Object of the Day

Canal Zone License

We know that this license belonged to Jean Dough Judge.




What can you tell us about the process of getting a license in the Canal Zone? Was it difficult? Was it easy?

Please share with us in the comments section below!


  • John Schmidt ( BHS 50 )

    Don’t recognize the name and since she lived in Coco Solo – would say she was a Navy dependent.
    My license (last one I was issued) was when I enlisted in the Air Force and had moved into the barracks at Albrook AFB and had a 1955 expiration date.

  • Bob Zumbado BHS 1955

    In the 1950’s, age requirement for two wheel motor vehicles (motorbikes & motor scooters) was 16 years (1952 for me). For automobiles the age was 18, with the exception that successful completion of Driver’s Education course in high school allowed you to get your license at age 17 and a half. In Balboa, one went to the Civil Affairs Building near Balboa Railroad Station where the license Section was located, to take a written multiple guess exam and a driving test with a CZPD officer as examiner. A photo was required. The CZ Government issued license allowed you to drive only within the confines of the Canal Zone. However, with the CZ license in hand one would present that license to the driving license office in Panama and a license would be issued on the strength of the CZ license without written or driving testing. Another photo was required. I still have my first CZ and Panama driver’s licenses.

    The process was not difficult at all….unless one ran afoul of the CZPD examiner during the driving portion of the test, which I did!! The gentleman it was my misfortune to draw as examiner was Officer Malagutti. He initially failed me, at which point my dad stepped in and the matter was resolved amicably, I think, and the license was issued the same day. A story for another time.

  • Waldo B Gilley

    If the driver test was with a automatic transmisson car, it was stamped on license. “AUTO ONLY”. If test was taken with standard transmission, you could drive both auto & standard cars & trucks. I went to MP station to apply for Panama License.

    • Bob Zumbado BHS 1955

      That’s correct and I remember that my contemporaries all learned and tested on stick shift cars to avoid restrictions. I learned and tested on a 1948 black, Plymouth 4-door sedan…my mom’s car.

  • Nina Brown Kosik

    Like Bob, I remember my friends learning on stick shifts & learning from Mr. Russon. Don’t remember that we had Drives’r Ed at BHS in 1955.

    I didn’t learn until a couple of years later when I had my first car & my husband asked his friend, Jack Smith (CZ Police), to teach me. He used the lonely Empire Road for lessons & we encountered speeding Army trucks now & them. He took a terrible ribbing at the station for taking “that young girl out on a desolate back road supposedly to teach her to drive”. A truly nice man & I did learn. I then drove without a license for 6 months or so from our house at Rousseau to where I worked at 519 Clayton & the entire police force knew it. Finally, one day Danny Harned followed me home & waggled his finger at me to get a license.

    I went down to the Civil Affairs the next day & dealt with a grim, unfriendly cop (not policeman, & not the very nice Bill Gilbert). He took me out on to Gaillard, said to “make a left” & we headed to Panama City & then “make a left” again & we were back in the parking lot. He went inside & left me in the car. After about a half hour of sweat, I went in (innocently thinking he’ d forgotten something) & he bawled me out but good. Ending with “How did you get here?” Well, of course, I’d driven. He approved the license, but he was not happy about it.

    The ladies who issued licenses were Mrs Melanson & then Mrs Thomas — friendly, helpful & efficient.

  • Nina Brown Kosik

    Whoops! just read Bob’ first comment — it was Malagutti whe bawled me out unmercifully. I’d forgotten his name even though I could “see” his face a I typed —

  • Bob Zumbado BHS 1955

    Nina, yes, we had driver’s ed. at BHS. I believe it was an after hours class where fundamentals of the internal combustion engine were taught, rules of the road, auto insurance requirements and that you must always heed intructions of traffic policemen. Officer Malagutti’s driving exam for me was a drive down Roosevelt Ave, a right turn toward Diablo, a drive up the hill to the Diablo Clubhouse, a turn around the Clubhouse parking lot and back to Civil Affairs. A lane into the C.A. parking lot was posted with a One Way sign. Officer M directed me to turn into the one way and park. Three times I asked, “are you sure, sir, that you want me to turn against the one way.” Each time he grumbled YES. So, I did and he failed me. My step dad, CZ pilot Alan Wallace, a large, intense man not to be trifled with, had a private discussion with Officer M. beyond my ear shot. There was glowering back and forth and finally some uncomfortable smiles by both and and I was issued my license..a fun memory.

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