A Fantastic Journey: Part 7

Canal Administration Building, Quarry Heights, Albrook & Clayton


Having returned to the city a day early, we decided to look around the old Zone a bit more, so we took a taxi for the morning. First we headed for the Administration Building as I wanted to show Gene the rotunda paintings. We had no trouble going in, but only to the rotunda. All other areas were off limits.
Once inside, I found the place as impressive as always. I tried to go to the terrace facing the El Prado, but succeeded only in setting off the alarm when I opened the door. Leaving the Building, we took Ancon Boulevard to Ancon finding it completely changed with all the wooden buildings gone. I was
disoriented until we got to the old clubhouse building, still in use, and headed towards “J” Street. We returned to Quarry Heights for a second visit entering from the Balboa Heights side. Taking a second view at the buildings that are being remodeled, we also stopped to see what we think is one of the buildings being converted to a hotel by Edgar McArthur and his partner. I keep looking at the places that were familiar to me once and realized that it is all losing its former charm and that I am being left with little connection to the whole place. This holds true for both the old Canal Zone area and Panama city.
We came down from Quarry Heights using Heights Road and headed for Albrook Field to a new El Rey Super Market at the gate of the old AF Base. I bought more film there and continued through the main base road making note of all the changes taking place on that old base also. The non-­com and officers family quarters are all being sold to individuals and, upon remodeling, few retain any similarity to military quarters.
Entering old Fort Clayton from the back entrance, we proceeded to the Base Headquarters Building where I worked for 18 months while in the Army. On the way there we passed the area where the old motor pool used to be, in the middle of the jungle, and where I walked so many guard duty hours on nights and week-­ends. There was, of course, no sign of the old motor pool. The Headquarters Building was locked up and not presently in used. But the memories flowed just the same. Then I looked down on the barracks where I was supposed to be housed, but where I never spent a night, and they look the same. From this vantage point I could also see where the infantry battalion was quartered. I think it was the 33rd, but I cannot remember. Driving by Officers Row my mind went further back in time recalling going there and the girls that lived there: Mary Ellen Kelly, Joyce Daily, Nancy Wells, Cecil Russell and the Morleys, to name a few.
That night I had dinner with one clan of relatives, my cousin Pachi DeSedas, his wife Shirley and his sister Graciela and all their offspring. There must have been 50 people in the house and food for 100. And what good food! That also brought on emotional memories of the good times we used to have as a family. My grandmother’s house, next to mine, was the meeting place and there was always something going on.
That night we made preparations to check out of the hotel the next morning as we were going to Boquete, Bocas del Toro and El Valle and would not be back    six days.

Every week we publish part of Louis Celrier’s story of how he revisited the country where he grew up. Subscribe to this blog, or like us on Facebook, to make sure you do not miss any part pf the story!

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