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Only in the Canal Zone: Share your unique scouting experience

Hello again, Co-Curators!

We have so enjoyed hearing your scout stories, reminiscing about camping, hiking, and badges!

But we also know that living in the Panama Canal Zone was an especially unique experience, so being a scout in the Canal Zone must have been exceptional as well!

What made being a scout in the Panama Canal Zone unique?

What sort of scouting activities were unique to CZ scouts?
What made being a Boy Scout / Girl Scout in Panama so special?

Do you have an “Only in the Canal Zone!” sort of memory to share about your time as a scout?  We want to hear it!

Please share your thoughts, memories, and stories with us in the comments section– we hope to include your words in the exhibit!

 

7 Comments

  • Fred Schrader

    I became an Eagle Scout in 1953 while a member of Air Scout Squadron #22 which met at Albrook Field. Joe Fuller and Clive Barrett were also Air Scout members. One of our outings was on an Air Force flying trip to Columbia to an emergency air strip in the jungle. Another was on a camping trip to an island in the Bay of Panama. Another highlight of my scouting experience was the honor of dedicating the Statue of Liberty in June 1953 near the YMCA and police station. All in all my scouting in the CZ was a wonderful experience.

  • Pat Boyd

    Girl Scouts was unique in the Zone. We sold Girl Scout calendars, not cookies. The calendars had great information on them, like the school schedules, local holidays, etc. We camped at the Girl Scout camp in Gatun. We had to lash dowels to our cots, which were surplus army, I believe, and if you didn’t lash them correctly, my mother, the leader, made you do it again. The dowels held up the mosquito netting.

  • Peggy Huff

    I remember three scout camps in the canal area: two Girl Scout camps – Camp Sherwood Forest and Camp Caribbean, which was located in the town site of Gatun, next to the locks. Old WWII air raid shelters were part of the camp. In the summer of 1963, the Boy Scout Council opened their camp, Camp Chagres, located on the shores of Madden Lake (Lake Alahuela) to the girl scouts of Troop 77. There were twelve scouts, two adult leaders and two senior boy scouts. We learned canoeing, jungle survival skills, and enjoyed cooking in the outdoor kitchen. We felt very safe in the screened-in bohios where we slept, in spite of the fact that snakes, very large spiders and noises in the night were prevalent. Camping in the jungle on the shores of the lake that provides the water for the Panama Canal was a unique and memorable experience.

  • Mary Ann Tatman

    I was a Girl Scout in Troop 77 when it was based in Balboa and many of the scouts were students at St Mary’s. The troop was led by Julia Boukalis and my Mom, Sophie Tatman. We camped at Camp Caribbean in Gatun, a campground on one of the islands connected to Ft Amador by the causeway, and attended a Girl Scout Camporee at Camp Chagres. We used large canvas wall tents that accommodated two canvas cots with mosquito netting, that had to be aired out before and after use because of dampness and mildew. Finding dry wood for cooking and campfires was always a challenge at Camp Carribean, even in dry season. We learned to canoe at Hyacinth Landing in Gamboa near where the Chagras River runs into Gatun Lake. The troop had a number of service projects in both the Canal Zone and in Panama City. A particularly memorable project was sewing sheets for the patient’s beds at Hospital Matias Hernandez, a public psychiatric hospital in Panama City.

  • Rushelle K Mason

    I was a brownie on Ft Clayton. During my first month the leader, Mrs Brown, ask for volunteers to go to tea with the governor ‘s wife. I volunteered. It was a very special moment in time for me. I didn’t even have my uniform yet. This was in 1950

  • Daniel Reyes

    Boy Scouts in the Panama Canal Zone
    By Daniel Reyes

    My name is Daniel Reyes. I am a Boy Scout Leader. I have been in Cub Scout Pack 20 and Boy Scouts Troops 1849, 24, and 20 of the Panama Canal Zone. I love Boy Scouts and I have been in Boy Scouts since 1981. I am the one of the Leaders of Troop 20 and Chaplain.
    The Boy Scouts of America in the Panama Canal Zone had their 100 years of scouting in Panama in 2011. They began in 1911. There was a patch made for the 100th year Anniversary.
    In my Boy Scout life, I have done a lot of things in scouting. I am in the Order of the Arrow in the Chiriquí Lodge in Panama. The Order of the Arrow is a group of Scouts ages 14 and up that get chosen by the young Scouts. They have to be good Scouts, know a lot about Boy Scout skills, and are good leaders. What I did in the Order of the Arrow is a lot of Lodge Service Projects. I helped at camper Camperees. I did Odeal, Brotherhood, Arrowmen, Campout Ceremonies.
    In my Scout Troop, we did Boy Scout activities every month. We camped out, did service projects, hikes, and merit badges. We canoed, visited the Panama Canal, did Camporees, and went to the beach, etc… Once a month, we had a meeting with all of the Scout leaders in Panama. This meeting was to see how Boy Scouts is doing with the troops in Panama and to see how we can make Boy Scouts in Panama better. Once a year we have a banquet for the Leaders to say thank you for the job they do in Boy Scouts.
    The biggest thing that I learned in Boy Scouts is to do things on my own. I learned how to work with other people, learn other skills, and teach other people. Jesus has been a big part of my life. Scouting has been good to me.
    Things I did in the Boy Scouts in the Panama Canal Zone
    Campouts:
    Tits River, Gamboa Golf Course Camping, Island Campout in Gamboa, River rafting, Canoeing on the Chagres River and Gamboa, Camping in Fort Sherman, Camping on farmland, Beach camping, Camping at Summit zoo, Camping at Campana Hill, Camping at Big Tree Howard, Camping at old Gamboa Airport, Camping at El Valle, etc…
    Hiking:
    Canoing and hiking from Colon to Balboa, 7 days, Taboga Hike to the Cross, Amador Causeway, Cocoli Road, Gamboa Pipeline Road, Las Cruces Trail, Ride Bikes, Jungle Hiking, Ancon Hill, etc…
    Summer Camp: 7 Days
    This campout is in different places every year. The places have been:
    Old Gamboa Golf Course, Colon, Fort Sherman, Rodman, Big Tree Howard, Chagres Park, etc…
    Camporee Campouts:
    Are fun! What do you do at Camporees? You have competitions and games with skills you learn in Boy Scouts. Scouts get into groups called Patrols and compete for prizes. They show off their Boy Scouts skills like: First aid, rope tying, starting fires, lashing ropes, and etc… These Camporees help Scouts practice their Boy Scout Skills. Camporees in the Panama Canal Zone are three or four times a year. We have a campfire and what we do at the campfire is skits, jokes, songs, and tell stories about Scouting. Some of the Camporee Campouts are held at Big Tree Howard, Colon (Fort Sherman), Cocoli Firing Range, Fort Davis Lake, Clayton Park, Gamboa Golf Course, and etc…
    Other things that we did:
    Help the army sell Christmas trees
    Fourth of July Teeshirt Sales
    Fourth of July Parade in Clayton
    Put Flags on the graves in Corozal Cemetary for Veteran’s Day
    Scout-o-Rama: We had a parade and had a booth to show off Boy Scout Skills
    Pinewood Derby

  • James Keene

    First, Daniel thank you and I think it was David for the youtube video going through all the badges etc over time.

    I am retired and downsizing. I went through boxes and found a fruit cake tin with my hat, shirt, sash and some badges. My father was Army and we were assigned to Kobbe, Amador, and finally Clayton. I was there from 65 or 66 through 68. I joined troop 109 or maybe 99 (old) under Chief Herbert Mandel. He was my first mentor and set the course for the rest of my life.

    I think we went to school in Curundu Heights but maybe it was something else. The bus driver stopped on the way home one day, walked to the edge of the jungle next to the road with his machete, and came back with an animal he killed. I think it was a sloth. He just dropped it next to his seat and drove on. We had to skirt around it getting off the bus. I reached out and helped a girl step around it while negotiating the stairs and she smiled at me. Oh yeah – that happened. I thought I was Captain America for a week after that. I was in fact the BUS PATROL guy! I wore that white or yellow belt thingy around waist over shoulder thingy with a badge. Captain Curundu!

    I led Bat patrol and our focus was getting everyone to the rank of First Class as a minimum. We did and won first place in the council first aid meet (camporee?). I won Scout of the Year medal for that. I made it to star scout before we moved. We met near the hospital and after the meetings we played capture the flag in the field to build team work.

    I have been trying to collect the badges i am missing from panama specifically. I got the merit badges from BSA supply but can’t find the shoulder and pocket badges for canal zone. I have my Chagres badges. If you have a line on this stuff let me know.

    I was in with Jim Alfred and I think his brother Mike From 66-68. We walked the Balboa trail, ate strange animals that the GIs cooked in holes in the ground. All the activities i recall were at Chagres except first aid meets and camporees. We were given rides in all sorts of army vehicles; jeeps, mules, APCs, deuce and a half trucks, etc.

    Panama was the best place to be for kids around 12. Golf course, pool, teen club, theater, mango trees, scouts all walking distance from home. I remember the horror of powdered milk but the bananas, mangoes, and sweet tarts made up for it. One of the GIs or someone had a local tv show where he dressed like bozo the clown and had local kids there in chairs to interview between Clutch Cargo and Johnny Quest cartoons. Have Gun Will Travel on tv. The playground was awesome but we never wore shoes and had to cross the deadly patches of those stickers that lie flat and close up there little leaves when you touch them.

    Anyway, dad retired and we went to St. petersburg, Fl. I joined and troop there but it sucked. We went to Camp Soule i think it was but everything sucked in comparison to Panama. Oh well.

    Nice to near there are so many of us out there from a relatively obscure place. Stay safe all.

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