes to the country. The "colonial" part of the city, adjacent to the canal zone, is where we had our first apartment and where Deb spent the first year of her life. The modern city, where unfortunately we spent most of our time in heavy traffic this trip; didn't even exist 50 years ago!

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True to form they kept our dinner warm, presenting us with several gourmet meal options. We choose the barbecue on the top deck.