I use to love the verandah at the Tivoli Hotel. There you would meet some real characters. Those
old Canal Diggers would tell some wonderful stories.
A person could sit on the shaker rockers
on the verandah and just watch Panama walk by... it was fuel for the soul.
Then across away at the Taxi Cab Stand
would be a collection of antique cars from the 20's and 30's. I mean these cars were huge and with big engines from V-8's
The owner and drivers were usually dressed in dark trousers with long sleeve shirts that were one size
fits all so colorful garters were used to make the sleeves hang right. They wore a belt with a solid gold belt buckle with
their initials. When they smiled they flashed a Fort Knox's mouth full of gold. Their faces showed the creases, wrinkles,
and crows feet of character of a person who had really lived. They would look at the world around them from under thick eyebrows
and gray-blue eyes that twinkled with mischief of another time. They all wore bowties with a gold pocket watch to keep track
of time. On their feet they usually wore two-tone black and white hand made shoes that were available for $12.00 down Salsipuedes
from the Shoemakers who had their shops in that part of the City of Panama. Now the piece of resistance was the boater they
all wore. Now when they sat in their cars waiting for a fare, they would hike up their pants legs to avoid losing that knife-edge
crease they always sported. If they smoked they would smoke some thin cigarillos like the Act Two that the Balboa Commissary
sold in their Tobacco Shop.
Most of the gents were Jamaicans of the old Canal days who had become enterprising
individuals. If you ever rode in the back of one these cars you would be traveling around the Canal Zone like the Governor
hisself, a visiting VIP or a millionaire like maybe J.P. Morgan.
Yes, those were the days when life was easy,
moved at the speed of the Chagres River and living in the old Canal Zone was a blessing from God.