Growing Up With The CZP
by George Chevalier

As a child during the 1930s I felt that I was under a handicap relative to my escapades, as compared to my playmates, for my Dad viewed our endeavors with a policeman's eye. He could recite many an incident pulled off by the current crop of young adults when Dad had been a CZP during the construction and these men had been the youth of his patrolling days.

Any time my Dad received word from a CZP of young George's errant behavior it was a one sided case in that there was no rebuttal and I paid the price. It was a very protective society and the role of a Cop could be likened to an older brother or your uncle. In lower grade school when I went to the Lodge Hall School in Balboa the Cop usually assigned to act as crossing guard was Sam Carpenter who loved to sting our bare legs with the leather thongs of his night-stick. It hurt like hell and when you told your Dad of this indignity his only comment was that Sam was only getting you for what you thought you had gotten away with.[ How far would this fly in today's world?]

We would build home made wooden scows and tote them to the Gavilan Lagoon or down to the old French Dock in La Boca where we would launch and become an accident waiting to happen. Eventually we were spotted by the Cop on station and were directed to shore with our ark confiscated and after admonishment informed that he would tell your Dad if he caught you again.

Time passes and we have managed to escape incarceration or deportation and now have drivers licenses and are seniors in High School. After a formal prom at the Tivoli I am hungry, so motor on down to the Balboa Clubhouse where the snack bar is open all night. Parking on Stevens Circle close to the Prado I start walking across the Circle when out from behind one of the large trees jumps CZP Tony Malagutti and scares me half to death as he demands to know if my Dad knows that I have the car out at that hour. I assure him that he does know and I have his permission to be out at this hour. He lets me pass but warns that he will check on my story and the next day he calls my Dad at his work to relate and verify.

Speeding along Gaillard Hwy one night while still in school I am of course stopped for excessive speed but was not given a ticket. No Indeed!! But what I got was the warning that the next time the tires would be confiscated since they had been war time rationed. Can you imagine facing you parents with the news that the family car would be on blocks for the duration.

In growing up there was only one time that I felt I had a beef with the CZP and it came about when I hit a pedestrian in the crosswalk from clubhouse to PO. I was driving a motorbike passing south along chivas parked in the bus stop when an older man darted out in the crosswalk and my peddle caught his leg and flipped him. He was unhurt except for dignity and I approached him to apologize. With my hands occupied holding up the motorbike he hit me a good one up side the head . I followed him in to the PO and protested his punch, got his name etc. and drove to the Balboa Station to report the accident.

The Sgt. who took my report advised me to press charges of battery and I did so but before the day was out a Cop came to my house with a warrant against me and a court date. Well we went to court with me feeling secure that nothing would come my way but how wrong I was. The old man was fined $5 for hitting me and only a mild admonishment and I was fined $10 with a good lecture about violating the crosswalk rules. Worse was yet to come for the next day in the Panama-American was the story with the caption: Rider socks Pedestrian, Pedestrian socks Rider, Judge socks Both.

When I returned to the Zone years later I could see how times had changed with modern problems and attitudes making it very difficult to have the same relationship we did with the now hard pressed Canal Zone Police.

George C.