BHS Night Classes
by George Chevalier

The most famous and oldest night club on Central Ave across from the PRR station was Kelley's Ritz and just down from it was the Happyland and the Rialto. Kelley's had the best reputation and was usually portrayed in movies of those days. Jade Rodora did the Rape of the Ape act where she wore an Ape costume on one side of her body and no costume on the other half. The gyrations she went through could only be called dancing by a liberal. I must admit to a high school senior it was an eye popping act and we still talk about it when we chance to gather. Those clubs charged a dollar per bottle of beer which was a lot of money for us in those days so you sipped it as long as possible to last out the show with your allowance. If you danced with one of the Blue Moon Queens and she sat at your table they drank a drink called a Blue Moon and that cost you a dollar with the girl getting a chit from the waiter worth a portion of that dollar. The drink was non-alcoholic, usually tea, and needless to say we students did not do much dancing. A five dollar weekly allowance did not provide too much night club life.

In going to Kelley's Ritz it behooved you to behave at your best for you might very well be seen by older Zonians who knew your Dad and might tell of your slip ups. And so it was with some apprehension that my buddy and I welcomed one of the entertainers to our table. She was a singer and performed with her older sister and between shows would sit and dance with customers. From this first meeting evolved a Friday night ritual for us to go to Kelley's to see and sit with this person that had so captivated us. She would order one Blue Moon and let it sit untouched all evening to keep management from complaining and we would ever so slowly sip those dollar beers. We were eighteen and I guess she was in her mid thirties and she was fascinated by our stories and escapades as students in BHS as well as life in the Canal Zone.

Flattered by such attention from an older woman who obviously enjoyed our tales of student life we talked the hours away. When the last floor show was over we adjoined to a section to the rear where food was served. By this hour we were broke but she bought us breakfast early every Saturday AM after the evening was gone and we sure enjoyed the bacon and eggs before finally saying goodnight until the next Friday night.

Her name was Angela Cobos and she was from La Serena in Chile and following graduation from BHS and entry into the service we never saw her again. Later in the Air Force while on a trip to Santiago,Chile I asked of her from the band leader in the night club of the Carrera Hotel. He told me she was well know as a singer in Chile and had sung at that hotel.

As I look back I can recall the irritation exhibited by the older male customers in Kelley's Ritz seeing how we were treated compared to their high costs in Blue Moons in obtaining a table companion. I can't vouch for any lessons learned but can for many enjoyable Friday evenings in Panama's premier night club of that era.

George C.