Looking Back Thru the Years
by: Vicki (Dunning) Howe BHS 64

When I recall my days growing up in the Canal Zone, I always seem To go back to my early childhood. Born at Gorgas Hospital, I was brought home to Pedro Miguel, to a big, rambling, screened two story wood house. There could never be a more exciting, safe and nurturing place to grow. I remember so many things: the people, the fantastic play we indulged in till the street lights came on, and all the splendors of Mother Nature available to us in that small town. We played in banyan trees with all the many roots serving as rooms in a house, at the top of swaying mango trees, sure we could see China from our perches, and in the roseapple trees when the fruit was ripe and pucker-uppering! We ate ginnups and ice cream beans, and made ylang-ylang perfume, flew "helicopter" seed carriers and burned each other with the round, brown seed pods. We hiked to the rapids to dip our feet, and passed native huts with gardens carved out of the jungle density. We played in the rain, gentle and warm, and disobeyed our parents to splash in the ditches and culverts. We slid down the slopes of hills on palm tree sleds, whooping and hollering as we went. We walked to the train station to ride the double sided benches like horses, or went on down to the boat club to con the Chinese chef out of some shoestring french fries. We pulled up the rubber tires hanging on the docks and dumped the caught fish back into the water to swim another day. We spent hours in the pool, going home only after the third message arrived from Mom to get our butts home for dinner! We forged our way thru the jungles to the riding stables, pausing on the wooden bridge to look for black water snakes. We watched in terror/ fascination as a father tried to kill a huge fer-de-lance, running it over with a car, hitting it with a hammer and stuffing it into a garbage can to smother it. We laughed at The Crowell's stories of scorpions coming up in the shower drain....usually when someone was in there! We had great fun chasing bats through the house with brooms, with Mother usually hiding in the shower! We started school together, first in the gym for kindergarten, then to the "big school on the hill". Most of us made it all the way thru high school graduation together, with bonds nearly as strong as family ties. We watched the "Creature in the Black Lagoon" and had nightmares for days! We went to Sunday School together, attended each other's birthday parties, played baseball in the streets, or the field behind the dentists office on El Prado. We waved to army trucks full of soldiers, laughing as our older sisters (Pat Dunning, Sheila Curling, Dawn Crowell, Beth Hatchett) flirted outrageously with the macho young men in uniform! We tamed marmosets ,"Spikey" driving my Mother crazy by slipping in the back door, making straight for the "ant shelf",& throwing the lid off the sugar bowl to dip his paw in for a lick! We caught parakeets, kept tadpoles in jars, chased fire flies, and mounted wondrous Blue Royal butterflies on velvet boards. We exchanged trading cards, played "Witch" and ring-a-levio, washed room size rugs laid out on the side of a hill with a hose and bar of soap. We played under the houses and in the "dry closets" on rainy days. We listened to any parent's scolding and caught the "what for" from unrelated adults. And finally, we sorrowfully left Pedro Miguel for the 'big city'...Balboa. Third grade presented new friends, new games, new places to explore, but NEVER would we ever encounter another fantasy land to compare with Pedro Miguel