by Louis J. Barbier (BHS 57’)

 When I get up and the sun is shinning and we have a stiff breeze blowing that almost raises me off my feet, I think Kites and I remember my kite flying days at the town site of Cocoli. Flying kites is only second to fishing. And in the old Canal Zone we use to do a lot of both.  

We were very creative in building our kites from old pillowcases, sheets of newspaper from the Panama-American, or some brown paper from those famous Panama Canal Commissary shopping bags. Any size would do the trick since we did a lot of cutting and gluing or taping. The frames were narrow strips of balsa or better yet some bamboo sticks. Everybody had their own favorite design, box, cube, diamond, and so on. Mine was always diamond shape. Then we would corner the market on twine at the Panama Canal Commissary.  

After the kites were finished we test flight them with the tail. The length of the tail caused the kite to be really stable or go out of control when flying. So, the test flight to determine the length was extremely important in your overall design of your kite. Some party-poopers would attached razor blades for kite fights so these would cut the other guy’s kite and have it crash in a heap sometimes way out in the jungle. 

I loved Cocoli, not just because I lived there, but it was a perfect place for flying kites and it was only a block from where I lived as a kid. The Cocoli grade school off Tamarind Avenue had a very sharp drop off by the gym. Well, one could take off running in the direction of the flagpole on the circle in front of the school with the kite streaming behind you. With a slight nudge the kite would soar up very nicely to where the buzzards and eagles frolicked hundreds of feet above the ground. The kite would stay up for hours. After we had played out enough line from Cocoli to Balboa, or it really seemed that way. We would tie the line down and it was time to celebrate. So, we would pull out our jelly & peanut butter sandwiches, have lunch, and wash it all down with an ice cold RC. Yes, those were the days! 

We, would lay back on the green grass, swap stories, and watch the kites soar for hours so high that sometimes we would need binoculars. I had an old Army pair that my Dad had picked up at Surplus in Corozal. Of course, sometimes the breeze and the lunch were too much that we would knock off for a few Z’s. Then, wake up with ground patterns imprinted on your cheeks. Plus, at times fighting off those awful Red Army Ants. 

Yes, memories can be so much fun. Each of us has them. They can be good or they can be bad. They’re better than dreams since you were there and you did that what ever it was.......images implanted in your mind’s eye to recall at will. Happy Days or rainy days they all add up to who you are today. So, when the sun is out and we have a really good northeasterly blowing.......go fly a kite. You could do worst!