|Written by Ruth Pinkerton|
|Tuesday, 14 February 2006 10:48|
Ruth Winters Hudgins worked for the Port Master, I believe, and was very active in the American Red Cross.
I was born at Coco Solo Hospital and lived the entire 19 years I was there in Margarita, next to Rainbow City and Colon. I am blessed for being raised there and sure wish I could have offered the same to my children. My father was raised in old Cristobal, which was located along the water by Colon. His father, Cpt George K. Hudgins, Sr., was a pilot that transferred from the Great Lakes in 1930 to navigate the canal.
My grandparents both were employed by the Canal Zone Government, my grandmother, |
My father, George K. Hudgins, Jr, married a native Cuban, Gladys Portales-Gonzalez, and they had three children; I am the oldest. My father was a locomotive operator for the Gatun locks and retired with 35 years of service.
I have fond memories of going to school at Margarita Elementary, walking back and forth and then learning how to ride a bike and then riding to school. On the corner of Espave Ave and 4th Street (i think) there was a tree that got hit by lighting almost every year, poor tree looked rough. One of the best memories is of "rainy season" when it would rain for six months. I recall 5-7 days of constant rain, and we learned to play in the rain, "two hand touch mud football", sliding down the hill behind our house, playing in the streets because the drain system was backed up from so much rain. And the rain was warm and smelled fresh. We used to go to the Margarita swimming pool alot and it was fun to swim in the rain and see the drops piercing through the water while you were underwater looking up, the sound was peaceful.
They had lifeguards there who maintained control, you took swimming lessons to earn your badges (B beginner, A advanced, S swimmer) that were free and then you could walk to the pool by yourself and enter with your "B badge". Parents didn't have to worry. Many memories flow through my mind such as the rings or jewelry we would make out of the Black Palm seeds, we spent hours sanding and polishing them, they looked nice. There were the "Christmas Tree gangs" battling over trees to win the big prize at the yearly Tree Burn on the hill at the Womans Club. The smell of trees, the crackling sounds as they burned and ended the Christmas season for us. The food that was cooking and all the competitions that we took part in, three legged race, potato sack race, egg toss and many more.
I had a newspaper route for four years; I delivered the Miami Herald every afternoon after school on my Yamaha 100 road bike, my mom would help to roll the papers or did them herself. Oh, the playgrounds that we had all over Margarita, there was always one close to your home. During the school year the gym at the school would stay open till 4:30 allowing us to go home and change and then return and play longer. The swimming pool on the hill, the old gymnasium that was turned into a Skating Rink brought many nights of great fun, the old commisary was painted "red" and became a youth center that was called "The Barn" all around the time of Woodstock. I remember seeing Carlos Santana perform there. Then there was the Margarita Service Center with the little store inside where I would buy my country music, a small bank, a bakery that would make fresh bread in colors of red/green for Christmas, and other Holidays and the best "bear claws" I have had any where. The cafeteria made delicious meals, especially the Johnny Marzetti, with loads of melted cheese. The milk and ice cream (butter pecan, eskimo pies) made at the Mount Hope Plant was delicious and I have not met their match to date. One of the best things from Cristobal High School in Coco Solo was the cafeteria, the hot dogs or french fries with Chili on them, and then the "famous meat empanadas" from the hot machine, you talk about delicious, two would make a meal with ketchup on them. There was the great movie theater that was not air conditioned, 25-50 cents for a great movie, and the "Owl Show" at 10:00 pm on Friday nights.
Many of those nights I walked home down the middle of the street where it was the brightest (you see they showed a lot of scary and Dracula movies). I remember seeing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, 2001 Space Odyssey, The Sound of Music, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (they even sold the candy bars in the store), many John Wayne movies and many more. The small Post Office and then there was the 8 lane bowling alley, what joy we had bowling on Saturday mornings in our League and just hanging out with out friends, sipping on "real" cherry cokes. I was also very active in the Little League and Pony League baseball, I was their scorekeeper for several seasons. Many good days seeing parents cheer their children (mainly boys) and cheering on our friends. Riding our mini-bikes (Honda 50, Honda 75, Yamaha 125, Yamaha 250) in the "Gulley" across the street from the Skating rink and over towards the Womans Club. Many men would ride their dune buggies there also, great joy when you climbed up the hills without crashing. We had a nice library, barber/Beauty shop and a Bingo hall upstairs in the Clubhouse. Last to be mentioned were all the Churches located in the town of Margarita. We had the largest number of churches than any township in the Canal Zone.
We had so much at our fingertips and it was so convenient to walk or ride your bicycle to do anything, Girl/Boy scout house, a tennis court, many playgrounds, safe neighborhoods to play in, and the great weather, most of the time it was a cool refreshing breeze. The prettiest sight I remember is seeing pairs of macaws flying overheard or a flock of parakeets squawking and reeking havoc in the trees as they roost for the evening. I miss the birds and nature the most. You hear birds here in Florida, but mainly at night when everything has calmed down for the day and there isn't so much noise to block nature out. Finding pollywogs or fish in the ditch behind the house. I remember bringing home frog "froth" leaving it ina fish bowl and pollywogs would hatch and then become tadpoles. We were very in touch with nature, at one point almost stepping on a cayman in the ditch, until he opened his mouth. Climbing mango trees, eating fruit off of them even the green ones with salt. We could walk about and pick lemons, limes, bananas, mangos, kiwis, coconut or pipa and just eat on the go. Who ever thought of having a McDonalds close by; not us.
I could write forever, and maybe I shall one day. But for right now you can check out a couple of websites that have alot of memories on them from other "Zonians". I consider myself Panamanian also, because there is no such country other than Panama that has such kind people. When I went to La Chorrera, 7 years ago, to bring my ailing parents back stateside, I was welcomed by so many good people bringing me meals and wanting to share stories. I have a love for my "home country", but find it hard to go back to without the military and Canal Zone Police there for protection. Even the families that I met with wouldn't go outside at night due to the "maliantes" and we did hear gunshots every night for the two weeks that I was there. I know that can happen anywhere, but there was a great sense of security when I lived there growing up. Growing up in a third world country blessed me to appreciate alot in life that many people take for granted. We didn't have alot of materialistic things, but we were blessed with so much more by being raised in such a beautiful country surrounded by such beauty.
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|Last Updated on Monday, 11 August 2008 21:48|