Lets All Go to the Beach
by Louis J. Barbier (BHS 57’)

When I was a kid living in Cocoli, I would always love to hear my Dad say, “ Lets all go to the beach.”

There were many beautiful beaches a short driving distance away. Some had black sand that you had to run for miles with the “Aya-aya-aya” to get to the water. Others had pristine white sand that the water had raked in its passing. Others yet were rocky and deserted that you felt like Robinson Cruiso. But regardless, going to the beach was a real treat.

We would pack-up all kinds of eats and soft drinks like if we would be gone for a week. We would put on our trunks under our clothes and everybody would pile into the old black 1953 Buick Roadmaster Coupe V-8 with the neat bomb-sight hood ornament.

My Dad would sometimes let me drive it. I would just aim the bomb-sight down the road and floor the accelerator from time to time. It was “Bowwow “ climbing hills. But down the other side it would go like the wind. It was really comfortable riding in this powerful V-8 automobile. We had gotten the Buick on a great deal from some Fort Clayton GI’s who were transferring back to the states. From the very first day it was an auto mechanics dream. I would often see my Dad after work making some adjustments to the engine or working on the brakes to get the most out of the Buick. It was a fantastic car. It was as big as a house and when you sat in the back seat you disappeared from view. Fantastic for riding around the Canal Zone. And a 
regular workhorse when going to the Balboa Commissary. You could haul a ton of stuff in the trunk.

This model Buick had a grill that was out of sight. It was all chrome and look like the choppers from Jaws. It sparkled with chrome all around. In addition it had skirts on the rear fenders. This gave it a wide look from the rear. In addition it sported really large white-wall tires. Really impressive, but a job to keep clean. And our Buick had a spotlight mounted on the driver’s side. This neat little accessory was great for driving on the causeway at night to shake-up the parkers. 

One of the things we really enjoyed doing was loading the Buick up with all our friends and go to the Drive-Inn on Balboa Avenue. We could squeeze 6 or 7 in the back seat, 4 or 5 in the front seat, and maybe 2 or 3 in the trunk. On car night we would get everybody in for $1.50. Yes, what a blast when we found our parking spot right in front of the concession stand and everybody would pile out to see the movie. That was before drive-in movies became XXX-rated. But who went to see the movie?

We would go for the action! There were waiters that took your order from yucca sticks, empanadas, hamburgesas, carne en palito, fried chicken, cokes, hi-spot, rum & cokes and cerveza. Yea, I could never figure that one out. A person could get bombed at the drive-inn and leave the family bus there and take a chiva home or have a designated driver before they became a way of life. 

If I drove, I would usually have only one drink because driving the Buick Roadmaster met total concentration or you might run into something. The Buick had a tendency to pull to the left when barreling down the road at 35 MPH. When you applied the brakes, it pulled to the right. There was very little play in the wheel, which was good. Of course I had a speed-turning crystal knob on the wheel that I used to full advantage when I was parked and with the engine-off. 

After the drive-in movie we would cruise around looking for action. We would go out to the causeway and use our spotlight to full advantage. We would also take K-9 Road to Contractor’s Hill to watch the canal races. Since we always had our bathing suits with us, it wouldn’t take long and somebody would say, “ Lets go to the beach.” 

Often, somebody else would say, “Are you crazy. Do you know what time it is? 
“ Then somebody would come up with the bright idea of going swimming in one of the pools. We would drive around the swimming pool to make sure the coast was clear. Then we would all pile out and sneak into the pool. Albrook we did a few times. But the real challenge was the Balboa Swimming Pool. The CZPD made it part of there beat. It seems they would check it every hour after 11PM. The Police Officer would make a cursory inspection. He wasn’t really looking to find anybody swimming in the pool. They would beam there flashlights across the water. But if you remained under water or picked a corner, you would be almost invisible in the dark. Besides the nights in Panama are really dark. So, we got away with some mischief that today would really be child’s play. But that is how it was in the olde Canal Zone. 

Yea, when I think of the oldies but goodies; I think of all those great muscle cars of the 50’s. There were Hudsons, Mercurys, Studabakers, Plymouths, Buicks, Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs, Dodges, Fords, Chevrolets, and an Edsel or two. All these cars had couple of things in common. They were big as a house and all had powerful V-8 engines. 

And now when I remember the Canal Zone, those happy days of long ago, and that marvelous 1953 Black Buick Coupe Roadmaster V-8; I can still hear the call of the wild, “ Lets all go to the beach!”

Lets go to the Beach!

Here is something else over the 4th of July weekend the American people will  eat 150 Million Hot Dogs! Unbelievable! 

BHS Class of 1957